The object of a revolutionary organization is to unite (and unite with), mobilize, organize and lead masses of oppressed peoples to achieve fundamental economic, political, cultural, and social change and collective security.
Founded in 2005, the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter arose within the most oppressed stratum of U.S society, (namely amongst prisoners), to take up the banner of revolutionary struggle in the interests of New Afrikans and all oppressed and exploited peoples. We aspire to become,
but are not as yet a formal and functional vanguard party.
We will be formally constituted once we transition to the outside, hold a founding Congress and elect a free world Central Committee and Executive Committee (Politburo). We will be functionally constituted only when the oppressed urban masses voluntarily embrace us as their revolutionary leadership.
Even as we remain a prison-based organization, we share an important revolutionary role which is to transform these prison plantations into liberation schools. This is the first phase of our Party’s strategy, which coincides with our having been founded inside the prisons.
The second phase of our strategy, which is largely consigned to the outside Party once established will be to transform the oppressed urban communities into base areas, where a new revolutionary economic, social, political and cultural life, and collective security will take root and thrive.
These two phases tie into a broader strategy of building a worldwide united front to overthrow this capitalist-imperialist system.
At this point comrades are still in need of practical guidance, and ideological and organizational clarity on building and consolidating a solid Party structure and mass revolutionary movement around us.
These are issues relevant to both the Prison Chapter and building the outside Party. Related questions and critiques have also been presented, some long outstanding, by our supporters and detractors alike concerning methods of building an effective political movement appropriate to existing conditions.
Some of these people of course, don’t understand or outright reject the need and importance of revolutionary leadership and organization. There is also the question of who must comprise this leadership. These are the issues we would like to address here.
On Organization and Security
On the “Left” the term “organizing” is used often and loosely. Especially by those who actually oppose forming, joining or subordinating their individual interests to the collective decision making and discipline of a revolutionary organization. Although they may exhort the virtues of “solidarity” they actually practice individualism which runs counter to building and advancing a movement for collective or mass change.
Obviously one cannot be a social organizer and not belong to a social organization. One implies the other. An organization is a body of people, never one persyn acting alone, who devise goals and work together to achieve them. It is coordinated with levels of responsibility and allocation of tasks and accountability between its members, who must perform functions alloted to them according to their means and the needs and goals of the organization.
This explicitly calls for leadership and discipline. Conversely to act individually according to one’s own whims, agenda and impulses, without accountability or responsibility, is the meaning of disorganization.
Which can only lead to chaos, division, conflict and disorder. The opposite of solidarity.
Becoming or remaining a voluntary member of any organization involves important considerations, such as whether one trusts and believes in, agrees with and understands the organization and its goals.
To the more mature and committed organizers; These are questions of especial concern and influence whether they will commit themselves wholeheartedly and long term to the group’s core principles, its work, growth, development, survival and regeneration.
It is therefore important that the group and its members be transparent if people are to know, trust and understand it. Without this the group cannot have even the foundation for “security”.
Comrade Safiya Bukhari, a former BPP and BLA leader explained:
“By definition, security means freedom from danger, fear and anxiety. Individual and organizational safety and well-being begin with the knowledge of what your about, what the organization is about, your limitations, the organization’s limitations, your strengths and the organization’s strengths. Knowledge is the key to security. History has shown that the best security depends on the internal strength of the organization and the internal principles of the people who make up the organization.” (1)
As an examples of solid organizational and individual principles she uses the creed of the Republic of New Africa (RNA) which states in the relevant part: “I will steal nothing from a brother or sister, cheat no brother or sister, misuse no brother or sister, inform on no brother or sister and spread no gossip.”
These principles, she observed, express “an extremely important part of individual and collective security. The knowledge that the person next to you-the person working beside you-will not cheat you or lie and spread gossip about you is the basis for your feeling secure in your environment and within your organization. The ability to trust your comrades implicitly and to know with certainty what they will do in any circumstance is the best security.
The question then, is how do we get to this point? It begins with knowing what you’re about-what you want and what you believe and how far you will go to obtain it. The reciprocal reality is knowing what the organization is about. If the purpose and mission of the organization is clear, not subject to interpretation, then people joining will not be able to say that they thought the organization was about one thing when they joined only to find out later it was about something totally different.
That means that both the individual and the organization must be open and honest.” (2)
Our Party’s rules embrace standards akin to the RNA rules, which actual and potential members must know and obey. An important criteria of Party recruitment is that one’s internal principles be proven to be compatible with the Party’s.
They must also know, understand and commit to our Ten Point Program and Platform, which clearly sets out “what we want” and “what we believe”. They must also understand and adhere to our ideological and political line of Historical and Dialectical Materialism (HDM), instead of practicing dogmatism, sentimentalism, opportunism and subjectivism.
Before being recruited into the Party, comrades must prove to be dedicated and serious, and bring a great deal of voluntary discipline to this work; They must, having the courage of their convictions, be willing and able to stand firm in adversity, repression and isolation. And they must stand tall as “professional revolutionaries” meaning they must be committed foremost and completely in principle and practice to carrying forward the struggle against oppression and exploitation as their life’s work, instead of wavering, having divided loyalties, ulterior motives, other agendas or seeking individual gratifications and rewards. Only people of this caliber can be trusted by the masses to serve their interests without deviating. Hence it is they who must constitute the core of the revolutionary Party.
Indeed the moral stand of the vanguard must be “the masses first, think nothing of self.”
The Party must have absolutely no private agenda to pursue and work solely to serve the people.
Supervised by the people it must never alienate or isolate itself from them, nor set itself above them.
This work calls for planning, cooperation, and accountability. In a word: organization.
To proceed without order and planning is in fact counter-strategic, counter-productive and irresponsible.
Our individual moral outrage and love for the people can and should be our fuel to action, but our actual courses of action must be disciplined and informed by objective, collective, organized and scientific planning. This inherently requires and constitutes organizational leadership.
No revolutionary movement can proceed and succeed without a revolutionary leadership.
And no one can participate in such a movement without themselves leading or misleading it or being led. To think otherwise is a mistaken idea.
As already discussed an organizer belongs and is loyal to an organization. The function of which is to collectively devise and achieve certain goals. In carrying out such goals, the organizer is in fact a leader. This is especially true when s/he seeks to inform or influence the actions of those outside the organization.
Whether to induce them to aid, support or simply not oppose the organization’s ideas and goals.
So the organizer leads others, for good or for ill and regardless of whether they admit and accept their leadership role and its responsibilities. The same applies to individuals who seek to influence or inform others. In the case of a revolutionary organization which seeks to guide a mass movement, its leadership must be achieved by the voluntary consent of the people. It must be earned by proven merit, not by force, coercion, deception or fraud.
Our work in service to the People requires that we be educated by them-and in turn educate and elevate them-we must be both students and teachers.
As students we learn from them their conditions, needs and concerns, and being of the oppressed masses ourselves, we live and struggle alongside them daily, we must attentively listen to their views, remain close to them, and learn from their strengths.
If they are wrong we must explain their errors, but only after patiently hearing them out. But we don’t know everything and therefore must be good at listening and learning, accepting criticism and correcting our mistakes.
As teachers we take the masses raw and unorganized ideas and applying revolutionary theory-HDM-and understanding of the oppressive system as a whole, return their ideas to them in the form of programs, practical solutions and examples, which involve and enable them to solve their own problems. To do this Party cadre must be throughly versed in the science of HDM and be able to apply it to solving problems.
In this dialectical relationship of student and teacher, we don’t quibble over the question of leadership.
Because it is inherently impossible to teach or guide or influence people’s thoughts, decisions or actions without assuming the role of leadership. And since we are always teaching or learning, setting or following examples, we are either leading or being led.
So unlike those “Leftists” who shun the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionary line; we don’t reject the role and responsibility of leaders and leadership. Indeed we recognize that in class divided society, the thinking of every person and group reflects the perspective of the class which has influenced and molded them.
And as soon as that persyn or group opens their mouth or puts pen to paper to share their perspectives, or take actions observed by or setting an example to others, the assume the authority to influence others opinions and actions according to the values of the class which has influenced them. They then teach others. And every teacher is a leader.
Their words and actions will affect the words and actions of others who hear and observe them.
Again, whether for good or for ill, whether conscious or not, and whether they accept or deny the fact of being a teacher, leader or authority. In fact it is through perceptions of our environment and others in it that we learn and form ideas, opinions, theories etc, which in turn inform our actions.
Intelligent life reflects reflects and follows the example and influence of others, especially the more advanced members of its species.
Who among us that oppose the oppressive system, when we speak or write critical articles, poetry etc, don’t aspire to influence the ideas and by extension the actions of others in relation to the system?
We therefore deceive ourselves and others when we profess to eschew leaders and leadership.
And a grave injustice is committed by those who raise rejecting leadership and “authority” to the level of political principle. There is actually a class basis to this thinking which we will further discuss below.
Furthermore, consider how absurd it would be for a teacher to challenge and change your beliefs and understandings with new perspectives (say about capitalism for example), that affect how you perceive and relate to the world at the most fundamental levels, but then tell you not to act on this information.
And not to look to them for guidance or examples in resolving the problems and contradictions they opened your eyes to, or which arise as you struggle to apply your new understanding and values.
To abandon you in this manner would be to leave you at the mercy of a society and system organized to counter all that you have just learned, inevitably compelling you to resort to it or continue upholding it just as you have always done.
This is an erroneous line which leaves many a radical to ultimately integrate into the system.
Here is what distinguishes genuine revolutionary leaders from elitist philosophers. The revolutionary leader not only consciously teaches what is wrong with the system, but also leads in teaching the masses through example and participation how to correct what is wrong.
Mao Tse Tung summarized this revolutionary Marxist line thusly:
“Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying these laws actively to change the world…only social practice can be the criterion of truth.”
This is where the traditional “Left” falls short. In the manner of petty bourgeois intellectuals, they analyze, criticize and interpret the world in various ways, but they fail to bring their analysis down to the level of practice to change its oppressive conditions.
At best they resort to individualist rebelliousness or counter cultural or academic retreats, which does nothing to benefit the oppressed multitudes. And why?
Because their class stand prevents it. Which is a principle reason many of them reject the need for and function of revolutionary leadership. While in truth they act as leaders and teachers of the class stance of those who talk about but don’t dare organize to solve the problems of the oppressed.
Namely the petty bourgeois. Actually deep down many of these people don’t really want to fundamentally change conditions because they have privileges to protect and fear the exercise of power from below.
So while they arouse the discontent of many, they leave them to fall on their faces when it comes to leading the masses to organize to resolve the conditions that oppress them. This leaves the People to a fate of spontaneous, unorganized rebellion which will be co-opted and or violently repressed, leading to business as usual for their exploiters and mass conformity and demoralization.
This is why the People need a revolutionary vanguard. And “vanguard” by the way simply means leadership which is what building the NABPP-PC is all about.
On Cadre Practice
A revolutionary organization is only as strong or as solid as its members or cadre, who must be rooted in the masses. Thus it is imperative that cadre be good at communicating and connecting with and solicitous of the needs and ideas of the People.
Her/his love of the People must run deep. As Che Guevara once stated: “Let me say at the risk of seeming ridiculous that a true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.” But the work of revolutionaries is not to be measured by motive alone.
“How can we tell the good from the bad-by motive [the subjective intention] or by the effect [social practice]? Idealists stress motive and ignore effect, while mechanical materialists stress effect and ignore motive. In contradistinction to both, we dialectical materialists insist on unity of motive and effect. The motive of serving the masses is inseparably linked with the effect of winning their approval; the two must be united.
The motive of serving the individual or a small clique is not good, nor is it good to have the motive of serving the masses without the effect of winning their approval and benefiting them. In examining the subjective intention of a writer or artist, that is whether his motive is correct or good, we do not judge by his declarations but by the effects of actions (mainly his works) on the masses in society.
The criteria for judging subjective intention or motive is social practice and its effect.” (3)
Of course not everyone amongst the People will be receptive, friendly or interested in political or intellectual growth.
We have however found that many prisoners are interested, but are hampered by limited access to information and rules which severely restricting the amount of property and publications they may have.
So collective pooling of information and cadre lead study groups within the prisons are very important.
On the other hand, many don’t find reading and study to be “cool” and shun it. But this tendency can be combated. Like all social “fads” its subject to change under positive or negative peer influence.
Cadre must be patient, tolerant, and sensitive to the People’s needs and issues, and capable of reaching and teaching them despite the conditioned disinterest of many. Methods vary.
One method we have found highly effective is to start by showing genuine interest in what interests the persyn or people in question, this calls for being a good listener. To serve the people we must understand them and be receptive to their ideas and interests. In speaking to their interests and also what disturbs them, we should study and learn all we can about these topics and gradually connect them up to political questions showing how the liberation struggle is relevant to their interests and unfulfilled needs. One can always find connections. We should give concrete examples when able and and encourage and enable hands on participation where possible.
Not all cadre will be capable communicators, although all should struggle, especially collectively to excel in this area. It was actually in prison that Fidel Castro studied and developed his exceptional abilities as a motivational speaker. Another exceptional orator, Comrade Fred Hampton, admitted the importance of studying and practicing good oration. He once noted, “I listen to anyone who speaks well.”
It is important that we are able to speak to, inspire and touch people’s deepest ambitions, longings and feelings. Whether good speakers or not all cadre will and do have some sets of skills and abilities, and the capacity to develop others, that can contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Party and its work in serving the people.
As in any organized body, everyone has a part to play.
“No one person can do everything, but every person can do something-and all jobs are more or less equally important. That is the “soldier” is no more important (may in fact be less important) then the person putting out the newsletter, or the person organizing the students, or the person agitating on issues such as no-rent housing or people’s control of the airwaves…” (4)
And not all cadre will be equally advanced in applying the principles of HDM to problem solving.
At this point we daresay many Party cadre likely have little to no understanding of this Marxist science.
A result of loose and inconsistent cadre training and recruitment we must resolutely and promptly address and correct. Because to apply any method of study, analysis and practice other then the scientific methods of HDM is to practice dogmatism, subjectivism, sentimentalism, and opportunism.
Therefore, an object of primary importance is to instruct and advance cadre in mastering and applying HDM. Like shooting a target, mastery comes with proper training and practice.
It also imperative for the organizational life of our Party, and for creating the leadership which can win the masses to change history, that we train cadre to become good organizers and excel at building and regenerating the Party and mass organizations as solid structures with strong inner unity and loyalty.
And also at bringing people together in collectives which ably pursue our work.
All of this is key to effective revolutionary leadership.
To enhance our effectiveness in serving, learning from and teaching the masses, cadre must be throughly knowledgeable in matters of political and social fact and phenomena, organizing, science etc.
We should be able to speak truthfully, knowledgeably and persuasively on a wide range of matters, since the enemy will use and actually cultivate an army of “experts” to attempt to discredit the truth and necessity of revolutionary theory and the diabolical workings of the system.
This also shows the value of collective leadership where we pool our knowledge and practice to collectively arrive at truth.
We must truly follow Sun Tzu’s edict to “know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never face defeat.” This applies at all levels-strategic and tactical-and on all fronts: economic, political, security, cultural and educational. It is especially important in cadre development and the roles within a revolutionary Party. Because to have cadre serve in roles most conducive to their abilities and the People’s and Party’s needs, we must be good at assessing each comrade’s strength and weaknesses. And by knowing the enemies strengths and weaknesses, we know where to assail and where to avoid him, and we will not become arrogant with a few successes nor demoralized by a few losses. This way we are objective in the face of triumph and failure and can adjust our plans and practice accordingly.
For there is no such thing as an unbeatable foe nor un-winnable war, only the use of the wrong tactics.
This often results from not having an objective study and understanding of one’s enemy and oneself.
Too, we must be careful to not hold ourselves out as authorities on matters we have not investigated throughly. “No investigation, no right to speak.” When it becomes apparent that we require more study and experience, we should seek it out without hesitation.
“To put forward a correct political line for the new Party, we must have concrete analysis of concrete conditions on the major questions: class struggle, the national question, trade union work, the women question, the international situation etc.” (5)
On Cadre Purpose
Cadre as pointed out, are the component parts of the revolutionary vanguard, the “professional” working class conscious revolutionaries, the most dedicated and loyal organizers.
Together they form the vanguard Party of the struggle which is the nervous system and organic part of the revolutionary movement of the masses.
Cadre must be prepared to do what the Party requires to the best of their abilities, and be good at building bases of support among the People (winning the masses over and organizing them to support the struggle and the Party). A revolutionary movement is only as effective as its leadership or its vanguard Party- “When revolution fails it is the fault of the vanguard Party.” Therefore cadre development is crucial. To this end.
“We must purposely train tens of thousands of cadres and leaders versed in Marxism-Leninism, politically farsighted, competent in work, full of the spirit of self sacrifice, capable of taking problems on their own, and devoted in serving the nation, the cadres and the party. It is on these cadres and leaders that the party relies on its links with the membership and the masses and it is relaying on their firm leadership of the masses that the party can succeed in defeating the enemy.
Such cadres and leaders must be free from selfishness, from individualistic heroism, ostentation, sloth, positivity and sectarian arrogance and they must be selfless, national and class heroes, such are the qualities and style of work demanded by the members, cadre and leaders of our party.”-Mao Tse tung
Cadre are an indispensable requirement for revolutionary struggle. Mao demonstrated this, so did Comrade Amilcar Cabral, Afrika’s most outstanding revolutionary leader. As the founder of the revolutionary Party of Guinea Bissau in 1956, the PAIGC (6), he saw and proved that development of revolutionary cadre is key to building a successful revolutionary movement.
Initially in 1959 the oppressed workers of Guinea Bissau plunged headlong and blindly into resistance into resistance against the Portuguese colonial oppressors.
Their disastrous failure led Cabral to reassess the situation and the errors in their tactics. He then spent three years organizing and leading patient political education and preparatory work across the country while training 1000 Party cadre in his Party school to develop in them the consciousness and methods for waging a new wave of struggles under their collective leadership. He said:
“We prepared a number of cadre from the group [of declassed semi-intellectual urban youth] , some from people employed in commerce and other wage earners, and even some peasants, so that they could acquire what you might call a working class mentality mentality…when these cadres returned to the rural areas they inculcated a certain mentality into the peasants and it is among these cadre that we have chosen the people who are now leading the struggle…” (7)
These PAIGC cadre reignited the struggle in 1963 winning and mobilizing immense and immediate mass support, which quickly liberated vast sections of the country from Portuguese control. By 1969 two-thirds of the entire country was liberated and only five years later Portuguese rule was completely overthrown. Even though Cabral was himself assassinated by Portuguese agents a year before, it was the cadre trained and prepared ahead of time, that lead the people to victory.
As we discussed in a previous article, the original Black Panther Party’s efforts to lead mass struggle here in America, met with failure largely because it neglected to train and root its members here in Amerika met with failure largely because it neglected to train and root its members in revolutionary working class ideology. Instead its cadre retained and acted upon the values of their less then revolutionary class perspectives, like that of the lumpen proletariat, the petty bourgeois etc, etc.
Indeed, BPP leaders specifically promoted a lumpen class line, and even tried to advance a lumpen (as opposed to revolutionary working class) political theory to validate this line.
The failures and reversals of revolutionary mass movements here and abroad here result from the lack of ongoing working class cadre leadership.
In the past revolutionary movements have relied on the petty bourgeoisie for leadership which has given revisionism (deviation from the principles of Marxism Leninism and revolutionary proletarian political line) and every other form of petty bourgeois deviation in reversing the advances the masses have made through struggle.
The petty bourgeois have had the advantage because of their education and access to the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao. The petty bourgeois have produced some fine revolutionary intellectuals -like Marx, Engels, Lenin,Mao,Cabral, Nkrumah, and so on-but as a class they are not so ready to commit class suicide and develop working class consciousness and allegiance. Instead they impose their own class perspectives and prejudices on the proletarian movement, resisting its development into an all the way revolutionary consciousness and commitment.
However the needs of the capitalist system have created conditions (such as mass imprisonment) for some actual proletarians to get more then just basic literacy skills, and some proletarian intellectuals like Comrades George Jackson and James Yaki Sayles-have developed with access to and of revolutionary history and literature. Its no coincidence that these comrades developed within the prisons which Malcolm X once referred to as the poor man’s university.
Prisons have provided conditions for poor proletarians to have both study time and access to revolutionary literature. This is what our Prison Chapter is tapping into.
Our line of transforming the prisons into revolutionary universities is taking the revolutionary movement down a different path. Our aim is not to indoctrinate people in prison with a political line merely teaching them what to think. But to arm them with HDM-teaching them how to think and how to do so scientifically, to transform them into revolutionary cadre who can effectively lead a new wave of mass revolutionary struggle.
In training cadre we not merely give them materials and expect them to develop spontaneously. This is the importance of developing Party lead study groups and an interactive cadre study group as part of developing the prisons into liberation schools.
Cadre should be developed into critical and tactical thinkers. Therefore in training them we should balance the specifics in the application of certain tasks with encouragement to collectively think and apply critical analysis and practice; Promoting flexible thinking and work and developing tactical innovativeness. We must not encourage learning through mere memorization of general concepts but allow them to develop and experience details of tactics, techniques, historical examples, environmental effects and so on.
The Party should assimilate and circulate good ideas that develop or they will wither and die on the vine. Therefore we should develop information-sharing practices to aid in cadre and organizational development and incorporate them into our broader work.
As good organizers cadre must be good at teaching others organizing skills. They should also be conscientious in setting the best examples in character and conduct at all times. This is important because our role is not to exercise political power amongst the people, but educate, persuade, and learn from them, and set an example thereby empowering them to build their own collective institutions of political power.
Our leadership, therefore comes only on account of our unity, integrity, and ability to provide solutions to difficult problems that win mass support and through participation in the daily life, work and struggles of the masses.
This extends a great deal of prestige to the organization that must be reflected in the conduct and merit of its members. We lead by example, educate the people constantly (and should be conscious of this in our every word and deed) and must prove more principled, devoted, humble and selfless then ordinary people. This again is what qualifies one to serve as a revolutionary vanguard element.
It is also why we must guard against allowing just anyone to jump into the ranks of a vanguard or to there when proven unworthy of the people’s trust.
Also the people at low levels of political development tend to see in individuals the characteristics of an entire movement. This places a heavy responsibility on the Party, when cadre make mistakes or deviate from principles, many will attribute it to the entire movement, Party or school of thought.
Even folks on the “left” do this. How many impute errors of Joseph Stalin to all Marxist-Leninists and their ideology (although many of the critiques of Stalin are false, one-sided, or unfounded)?
Also the enemy will use our mistakes to caricature and discredit the struggle before the People.
This too is why the Party must be open and accountable to the scrutiny and criticism of the masses, transparent in its relations with them, and acknowledge and rectify its errors humbly, openly and honestly to the People.
As Cabral said: “hide nothing from the masses of our people: Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.” (9)
Cadre must be respected, respectable, reliable. They draw their moral authority to lead from the people not themselves. They mentor and are mentored by comrades and the people, and avail themselves of every opportunity to bring dedicated people into the struggle.
Hopefully, we have given comrades and Party supporters and detractors alike a clear picture of the importance of revolutionary organization, leadership, and cadre, how these things come together to form and serve as essential elements of building and ultimately succeeding in mass revolutionary struggle, and that they will not only think seriously over what we have said, but will unite with us and commit it to practice.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
1: Safiya Bukhari, The War Before: The True Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith
in Prison & Fighting for Those Left Behind (C.U.N.Y Feminist Press 2010) pp 37.
2: id pp 37.
3: Mao Tse Tung, Selected Works , vol III pp 88-89.
4: James Yaki Sayles, Meditations on Frantz Fannon’s Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary writings by James Yaki Sayles (Montreal QC: Kersplebedeb/Chicago IL Spear & Shield 2010) p 184-185.
5: V.I.Lenin What is to Done?
6: African Independence Party of Guinea and Cape Verde Islands
7: Amilcar Cabral, The Politics of Struggle (1964)
8: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, On the Roles and Characteristics of the Panther Vanguard Party and Mass Organizations, Right On (Vol.8, Summer 2007).
9: Amilcar Cabral. Directives of PAIGC (1965), published in Basil Davidson, The Liberation of Guinea : Aspects of an African Revolution (Baltimore MD, Penguin 1969).