The Black Brigade was co-founded by two prisoners in Pennsylvania, Nathaniel Lee and Samuel “Angel” Coley. “Angel” was a former member of the original Black Panther Party and a founder of the Philly Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children Program. He was already dying from advanced hepatitis, and he passed over before the first issue of Leviathan, the Black Brigade’s newsletter was published.
The Brigade was sponsored by the Red Heart Warriors Society (RHWS), an inter-tribal Native American organization centered in the prisons and sponsored by the Traditionalist United Eastern Lenape Nation (TUELN). TUELN is headed by Chief Tom Big Warrior.
The RHWS grew out of the struggle of Native American prisoners seeking to practice their traditional ceremonies and to study the traditional spiritual orientation of warriors – which is to serve the people. The Black Brigade’s orientation was to serve the Nation of New Afrikans in Amerika and all oppressed people.
The example of Malcolm X and the original BPP were major influences on the Black Brigade from the start. But there was another influence promoted by Bro. Lee, which was the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century English philosopher, whose major work, Leviathan, (published in 1651), was chosen as the name of the Black Brigade’s newsletter.
Struggle between two lines: Hobbesianism vs. Pantherism
The struggle between these two ideological and political world views took the form of Bro. Lee’s insistence of having complete control as the Brigade’s “Commander,” though in reality, he was content to let others do the work including raising all the funds to publish the newsletter.
Meanwhile, within the Brigade, various individuals came together to form the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC), with their own newsletter, Right On!, and they required prospective members to first join and help build the Black Brigade as a mass organization through which the Party could play its vanguard role.
A lot of prisoners hooked up, expressing a desire to both work with the Brigade and to join the Panther Party. Eventually things came to a head when Commander Lee announced that he wanted to take the Brigade in a completely different direction and openly attacked the idea of restoring the Black Panther Party and what it stood for.
At this point, it was decided that RHWS would cease to fund the Brigade and would instead support the formation of a new mass organization under the leadership of NABPP-pc. Thus the NASO was conceived. Instead of a “Commander,” it will have a National Steering Committee, composed of both Party and non-Party members, and it will have an overall democratic structure.
Even in his own time, Thomas Hobbes was a reactionary philosopher and a proponent of the absolute power of the monarchy over the masses. He put forward the theory that people must give up their liberty to a leviathan (giant) in exchange for security and peace.
Now in his day, bourgeois liberalism was challenging the royalist establishment and overthrowing autocratic rule with the English Revolution, and Hobbes had to flee to France to write his book. But as Cromwell made himself High Protector (dictator) over England, Hobbes was able to return, and his philosophy was used to justify the bourgeois dictatorship.
Ever since, the bourgeoisie have promoted a Hobbesian world view that the natural state of man is war between every individual, and a powerful state (and Head of State) is required to create law and order. In fact in class society, the state is a dictatorship and everyone is put in competition with everyone else.
In this context, there is a contradiction between Black bourgeois nationalism and revolutionary Black nationalism. To the latter, revolutionary nationalism is an expression of proletarian internationalism.
Nationalism is by its nature a product of the bourgeois (capitalist) epoch of history. However, under proletarian leadership, national liberation is a step towards socialist revolution and stateless (communist) society. When Huey P. Newton stated, “We are nationalists and internationalists,” he was asserting that the Black Panthers, unlike the narrow “pork chop” Black nationalists, rejected a bourgeois conception of nationalism.
Pantherism is part and parcel of the global socialist revolution to transform all of human society and move it beyond the epoch of exploitation, war and oppression. It links the struggle for Black liberation with the struggle against class exploitation and all types of oppression. It will not tolerate the substitution of Black capitalist oppression for white capitalist oppression, nor does it seek to gain democratic rights for Black people by taking them away from anyone else. Quite the contrary, it encourages Black people to play a vanguard role in the struggle to build a united front with all other oppressed people against capitalist imperialism and to stand in firm solidarity with each other in the spirit of “Panther Love.”
Some folks, including Bro. Lee, would have us believe that Pantherism is “out of date” and no more than nostalgia for a bygone day. But what is “new” in their offering? It’s just the same old bourgeois philosophy expounded by Hobbes and others for the past 350 years.
They mistake the ebb and flow of class struggle for “proof” that the proletariat cannot remake the world in its own interest and do away with class society and all oppression. But, what struggle has not gone through stages of internal gains and losses, successes and setbacks, rises and declines?
The ideology of the capitalist imperialists permeates all of this society and is reflected back most strongly from those whose lifestyles mimic their own, such as the criminal element, or as Huey P. Newton characterized them, the “illegitimate capitalists.” Their lifestyle, which embraces the core of capitalist values, leads them to the distorted view of humyn nature that Hobbes came up with.
“Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.” – Leviathan
Far from war being the natural state of humynity, humyn beings were around for tens of thousands of years and living in community before the first weapons were conceived. Primitive egalitarian societies were characterized by their lack of authoritarian figures and forms of compulsion as well as their customs of sharing and hospitality.
Far from everyone being in a state of war with everyone else, as Hobbes asserts, the normal state of humyn relations was for tens of thousands of years characterized by its lack of conflict and general peace. Conflict arose with the creation of private property and the division of society into exploiting and exploited classes, which brought on violence and war, which has intensified with the development of class society.
Far from standing above society to maintain peace, the sovereign maintains inequality and forces submission of the masses to a privileged class of exploiters. This is civilization.
The proletariat, the class of wage slaves created by capitalism, has the historic destiny of being the gravediggers of the epoch of exploitation and the harbingers of the post-exploitative epoch based upon socialized control over socialized production – creating a society in which each receives according to his or her needs from the collective effort of socialized labor.
Under these conditions, racism, war and all oppression can, and will, be abolished, national boundaries will disappear, and humynity will rise above the struggle for survival to enjoy a degree of liberty and quality of life not previously possible. This is the goal and logical outcome of the class struggle; not simply to make class exploitation and oppression more tolerable but to end it.
The New Afrikan Nation in Amerika has an historic destiny, which is to play a leading, vanguard role in this struggle to create a bright future for all of humynity. As capitalism arose with the enslavement of our ancestors so will it fall through our self-liberation.
The formation of the New Afrikan Service Organization (NASO) is a great leap forward in that it is being conceived as a mass organization that can build the vanguard party to lead the liberation struggle under the most difficult conditions, and continue to rebuild it as necessary, while at the same time uplifting and involving the oppressed Black masses and other oppressed people in day to day struggle to serve the basic survival needs of the people and politically arm them with revolutionary understanding. Our philosophy is: From the Masses to the Masses.
Without a revolutionary vanguard party to act as a strategic and tactical headquarters, there can be no successful revolution. Such a party must be built by the masses from the bottom up under centralized leadership in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism.
NASO, which is democratic in character, will be united around the 10 Point Program of NABPP – PC, (which is part of the legacy of the original Black Panther Party). Chapters of NASO can be established by three or more people in conjunction with the National Steering Committee. Those who demonstrate their dedication and grasp of Pantherism may rise to become members and cadre of NABPP – PC and build the infrastructure of the Party under the leadership of our Central Committee.
NASO is a mass organization that is intermediate between the Party and the people as a whole. It is open to people with a wide range of ideological and political beliefs who are in programmatic unity with the minimum goals and aspirations of the New Afrikan Black Panthers. It is about service to the people.
It is also a “School of Revolution” where those who are inclined can become comrades schooled in revolutionary theory and practice, rise in their level of commitment and understanding, and be entrusted with leadership responsibilities. Revolution is about solving problems, and revolutionaries devote their lives to struggle and service of the people. The minimal program of the Party, which addresses the immediate problems of survival the people face, will also reorient the masses to address the main problem, which is capitalist imperialist rule with the only solution possible – taking history into their own hands.
The New Afrikan Black Panther Party belongs to the people. We will build it in the course of struggle against oppression, drawing into our ranks the best and most dedicated fighters for liberation. The New Afrikan Service Organization will link the Party to the people and people to the Party.
All Power to the People!