In Search of the Right Theory for Today’s Struggles: Revisiting Huey P. Newton’s Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”

– Lenin1


Revolution is the complete rupturing of established relations between an oppressed and oppressor class, whereby the oppressor is overthrown and the oppressed seize and exercise power with the purpose of preventing themselves from being oppressed again. To have even a chance of success, the oppressed must be united and guided in their struggle by a correct understanding of who are their actual enemies and friends, and what are the true nature, causes and methods of their suffering. Only then can they hope to develop the right tactics with which to fight and defeat their enemy. This in essence is what revolutionary theory is all about, and why getting it right is vital.

With this understood, we want to look at these theories that guided the most far-reaching revolutionary movements against the viciously oppressive capitalist system as it has evolved. We will then closely analyze the theory that we find most correctly analyzes it as it is now and should therefore guide today’s struggles against it.

Yesterday’s Revolutionary Theories

The rise of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism in 18th and 19th Century Western Europe, has produced a system that has perpetuated history’s greatest continued concentrations of socially-produced wealth into the hands of an oppressive ruling minority, while causing unprecedented social and environmental destruction and devastation. And the suffering grows worse by the day.

This misappropriated wealth is produced by the socialized labor of vast numbers of working people across various industries, who are denied any control over the productive system and the tools and resources they must use to produce that wealth, and over even their own labor power, how it is used and to what ends. During its early stages of development, Karl Marx and his comrade Frederick Engels gave capitalism a close and systematic study. From this they found that capitalism is predicated on a particular relationship and type of class oppression, between the oppressor capitalist class (bourgeoisie) and the oppressed working class (proletariat), in which the bourgeoisie, who owns the productive system, compels the proletarian to sell his or her labor power at less than its actual value to produce goods that the bourgeoisie then sells at their true value to reap immense profits, which the bourgeois pocket as their own private wealth.

They found that the only way to eliminate this oppressive relationship and condition is for the proletariat and its allies to unite, overthrow, and then seize and exercise power over the productive system and all other social institutions against the bourgeoisie until all social oppression is eliminated; which means a proletarian revolution. The concept was simple, however the undertaking proved extremely complicated.

By studying capitalism in its formative years, they witnessed and documented the proletariat’s early struggles against it, such as the Paris Commune of 1871. But as a young class, the proletariat had not yet developed the organizational forms, class consciousness and cohesion, nor grasp of their oppressed condition needed to plot out the appropriate stratagems and stages of struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie. But it was learning. Based on his studies and participation in these struggles, Marx developed a distinctly proletarian theory of revolutionary class struggle, political economy and philosophy which came to be called Marxism.

Meantime, capitalism continued to evolve and grow, as the bourgeoisie in its insatiable greed for ever greater profits, expanded its domain beyond the regions of Western Europe, where it first developed, to encompass the entire globe. Capitalism thus evolved  from a system of many highly competitive decentralized enterprises (laissez-faire or ‘free market’ capitalism) to a  system of a few highly centralized monopoly enterprises (monopoly capitalism or capitalist imperialism).

Having expanded into Eastern Europe, including into Russia, V.I. Lenin lived through and closely studied these developments, alongside the works of Marx and Engels. From this, he developed a comprehensive understanding of this evolving system, the world social forces within it, (and their alignments), and the organizational forms the proletariat must take and develop to defeat it, which he elaborated in many works. He thus advanced Marxism in each of its principal areas. His theories came to be known as Marxism-Leninism (M-L), and became the guiding principles of history’s first successful proletarian revolution – in Russia in 1917 – which Lenin and his Bolshevik Party led.

Also, under his leadership, and that of his successor J.V. Stalin, the world’s people (especially across the Third World), began rising up against the Western European based imperialist powers that were colonizing them, by waging struggles for national independence. In fact it was Stalin who applied M-L and developed the theory of national liberation which was adopted by revolutionary nationalists across the Third World. Lenin led socialist Russia and allied parties to support these movements – including on behalf of New Afrikans/Blacks in the U.S., whom they recognized as a distinct historically constituted nationality of people who therefore enjoyed the right to self-determination up to and including secession from Amerika.

In China, Mao Tse-tung, also an apt student of Marx and Engels (and of Lenin and Stalin) – proved to be the Third World’s most advanced revolutionary leader and M-L strategist. He also advanced M-L theory with respect to liberation struggles in the predominantly peasant Third World, in the area of continuing the class struggle under socialism, and in applying the mass line to revolutionary struggle and maintaining the working class integrity of the revolutionary party and socialist state.

As a co-founder and leader of the Chinese Communist Party, he led China’s national liberation struggle and civil war, which overthrew imperialist and semi-feudal domination in 1949. He further led China’s subsequent development as the most far-reaching socialist (or proletarian-led) society until his death in 1976, following which, bourgeois forces regained power and derailed the socialist revolution.

Mao advanced M-L in its principal areas. His overall contributions to M-L theory came to be known as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism or simply Maoism.2

But as class forces and history would have it, (and as Mao predicted could occur and led the struggle to prevent until his death), each of these revolutionary successes was reversed through the tireless maneuverings and schemes of the bourgeoisie and their minions, who fought without relent to regain power in and over those nations. These reversals produced and were attended by major changes in the alignment of forces and balances of power between 1) the proletariat and bourgeoisie everywhere, 2) the imperialist versus the socialist camps, and 3) the various existing imperialist powers.

Indeed, the socialist camp was routed, causing the Third World to lose its socialist rear support bases in China and the Soviet Union. Meantime, the imperialists spared no resource, opportunity nor treachery to purge the proletariat everywhere of its revolutionary leadership, its class consciousness and of the very notion of waging revolutionary struggle. They also waged a relentless campaign to vilify and slander communism and socialism, and its leading theorists.

In the process, Amerika outmaneuvered its imperialist rivals and allies alike to become the world’s sole imperialist superpower, with military bases/enclaves and strategic armaments encircling the entire globe; and its economic, cultural, political and ideological influences and controls penetrating everywhere. Thus eliminating the basis for any society, (from the First to the Third World), to exercise or claim genuine sovereignty or national independence. Amerika thus became a global imperialist empire.

Consequently, the world order today differs substantially from the times when Marx, Engels, Lenin or even Mao analyzed it and formulated their revolutionary theories. Yet, many who continue in struggles against imperialism, still continue in those analyses and methods based on them, in mismatched and failing attempts to graft them onto now.

Huey’s Theory of Intercommunalism

Into this theoretical vacuum steps Huey P. Newton’s theoretical contributions, which he developed as the co-founder, Minister of Defense and chief theoretician of the original Black Panther Party (BPP). Under his leadership, the BPP began as a nationalist organization, following the older Black Nationalist teachings of Malcolm X.3 However, it then quickly evolved through the Marxian4 theories of Revolutionary Nationalism, then Revolutionary Internationalism.

By applying each of these theories in turn to the day-to-day struggles of New Afrikans/Blacks in Amerika, Huey realized they were insufficient to explain the world order as it was then, and furthermore, as it was developing under imperialism, and therefore proved ill-suited to base strategies on to defeat modern capitalist-imperialism. He therefore gave the problem deeper study and ended in developing a ‘new’ theory calling it “Revolutionary Intercommunalism.”

Huey’s theory never gained popularity within ‘traditional’ Marxian “Leftist” and nationalist circles, because it departed sharply from their assessments of things. Also, many just didn’t get it. The theory has also been largely forgotten, because of the demise of the BPP and also of Huey P. Newton as an important revolutionary leader, due to the U.S. Government’s unrelenting campaign to destroy both. Also, the ‘movement’ lost its understanding and appreciation of the vital need of a guiding revolutionary theory, because over the years, many so-called revolutionary lines have proved impotent and many leaders fell by the wayside (were destroyed, corrupted, imprisoned, burned out, etc.).

However, there have been exceptions, who remember, grasp, and have given positive credit to Huey’s theory. Most notably, is Mumia Abu-Jamal, in his 2004 political memoir of his life and work in the BPP, titled We Want Freedom.5 In fact, when correctly understood, Huey’s Intercommunalism has proven correct, withstood the test of time, and precisely predicted world conditions under imperialism as they have developed over four decades later.

His theory, Huey explained, was the product of his analysis of and experiences with the capitalist system as it actually existed in correlation to the work of the BPP in its active struggle against it. He also studied Marx, Lenin and Mao.

The Party first based itself on nationalism because, he said, he believed, as did many, that a subjugated people could gain their freedom by forming their own independent nation states. But this proved inadequate; even for socialist nations, because Amerika had grown to become a literal world ‘empire’ and so effectively integrated and dominated the world’s economy, lands and peoples, that none could truly break away from that system to exist or develop as free and independent states.

The condition of colonialism had evolved to such a level that Amerika fed off the wealth and resources of the entire world, but without need of maintaining its own administration or settler presence inside the foreign domains, as the old colonial system had. But the concept of neo-colonialism did not adequately define this relationship either, he said, because all the old colonies were not merely ruled over by local lackeys, but rather the entire societies had been integrated into a globally interconnected system like that of so many communities, instead of as an arrangement of separate sovereign nations. He called this system “Reactionary Intercommunalism.”

Because they could not decolonize, (become independent and free nation states with control over their own economic development and institutions), nationalism and internationalism made no sense. As he noted the basis of decolonization or national independence is that a colonized people be able to reclaim or return to their previously existing stages of development or otherwise develop their own productive forces.

But he saw this world system with its interconnected technologies, cultures and communication systems as able, if brought under collective control of the masses rather than that of a small circle of super-rich administrators, to provide for everyone’s needs, solve all the world’s problems, and create a communal culture that could end the prevalence of perpetual war and social chaos. This new social order he called Revolutionary Intercommunalism, or World Socialism, and a precursor to the Communist World (a world free of oppression and exploitation) which Marxists aspire to.

Huey also recognized and predicted that the rapid development in automation and technical advances would create a declining need and consequent shrinking of the industrial proletariat, and an attendant growth of its unemployed lumpen (“broken”) section, who would soon come to outnumber the working proletariat. He saw this desperate and marginalized mass as the force that would replace the proletariat to lead the struggles against imperialism. He also focused his theory and work on the lumpen; based upon his understanding that if revolutionary elements didn’t win the lumpen over to the revolutionary cause, the bourgeoisie would co-opt and use them against the revolutionary movement. As Bobby Seale, Huey’s co-founder and Chairman of the BPP, observed:

“Huey understood… that if you didn’t organize the lumpen proletariat and give a base for organizing the brother who’s pimping, the brother who’s hustling, the unemployed, the downtrodden, the brother who’s robbing banks, who’s not politically conscious – that’s what lumpen means – that if you didn’t relate to these cats, the power structure would organize these cats against you.”6

What gave Huey’s line such great practical and theoretical credibility is the urban unemployables and lumpen were the very people the BPP was based within, effectively organizing and politically educating. Few can deny – and the unprecedented destructive effort the U.S. Government directed at the BPP demonstrates – that the Panthers proved to be the most advanced and influential revolutionary organization on the U.S. Left, and it focused on organizing not the proletariat but rather the lumpen – no easy task.

It furthermore proved the most resilient, and catalyzed the creation and growth of similar groups across all ‘racial’ and national groups in Amerika, including a new Communist movement, and inspired imitators in many other countries. And many groups have since modeled themselves after the BPP, although few have understood or built upon its theory.

Before the BPP, no other Leftists had, with Huey’s strategic clarity, organized the lumpen nor ever aspired to. But if his predictions about the imminent growth of masses of unemployables and lumpen proved true (and it has!), it would have to be an essential component of any credible future struggle against imperialism.

The New Imperialist World Order

In answer to the anti-colonial national liberation struggles that swept the Third World under communist leadership, especially following World War II, Amerika and its European allies dismantled and replaced the old Third World colonial system with one that propped up local puppets and sham liberation leaders. Under the pretence of aiding these countries’ development, U.S.-based international lenders (the World Bank and International monetary Fund) granted high interest loans conditioned on purchases being made from ‘friendly’ imperialist corporations, and imposing ‘structural adjustments’ within the borrowing countries that devalue local currencies, deprive the local population of basic subsidies, preclude industrial development, and overall ensures the impoverishment of the country and export of its national wealth and produce, etc.. These and other schemes were and are used to bring societies the world over to heel within a U.S. dollar-dominated world market.

They also fomented internal subversion and coups against non-compliant regimes, assassinated leaders, or imposed ‘regime changes’ by direct military intervention. They also nurtured the development of bourgeois elements and counter-revolutionary movements within socialist or ‘non-aligned’ societies, and subjected hold-outs to severe economic isolation and blockades, stifling needed trade and development, and forcing their populations to suffer under inhumane and increasingly harsh conditions, which the imperialists blamed on the policies of their leaders and the claimed ‘failures’ of socialism.

Amerika also uses its stolen opulence to appeal to poor populations, (typically the very populations it steals the wealth of and are impoverished for this very reason), to aspire to the capitalist model, while preventing them from ever developing industrially whereby they might become economic competitors, forcing them to accept uneven and grossly unfair terms of trade and debts that see them perpetually robbed of their wealth and labor.

None of the former colonies have achieved freedom from imperialism, but instead have all been subdued by a new neo-liberal world order jealously ruled over by the U.S. Huey was right! Not a single national liberation struggle produced a free and independent state.

Furthermore, today, the majority of people who need work to survive can’t find it. Just as Huey predicted, rapid advances in technology and automation over the past several decades have caused the ranks of the unemployed to grow exponentially, and it continues to grow. Many of them are lumpen, but here we should make a distinction – although, many lumpen are unemployed, not all unemployed proletarians are lumpen. As Marx pointed out, capitalism inevitably produces a perpetual mass of unemployed proletarians, from which the bourgeoisie can always find workers and use to keep wages down. This group is called the “Reserve Army of Labor.”

The lumpen, however, is a sub-class of the proletariat who live by means of parasitism, opportunism and exploitation; such as for example, hustlers, pimps, drug peddlers, thieves, numbers runners, gang members and so on. As a result of their lifestyle of social predation, they have lost the collective social mores and values of the proletariat, and like the bourgeoisie aspire to quick fixes and acquisition of great wealth by preying on others.

Today, the lumpen are largely concentrated in and around impoverished urban areas – the slums, shantytowns, ghettoes, barrios, refugee camps and so on – and of course prisons. But, also amassed in these areas are throngs of unemployed proletarians and marginalized people (the poor, mentally ill, squatters, the homeless, etc.). These urban multitudes cannot find work simply because the bourgeoisie cannot profitably exploit  them. So they are left to suffer a desperate and marginalized existence.

This is in contrast to times past, when the urban centers were where the major industries were concentrated, and therefore were the areas where the employed proletarians lived. But, still they were places of concentrated poverty. Things have changed vastly since then. Especially since the 1970’s, when the U.S. began de-industrializing and relocating its major industries to suburban areas and the Third World.

Alongside these conditions, have been huge population shifts from rural to urban areas in the densely populated Third World. This has occurred and continues for several reasons:

One reason is because of the imperialist system’s insatiable drive for new sources of raw materials to feed its industries. This prompts them to ravenously gobble up vast expanses of rural land for mineral extraction and cash crop production. To acquire this land, millions upon millions of peasants and small farmers are driven off their land. Since it is usually their ancestral land and homes they are losing, they are typically pushed off by force of local governments and militaries, mercenaries, warlord armies, rival ethnic groups and/or so-called terrorist groups – all at the prompting of imperialist governments and corporations, (almost always operating behind the scenes to conceal their roles in fomenting bloodshed). This is the actual root of much of the violence raging in impoverished Third World regions, especially across Afrika, and has served to dispense with the old colonial system’s need of settlers and its own militaries to expel native peoples from resource-rich and arable land.

Another reason for large population shifts is that vast numbers of poor farming people cannot afford to hold onto their land, because they cannot profitably sell their produce on the local markets, which are flooded with produce coming from high-volume agribusiness enterprises and thus is sold much cheaper than the small local farmers can afford to sell their produce. These dislocated people are driven or flee into crowded urban slums, refugee camps, shantytowns and the like in desperate search of shelter, safety and work. Many undertake perilous migrations to First World countries, where, if they are not caught and deported, are crowded into city slums.

Instead of finding security and work, most of these displaced people are marginalized and must struggle to survive by any possible means. This is the main impetus for many becoming lumpen. Hence, the high prevalence of crime (especially in and around impoverished urban areas) is a consequence of the dysfunctional imperialist system. Moreover, these social dislocations fall heaviest on the youth, who are often orphaned in the process or otherwise fall by the wayside, and are in turn compelled to form or join gangs for survival and protection – being lumpenized at a young age.

As a result of these conditions, the peasantry (which long predominated in the Third World) is disappearing, the class of securely employed proletarians is shrinking, and the majority of the world’s people are being pushed into an unemployable, lumpenized sub-class. Those who aren’t lumpen are forced to live in intimate contact with them, and are thus continually exposed to the influence and pressure of the lumpen lifestyle and culture.

Because the lumpen’s selfish, materialistic, and opportunistic values are wholly compatible with and actually reflect those of the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie promotes and glamorizes lumpen culture to the poor and disaffected via its ‘entertainment’ outlets, couching it in art forms that appeal to these groups (such as hip hop, street art, urban fashion, etc.). This, in addition to the need to survive, is another reason urban youth, (who might otherwise be drawn to organized struggle against their oppressed condition), are drawn to the lumpen lifestyle and its “get rich or die trying” ethic.

Over half the world now lives in and around urban areas; and there exists today the greatest polarization of social wealth between rich and poor seen in modern history. As Huey predicted, the unemployable and lumpen now outnumber the working proletariat, and their numbers continue to grow.

The one percent now own more wealth than 95% of the world’s people, and some 1,000 billionaires own $4.5 trillion. Nearly half the world’s population have an annual net worth of $10,000 each. Over half the world’s people live on less than $2.50 a day, 3 billion live on less than $2.00 a day, and 1.2 billion live on less than $1.50 a day.

Huey’s theory foretold these developments almost exactly, and correctly and objectively identified their root causes at the time he elaborated it in 1970. Revolutionaries today must base their practice on equally accurate analyses. But fundamentally, we must master and apply the philosophical method with which he made his assessments, which, many Marxists might be surprised to learn, was none other than Marx’s own philosophy of dialectical materialism.

Huey’s Theory versus Traditional Marxism

As we’ve noted, the Marxist line has always hailed the proletariat as the leading and only genuinely revolutionary class under capitalism. This remains true, because the fundamental contradiction and division which sustains this system remains that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Additionally, the proletariat is the only class with nothing to gain by exploiting anyone else, (in fact, it is the only class that does not live by exploitation). It stands to gain everything by overthrowing the bourgeoisie and seizing control over the productive system and the wealth which its own collective labor produces, and ultimately abolishing all class relations.

But, by adhering mechanically to this line, many leftists have frowned on or otherwise failed to see any potential revolutionary role or value in the lumpen and unemployables in general. They’ve failed to recognize the need to win them over to prevent their being used by the bourgeoisie against them.

Under Huey’s theoretical leadership, the BPP broke ranks with this mold, and developed both an organizational structure and strategy that gave a method to politically awakening and organizing the lumpen to play a revolutionary role. He proved his theory with practice – basing the BPP and its socialistic ‘Serve the People’ programs within the very social forces he championed as destined to a future leading revolutionary role, namely, the lumpen and marginalized urban poor. In this, the BPP was breaking uncharted ground. Yet, so far, Huey’s contributions to revolutionary theory and practice have gone unrecognized, unappreciated and, worse still, ignored and have not been built on in a significant way.

Huey proved to have a better grasp of Dialectical Materialism than the traditional Marxists, who rejected his concepts as so much theoretical muddle. Huey explained:

“The Black Panther Party is a Marxist-Leninist party because we follow the dialectical method and we also integrate theory with practice. We are not mechanical Marxists, and we are not Historical Materialists. Some people think they are Marxists, when actually they are following the thoughts of Hegel. Some people think they are Marxist-Leninists but they refuse to be creative, and are, therefore, tied to the past. They are tied to a rhetoric that does not apply to the present set of conditions. They are tied to a set of thoughts that approach dogma – which we call flunkyism.”7

Our Line On Intercommunalism

We in the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) find Huey’s theory of Intercommunalism to be generally correct, and that it offers a valid conceptual framework to build a modern, global, revolutionary movement around. But, there are some idealistic, or incomplete aspects to his analysis that we’d like to address. We’d also like to show that his theory is overall confirmed by Marxist methodology.

Foremost, Huey saw the lumpen as displacing the proletariat as the new and final vanguard revolutionary class in the struggle against imperialism, because of its desperation and growing to outnumber the working proletariat, which is why he denounced Historical Materialism (HM). But, HM applies DM to the evolution of social productive systems from the most primitive to the most advanced, and places the proletariat as the class destined to overthrow imperialism and abolish all forms of exploitation, oppression and class divisions. Huey’s line of replacing the proletariat with the lumpen in this role was clearly in error, for various reasons:

First, the lumpen is a sub-class of the proletariat, not an independent class. As such, it exists by merit of contradictory relations that exist between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. It is not a self-actualizing, self-sustaining, nor self-perpetuating class. In order to play a sustainable revolutionary role, the lumpen must maintain links to and accept leadership from the advanced layers of its parent class – the revolutionary proletariat and/or its line. It must embrace and practice this line to restore, (that is “fix” and sustain) its “broken” class identity and values.

Second, unlike the proletariat, the lumpen live by preying on others, including – and often especially – the proletariat. So it is innately corrupt and opportunistic, which makes it unsuited to becoming an independently “all-the-way revolutionary” sector.

Third, the lumpen exist outside of basic production, so it cannot organize resistance, nor expropriate and reorganize society at the point of production, which is fundamental to overthrowing the bourgeoisie and its control over the institutions of power, and building a cooperative political economy whereby the overall needs of the masses can be met.

Overall, to become revolutionary, the lumpen must embrace and practice the ideological and political line of the revolutionary proletariat, which is the only truly “all-the-way revolutionary” class. We have previously dealt with this matter at length as the guiding line of the NABPP-PC.8

Because the BPP failed to recognize the predominant role of the revolutionary proletariat and its line, and that all other sectors must embrace this line, they didn’t require Party members to develop a specifically proletarian consciousness. This allowed lumpen values to persist within the BPP, leading to many deviations in the Party and the moral degeneration of key leaders, like Huey, Eldridge Cleaver and others. Huey’s demise was clearly because of his regression into lumpen values and behavior prompted by the system’s attacks on him and the BPP; which included extortion, robbery, drug addiction, even alleged murder – all directed at members of the oppressed communities he was charged with leading the struggle to liberate. Worse still, he began running the Party like a street gang. Ultimately, his reversion to the lumpen lifestyle cost him his life, in a street corner drug deal gone bad.

Similar behaviors have surfaced in the leadership and practices of groups today that have modeled themselves after the BPP, and who have also not required their members to develop a revolutionary proletarian morality, in order to purge their lumpen tendencies: This is a matter which cannot be glossed over nor dealt with lightly. In fact it reinforces the importance of revolutionaries remolding the lumpen and winning them away from bourgeois influences. Mao has explained the necessity of remolding the lumpen:

“Denied proper means of making a living, many of [the unemployed] are forced to resort to illegitimate ones, hence the robbers, gangsters, beggars and prostitutes and the numerous people who live on superstitious practices. This social stratum is unstable; while some are apt to be bought over by the reactionary forces, others may join the revolution. These people lack constructive qualities and are given to destruction rather than construction; after joining the revolution. They become a source of roving rebel and anarchist ideology in the revolutionary ranks. Therefore we should know how to mold them and guard against their destructiveness.9

But the lumpen cannot just be disregarded. As yet another Marxist and specific theorist on the lumpen, Franz Fanon, made clear, to do so is to imperil the revolutionary struggle. As the imperialists will definitely:

“find in the lumpen-proletariat a considerable space for maneuvering. For this reason any movement for freedom ought to give its fullest attention to this lumpen-proletariat. The peasant masses will always answer the call to rebellion, but if the rebellion’s leaders think it will be able to develop without taking the masses into consideration, the lumpen-proletariat will throw itself into the battle and will take part in the conflict – but this time on the side of the oppressor. And the oppressor, who never loses a chance of setting the niggers against each other, will be extremely skillful in using that ignorance and incomprehension which are the weaknesses of the lumpen-proletariat. If this available reserve of human effort is not immediately organized by the forces of rebellion, it will find itself fighting as hired soldiers side by side with the colonial troops.”10

Next, Huey’s analysis on why nationalist movements cannot achieve liberation for an oppressed people has been proven correct , as we’ve noted. But, we feel it is also theoretically confirmed by analysis of the national liberation struggle made by yet another Marxist; namely Amilcar Cabral, who has been  almost universally appraised as one of Afrika’s foremost revolutionary nationalist leaders and theorists. Amilcar led one of Arfika’s most successful national liberation struggles, against overwhelming odds in Guinea Bissau (from 1956 until his assassination in 1973).

Applying a Marxist political-economic analysis, he demonstrated that any national liberation struggle is essentially a people’s struggle to reclaim control over and freedom to develop their own productive forces and history. Anything short of this is not national liberation. Here’s Cabral:

“Let us examine the nature of national liberation. We shall consider this historical phenomenon in its contemporary context, that is, national liberation in opposition to imperialist domination. The latter is, as we know, distinct both in form and in content from preceding types of foreign domination (tribal, military-aristocratic, feudal, and capitalist domination in the free competition era).

“The principal characteristic, common to every kind of imperialist domination, is the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violently usurping the free operation of the process of development of the productive forces and the system for social utilization of these forces (the ownership system) determine the mode of production. In our opinion, the mode of production whose contradictions are manifested with more or less intensity through the class struggle, is the principal factor in the history of any human group, the level of the productive forces being the true and permanent driving power of history.

“For every society, for every group of people, considered as an evolving entity, the level of the productive forces indicates the stage of development of the society and of each of its components in relation to nature, its capacity to act or react consciously in relation to nature. It indicates and conditions the type of material relationships (expressed objectively or subjectively) which exists among the various elements or groups and types of relationships between [people] and nature, between [people and their] environment. Relationships and types of relationships among the individual or collective components of society, to speak of these is to speak of history….”

“…The objective of national liberation is, therefore… the liberation of the process of development of the national productive forces. Therefore, national liberation takes place when, and only when, national productive forces are completely free of all kinds of foreign domination.11

Huey’s position that there were no liberated nations was based upon his finding that all of the previously colonized societies who’d supposedly won national independence, still had their economic or productive forces dominated by the imperialists. Which is the exact criteria that Amilcar explained determines that national liberation has not succeeded. In this respect, Huey noted that because the imperialists had so completely integrated these societies’ productive forces into its system of domination, it was not possible for any ‘nation’ to regain control over its productive forces. As he stated, “the people and the economy are so integrated into the imperialist empire that it’s impossible to ‘decolonize,’ to return to the former conditions of existence. If colonies cannot decolonize and return to their original existence as nations, then nations no longer exist.”12


Many groups and movements today that oppose imperialism at various levels, recognize that the U.S. is in fact an empire that has integrated the productive forces of the world’s societies into a global system that it dominates. Yet they still promote outmoded nationalist lines. Others promote class struggle, but have no concept of what roles the vast multitudes of unemployable poor, marginalized and lumpen might play pro or contra. More still promote outmoded or otherwise subjective forms of struggle that are unsuited or unresponsive to today’s new world social-political-economic dynamics.

We must apply the line of Revolutionary Intercommunalism which promotes building unity between communities, and forging a worldwide culture of resistance to all oppression. The imperialists are waging a “War on the Poor” which we must counter with strategies of mutual assistance and survival programs, with the object of creating liberated areas and alternative institutions of dual power. The poor urban regions must be transformed into revolutionary base areas culturally, socially and politically. We must create “People’s Power” at the grassroots level. And we must counter the imperialists’ strategy of criminalizing and mass imprisoning the poor, while transforming the prisons and jails into “Schools of Liberation,” to educate and politicize the lumpen and marginalized on the inside.

The oppressive system of imperialism is global in all aspects. Our struggle against it must be as well.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!


Print Friendly
  1. V. I. Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?” Selected Works, Vol. I (New York: International Publishers, (1967 []
  2. Initially Mao’s contributions to M-L was called Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought, since it was his position that he only interpreted but had not actually advanced M-L. This was later repudiated since, despite his modesty, Mao indeed advanced M-L in all its key aspects, and made various ‘new’ contributions in its application such as in conducting people’s war, continuing the class struggle under socialism and waging cultural revolution for this purpose, etc. []
  3. Malcolm X promoted Black Nationalism as a political strategy following his break with the Nation of Islam (NOI). He later rejected the concept as he moved closer to embracing a more socialist-oriented line, and disclaimed it as a terminology and concept that other non-Black revolutionaries found alienating. []
  4. Throughout this paper, I use the terms “Marxist” and “Marxian” as general references to Marxist-oriented or based lines, including M-L and M-L-M. []
  5. Mumia Abu-Jamal, We Want Freedom: A Life In the Black Panther Party, (Boston, MA: South End Press, 2004) pp. 80-88. The New Panther Vanguard Movement, led by attorney B. Kwaku Duren promotes intercommunalism as a movement. Also the Black Riders Liberation Party, has used ‘communal’ terminology, but does not promote nor practice leading, organizing or developing alliances with ‘white’ anti-imperialists as the BPP did in applying Huey’s Theory of Intercommunal Solidarity. []
  6. Bobby Seale, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton, (Baltimore, MD: Black Classics Press, 1991), p.30. []
  7. David Hilliard and Donald Weise, ed., The Huey P. Newton Reader, (N.Y.: Seven Stories Press, 2002). pp. 164-165. []
  8. Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “The NABPP-PC Our Line,” (2005), []
  9. Mao Tse-tung, “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party,” Dec. 1939.(emphasis added) []
  10. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (N.Y.: Grove Press, 1968), p.109. []
  11. Amilcar Cabral, “National Liberation and Culture,” Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings of Amilcar Cabral, (N.Y.: Monthly Review, 1979), pp. 141-142. []
  12. David Hilliard and Donald Weise, ed., The Huey P. Newton Reader, (N.Y.: Seven Stories Press, 2002). p. 187. []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *