The Panther and the Elephant Revisited (by Tom Watts, May 10 2019)

“We must create a broad-based United Panther Movement in alliance with revolutionary
proletarian Parties (the RCP’s), which includes forces in the communities based upon
programmatic unity (“The Elephant”), while at the same time pulling together a hard core of vanguard (“the Panther”) consisting of the most advanced elements that come forward.”

– Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Black Cats Have Many Lives: Reviving the Panther Vanguard
and Building the United Panther Movement”

“The elephant is large and powerful and is unsurpassed in direct confrontation. The Panther is agile and stealthy and is unsurpassed in indirect confrontation. The Elephant relies on his size, thick skin and tusks to meet his enemy head on, while the Panther blends into the night, exercises patience, and employs the art of surprise and ambushes his prey. His intelligence and cunning are greater weapons than his formidable fangs and claws.

“In the “Art of War,” the ancient Chinese sage, Sun Tzu, proposes that two types of forces and maneuvers are called for. He called these CHENG and CH’I. These would be regular and special forces and direct and indirect maneuvers. The purpose of CHENG forces is to engage the enemy, and the purpose of the CH’I forces is to defeat the enemy.

“In advancing the cause of Black Liberation, both types of forces, CHENG and CH’I, are needed. Or to put it another way, both a vanguard and a mass form of organization is needed. The mass form of organization is based upon programmatic unity, and includes people of various political, spiritual and cultural orientations. In the case of the Black Brigade, its basis of unity is service to the Nation of Afrikans in Amerika. The vanguard form of organization is based upon a higher level of unity, application of the Science of Revolution, which is Historical and Dialectical Materialism, and commitment to being a full time revolutionary.”

– Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, The Panther and the Elephant (2005)

The United Panther Movement (UPM) is not an extension of the NABPP. It is not under its
democratic centralism or subordinate to its Central Committee any more than the elephant is
subordinate to the panther in the jungle. They are different sorts of animals, though they have
interests in common and they are not in competition. The UPM is a revolutionary mass
organization. It is not the “B-League” of the Party. The masses are the makers of history. If we were to look for a basketball analogy, we would have to say that the Party is the coaches’
association, because its main job is to teach and to arm the masses with revolutionary theory.
You don’t get asked to be a coach until after you have proven yourself to be a good player and
demonstrated your understanding of the game. Likewise, the Party will recruit its members
from within the UPM. But the primary purpose of the UPM is not to prepare comrades to be
Party cadre, any more than the primary purpose of a basketball team is to produce good
coaches. The primary purpose of the team is to play winning games, to win game after game
and ultimately the championship.

The UPM is intended to become a mass organization of millions and millions of people and the
backbone of the Worldwide United Front in the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. To
become so big and play such an important role, the UPM must build its own democratic
organizational and leadership structure. It must be democratic to be inclusive of different
ideological and political tendencies which can be united programmatically. That is to say, to
unite all who can be united at each stage in the struggle. The Party, in contrast, has a definite
ideological-political line it promotes and operates on. It can unite with and work
programmatically with other forces that have a disagreement with its line, but it isn’t going to
deviate from its line unless the line is changed through an internal process of democratic

Democratic centralism is intended to combine the maximum degree of inner-party democracy
with absolute unity in action. It requires a high level of discipline and dedication. A comrade
must reserve his or her opinions if they do not conform to the agreed upon line reached by the
Party. They cannot freely discuss internal business of the Party outside the Party’s structure.
They have to go through proper channels and not behave like a private individual spouting their
opinions, gossiping and telling tales out of school. This is a manifestation of liberalism and is a
corrosive to unity and destructive to the work of the Party. Imagine if you will one coach on the
sidelines sending signals to the players contradicting the instructions of the coach in charge.
What sort of confusion would that cause? It might be a case of intentional sabotage or of lack
of self-control and discipline, but in any case it would be detrimental to the team and the
chances of playing a good game.

The Party expects comrades to make mistakes—even the best and most experienced
comrades—and it has a structure to deal with that, to learn from and correct those mistakes
and improve and strengthen its ideological-political line in the process. This has been worked
out through the practice of revolutionary parties over many decades of struggle. It works. What
doesn’t work is deviating from these procedures, applying a liberal, individualist approach and
letting your ego runaway with your reason. Why do people do this? It is because the dominate ideology in any society is that of its ruling class. Bourgeois capitalist society is all about
individualism, self-interest and ego gratification. We were breed to it just like we learned to eat
too much sugar and salt even though it is bad for our health. We don’t even notice it. We
should be gagging on it, but one gets used to almost anything—in fact we learn to crave it.

The Party practices and promotes the method of criticism and self-criticism to correct bourgeois
tendencies and develop a revolutionary proletarian worldview and consciousness, to correct
mistakes and improve our work. Sometimes, it is easier to see the faults in others than
ourselves, we can grow “nose blind” to our own stink. Our egos can blind us to our own
weaknesses and make it hard to own up to our mistakes. Everybody has weaknesses,
everybody has some bourgeois tendencies because everything—EVERYTHING—is a unity of
opposites. That’s a dialectical law, and it’s a law you can’t break!

The trick is to “shoot straight despite the wind.” Marksmen call it “adjusting for windage.” We
can’t stop the wind from blowing, but we can gauge and compensate for it and hit our target
anyway. Sun Tsu, the ancient Chinese sage who wrote the Art of War said: “If you know the
enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know
yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know
neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Knowing ourselves, our
strengths and weaknesses is half the battle. In the Party or in UPM, we must use collective
wisdom to “know ourselves” not just as individuals but as teammates, comrades, part of a

We must recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses—not to feed into them or play upon
them to make others look bad and by contrast to make ourselves look good, but to back up and
support one another, to turn weaknesses into strengths and make our Party and our Movement
stronger—to win our battles and defeat our enemies. A collective has different members with
different strengths and weaknesses. We need that. If we were all alike, what could we learn
from each other? What unique thing would we have to contribute?

Right now we are in our formative stage as a Party and as the UPM. We are breaking new
ground, and laying a foundation to build upon. You could say we are “going to school” because
we have so much to learn that we can only learn by doing. We also have so much to teach,
because to have a basically correct ideological-political line is so critically important. As
Chairman Mao said: “The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides
everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political
power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose.
The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out.” – (“Talks With Responsible
Comrades At Various Places During Provincial Tour,” 1971)

Beginning as a prison-based organization in 2005, we recognized that we would first have to
determine and formulate a basically correct ideological-political line. We saw that there was no
one out there we could just align with because we could see they were all making certain
serious errors, and we would have to rely upon ourselves to create the vanguard that was
needed. It wasn’t a matter of ego—in fact it seemed like an impossible task we would fail at and
pay with our lives (at least suffer for)—but we didn’t see any other way. So we went to work.
We came pretty close to the mark (we decided), and so we set to testing our line in practice and
seeing how we could improve it. We are still doing that, but with some confidence that we have
a basically correct line (at least better than the other forces we are aware of), and it is time to
pull on the “net rope.”

This revolution is not going to be like any that went before, because the world is now hooked
together differently than it was. Huey Newton’s “Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunialism”
is the starting point for understand how to deal with this situation. We understand that a lot
better than we did back in 2005 when we were still calling ourselves “revolutionary
nationalists,” and we understand it now a lot better than the original BPP members did back in
the 1970’s, even after they began calling themselves “revolutionary intercommunalists.”
Revolution is a process of radical rupture and continuity. There is continuity between our Party
and the original BPP, but there is also a radical rupture with the past. We are a more
revolutionary party, and these are more revolutionary times.

Neoliberalism, what Huey referred to as “reactionary intercommunalism,” is the final stage of
capitalist-imperialism. It is the endgame of monopoly capitalism, and it will end in world
revolution or mass extinction. We are fast approaching an historic juncture that will determine
if humanity has a future or not. The future can be bright, if we dare to make it so.



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