The New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter: Our Line (2005)


In this paper, we outline the political and ideological line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter. [1] The NABPP-PC, an all-Afrikan people’s revolutionary party, proposes through its work and example to spread its line to create the general NABPP on the outside, to unite all revolutionary-minded New Afrikans, and ultimately to expand the Party into a broad international vanguard of all Afrikan people the world over. We are in full accord with the analysis set forward in “The Panther and the Elephant,” which this paper intends to further illuminate.

The Vanguard Party

As a vehicle for coordinating masses of people for action, organization is necessary. Planning is necessary, and so is assigning roles and tasks to those most capable of performing them, and holding them accountable for performing their assigned tasks completely and to the best of their abilities. Coordinating the activities of the active forces of the Afrikan Nation in Amerika towards the achievement of full democracy and national liberation requires a genuine vanguard party based among the masses. No revolutionary or genuine national independence struggle has ever succeeded without a party to organize and coordinate the energy of the struggling people into focused result-oriented action.

“From the People to the People” is the Mass Line – the opposite of top-down organizations. The NABPP-PC practices and promotes the Mass Line. In applying this, the Party workers must go among the People, and, by living with them and struggling along side them, experience and learn their needs, ideas and interests. The Party then – applying the principles of Historical and Dialectical Materialism – returns the People’s unorganized ideas to them in a comprehensive form, coordinating their collective actions, resources and abilities around their needs and thereby aids and organizes them in solving their own problems.

As a revolutionary vanguard party, the NABPP-PC realizes that strategic or tactical inflexibility runs counter to the organic nature of a mass-based leading party. Such a party must operate within the limits of existing concrete conditions as they develop and change, and it cannot attempt to drive people to stick stubbornly and mechanically to methods of struggle, which actual conditions do not support or allow. It has been by failing to exercise flexibility and initiative and practicing “commandism” that many would-be revolutionary movements in the past have failed and have given vanguard parties a bad name.

Our strategic and tactical decision-making process is that of Democratic Centralism, which does not contradict applying the Mass Line. Nor does it go against maintaining flexibility and initiative and being creative in our political work. Democratic Centralism is the method by which our Party determines, through intense internal discussion, debate, and then majority agreement, the Party’s overall strategic and tactical line. The basic principle is to raise criticisms and ideas up and to implement down. Once a strategy and tactical approach is decided, the lower bodies of the Party can then exercise a great deal of initiative and creativity in applying the line in practice, adapting to the particularities of local conditions.

At the heart of any democratic process is the need and right to be informed of all issues relevant to making accurate analysis and correct decisions. Therefore, Party cadre must never stop learning, (and teaching the People), and must never hold stubbornly to views not supported by the ongoing experience of the Party. Our sources of learning are our people’s life experience, books, and especially our practice. We must never stop learning.

Essential to democratic practice is criticism and self-criticism. All Party members must feel free to criticize other Party members and leaders, line and practice within the context of internal Democratic Centralism. The Party must also be open to listening to the criticisms of the masses. If what is unproductive or harmful cannot be criticized, then how can what is productive and good be determined?

The Party will exercise greater or lesser degrees of centralism, depending upon the freedom and necessity of the struggle in a given time and place. For example, security considerations may restrict the ability to hold discussions and force the leadership to assume more authoritative methods at times, restricting certain information, to protect the cadre or the Party as a whole. But overall, our goal is to promote democracy and collective decision-making. In all cases, we must adjust and adapt new, varied and creative tactics and approaches to maintain the initiative in our work and avoid becoming predictable and thus susceptible to being out maneuvered and defeated.

Classes and Class Struggle

On the point of classes and class struggle, we adopt the analysis presented in “The Panther and the Elephant,” we also add in relation to the Lumpen Proletariat that the NABPP-PC, as its name implies, is centered within the prisons. The vast majority of prisoners in the U.S. are proletarians, but many come from a lumpen background, and all are influenced by this perspective in the context of prison culture. The lumpen class [2] overlaps with the proletariat, (drifts in and out of employment), but maintains an outlook that opposes a proletarian class outlook. The lumpen’s confused and backward values stem from its position of preying upon others and general ignorance, which can be corrected through education and struggle, and through guided practice in a mass organization like the Black Brigade. [3] A minimum condition for the acceptance of lumpen class militants into the Party must be a period of re-education and practice inside a Party-affiliated mass organization like the Black Brigade, where we can observe their practice, and they can remold their class outlook and develop into a full-time, all-the-way revolutionary.

Contradictions in Proletarian Versus Lumpen Perspectives

Many people when presented with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist idea that only the proletariat can lead in making all-the-way revolutionary class struggle question why this is, and why some other class, (without changing its class perspective), cannot lead such a struggle. One reason is because the proletariat is the only class that has no real stake in preserving the class relations of the capitalist system, but has everything to gain in taking control over the social wealth it has itself created by its labor and the tools it uses to create it. Another reason is that the proletariat, (in contrast to the lumpen), has the conditioning in patient work, social unity and cooperation necessary to wage the protracted class struggle required to abolish all exploitation and oppression. Basically, it is our social practice that determines how we think and not how we think that determines our social practice.

The proletariat has a strong sense of family commitment and unity and a sense of respect for and commitment to the community. These values grow out of the routine of going to work each day in the social environment of the workplace to provide for the needs of one’s family, and not only maintaining employment but also engaging in domestic labor in the home, rearing children, and taking part in the social life of the community. This requires and instills stability, discipline and responsibility as well as cooperation with one’s peers.

The class-conscious worker can be of two sorts, the militant and the revolutionary. The militant worker takes the sense of commitment beyond the family into the workplace and will stand up to the bosses for workers’ rights, even to the extent of jeopardizing one’s employment, freedom and safety by participating in strikes and job actions. The revolutionary worker takes the sense of commitment even farther and challenges the oppressive social order to change the social relations for all and put an end to class exploitation and oppression once and for all. The revolutionary is inspired by a great love for the people and sense of duty to the masses and to future generations.

The revolutionary worker doesn’t swagger or boast and has little sense of ego. He or she is serious-minded and self-disciplined. The revolutionary knows that like a strike, the revolutionary struggle must be a united mass struggle, and that it will take quite some time to succeed. Each contribution is important, and the end result is to benefit the overall society. In contrast to the proletarian’s practice and outlook, the lumpen schemes and preys upon others to acquire survival needs and personal wealth, which renders him or her indifferent to the effects visited upon others and society as a whole.

The lumpen mentality mirrors – on a smaller scale and with less sophistication – that of the big gangsters (the monopoly capitalists), and amounts to a ruthless drive for immediate self-gratification, power, control and “respect,” (even though their lifestyle is anything but respectable), through deception, corruption, violence and intimidation of others. These tendencies are what lie behind certain lumpen aspiring to be perceived as “crazy” and unpredictably violent.

Translated into the revolutionary movement, the lumpen tendency has some thinking that militant swaggering, posturing, and “talking shit,” is acceptable behavior for revolutionaries, which is very wrong and demonstrates political immaturity and lack of a true proletarian outlook. Such posturing leads to actions of a reactionary, adventurist and provocateur nature, that invites enemy attack that the movement is unprepared to deal with and alienates the masses. Comrade Sundiata Acoli, (a member of the old BPP and BLA), observed that just such lumpen tendencies contributed to the downfall of the old BPP and the general Black Liberation Movement in Amerika. (See Sundiata Acoli, ” A Brief History of the Black Panther Party and its place in the Black Liberation Movement,” (1985), which is posted on the internet and was recently reprinted in the Summer Issue of Leviathan, the newsletter of the Black Brigade).

Also, because they are conditioned to seek immediate and short-term benefits in their daily practice, the lumpen generally lack the resolve to pursue and stick with tasks that require hard work and patience. We in the NABPP-PC feel that a major factor that led to the old BPP’s destruction was the failure to raise many of the Party’s members’ world view to that of the revolutionary proletariat and allowing the Party and its leadership to become saturated in lumpen ideology, values and practice.

The motives behind revolutionary violence are fundamentally different from the reactionary violence of the lumpen, who model their violence after that of the big gangsters. Revolutionary violence is rooted in the collective resistance of the masses organized against the violence of the big gangster bourgeoisie system of repression and exploitation. History is made by the collective masses, with the genuine revolutionary vanguard serving to raise their consciousness and organize their force into collective revolutionary struggle. Correct thinking is the catalyst, just as intelligence draws order out of chaos – out of the chaos of noise – music, and out of chaos of images and color – art.

Raising the Lumpen Outlook to a Revolutionary Proletarian Outlook

To serve in the capacity of a truly revolutionary vanguard, the Party must consist of committed, disciplined people who have the outlook of truly revolutionary workers; people who are committed to work every day in a patient and disciplined way until the conditions for a revolutionary seizure of power by the masses arise. Without remolding their class outlook, the lumpen will pursue ultra-leftist militant acts of exhibitionism and spew forth “Off the Pig!” rhetoric, and when this provokes repression from the Establishment, they will flip-flop to right opportunism, turn rat and become enemy agents, or run for cover. Lacking correct analysis, self-discipline and patience, they will vacillate left to right, and they will confuse one stage of the struggle for another and try to skip the stages that require hard work and tenacity.

These elements disdain to apply the Mass Line, ignore the Democratic Centralism of the Party, fear Criticism and Self-Criticism and lean towards individualism and “commandism,” indulging in personal attacks and attempts at intimidation and coercion of other Party members and the masses through threats and force. Their unremolded lumpen ideology is a corrosive to building Party unity and maintaining discipline, and it makes them easy prey for recruitment by the enemy. The lumpen are capable of “the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices, or of the basest banditry and dirtiest corruption.”

A large part of our work in NABPP-PC is to properly educate and re-orient the lumpen through ideological and political training and bringing as many of them who are capable of “the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices” into the active work of the struggle as possible, and thereby expand the Party while struggling against opportunism, both of the “left” and right varieties. We know that in this work, the enemy will unceasingly attempt to infiltrate its agents of repression and seek out the weak links among us to turn them into their snitches and agents provocateurs, and we must be vigilant to guard against this, without becoming paranoid. In the struggle, “ideological and political line determines everything,” and we must rely on ideological and political training and commitment to practicing the Mass Line, Criticism and Self-Criticism and the Democratic Centralist method of determining what should be done and how to do it.

We realize that the lumpen are our brothers and sisters, and we do not desire to make war on them, rather we look upon their wrong ideas and lack of understanding as loads upon their backs, and we endeavor to help them cast them off. “Cure the sickness to save the patient,” is our goal. However, we are not naive idealists, and we realize that there are those who lack the moral fiber and will to change or courage for the struggle. Some people have no integrity or loyalty, and those who, after struggle, persist in wrong ways must be purged from the ranks of the people’s movement.

Before someone is recruited into the Party, they must be tested and prove themselves in the people’s mass organizations, like the Black Brigade. They must show proof of both good character and advanced understanding of what needs to be done. Words are cheap. Practice is the measure of commitment and the way consciousness develops.

Our goal is to be more than a prison organization. The struggle of our New Afrikan and Afrikan people worldwide cries out for vanguard leadership. With the Black proletariat concentrated in Amerika and Europe and our peasantry concentrated in Afrika, we have an internationalist duty to provide revolutionary proletarian leadership and to set an inspiring example. Our struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism is a class struggle of international dimensions. We have much to learn and much to do. We must become good at learning and resolute in struggle.

[1] The NABPP-PC was initially called by New Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter. This was changed to New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter after the first issue of Right On! (the newsletter of the NABPP-PC) to avoid confusion with the narrow nationalist New Black Panther Party (NBPP). Reprints of Right On! were subsequently amended.

[2] The lumpen are not a class in the fullest sense but part of the lower strata of the proletariat. “Lumpen” means “broken”. The lumpen-proletariat are those who exist by illegal means or hustle.

[3] Now the New Afrikan Service Organization (NASO). See Summer 2007 article “Advancing from the Black Brigade to the New Afrikan Service Organization: A Great Leap Forward!”


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