I was able to read a series of exchanges from a discussion group for the Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO).

One particular discussion went on at some length on the question of armed struggle and at what point it is appropriate to move the masses to engage in it. There was a struggle of positions representing the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP) line versus ones that promoted Che Guevara’s foco theory. There were also questions concerning the role and validity of Party-led political education and Serve the People programs (STPs); whether the STPs are legitimate revolutionary work or nothing more than charity.

These are important subjects for those involved in revolutionary work, especially PSO Comrades, to develop the correct line on.



To begin, the Guevarist Comrade was correct, that the RIBPP Comrade misstated Carlos Marighela’s contribution to the guerrilla foco theory.

It was actually Regis Debray and his “Revolution Within the Revolution” that preceded and influenced Che’s development of the foco guerrilla theory, which in turn influenced Carlos. But from there the Guevarist Comrade misstates or conflates the very different positions that Mao tse Tung and Huey P. Newton versus Che Guevara took concerning military strategy in revolutionary struggle.

He argues that RIBPP/PSO should adopt the proven failed foco theory of adventurous attacks on the establishment’s armed forces, so the pigs will in turn retaliate against the people, which he believes will in turn provoke a revolutionary uprising. This is in essence the foco theory. Which as was correctly pointed out by the RIBPP Comrade has met with repeated loss and disaster everywhere it has been tried. It actually doesn’t lead to any mass uprising, but instead turns the masses against the guerrillas and movement, and leads them to hand them over to the pigs. This is how the Bolivian army hunted Che down and murdered him—the very peasants he was fighting for told the army where he and his small guerrilla band were, who were severely demoralized, from suffering repeated losses and attrition because the peasants wouldn’t support or join them. You should read Che’s Bolivian Diary, also his Congo Diary which traces his failed attempts to apply his foco theory in the Congo after Patrice Lumumba’s assassination.

Which is exactly what happened everywhere the foco strategy was attempted, after Cuba.



Cuba was the first and only successful case of applying the foco, for several reasons, none of which had to do with Castro’s personality as the Guevarist implies. Cuba succeeded because there was already a mass movement underway when Castro, Che and their July 26 band of guerrillas landed in Cuba. The masses were already in revolt against Batista’s military coup that had overthrown the civilian government, plus the U.S. believed Castro was a capitalist and didn’t particularly like Batista who was half Black, so it didn’t oppose Castro and his band. This is how and why Castro and Co received material support from the Cuban masses. But after the success of the Cuban revolution when Castro confiscated and nationalized property ‘owned’ by U.S. interests and subsequently came out as a Communist aligned with the Soviet Union, the CIA vowed there would never be another Cuban revolution, and there hasn’t.

All across Latin America revolutionary movements inspired by the Cuban success adopted Che’s foco theory. And everywhere it met with disastrous losses and failure.

The foco theory faced similar loss when George Jackson promoted an urban variation of it for Blacks here in the U.S., which was adopted by the Black Liberation Army. And, yes, the BLA was thoroughly infiltrated, there were agents carrying out acts of violence in tandem with legitimate revolutionaries who believed in the strategy that gave pretexts for pig retaliations against the Black communities which served to discredit the movement.

The pigs actually wanted revolutionaries to adopt the foco theory. They wanted the people on a war footing, knowing we were in no position to win. It’s how most all the BLA fighters were quickly killed off, imprisoned, or pushed into exile, and the BLA (both manifestations of it) had only a very brief life.



Contrary to the arguments made by the Guevarist in support of us adopting this disastrous strategy, Huey did not promote armed struggle, it was Eldridge Cleaver who did. It was actually this struggle over the primacy of military versus political strategy that was behind the split between Huey and Cleaver. Huey expressed that at the beginning he portrayed the Panthers as an armed group, initially calling it the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, because this got the people’s attention. But after the BPP demonstration at the California State Assembly in Sacramento in 1967 to protest a bill to ban the open carrying of firearms in response to the BPP’s armed patrols of the police, Huey promoted the Party’s rooting itself in the communities with STP programs (at which point they dropped “for Self-Defense” from the Party’s name), which Cleaver opposed. And we know how Eldridge ended up being outed as a turncoat and flip-flopped to become a card-carrying Republican.

If you read Safiya Bukhari’s book, The War Before, she talks about when after the Huey/Eldridge split Cleaver contacted her from exile in Algeria trying to persuade her to get her followers to initiate armed struggle against the pigs and abandon the STP programs, she declined, pointing out this would be a disastrous undertaking for Blacks and misleadership by them.

In fact, the pigs repeatedly tried to incite the BPP and others to adopt the foco armed struggle approach. As William Hinton, who wrote extensively about and participated on the ground in the Chinese revolution, reported in his book, Through a Glass Darkly: U.S. Views of the Chinese Revolution:

“COINTELPRO files [revealed] that the American government had done everything possible to infiltrate the Black Panthers and other lesser known activist groups, then had it’s ‘agents’ lead the groups into violent gestures that would divide them, undermine their credibility and bring down the full weight of the state on the leaders’ heads. The lethal effects of ultra-left actions by misled people’s movements have proven disastrous over and over again.”

So the positions that the Guevarist is pushing the PSO and RIBPP to adopt are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of our line, and reflect the wrong class stand.

This is why our political education is essential. Without it leading and teaching the correct line, the masses will be misled, even by well meaning people who simply have adopted the wrong ideological and theoretical positions. As Lenin and Mao emphasized, without a correct revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement (ideological and political line determine everything), and as Marx said, theory becomes a revolutionary force when it has been taken up by the masses.



Which brings us to Mao, and the numerous instances where the Guevarist misquotes him to say he promoted armed struggle taking primacy at the outset, including here in Amerika, for a revolutionary movement to be authentic. He actually took the opposite position concerning such struggles here in these capitalist countries. In “Problems of War and Strategy” he stated:

“The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle holds good universally, for China and for all countries.

“But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions. Internally, capitalist countries practice bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations.

“Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism. In these countries, the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes, of organizing trade unions and educating the workers. THERE THE FORM OF ORGANIZATION IS LEGAL AND THE FORM OF STRUGGLE BLOODLESS (NON-MILITARY). On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing. BUT THIS INSURRECTION AND WAR SHOULD NOT BE LAUNCHED UNTIL THE BOURGEOISIE BECOMES REALLY HELPLESS, UNTIL THE MAJORITY OF THE PROLETARIAT [not a small group of guerrillas—Rashid] ARE DETERMINED TO RISE IN ARMS AND FIGHT, AND UNTIL THE RURAL MASSES ARE GIVING WILLING HELP TO THE PROLETARIAT. And when the time comes to launch such an insurrection and war, the first step will be to seize the cities, and then advance into the countryside and not the other way about. All this has been done by Communist Parties in capitalist countries, and it has been proved correct by the October Revolution in Russia.” (My emphasis)

Mao went on to explain why, in contrast to lengthy political struggle being the correct leading strategy for revolutionaries in the capitalist countries, armed struggle was the correct one for oppressed countries like China. He wrote:

“China is different however. The characteristics of China are that she is not independent and Democratic but is under feudal oppression and that in her external relations she has no national independence but is oppressed by imperialism. It follows that we have no parliament to make use of and no legal right to organize the workers to strike. Basically, the task of the Communist Party here is not to go through a long period of legal struggle before launching insurrection and war, and not to seize the big cities first, and then occupy the countryside, but the reverse.”

So, the claim by the Guevarist Comrade that Mao’s line on armed struggle being a key leading revolutionary strategy that we should adopt here in the U.S. clearly contradicts Mao himself. The Guevarist uses positions Mao took promoting revolutionary war in China and misapplies them to our struggle Amerika.

What’s more, not only do the pigs endorse the foco model of military adventurism as revealed by its efforts to infiltrate its methods into the movement as exposed in COINTELPRO records, but the U.S. Army itself admits the Maoist military line to be the most effective and hardest to counter because it is based on organizing and mobilizing an entire people (not a small band of guerrillas) against a common enemy. See U.S. Army Field Manual #100-20.

As Lenin and Mao also explained, there is always a class influence behind every view advanced on the political front. This applies to the foco theory and the consistent fascination with it by certain sectors across several decades. Its small circle, clandestine approach, appeals to and reflects the individualist, quick fix class tendencies of the petty bourgeoisie and lumpen proletariat, two groups that have consistently adopted and promoted the foco theory.

And we can see the stark difference between the comparative success rates of the Maoist mass line versus the Guevarist foco strategy.

The foco has consistently met with decisive failure everywhere, whereas Maoism has led the most far-reaching revolutionary struggles in history and advanced Marxism-Leninism to a substantively higher level.



As for the viability of Party-led STP programs versus the militarist approach: It should be noted that the pigs paid little mind to the BPP when they were waving guns around. It wasn’t until after the Party began its STP programs in 1967, that the FBI deemed the BPP the greatest threat to U.S. domestic security and the Free Breakfast for Children program was deemed its most fearsome practice because of the impact of the STPs in winning the communities over. It was then that the FBI initiated the anti-BPP COINTELPRO and invested more resources and manpower into neutralizing the BPP than any other organization on the Left. It is not by accident that in every mainstream portrayal of BPP today the emphasis is always on the gun not the community programs the Party led. That’s the image and line the pigs want to project, a militant not political one, because as both Mao and Huey recognized, it’s the political struggle that must take primacy here in Amerika for any revolutionary struggle to take root with the masses and ultimately succeed.

Huey only saw the STPs as a “raft to get people safely to the other side” of the revolutionary struggle. His idea was to provide means of meeting community needs through the collective cooperation of the community’s members, while we struggle against the system, until revolution ultimately succeeds. The RIBPP, enhances this objective, to see the STPs develop and consolidate into infrastructure through which the communities can begin to exercise increasing economic and political power and gradually push the establishment out. Included in this is the development of security forces that can defend the programs, cadre, and the community, and prepare the people for the ultimate clash with the establishment to seize state power.

But this work too will be to the greatest extent possible, legal and aboveground so the people can have the greatest level of participation and control. This is what ‘dual and contending power’ is, which is very different from what the Guevarist cites as a liberated zone which they claim is necessary for the people to exercise dual power. A “liberated” area is just that, space that has been totally liberated of all establishment power. Dual power exists in areas that have not been liberated, the basis of which is to contend with the established powers to ultimately push them out and liberate the area.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!


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