Huey P Newton 1

Part three of The Movement Magazine’s inspiring interview with African-American political and urban activist Huey P Newton from 1968.

Mood of Black People

MOVEMENT: How would you characterize the mood of black people in America today? Are they disenchanted, wanting a larger slice of the pie, or alienated, not wanting to integrate into a burning house, not wanting to integrate into Babylon? What do you think it will take for them to become alienated and revolutionary?

HUEY: I was going to say disillusioned, but I don't think we were ever under the illusion that we had freedom in this country. This society is definitely a decadent one and we realize it. Black people are realizing it more and more. We cannot gain our freedom under the present system; the system that is carrying out its plans of institutionalized racism. Your question is what will have to be done to stimulate them to revolution. I think it's already being done. It's a matter of time now for us to educate them to a program and show them the way to liberation. The Black Panther Party is the beacon light to show black people the way to liberation

You notice the Insurrections that have been going on throughout the country, in Watts, In Newark, in Detroit. They were all responses of the people demanding that they have freedom to determine their destiny, rejecting exploitation. Now the Black Panther Party does not think that the traditional riots, or insurrections that have taken place are the answer. it is true they have been against the Establishment, they have been against authority and oppression within their community, but they have been unorganized. However, black people learned from each of these insurrections.

Huey P Newton 3They learned from Watts. I'm sure the people in Detroit were educated by what happened in Watts. Perhaps this was wrong education. It sort of missed the mark. It wasn't quite the correct activity, but the people were educated through the activity. The people of Detroit followed the example of the people In Watts, only they added a little scrutiny to It. The people in Detroit learned that the way to put a hurt on the administration is to make Molotov cocktails and to go Into the street in mass numbers. So this was a matter of learning. The slogan went up "Burn, baby, burn'. People were educated through the activity and it spread throughout the country. The people were educated on how to resist, but Perhaps incorrectly.

Educate Though Activity

What we have to do as a vanguard of the revolution is to correct this through activity. The large majority of black people are either illiterate or semiliterate. They don't read. They need activity to follow. This is true of any colonized people. The same thing happened in Cuba where it was necessary for twelve men with a leadership of Che and Fidel to take to the hills and then attack the corrupt administration; to attack the army who were the protectors of the exploiters in Cuba. They could have leafleted the community and they could have written books, but the people would not respond. They had to act and the people could see and hear about it and therefore become educated on how to respond to oppression.

In this country black revolutionaries have to set in example. We can't do the same things that were done in Cuba because Cuba is Cuba and the U.S. is the U.S. Cuba has many terrains to protect the guerrilla. This country is mainly urban. we have to work out new solutions to offset the power of the country's technology and communication; its ability to communicate very rapidly by telephone and teletype and so forth.

We do have solutions to these problems and they will be put into effect. I wouldn't want to go into the ways and means of this, but we will educate through action. We have to engage in action to make the people want to read our literature. Because they are not attracted to all the writing in this country; there's too much writing. Many books makes one weary.

Threat from Reformers

MOVEMENT: Kennedy before his death and to a lesser extent Rockefeller and Lindsay and other establishment liberals have been talking about making reforms to give black people a greater share in the pie and thus stop any developing revolutionary movement. Would you comment on this?

HUEY. I would say this: If a Kennedy or Lindsay or anyone else can give decent housing to all of our people; if they can give full employment to our People with a high standard; if they can give full control to black people to determine the destiny of their community; if they can give fair trials in the court system by turning over the structure to the community; if they can end their exploitation of people throughout the world; if they can do all of these things they would have solved the problems. But I don't believe that under this present system, under capitalism, that they will be able to solve these problems.

Bobby Kennedy 1.j

People Must Control

I don't think black people should be fooled by their come-ons because every one who gets in office promises the same thing. They promise full employment and decent housing; the Great Society, the New Frontier, All of these names, but no real benefits. No effects are felt in the black community, and black people are tired of being deceived and duped, The people must have full control of the means of production. Small black businesses cannot compete with General Motors. That's just out of the question. General Motors robbed us and worked us for nothing for a couple hundred years and took our money and set up factories and became fat and rich and then talks about giving us some of the crumbs. We want full control. We're not interested in anyone promising that the private owners are going to all of a sudden become human beings and give these things to our community. It hasn't ever happened and, based on empirical evidence, we don't expect them to become Buddhists over night.

MOVEMENT: We raised this question not because we feel that these reforms are possible, but rather to get your ideas on what effects such attempted reforms might have on the development of a revolutionary struggle.

HUEY: I think that reforms pose no real threat. The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution. The young population is growing at a very rapid rate and they are very displeased with the authorities. They want control. I doubt that under the present system any kind of program can be launched that will be able to buy off all these young people. They have not been able to do it with the poverty program, the great society, etc. This country has never been able to employ all of its people simply because it's too interested in private property and the profit motive. A bigger poverty program is just what it says it is, a program to keep people in poverty, So I don't think that there is any real threat from the reforms.

MOVEMENT. Would you like to say something about the Panther's organizing especially in terms of the youth?

Black Panther.HUEY. The Panthers represent a cross section of the black community. We have older people as well as younger people. The younger people of course are the ones who are seen on the streets. They are the activists. They are the real vanguard of change because they haven't been indoctrinated and they haven't submitted. They haven't been beaten into line as some of the older people have. But many of the older people realize that we're waging a just fight against the oppressor. They are aiding us and they are taking a part in the program.


MOVEMENT: Tell us something about your relations with the prisoners in the jail

HUEY- The black prisoners as well as many of the white prisoners identify with the program of the Panthers. Of course by the very nature of their being prisoners they can see the oppression and they've suffered at the hands of the Gestapo. They have reacted to it. The black prisoners have all joined the Panthers, about 95% of them. Now the jail is all Panther and the police are very worried about this. The white prisoners can identify with us because they realize that they are not in control. They realize there's someone controlling them and the rest of the world with guns. They want some control over their lives also. The Panthers in jail have been educating them and so we are going along with the revolution inside of the jail.

MOVEMENT: What has been the effect of the demonstrations outside the jail calling for "Free Huey" ?

HUEY: Very positive reactions. One demonstration, I don't remember which one, a couple of trustees, white trustees, held a cardboard sign out the laundry window reading *Free Huey". They say people saw it and responded to it. They were very enthusiastic about the demonstrators because they too suffer from being treated unfairly by the parole authorities and by the police here in the jail.

Open or Underground

MOVEMENT: The Panthers organizing efforts have been very open up until this point. Would you like to comment about the question of an underground political organization versus an open organization at this point in the struggle?

HUEY: Yeah. Some of the black nationalist groups feel that they have to be underground because they'll be attacked. But we don't feel that you can romanticize being underground. They say we're romantic because we're trying to live revolutionary lives, and we are not taking precautions. But we say that the only way we would go underground is if we're driven underground. All real revolutionary movements are driven underground. Take the revolution in Cuba. The agitation that was going on while Fidel was in law school was very much above ground. Even his existence in the hills was, so to speak, an above the ground affair because he was letting it be known who was doing the damage and why he was doing the damage. To catch him was a different story. The only way we can educate the people is by setting an example for them. We feel that this is very necessary.

Fidel Castro Cuba Revoultion 1

This is a pre-revolutionary period and we feel it is very necessary to educate the people while we can. So we're very open about this education. We have been attacked and we will be attacked even more in the future but we're not going to go underground until we get ready to go underground because we have a mind of our own. We're not going to let anyone force us to do anything. We're going to go underground after we educate all of the blank people and not before that time. Then it wont really be necessary for us to go underground because you can see black anywhere. We will just have the stuff to protect ourselves and the strategy to offset the great power that the strong-arm men of the establishment have and are planning to use against us.

White Organizing

MOVEMENT: Your comments about the white prisoners seemed encouraging. Do you see the possibility of organizing a white Panther Party in opposition to the establishment possibly among poor and working whites?

HUEY: Well as I put it before Black Power is people 's power and as far as organizing white people we give white people the privilege of having a mind and we want them to get a body. They can organize themselves. We can tell them what they should do, what their responsibility is if they're going to claim to be white revolutionaries or white mother country radicals, and that is to arm themselves and support the colonies around the world in their just struggle against imperialism. But anything more than that they will have to do on their own.

Source: The Movement: August 1968

Note: This interview took place in 1968 while Huey Newton was in jail, after the attack by police on Black Panther headquarters that killed several panthers. It reveals much about the psychology and tactics of the Panthers. They nearly sparked a race war if not a revolution, and their militancy was an inspiration to many others to become more active and militant.

A big thank you to Skip and  , a brilliant site

Part one

Part two

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