Monday, November 12, 2007

Meeting the Demands of the People

In the late 1960s a group of black militants burst onto the scene to capture the hearts and minds of inner city youth with fiery rhetoric and words as slick as their black leather jackets. Through armed police brutality patrols and calls for "power to the people", the Black Panther Party embodied the radicalization of the Black Struggle and inspired a generation of young people to become politically active. The Party however, was not just a Self-Defense organization. Early on, founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, articulated their immediate demands and political positions into a ten point program. In the autobiography of Bobby Seale, Seize the Time, explains the importance of the ten point program.

Huey said, "We need a program. We have to have a program for the people. A program that relates to the people. A program that the people can understand. A program that the people can read and see, and which expresses their desires and needs at the same time. It's got to relate to the philosophical meaning of where in the world we are going, but the philosophical meaning will also have to relate to something specific."

Point 10 on the Panther's ten point program proclaimed, "We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace." However, as Marxists, the Panthers recognized that their interests conflicted with the interests of the bourgeoisie. Newton states, "The Black Panther Party is a revolutionary Nationalist group and we see a major contradiction between capitalism and our interests". So, just how would these demands be met? Newton goes on by saying, "We realize this country became very rich upon slavery and that capitalism is slavery in the extreme. We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism.We must destroy racism and capitalism." Their interests therefore, could only be realized through the destruction of capitalism through a socialist revolution.

Participatory Planning

In a post-revolutionary society the means of production are owned by everyone in equal share and not by one particular production group. The bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie will no longer have a monopoly on the decision making process. Each actor in society would influence decisions in proportion in which they are affected by them. Society will thus be participatory and egalitarian.

Participatory planning allows participants to exercise direct democracy and allows ordinary citizens to control their own lives. Citizens of a post-revolutionary society will be organized into federations of workers and consumer councils. Workers in worker councils need to articulate proposals on what and how much they want to produce, as well as the resources needed for production. Consumers, on the other hand, will need to express through proposals what and how much they intend to consume. Both production and consumption proposals will be sent to the facilitation board where through a system of proposals, amendments, and rejections, a social plan articulated to cover the entire economy is hashed out.

Personal Consumption Proposals

How can demands for "land, bread, housing, education, clothing,justice and peace" be achieved in a socialist society? The answer to this question lies in participatory planning.

For example, Omar, an African-American living with his girlfriend in a co-housing community in Detroit, Michigan, is working on his personal consumption proposal. His neighborhood already negotiated it's collective proposals, which have consequently, been summed up with county, state, regional and national collective consumption proposals.

Omar, like most able bodied individuals, works at a roughly average job complex and requests a roughly average consumption bundle. He knows that everyone has a finite share of the total social product. So all citizens can request things up to the limit of their budget allocated to them. Logging on to his computer, he begins to draft a consumption proposal based on combinations of different goods he desires and their indicative prices.

Omar is unfortunately a very picky eater, so his choice of foods are very limited. He bases his food consumption proposal on his old grocery store lists in pre-revolutionary and capitalist days. His computer program manipulates the input to articulate it for the whole year. Of course, he may change his mind, so fortunately for him, the iteration processes of participatory economics introduces "slack" in the social plan to allow for spontaneous "purchases". Omar is really a simple man and doesn't need a roomful of clothes, so he is modest when it comes to his clothing requests. A dozen or so new shirts and pants, a trench coat, boots for the winter, more socks( they continue to disappear in drying machine post-revolution too!), and other items will do him fine.

Even though, Omar enjoys living in the co-housing community, he and is girlfriend decided they wanted a bit more privacy and want to relocate into a household in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Housing Facilitation Board is a group of workers that assists people wishing to change their residence. Likewise, the Employment Facilitation Board is a group of workers whom assists people who wish to change their workplace. These two boards help Omar and his girlfriend relocate to an available household in Kalamazoo, as well, as get him quickly situated in a new workplace.

One of the other main reasons, why Omar wanted to move to Kalamazoo, was because it houses a brand new college specifically centered on African And African American Studies. Before the revolution, such places didn't exist and it was senseless to major in African studies at a college because that degree was useless on the job market . Now, part of his job complex is teaching Egyptian History in a local community Center, as well as smelter in a local steel plant.

In capitalism, Omar was subject to police brutality and racial profiling. Being born in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, he had little chance to pursue higher education or escape the vicious circle of poverty. His mother lived off of paycheck to paycheck and some nights all he had to eat was his hatred for being born black and poor.

However, after the socialist revolution, Omar has more opportunities and more freedoms than ever before. All basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc are easily met now. There is no more police brutality, black on black crime has gone down from the Crips and Gangster Disciples having been disbanded, he has enrolled in college which is provided free to all citizens and he goes to bed each night with his hunger satisfied.

In conclusion, post-revolutionary society will be participatory and egalitarian. The social plan for society will be reached upon by a series of proposals from workers' and consumers' (neighborhood) councils and meetings of regional delegates. This makes sure that every citizen's demand for "land, bread, housing, education, clothing,justice and peace" is met and that the Panther legacy continues to live on.



Frank Partisan said...

The end was tragic: Cleaver found religion, Newton became involved with drugs, Seale wrote cookbooks, Rush became a bourgeoise politician etc. They never went beyond nationalism.

blackstone said...

True. I have a high respect for the Black Panthers, but i am also highly critical. I think there's alot to learn from their mistakes and successes. This essay more so was about how their demands could be reached in a post-revolutionary society rather than whether or not they employed a correct strategy to achieve those ends.

ajohnstone said...

off topic but i thought i would inform you of Socialist Banner

An African themed socialist commentary campaigning for common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's natural and industrial resources which has covered some of the material you yourself have done ie Chinese imperialism , as well ,of course as American and French imperialisms but also the failure of the post colonial and post apartheid movements to defeat capitalism .

Alex said...

Blackstone, you say you have a high respect for the black panthers. However, generally speaking communists don't like the black panthers as they can be used as a means to validate white nationalist parties. What do you think?

blackstone said...

I think that's false and a reactionary statement. I had a racist roommate who compared the Black Panthers to the KKK. But i never recall the Black Panthers terrorizing the white community, all though, the white community may have perceived that to be the case, since the BPP and black militants were challenging white privilege.

Anything that threatens white privilege can be used as a tool of white nationalists. That goes for BPP or the Civil Rights Movement. Should that have not occurred because it was used by racists to validate white nationalists?

Alex said...

Blackstone, I didn't mean offence. I think the BPP has done a great service for the African people in America. I didn't want to compare the BPP to the KKK, which is definitely about race hate. I want to compare for example the British Nationalist party about white pride, with the Black Panther Party about black pride. I realise you see the difference based on economics and white privilege, while the BNP will argue about affirmative action. The communists here in Australia are quite critical of the BPP or any form of racial pride. Just wanted to know what you had to say about that (as in Australia we don't get to hear from your side of the story). thanks.

blackstone said...

Oh brother, no offense taken! I think you really have to look at things in it's historical context to understand the difference between white pride and black pride.

In the 60s and early what roles on television and movies were african americans portrayed as? Gangsters, pimps, hookers, drug addicts, etc all practically negative stereotypes. Even if there were some positive roles, it still was in disproportion to that of whites.

So all of this ruling class ideology of white is right and black is bad penetrated all spheres of life. Look up the documentary Girl Like Me. You will be shocked that today still, black kids will rather play with white dolls, because white dolls are good because they are white and black dolls are ugly because they are black!

So not only you have white kids saying white dolls are pretty because they are white and black dolls are ugly because they are black, but you had black kids saying the same thing!

So there was a mass upsurge in black pride. Black is Beautiful! Say it Loud, I'm black and i'm proud!

This is not, i'm black and i'm better than whites or anyone else. This is i'm black and i too am beautiful and i'm proud of my features and cultures, just as everyone else should be and are!

It's deep because you don't know how much this really affects the psyche of a black person to this day.

Alex said...


I understand. Race is extremely important in defining who we are, our history etc.

I feel such pride to be able to track my ancestors for 7 generations! To the first fleet of Australia. It's so important in being able to know who you are and where you came from. I feel such sorrow for African Americans who are unable to feel that sense of joy. I remember seeing a documentary about African Americans not able to determine which part of Africa they came from. Most people don't realise that there are differences in facial structure, colour etc in Africans depending on which part they are from. Each "type" of African is equally proud of themselves and their ethnicity.

However, I think certain African Americans only hinder your cause - like 50 cent who continues the perception that all blacks are criminals.

Good to see someone with some racial pride (not supremecy). I think it's so important to have pride for your people to enable you to be whole (acceptance of self), and it doesn't negate the suffering your race has impacted on others, or the suffering that your race is experiencing.

I did a post about racial issues in Australia - aboriginal suffering.

Unlike most people I can discuss racial issues without giving a knee jerk "racist" tag. So long as the discussion is constructive.

Good luck with your cause blackstone! Black Pride!