Fate of Panthers (Tom O'L)

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Feb 12 18:55:00 MST 2003

Tom wrote:
> But hey I know a bit about all this. For example, I know where Oakland is -
> I lived there, in  a largely black neighbourhood. I also know that over
> time, militant workers began to turn against the war ... yes, even the hard
> hats. People change in struggle. That's dialectics. The Panthers' theories
> were  (in this aspect -- of course I have great admiration for most of what
> they did) self-isolating; and later they collapsed into their opposite by
> embracing the Democratic Party. Dialectics again.

I haven't been able to follow the Marxism List for two months or so.
I'm just catching up on this very interesting - and important -
discussion on the labour aristocracy.

I guess my views would be pretty much the same as Tom's in terms of
divisions of the working class within imperialist countries, while, from
previous discussions with him, we probably differ over the plunder of
the Third World.  My view is that the super-profits extracted by
imperialism have made it possible for the Western ruling classes to buy
a by no means insignificant degree of class peace at home through
welfare states and so on, although that era seems to be coming to a
close.  It simply means they have such a ginormous mass of surplus-value
that they can rule more democratically, offer more in the way of reforms
when faced with class struggle etc than rulers in Third World countries
can.  Third World bourgeoisies live off what is left after the
imperialists have taken their cut.

Anyway, to come back to my point of agreement with Tom.  What happened
to the Panthers, for whom I've a great deal of admiration, is a good
example of where bad theories lead.  If you write off a big chunk of the
working class (white workers) the only place you are going to end up is
orienting to the other class, the ruling class, and joining the
Democrats or Republicans.

We've had this phenomena here with leading authors of the ideas of Maori
sovereignty.  Donna Awatere, the chief theorist of this view in the late
70s/early 80s, basically wrote off what she called the white working
class - ie the white *section* of the working class - and also the
Pacific Island section.  Apparently only Maori were unaffected by
'materialism'.  Once she'd done this, all in the name of a kind of
ultra-radicalism - she declared herself this country's foremost
revolutionary - there was only one section of society left who could
shape things: the ruling class.  And, sure enough, that was where she

She made a few million selling 'anti-racist awareness' programmes to
government departments and private companies, became possibly the
wealthiest Maori woman in the country, joined the Mont Pelerin Society
and ended up an MP for the Hayekian ACT NZ party.  (Although ACT has in
recent years moved away from untrammelled Hayekianism).
Donna is currently big news because ACT have expelled her for allegedly
personally using public donations to a trust she heads.

Philip Ferguson

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