[Marxism] Lenin, party-building strategy and the Panthers

Javier A javierunderground at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 4 14:39:21 MST 2004

            I heard Peter Camejo speak right before the elections and even though I have heard him several times, his magnitude and grasp of the political economy is always impressive. But one thing stuck out and disturbed me. He made a strong statement in how a Nader-Camejo administration would restructure investment and develop the Middle East which would then undercut terrorism, which is a serious threat. Regardless of the whole notion of "restructuring investment," which I have no I idea how would take place under capitalism, his tone and message had an underline paternalistic character. "If a Nader-Camejo administration was in power, we would do this, that and the other for you." It seems one of the big problems with American politics is that it accepts a certain framework of others, politicians, dealing with issues in absence of the population. Unionized workers can talk about the role of one union rep and compare them to another, but it does not include themselves as part of a
 self-active political force.


If 'What is to be Done' has some modern day significance, it would be to figure out how activist can "unleash," like the Maoist say, sectors of the population to begin to fight back against particular regressive policies simultaneously developing a consciousness of the laws of our political system that creates such policies. But I guess more importantly, building a structure- or an embryo to launch such an operation is the point. Maybe this generality is obvious.      


I don't know how relevant Lenin's writing on the German SPD is. From what I can gather he often ignored Luxemburg's critique of the developing bureaucracy and Kautsky's electoral orientation. But an analogy I would make is that Karl Leibknecht's adventurism, his launch of the revolution in the Spartacus "uprising" is probably more "impressive" than the introverted work of Panneokok, Gorter or another tendency, but the flash in the pan proved to be counter-productive as it cost Leibknecht and Luxemburg their lives. 


Lou Paulsen wrote, "Not just NON-productive, but COUNTER-productive! That's a harsh
judgment. It would be a more impressive judgment if some other party
had achieved MORE "lasting results" in the Black community than the
Panthers did!" 


Even though the Panthers had serious respect in the Black working class communities, they too had such adventurous impulses and the cravings for social fame. They loved getting on TV and having middle class white kids praise them, while in comparison the League (DRUM) introduced a serious working class militancy in the workplaces of Black workers in Detroit, which could have been fused with the work of other Marxist currents, to achieve a new dimension of militancy that never materialized. Most people who praise the Panthers have never actually spoken to any of the actual members. I used to be of this category. I have talked with many of them (Im from Oakland) and the consistent feeling I get is that they're disturbed when looking back at the level of authority they had over oppressed sections of society and the left, which could have been used to achieve and transform something significant. When they were riding high with influence on the movement, it was like an LSD high which got
 out of control. And not to race bait, but its often the middle class white radicals that don’t want to have anything critical to say about the Panthers. Huey's Legacy ended after he received a PhD in 1980, which then he started smocking crack. He tried to rob a crack dealer in 1987, in West Oakland, who then shot Huey to Death.  


I agree with Louis that a new alternative has to be built based on modern American conditions and these historic romanticizations only leads to further disorienting those who seek to make change. 




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