Sunday, March 22, 2009

From: John Woodford
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:54:33 PM
Subject: Re: My Friend the Devil

Hey, Marvin. Interesting account.
I don't know about all your facts and chronology, but to me the main interpretive statement I agree with is that Sam Napier was a superb fellow. Beyond that, I see a number of things quite differently. Cleaver was no real Marxist-Leninist, or scientific socialist, or whatever you may wish to call the science of political economy that critiques capitalism (and the imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism and racism that go with it) and seeks to figure out how to advance beyond it. Despite whatever labels one may toss around, the objective is worthy.

Cleaver, like many either willing or unwitting agents provocateurs, followed a course that played into the hands of the ruling elite. They are probably sorriest to see him go. The BPP had great achievements and potential, and the ruling class wanted to do them in by any and all means necessary. One of those means was Cleaver.

Proctor or any other CPers who thought they could get street cred, i.e. build their party, with the likes of Cleaver, were engaging in a form of opportunism and delusion that turned out to be one of the factors in the CPUSA's shoot-self-in- foot crippling. If you want to see a parallel with the BPP, look at the Russian Narodniks of 1905 and read what Lenin had to say about them in "Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder."

Sam Napier, who was a sincere student of political economy and a fellow admirer of Lenin, told me it was the US organization, not Cleaver's group, that wanted to kill him. This was in Chicago, on his way to NY.
Of course, considering the pedigree of the US organization, perhaps they and the Cleaver group were linked!

No revolution has been based on the so-called lumpen, and I don't think any will be. That's all Superfly/Mad Max fantasy that seems to appeal to Black and white petty-bourgeoisie.

The key insights into resisting and overcoming imperialism arose from Lenin, and none has surpassed him. Despite the shambles the Russians made of their socialist experiment, their failures in no way represent the principles and potential of the courses Lenin laid out. It takes a class-based well-organized party to defeat the capitalists, not one that idealizes violence but one that can defend itself with force if need be.
Mao's writings have little relevance to the U.S. You will note that the West goes along with touting Mao while continuing to portray Lenin as a terrorist and dictator, although he was neither..
Science is no the property of any color, ethnic group or nation. Those who depict scientific socialism as "white" have fallen into a pattern of thinking that accepts rightwingers' and racists' views: i.e., complex matters that require study, thinking and organization are alien to Black folks.

If the people in the capitalist countries are so gullible as to imbibe their view of socialism--and Lenin--from the tit of Uncle Samella, they will slide into common ruin of all classes.
As for religions, they are a matter of personal faith, and none of them has or will guide a complex nation state to societal advance.

j woodford
johnwood@umich. edu

On Mar 21, 2009, at 10:48 PM, Marvin X Jackmon wrote:

Part Four: My Friend the Devil

Eldridge had no knowledge of the Black Panthers until I informed him out of our artistic desire to get rid of him as chair of Black House, even though he had made it happen by putting up the money, but we rejected his desire to push Marxism at any cost, even though he paid the cost to be the boss. I didn't think he was so dogmatic about his mission which was to create a Communist organization. Thus when we realized he was merely using artists to advance his political goals, we objected. For a short time we went along with his sessions on Communism, sometimes they included Rosco Proctor. I think Rosco was secretary of the Communist party of California. We didn't mind reading Mao's Talks at Yenan Forum on Art and Literature or Robert F. Williams Negroes With Guns. But when we tired of the Marxist approach of Cleaver, I suggested he meet some of my friends across the Bay who were arming themselves for self defense against the police. I thought this would be
a way to get rid of Cleaver so we could do our cultural work. Cleaver best describes meeting the Panthers for the first time in his book Post-Prison Writings. But I took him to meet Bobby Seale one night after a radio interview at a station in Jack London Square. I took him by Bobby Seale's house in North Oakland, got Bobby to come outside to Cleaver's car. Bobby got in and the world knows the rest. Hooking up with the Panthers was not the idea Cleaver came out of prison to pursue, but it was still a dream come true, although I knew there would be hell to pay for somebody, in particular Bobby and Huey who I knew were no match for Cleaver's chicanery. Even though Bobby and Huey were well read, they were no match for Cleaver, especially in terms of Marxism. Nor were they on par with Cleaver's organizational skills and especially his ability to move on those in opposition to his mission, even to the point of murder. Who knows how many bodies Cleaver left
behind in the Gulag, or his special skills in getting rid of enemies. Huey may have been a psychopath but still he was no match for Cleaver. I was glad Cleaver was hooking up with the Panthers because it took pressure off us artists. But I felt sorry for what awaited the Panthers because I knew Cleaver was a man who had to be in control, especially because he had superior knowledge and had proven organizational skills as evidenced by the Soledad Prison Black Culture Club, which was a military organization as well.

Around the time I was introducing Cleaver to the Panthers, they were moving on a rival Panther organization the BPP called the Paper Panthers, led by their former associates in Donald Warden's AfroAmerican Association and co-students at Merritt: Ken and Carol Freeman, Ernie Allen, and others who were part of the group of neo black intellectuals at Merritt, including myself, Richard Thorne, Isaac Moore, Ann Williams, Maurice Dawson, John Thomas, Wayne Combash
and others. Several of us were associated with Soulbook, the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) publication headed by Robert F. Williams and Max Stanford (now Muhammad Ahmed). But Huey and Bobby had separated from the socalled Paper Panthers because they did not recognize the supremacy of armed self-defense. They eventually gave the Paper Panthers an ultimatum: put up guns or shut up and stop calling themselves Black Panthers. Again, Cleaver gives a good description of this conflict in Post-Prison Writings. I am certain Ernie Allen and Ken Freeman's brother, Donald Freeman (Baba Lumumba) can give their side of the story with documentation. Baba Lumbuma has a letter from the BPP to the Black Panther Party of Northern California that invites them to stop using the Panther name, signed by Huey and Bobby. Eventually there was a confrontation between the two Panther groups in San Francisco at the headquarters of Bill Bradley (now Oba T'Shaka). (I am
writing from total recall so events may be out of chronological order but I think the events happened close to the order I'm describing. There are a plethora of books on the BPP to confirm the sequence of events or correct my amnesia. If the reader has more accurate information, please submit it to me for inclusion in my narrative so I won't be guilty of revisionism. )

After introducing Eldrdige to the Panthers, events at Black House happened in rapid succession, leading toward the end of the cultural component and the establishment of Black House as the San Francisco headquarters of the BPP. Again, I may have the chronological order confused, after all, I am recalling events of forty years ago from memory. Anyway, Cleaver becomes minister of information of the BPP and soon followed the first publication of the BPP newspaper, headlined with the police murder of Denzil Dowell in Richmond. Eldridge and Emory Douglas laid out the paper. Besides Muhammad Speaks, the BPP newspaper would become the most powerful newspaper of the 60s revolution. And of course much of the distribution success can be attributed to Samuel Napier, Minister of Distribution. What I remember most about Samuel was his innocence and sincerity about wanting to get involved and giving his all once involved. I was never more depressed than when I learned
he was murdered in the internecine violence when the BPP factions split between Huey's west coast army and Eldridge's east coast army. Sam was murdered then set afire in New York. When I performed my play One Day In the Life in 1997 at Sista's Place in New York, the brothers pulled me aside and said the following: "Marvin, we love you, but we don't give a damn about Huey Newton," (the play has a scene of my last meeting with Huey--the setting of the one-act play Salaam, Huey, Salaam, by Ed Bullins and Marvin X, New Federal Theatre, 2008). New York is Eldridge's turf, they told me. "His army is still here." When he died May 1, 1998, I organized his memorial service in Oakland, along with Sister Majedah Rahman, a former Panther. Many Panthers did not attend because of their loyalty to Huey. Those who did attend included: Emory Douglas, Tarika Lewis,
Richard Aoki (recently deceased, the first Asian Panther), Dr. Nathan Hare, Dr. Yusef Bey, Imam Alamin, Minister Keith Muhammad, Kathleen and Joju Cleaver. Kathleen said to me after the service, "Marvin, the service was great, but there were just too many Muslims." Well, if it weren't for us Muslims, there would have not been any recognition of Cleaver's contribution to the revolution. Kathleen had agreed to have a poem I wrote read at his funeral in Los Angeles.

But let's get back to the chronology. There was a group of youth who made the basement of Black House their playhouse and apparently there was a lot of things going on down there between the youth, like playing hooky from school and sexual abuse of girls. We got word from some of our bourgeoisie friends, in particular Dezzie Woods and Bennie Ivy that the police were going to raid Black House. The Black bourgeoisie did give financial support to Black House, in contrast to their lack of support for Black Arts West. Maybe the notoriety of Black House made them more giving, especially with the presence of EC in the house, about to become a best selling author. Everybody likes to be around a star.

No one had time for the youth except me, certainly not Eldridge or Ed Bullins, so I was the liaison with the youth, some of whom I have been in contact with until today. Lil Bobby Hutton came to me one day with a directive from the Supreme Commander of the BPP, Huey P. Huey, saying the youth clubhouse had to be closed down. Lil Bobby was 16 and Huey was his hero. Lil Bobby was the third person to join the BPP and became Secretary, a model for youth of today to join the liberation struggle and forsake gang banging, set tripping and other reactionary activities. In my supreme arrogance, I told Lil Bobby, "Fuck the Supreme Commander!" I saw death in his eyes for me. But I felt Huey was an equal and even though the BPP had taken over Black House, they did not control me. Lil Bobby looked at me as if I had cursed God Almighty. "We go deal with you, Padna!" My days in the Black House were growing short. That night all I heard were Black Panthers clicking 45 automatics outside my bedroom door. Of course I was just as mad and psychopathic as any Panther. I was fearless. My attitude was, "Fuck you motherfuckers. Kiss my ass."

Nothing happened except the coming exit of myself and other artists from Black House, including Ed Bullins who would soon take off for New York. The BPP began to terrorize socalled cultural nationalists or those they considered would not take up armed struggle in the manner prescribed by the BPP. Musicians departed the Bay for the East coast. Askia Muhammad was threatened and fled East after coming to teach at San Francisco State College/now University.
Before my exit the BPP was next door in Eldridge's room planning their dramatic and historic to invade the State Capitol in Sacramento. I was planning my
departure from Black House. My next move was into the Nation of Islam, simply because I was wanted to be involved in a black nationalist organization that was spiritual as well. Easter Sunday, 1967, I went to Mosque #26 and joined the NOI.
--Marvin X

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