“The walls, bars, and guns can never hold down or encircle the idea of the people”-Dr. Huey P. Newton
Gangster. Revolutionary. Mad. Genius. Thug. Visionary. Drug addict. Radical Theorist. Depending on who you ask, Huey P. Newton was many things to many people at certain periods of his life. The 7th son of a Baptist Minister, Newton was one of many of a first generation of an amalgamated personality formed by his southern roots and western upbringing, as a child of the great migration of Black Americans out of the Apartheid South.
This kind of dual consciousness was one which informed him throughout his life. Carrying the name of the Southern Populist Governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long, he suffered difficulties among his peers that caused him great consternation. These feelings endowed him with a bomb first and ask questions later philosophy. An apprentice of street life through the tutelage of his brother Walter Jr., Newton immersed himself in the rituals of thug life. His education was unlike that of the present generation due to the fact that his experience was shaped against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. It was during the age of struggle that he witnessed the horrors of white tyranny upon black life. Newton surmised that this tyranny was heavily dependent on a monopoly of state violence concentrated in the police department.
It was the police that protected and enforced the racial inequality which allowed random violence upon black life with impunity. It was the police powers that allowed murderers to walk free in courts of law despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt. The fear of police power quashed any attempt at retaliation or recompense for church bombings, rapes and child killings, which became a staple against black attempts at declarations of their humanity. It was the police powers that preserved the economic exploitation and inequality manifested in the high cost of cheap goods available in the black community. An inequality that saw the quick erosion of disposable income of Black Americans, who on a whole, earned less than their white counterparts in the same trades. Newton’s views and perspectives were shaped in this crucible encapsulated in a single community known as the ghetto.
Young Newton theorized that the only way to change this arrangement was to confront the very institutions that protected this unequal social order: The Police. Initially, his radical theories and philosophies were shaped by the teachings of Malcolm X and the writings of Martinique Revolutionary Frantz Fanon. But Newton’s mind was political CPU as it was constantly processing new ideas, concepts, and theories from other sources such as Kierkegaard, Rousseau, Locke, Nietzsche and Marx. He blended these philosophies with 3rd world revolutionary nationalist movements from Cuba, China and Africa. Thus his political evolution was as dynamic as the organization he founded with Professor Bobby George Seale: The Black Panther Party. Seale and Newton drafted an agenda known as the 10 Point Platform and Program that addressed the needs of the Black Community. Recognizing that people could only see as far as their immediate situation, the BPP initiated survival programs to organize the community around their interests.
These programs were designed to instill an unabiding devotion from the community while evoking a deep sense of love and attachment in party activists. In building this trust, Newton hoped that the community would look to the party as its representatives, or Vanguard, against the system to address its longstanding grievances. Understanding that the status quo would never make the concessions expressed in the BPP’s 10 Point Program, he knew that the result would be an unavoidable confrontation between the oppressed and the system. Thus, in a very real sense, he was organizing for insurrection. This was not lost on the Late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as he branded the BPP as “The Greatest Internal Threat to the security of the United States.” As a result, Newton lived the rest of his life in the cross-hairs of the state.
No article written on Huey P. Newton would be complete without a reference to his dissent into drug addiction and criminality. A loss of personal discipline concurrent with uncritical deference and idol worship, created a cult of personality around him that allowed him an escape from the bounds of personal accountability. If one includes his previous adolescent fears, anxieties and phobias, exacerbated by state repression and cocaine addiction, his descent was sadly, somewhat predictable.
But even in the muck and mire of thug life, Huey Newton managed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years before it happened. Because he was constantly theorizing, developing and changing, he evolved from Black Nationalist, to Revolutionary Nationalist, to Socialist, to Maoist, to Inter-communalist.
Intercommunalism was Newton’s word for the 20th/21st century phenomenon known today as Globalism. He theorized that the expansion of American economic and military power combined with a burgeoning explosion of technology, eroded borders rendering national sovereignty an antiquated illusion. While his critics and detractors laughed at his theories and derided him as a crackpot, the Digital age confirmed his predictions as nothing short of prophetic. But his predictions and theories took brains and superb analytical ability which we don’t have. Right? The irony is that the same criminality that fueled his genius, robbed him of the rightful recognition of his brilliance. Perhaps his greatest tragedy is that his legacy as one of the greatest social theoreticians of 20th century, will be buried in the ignobility of a violent death on the streets of West Oakland.
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Powerandstrategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the website. Check out our online chess store and blog. Also become a Patron at Powerofstrategies on Patreon. Till Next Time! I’ll Holla!