By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
“You can kill a revolutionary but you can never kill the revolution.” Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and was also the deputy chairman of the national party. Hampton and another member of the party, Mark Clark were murdered during a raid by a joint force of the FBI, the Chicago Police Department and a tactical unit of the Cook County IL State Attorney’s Office. Hampton was 21 years old.
I am in Cook County at the moment and having also spent most of my American life in Oakland where the Black Panthers began I got to thinking a bit more about Fred Hampton and why they assassinated him.
If you listen to him it is self evident that he is a working class man. We can tell this by his speech. In the US it is often pointed to when an educated black person speaks that she is “talking white”. But they are not talking white like the white working class that I’ve worked alongside in my entire life here. They aren’t talking like rural white workers in the South and other parts of the country. They are talking a particular type of American English, the acceptable English of the white capitalist ruling class. They are adopting a class language.
I know blacks that will listen to how Hampton speaks English and feel embarrassed, ashamed, some will look down on him for it. A white worker (in terms of speaking “proper” dialect) will be looked at in the same way in society as far as that goes. So the white worker and the black worker are both scorned by the white racist US ruling class and middle class layers. Yet this layer of the black population, the middle and upper middle classes, those in academia, the black politicians and even the few black bourgeois, owe their advancement to the black working class and youth that took on an Apartheid regime in a huge part of the country and working class revolutionaries like Fred Hampton. Hampton was targeted because of his class origins and what he stood for. He not only refuses to mimic the ruling class in language, he is diametrically opposed to their ideology.
In the video Hampton is talking about education, he is hammering it home. His audience is a bit perplexed as Hampton stresses that the opening or building of a community bank or credit union cannot begin to get off the ground without education. But he is not talking about bourgeois or capitalist education, learning how to fit in to the system and in this case become black capitalists or the mouthpieces of capitalism black white or otherwise. He is talking about revolutionary education, specifically revolutionary socialism, and is clear that a community resource that allocates money cannot be formed “right” without a revolutionary socialist education. He’s not talking about accounting skills though they are important also.
How many 21-year old workers today know of the individuals Hampton talks of in this video? They certainly have no concept of the lessons learned from these examples like Kenyatta in Kenya or Papa Doc in Haiti and how without education Papa Doc led a revolution but without revolutionary theory and a knowledge (education) of revolutionary history, the struggles from below, they ended up becoming oppressors.
“We don’t hate the motherfuckin’ white people. We hate the oppressor whether he be white, black, brown, or yellow..” Hampton says. The white capitalist class would much rather he direct his anger toward all whites.
The US capitalist state waged a massive war against the Black Panthers and all of the revolutionary elements that arose in the 50’s and 60’s. It assassinated those blacks that wanted to change the system, opposed capitalism and coopted those that would work with them and they found themselves mayors of cities and so on.
What prominent black leaders say this today:
“We're going to fight racism not with racism, but we're going to fight with solidarity. We say we're not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we're going to fight it with socialism.” Fred Hampton
They would not get too far in academia, the established political parties or anywhere else in acceptable society talking like that. The overwhelmingly white US ruling class prefer to keep class out of it as does every other opportunist and social climber wishing to elevate themselves a rung or two in capitalist society.
There are some exceptions and Facts For Working People urges readers to check out the political writings of Bruce Dixon a Managing Editor at the Black Agenda Report (also see the link to the right on this blog). Many of his articles are here . And he has recently written a series of articles on class relations the first one is here.
This paragraph describes exactly why Hampton was so feared by the bosses. Hampton was a threat because he believed all workers were oppressed. He was on the verge of uniting Latino’s whites, blacks and politicizing gangs.The sixties was a revolutionary decade as many sections of society were beginning to stir and rise up in opposition to oppression. Music, sport all began to change in this decade. The direct rule of the colonial powers was ending. The Mau Mau rebellion that Hampton mentions in the video and that drove British imperialism from Kenya was one of the last colonial wars the British fought.
“Fred Hampton was quickly moving up the ranks in the Black Panther Party, and his talent as a political organizer was described as remarkable. In 1968, he was on the verge of creating a merger between the BPP and a southside street gang with thousands of members, which would have doubled the size of the national BPP. Moreover, it meant an alliance extending the Black Panther Party reach and influence united with white and Latino organizers, a step which Hoover viewed as an untenable ultimate threat and ordered an intensified FBI crackdown to the level of "any means necessary" to destroy the BPP.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton
The massive propaganda against black workers and people of color in general is because the ruling class fears working class unity, all workers must recognize this and learn from it. Hampton knew it and he never learned it at Harvard. Fred Hampton would be supporting the teachers that shut down the education system in Virginia today. He would be supporting the people in the cities whose water has been poisoned by corporations and their politicians to save a buck. He would be supporting strikes, and the veterans and workers throughout the world who are victims of capitalist aggression. He would be marching with the survivors of the mass shootings even if he differed with their demands. He would be savaging the prison industrial complex and would defend our unions more aggressively than those who lead them today.
Fred Hampton is a giant of US working class history and should be recognized as such. Not just by black people, but all workers.
I would like to point out, in terms of class language and class differences. Like Fred Hampton we at this blog believe the united working class is the only force that can change society, that can drag society back from the abyss and the destruction of life as we know it. In this struggle we will have allies, educated people, people who do speak “proper” as that is the language of official education in any society. People who have special skills they learned in capitalist institutions, will use them to advance the interests of the working as they join us in struggle. It is not language that is oppressive, it is who is speaking and what they’re saying.