Saturday, December 07, 2013


It's time for theoretical weekends and still reeling a little bit from yesterday afternoon's anesthesia, I am hardly up to some heavy discussion of my own.  Instead, I will post something here from Che I have had hanging around on my desktop for a while.  

On Revolutionary Medicine

Spoken: August 19, 1960 to the Cuban Militia
Source: Obra Revolucionaria, Ano 1960, No. 24 (Official English translation)
Translated: Beth Kurti
Online Version: Che Guevara Internet Archive (, 1999
Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins

This simple celebration, another among the hundreds of public functions with which the Cuban people daily celebrate their liberty, the progress of all their revolutionary laws, and their advances along the road to complete independence, is of special interest to me.
Almost everyone knows that years ago I began my career as a doctor. And when I began as a doctor, when I began to study medicine, the majority of the concepts I have today, as a revolutionary, were absent from my store of ideals.
Like everyone, I wanted to succeed. I dreamed of becoming a famous medical research scientist; I dreamed of working indefatigably to discover something which would be used to help humanity, but which signified a personal triumph for me. I was, as we all are, a child of my environment.
After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming a famous or making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.
But I continued to be, as we all continue to be always, a child of my environment, and I wanted to help those people with my own personal efforts. I had already traveled a great deal - I was in Guatemala at the time, the Guatemala of Arbenz- and I had begun to make some notes to guide the conduct of the revolutionary doctor. I began to investigate what was needed to be a revolutionary doctor.
However, aggression broke out, the aggression unleaded by the United Fruit Company, the Department of State, Foster Dulles- in reality the same thing- and their puppet, called Castillo Armas. The aggression was successful, since the people had not achieved the level of maturity of the other Cuban people of today. One fine day, a day like any other, I took the road of exile, or at least, I took the road of flight from Guatemala, since that was not my country.
Then I realized a fundamental thing: For one to be a revolutionary doctor or to be a revolutionary at all, there must first be a revolution. Isolated individual endeavour, for all its purity of ideals, is of no use, and the desire to sacrifice an entire lifetime to the noblest of ideals serves no purpose if one works alone, solitarily, in some corner of America, fighting against adverse governments and social conditions which prevent progress. To create a revolution, one must have what there is in Cuba - the mobilization of a whole people, who learn by the use of arms and the exercise of militant unity to understand the value of arms and the value of unity.
And now we have come to the nucleus of the problem we have before us at this time. Today one finally has the right and even the duty to be, above all things, a revolutionary doctor, that is to say a man who utilizes the technical knowledge of his profession in the service of the revolution and the people. But now old questions reappear: How does one actually carry out a work of social welfare? How does one unite individual endeavour with the needs of society?
We must review again each of our lives, what we did and thought as doctors, or in any function of public health before the revolution. We must do this with profound critical zeal and arrive finally at the conclusion that almost everything we thought and felt in that past period ought to be deposited in an archive, and a new type of human being created. If each one of us expends his maximum effort towards the perfection of that new human type, it will be much easier for the people to create him and let him be the example of the new Cuba.
It is good that I emphasize for you, the inhabitants of Havana who are present here, this idea; in Cuba a new type of man is being created, whom we cannot fully appreciate here in the capital, but who is found in every corner of the country. Those of you who went to the Sierra Maestra on the twenty-sixth of July must have seen two completely unknown things. First, an army with hoes and pickaxes, an army whose greatest pride is to parade in the patriotic festivals of Oreinte with hoes and axes raised, while their military comrades march with rifles. But you must have seen something even more important. You must have seen children whose physical constitutions appeared to be those of eight or nine-year-olds, yet almost all of whom are thirteen or fourteen. They are the most authentic children of the Sierra Maestra, the most authentic offspring of hunger and misery. They are the creatures of malnutrition.
In this tiny Cuba, with its four or five television channels and hundred of radio stations, with all the advances of modern science, when those children arrived at school for the first time at night and saw the electric light bulbs, they exclaimed that the stars were very low that night. And those children, some of whom you must have seen, are learning in collective schools skills ranging from reading to trades, and even the very difficult science of becoming revolutionaries.
Those are the new humans being born in Cuba. They are being born in isolated areas, in different parts of the Sierra Maestra, and also in the cooperatives and work centres. All this has a lot to do with the theme of our talk today, the integration of the physician or any other medical worker, into the revolutionary movement. The task of educating and feeding youngsters, the task of educating the army, the task of distributing the lands of the former absentee landlords to those who laboured every day upon that same land without receiving its benefits, are accomplishments of social medicine which have been performed in Cuba.
The principle upon which the fight against disease should be based is the creation of a robust body; but not the creation of a robust body by the artistic work of a doctor upon a weak organism; rather, the creation of a robust body with the work of the whole collectivity, upon the entire social collectivity.
Some day, therefore, medicine will have to convert itself into a science that serves to prevent disease and orients the public toward carrying out its medical duties. Medicine should only intervene in cases of extreme urgency, to perform surgery or something else which lies outside the skills of the people of the new society we are creating.
The work that today is entrusted to the Ministry of Health and similar organizations is to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine, and orient the public to the performance of hygienic practices.
But for this task of organization, as for all the revolutionary tasks, fundamentally it is the individual who is needed. The revolution does not, as some claim, standardize the collective will and the collective initiative. On the contrary, it liberates man's individual talent. What the revolution does is orient that talent. And our task now is to orient the creative abilities of all medical professionals toward the tasks of social medicine.
We are at the end of an era, and not only here in Cuba. No matter what is hoped or said to the contrary, the form of capitalism we have known, in which we were raised, and under which we have suffered, is being defeated all over the world. The monopolies are being overthrown; collective science is coring new and important triumphs daily. In the Americas we have had the proud and devoted duty to be the vanguard of a movement of liberation which began a long time ago on the other subjugated continents, Africa and Asia. Such a profound social change demands equally profound changes in the mental structure of the people.
Individualism, in the form of the individual action of a person alone in a social milieu, must disappear in Cuba. In the future individualism ought to be the efficient utilization of the whole individual for the absolute benefit of a collectivity. It is not enough that this idea is understood today, that you all comprehend the things I am saying and are ready to think a little about the present and the past and what the future ought to be. In order to change a way of thinking, it is necessary to undergo profound internal changes and to witness profound external changes, especially in the performance of our duties and obligations to society.
Those external changes are happening in Cuba every day. One way of getting to know the Revolution and becoming aware of the energies held in reserve, so long asleep within the people, is to visit all Cuba and see the cooperatives and the work centres which are now being created. And one way of getting to the heart of the medical question is not only to visit and become acquainted with the people who make up these cooperatives and work centres, but to find out what diseases they have, what their sufferings are, what have been their chronic miseries for years, and what has been the inheritance of centuries of repression and total submission. The doctor, the medical worker, must go to the core of his new work, which is the man within the mass, the man within the collectivity.
Always, no matter what happens in the world, the doctor is extremely close to his patient and knows the innermost depths of his psyche. Because he is the one who attacks pain and mitigates it, he performs and invaluable labour of much responsibility in society.
A few months ago, here in Havana, it happened that a group of newly graduated doctors did not want to go into the country's rural areas, and demanded remuneration before they would agree to go. From the point of view of the past it is the most logical thing in the world for this to occur; at least, so it seems to me, for I can understand it perfectly. The situation brings back to me the memory of what I was and what I thought a few years ago. [My case is the] story all over again of the gladiator who rebels, the solitary fighter who wants to assure a better future, better conditions, and to make valid the need people have of him.
But what would have happened if instead of these boys, whose families generally were able to pay for their years of study, others of less fortunate means had just finished their schooling and were beginning the exercise of their profession? What would have occurred if two or three hundred peasants had emerged, let us say by magic, from the university halls?
What would have happened, simply, is that the peasants would have run, immediately and with unreserved enthusiasm, to help their brothers. They would have requested the most difficult and responsible jobs in order to demonstrate that the years of study they had received had not been given in vain. What would have happened is what will happen in six or seven years, when the new students, children of workers and peasants, receive professional degrees of all kinds.
But we must not view the future with fatalism and separate all men into either children of the working and peasant classes or counter-revolutionaries, because it is simplistic, because it is not true, and because there is nothing which educates an honorable man more than living in a revolution. None of us, none of the first group which arrived in the Granma, who settled in the Sierra Maestra, and learned to respect the peasant and the worker living with him, had a peasant or working-class background. Naturally, there were those who had had to work, who had known certain privations in childhood; but hunger, what is called real hunger, was something none of us had experienced. But we began to know it in the two long years in the Sierra Maestra. And then many things became very clear.
We, who at first punished severely anyone who touched the property of even a rich peasant or a landowner, brought ten thousand head of cattle to the Sierra one day and said to the peasants, simply, 'Eat'. And the peasants, for the first time in years and years, some for the first time in their lives, ate beef.
The respect which we had had for the sacrosanct property right to those ten thousand head of cattle was lost in the course of armed battle, and we understood perfectly that the life of a single human being is worth a million time more than all the property of the richest man on earth. And we learned it; we, who were not of the working class nor of the peasant class. And are we going to tell the four winds, we who were the privileged ones, that the rest of the people in Cuba cannot learn it also? Yes, they can learn it, and besides, the Revolution today demands that they learn it, demands that it be well understood that far more important than a good remuneration is the pride of serving one's neighbor; that much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people. And each doctor, within the circle of his activities, can and must accumulate that valuable treasure, the gratitude of his people.
We must, then, begin to erase our old concepts and begin to draw closer and closer to the people and to be increasingly aware. We must approach them not as before. You are all going to say, 'No. I like the people. I love talking to workers and peasants, and I go here or there on Sundays to see such and such.' Everybody has done it. But we have done it practising charity, and what we have to practice today is solidarity. We should not go to the people and say, 'Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you our science, to show you your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance of elementary things.' We should go instead with an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at that great source of wisdom that is the people.
Later we will realize many times how mistaken we were in concepts that were so familiar they became part of us and were an automatic part of our thinking. Often we need to change our concepts, not only the general concepts, the social or philosophical ones, but also sometimes, our medical concepts.
We shall see that diseases need not always be treated as they are in big-city hospitals. We shall see that the doctor has to be a farmer also and plant new foods and sow, by example, the desire to consume new foods, to diversify the Cuban nutritional structure, which is so limited, so poor, in one of the richest countries in the world, agriculturally and potentially. We shall see, then, how we shall have to be, in these circumstances, a bit pedagogical- at times very pedagogical. It will be necessary to be politicians, too, and the first thing we will have to do is not to go to the people to offer them our wisdom. We must go, rather, to demonstrate that we are going to learn with the people, that together we are going to carry out that great and beautiful common experiment: the construction of a new Cuba.
Many steps have already been taken. There is a distance that cannot be measured by conventional means between that first day of January in 1959 and today. The majority of the people understood a long time ago that not only a dictator had fallen here, but also a system. Now comes the part the people must learn, that upon the ruins of a decayed system we must build the new system which will bring about the absolute happiness of the people.
I remember that some time in the early months of last year comrade Guillên arrived from Argentina. He was the same great poet he is today, although perhaps his books had been translated into a language or two less, for he is gaining new readers every day in all languages of the world. But he was the same man he is today. However, it was difficult for Guillên to read his poems here, which were popular poetry, poetry of the people, because that was during the first epoch, the epoch of prejudices. And nobody ever stopped to think that for years and years, with unswerving dedication, the poet Guillên had placed all his extraordinary poetic gift at the service of the people and at the service of the cause in which he believed. People saw him, not as the glory of Cuba, but as the representative of a political party which was taboo.
Now all that has been forgotten. We have learned that there can be no divisions due to the different points of view of certain internal structures of our country if we have a common enemy and a common goal. What we have to agree upon is whether or not we have a common enemy and whether or not we are attempting to reach a common goal.
By now we have become convinced that there definitely is a common enemy. No one looks over his shoulder to see if there is anyone who might overhear- perhaps some agent from the embassy who would transmit the information- before giving an opinion against monopolies, before saying clearly, 'Our enemy, and the enemy of all America, is the monopolistic government of the United States of America.' If now everyone knows that is the enemy, and it is coming to be known also that anyone who fights against that enemy has something in common with us, then we come to the second part. Where and now, for Cuba, what are our goals? What do went want? Do we or do we not want the happiness of the people? Are we, or are we not fighting for the total economic liberation of Cuba?
Are we or are we not struggling to be a free nation among free nations, without belonging to any military bloc, without having to consult the embassy of any great power on earth about any internal or external measure that is going to be taken here? If we plan to redistribute wealth of those who have too much in order to give it to those who have nothing; if we intend to make creative work a daily, dynamic source of all our happiness, then we have goals toward which to work. And anyone who has the same goals is our friend. If he has other concepts besides, if he belongs to some organization or other, those are minor matters.
In moments of great danger, in moments of great tensions and great creations, what count are great enemies and great goals. If we are already agreed, if we all know now where we are going - and let him grieve to whom it will cause grief- then we have to begin our work.
I was telling you that to be a revolutionary you have first to have a revolution. We already have it. Next, you have to know the people with whom you are going to work. I think that we are not yet well acquainted, that we still have to travel a while on that road. You ask me what are the vehicles for getting to know the people beside the vehicle of living in the cooperatives and working in them. Not everyone can do this, and there are many places where the presence of a medical worker is very important. I would say that the revolutionary militias are one of the great manifestations of the solidarity of the Cuban people. Militias now give a new function to the doctor and prepare him for what was, until a short time ago, a sad and almost fatal reality for Cuba, namely, that we are going to be the victim of an armed attack of great breadth.
I ought to warn you that the doctor, in the function of soldier and revolutionary, should always be a doctor. You should not commit the same error which we committed in the Sierra. Or maybe it was not an error, but all the medical comrades of that period know about it. It seemed dishonorable to us to remain at the side of a wounded man or a sick one, and we looked for any way possible of grabbing a rifle and going to prove on the battlefront what we could do.
Now the conditions are different, and the new armies which are being formed to defend the country must be armies with different tactics. The doctor will have an enormous importance within the plan of the new army. He must continue being a doctor, which is one of the most beautiful tasks there is and one of the most important in a war. And not only the doctor, but also the nurses, laboratory technicians, all those who dedicate themselves to this very human profession, are of he utmost importance.
Although we know of latent danger and are preparing ourselves to repel the aggression which still exists in the atmosphere, we must stop thinking about it. If we make war preparations the centre of our concern, we will not be able to devote ourselves to creative work. All the work and all the capital invested in preparing for a military action is wasted work and wasted money. Unfortunately, we have to do it, because there are others who are preparing themselves. But it is- and I say this in all honesty, on my honour as a soldier- the truth is that the outgoing money which most saddens me as I watch it leave the vault of the National Bank is the money that is going to pay for some weapon.
Nevertheless, the militias have a function in peacetime; the militias should be, in populous centres, the tool which unifies the people. An extreme solidarity should be practiced, as I have been told it is practised in the militias of the doctors. In time of danger they should go immediately to solve the problems of the poor people of Cuba. But the militias offer also an opportunity to live together, joined and made equal by a uniform, with men of all social classes of Cuba.
If we medical workers- and permit me to use once again a title which I had forgotten some time ago- are successful, if we use this new weapon of solidarity, if we know the goals, know the enemy, and know the direction we have to take, then all that is left for us to know is the part of the way to be covered each day. And that part no one can show us; that part is the private journey of each individual. It is what he will do every day, what he will gather from his individual experience, and what he will give of himself in the exercise of his profession, dedicated to the well-being of the people.
Now that we have all the elements for our march toward the future, let us remember the advice of Martí. Although at this moment I am ignoring it, one should follow it constantly, "The best way of telling is doing." Let us march, then, toward Cuba's future.

Friday, December 06, 2013


This may be a little strange.  Just got home from minor surgery and am a bit off, as it were.  Fortunately my friend Bill Berkowitz has written a column that I can use here without any further ado.

Froom BuzzFlash.

The Conservative Movement’s Long-Time Hate Affair With Nelson Mandela

MandelaVotingLast night, it was difficult to cut through the fog of reaction from current day conservatives to the death of Nelson Mandela. However, despite the kind words and the tributes, it should never be forgotten that the conservative movement in this country took great pains to condemn and demonize Mandela and the African National Congress, doing all they could to undermine the economic boycott of South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement.
Nelson Mandela and his comrades with the African National Congress were not always the toast of the town, especially in Washington, D.C.
President Ronald Reagan, who placed the ANC on the U.S. terror list in the 1980s (a designation that wasn't removed until 2008), labeled the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Instead, the Reagan Administration adopted "a position a position of constructive engagement towards South Africa." The Nation's Sam Kleiner reported in early July.
"Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker pushed for expanded trade with Johannesburg under the belief that it was a strong ally in the Cold War. While divestment activists urged the United States to isolate the South African regime, the Reagan administration was pushing for more trade and engagement."
In 1985, Rep. Dick Cheney voted against a congressional resolution calling for the release of Mandela and the recognition of the African National Congress. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms "turned his back during Mandela's visit to the U.S. Capitol."
The Religious Right in this country -- and the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in particular -- were steadfast in its support of apartheid as well as counter-revolutionary movements in Angola and Mozambique. "The liberal media has for too long suppressed the other side of the story in South Africa," he said. "It is very important that we stay close enough to South Africa so that it does not fall prey to the clutches of Communism."
"South Africa is torn by civil unrest, instigated primarily by Communist-sponsored people who are capitalizing on the many legitimate grievances created by apartheid, unemployment and policy confrontations," Falwell said.
David John Marley noted in Pat Robertson: An American Life that Robertson said the ANC was "led by communists and was hostile to Israel" and "far too radical an element to ever work with," while "his campaign literature made similar claims for the need to support the white government."
In an infamous segment on "60 Minutes," the Institute on Religion and Democracy excoriated the World Council of Churches (WCC) over its support for Mandela. The John Birch Society called Mandela "a communist terrorist thug."
People for the American Way's RightWingWatch reported that "Even in 1998, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly lumped Mandela together with notorious dictators."
The Nation's Kleiner noted that "Republican power brokers such as Grover Norquist, Jeff Flake and Jack Abramoff all launched their careers in the anti-divestment campaign, seeking to keep trade open with apartheid South Africa."
Abramoff, "now a disgraced former lobbyist convicted of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion, got much of his start from his work with South Africa," Kleiner pointed out. "Abramoff visited the country following his term as National Chair of the College Republicans in 1983 and met with pro-apartheid student groups linked to the South Africa's Bureau of Security Services. In 1986, he opened the International Freedom Foundation. Ostensibly a think tank, it was later revealed as a front group for the South African Army as part of 'Operation Babushka' meant to undermine Nelson Mandela's international approval. The group had over '30 young ideologues in offices on G Street in Washington, Johannesburg, London and Brussels' working on propaganda in support of the South African government."
Grover Norquist got involved with the pro-South Africa movement and visited the country in 1985 for a "Youth for Freedom Conference," sponsored by South African businesses. According to Kleiner, Norquist said, "The left has no other issue [but apartheid] on campus. Economic issues are losers for them. There are no sexy Soviet colonies anymore." Norquist later went to Angola – a country torn apart by the murderous actions of Jonas Savimbi, a leader much admired by U.S. conservatives.
According to Kleiner, "Norquist became a ghost-writer for Savimbi's essay in Policy Review," then a publication of the Heritage Foundation. "When he returned to Washington, he was greeted in conservative circles as a 'freedom fighter,' and he proudly placed an 'I'd rather be killing commies' bumper sticker on his brief case."
In death, some in the conservative movement are still throwing weaponized darts at Mandela. After Mandela's death, Gregory Hood wrote in American Renaissance: "The truth is, the saintly visage of Mandela—all crinkly eyes and warm smiles—conceals a violent past as a terrorist."
Nelson Mandela believed in reconciliation. He believed that forging a way forward was more important than dwelling on past grievances. That being said, I don't think he'd want anyone to forget the history of apartheid, the struggle against it, and role that conservatives in the U.S. played.
(Photo: Paul Weinberg)

Thursday, December 05, 2013



Why not?  Why not talk about Western Sahara, Africa's last colony, the place no one hardly ever mentions even though a struggle for liberation has been going on there for almost as long as I can remember.  Why not, indeed?

Just yesterday, the Foreign Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), known to much of the outside world as Western Sahara called on the international community to assume some responsibility and force Morocco to clear all Sahawri lands of the millions of mines it planted there since 1975.  The mines kill and maim Sahrawi civilians every year.  Five people, three adults and two children, were killed in November.  

"I call on the 13th meeting of State Parties to the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mine Ban (held currently in Geneva) and all international community to force the Moroccan occupier to clear hundreds of areas in Western Sahara, which it littered with antitank and antipersonnel mines since the beginning of occupation in 1975," Ould Salek said in a statement to Algerian Press Service (APS). Salek also called on the international community to force Morocco to demolish the 2700-km wall of shame" preventing the Sahrawi people from moving freely on their own lands.

The Berm of Western Sahara (also known as the Moroccan Wall) is an approximately 2,700 km-long defensive structure, mostly a sand wall (or "berm"), running through Western Sahara and the southeastern portion of Morocco. It acts as a separation barrier between the Moroccan-controlled areas and the Polisario-controlled section of the territory that lies along its eastern and southern border.

Earlier in November, The 38th International Conference of Support for the Sahrawi People (known as; EUCOCO), initiated  campaign against the Moroccan wall.

The Sahara Press Service reported at the time:

Held under the motto: "together to remove the wall", campaign aims "to muster all possible support from policymakers and international public opinion to compel the occupying Moroccan State to comply with the rules of international humanitarian law and neutralise the wall and the entire arsenal of destruction that it contains, which includes antipersonnel and anti-tank landmines and unexploded ordnance."

Following the full text of the declaration:


International Campaign against the Wall of Moroccan Occupation in Western Sahara: Together to Remove the Wall

The participants in the 38th EUCOCO Conference held in Rome, Italy, from 15 to 16 November 2013,

Aware that Wall of Moroccan occupation, since it was built in the early eighties, still poses a great danger to the Sahrawi population on both sides of the wall,
Aware of the devastating and enduring humanitarian, social, cultural, economic, legal and environmental consequences that the wall has had on the life of the Sahrawi people on both sides of the wall,

Deeply concerned about the presence of over 7 million landmines and large quantity of cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance in Western Sahara that continue to pose a great danger to the Sahrawi population on both sides of the wall,

Aware of the situation of the Sahrawi landmine victims as living testimonies to the destructive magnitude of the wall and its impact on the lives of innocent civilians and of the need to carry out demining operations on both sides of the wall.

Noting with appreciation that the Frente POLISARIO has committed itself to banning the use of landmines and to cooperation in mine action through the adherence to the Geneva Call, whilst deploring that Morocco is still reluctant to sign the Ottawa Treaty on the Convention on Cluster Munitions,

Aware of the commendable work done so far by Sahrawi actors and the solidarity movement to denounce the wall and to raise public awareness of its multiple negative consequences,

Aware of the urgent need to establish a common framework to integrate, coordinate and follow up all activities and initiatives that will be undertaken out in this context in order to make them more visible and effective,

Denounce the Wall of Moroccan Occupation as a heinous crime against the human rights of the Sahrawi people and a huge obstacle to the exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

Denounce the Wall of Moroccan Occupation as an illegal wall of separation whereby Morocco has turned the Sahrawi occupied territories into a large prison in which all forms of physical and psychological repression are systematically practiced with impunity.

Denounce the Wall whereby Morocco is trying to entrench its military siege and information blackout imposed on the Sahrawi occupied territories and to impose its colonial fait accompli in Western Sahara.

Call on all states to cease their sales and supply of arms to Morocco, which uses them mainly to consolidate its military presence in Western Sahara.

Reaffirm the applicability of the rules of the international humanitarian law to Western Sahara as an occupied territory and call upon Morocco, the occupying power, to comply with the relevant rules of the international humanitarian law and other human rights instruments.

Decide to launch an international campaign against the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara, which will be known as "the International Campaign against the Wall of Moroccan Occupation in Western Sahara: together to remove the wall".

The overarching objective of the campaign is to muster all possible support from policymakers and international public opinion to compel the occupying Moroccan State to comply with the rules of international humanitarian law and neutralise the wall and the entire arsenal of destruction that it contains, which includes antipersonnel and anti-tank landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Affirm their commitment to put in place strategies of action and mobilise all necessary resources to carry out the campaign and to achieve its objectives in the short and long run.

Call on all stakeholders to participate energetically not only in the preparations for the campaign but also in all stages of the implementation of the plans and action strategies of the campaign in order to ensure its effectiveness and continuity.

I have never figured out why the long struggle of the Sahrawi receives so little attention on this side of the Atlantic from all those anti-imperialist, solidarity, internationalists, progressives out there, but it doesn't. 

So here I am again feeling like a lone voice in the dark with some further information for anyone listening from the African Globe. 

Africa’s Last Colony: The Forgotten State

Africa Last Colony Western Sahara photo
Western Sahara
AFRICANGLOBE – There’s one state that has been left behind. Ignored by the international media, failed by the UN, its people in refugee camps for 38 years.
The state is called Western Sahara, the people are called Sahrawis, and this is their story.
First, some history: In the mid 20th century states in Africa began to be granted independence from their colonial powers. Today, all African states are considered sovereign and face the long struggle to reinstate their position in the international hierarchy.
All but one.
Western Sahara is situated on the northwest coastline of Africa, bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. Despite being mostly comprised of desert land and lacking sufficient rainfall for most agricultural activities, the country does have fish-rich waters and large amounts of phosphate. It also potentially possesses a large amount of oil.
Unlike most African states, which, upon withdrawal of their colonial powers were offered a referendum on independence, Western Sahara was immediately laid claim to by its neighboring countries of Morocco and Mauritania. Spain, its former colonizer, rather than handing independence to the Sahrawis cut a deal with Morocco and Mauritania by signing the “Madrid Agreement,” in which Spain split the territory between the neighboring countries. In doing so, Spain both avoided a messy colonial war with their Moroccan neighbor, and gained access to the fish and phosphate in return for their favor.
In 1975 Morocco invaded and occupied Western Sahara.
A month earlier, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ruled that neither Morocco nor Mauritania had any legal claim to territorial sovereignty over Western Sahara. Morocco went ahead and occupied them anyway.
This was an illegal occupation.
The Moroccan occupation did not come without resistance from the Sahrawi people, who had developed a strong sense of nationalism in the 1960s, which gave birth to the Polisario Front, who are the sole representative of the Sahrawis. This Front had successfully rid itself of Spanish power through guerrilla warfare, and now faced the task of doing the same to its neighboring powers.
War between the Polisario Front and Morocco began soon after the 1975 invasion.
In 1979 Mauritania withdrew its right to Western Sahara and Morocco secured effective control of most of the territory.
There are an estimated 500,000 Sahrawi people, of which an estimated 100,000 have been forced into refugee camps in Algeria. They have been there for 38 years and are completely reliant on foreign aid. Morocco has built a 2,700-kilometer-long wall scattered with millions of landmines to prevent those in refugee camps from returning to their country. This is the longest strip of landmines in the world.
So why, now that Morocco has been illegally occupying this country for 38 years and considering that under UN law “freely expressed self-determination is an unalienable right,” did the international powers not step in and demand a referendum on independence, akin to those that all other African states had been granted?
The answer is because other, more dominant world powers were at play. When Morocco first invaded Western Sahara, the Moroccan government had strong backing from Spain, France and the Reagan administration in the United States. All these countries saw Morocco as a key ally in the Middle East, and didn’t want to disturb their relationship by giving support for a referendum on independence, even if it was backed by international law. The UN is weak to powers such as these, and often don’t implement international law, if it contradicts an interest of a powerful country. This has been visible in the way the UN has failed to implement international law in the case of Western Sahara.
The UN has been attempting — in the broadest sense of the term — to find a solution to the question of sovereignty and self-determination since 1991. The worst failure of theirs is their refusal to implement human rights monitoring in Western Sahara, despite numerous amounts of reports of heinous abuse. Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, said in their 2008 report on Western Sahara that:
“The government bans peaceful demonstrations and refuses legal recognition to human rights organizations; the security forces arbitrarily arrest demonstrators and suspected Sahrawi activists, beat them and subject them to torture, and force them to sign incriminating police statements, all with virtual impunity; and the courts convict and imprison them after unfair trials.”
Many people have never heard of this conflict. It is hugely under-represented in the news media, both by a corrupt censored Moroccan media, and by an internationally corrupt media who are unwilling to publish stories outside of a familiar narrative and that pose super-powers in a negative light.
I believe the path to the freedom of the Sahrawi people is through telling more people the story. I will tell this story, the story of the people, over and over again. I hope that after reading this you will too.

By: Holly Tarn

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Forty-four years ago today, I heard the news of the police murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago.  As stunning as the news was, it wasn't.  After all Panthers were being attacked, killed, and jailed across the country in those days.  Still, this one was somehow different.  This was so obviously a hit aimed at a man who was, who could have been the most "dangerous" man in America if he were allowed to live.  He could have been our version of Che, maybe he was anyway.  He spoke to young black Americans like nobody else.  He spoke to all of us like me, too.  They had to kill him.  They killed him.  They did not kill the Revolution, but they sure as hell wounded it.  Two young black men assassinated in Chicago.  Such was life in 1969.   All of us who were in the struggle then, all of us, of all races have our own thoughts and memories about that day.  I won't take up space with my thoughts.  Here are a few thoughts of others.  There are many, many more.

From Sons of Malcolm


Fred Hampton: Martyr of the Liberation Struggle

Fred Hampton (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969) was an
activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the
Black Panther Party (BPP). He was murdered in his apartment
by the the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation.

He was drugged and brutally killed at the age of 21 for
being one of the most effective upcoming leaders and
organisers of the Black Panthers. Panther Mark Clark was
also killed in the same attack.

This is how Mutulu Shakur (Tupac's Step-Dad, still in
prison today) recounts that day: "Fred Hampton and several
Party members including William O'Neal
came home to the BPP Headquarters after a political
education class. O'Neal volunteered to make the group
dinner. He slipped a large dose of secobarbital in Fred's
kool-aid and left the apartment around 1:30am, a little
while later, Fred fell asleep. Around 4:30am on December 4,
1969 the heavily armed Chicago Police attacked the
Panthers' apartment. They entered the apartment by kicking
the front door down and then shooting Mark Clark pointblank
in the chest. Clark was sleeping in the living room with a
shotgun in his hand. His reflexes responded by firing one
shot at the police before he died. That bullet was then
discovered to be the only shot fired at the police by the
Panthers. Their automatic gunfire entered through the walls
of Fred and his pregnant girlfriend's room. Fred was shot
in the shoulder. Then two officers entered the bedroom and
shot Fred at pointblank in his head to make sure that he
was dead, and no longer a so-called menace to society. It
has been said that one officer stated, "he's good and dead
now." The officers then dragged Fred's body out of his
bedroom and again open fired on the members in the
apartment. The Panthers were then beaten and dragged across
the street where they were arrested on charges of attempted
murder of the police and aggravated assault. The incident
also wounded four other Panther members."

One of the most important achievements of Brother Fred was
the brokering of a peace pact between Chicago's gangs and
the recruitment of some of them into the Panthers. He also
developed an alliance for struggle with gangs and other
progressive forces in the city which he coined the 'rainbow
coalition', a term and concept Jesse Jackson later
appropriated. He continues to be an inspiration today and
his example and martyrdom will always remain in the hearts
and minds of strugglers.

Sukant Chandan
Sons of Malcolm / Black Panther Commemoration Committee


Power anywhere where there's people. Power anywhere where there's people. Let me give you an example of teaching people. Basically, the way they learn is observation and participation. You know a lot of us go around and joke ourselves and believe that the masses have PhDs, but that's not true. And even if they did, it wouldn't make any difference. Because with some things, you have to learn by seeing it or either participating in it. And you know yourselves that there are people walking around your community today that have all types of degrees that should be at this meeting but are not here. Right? Because you can have as many degrees as a thermometer. If you don't have any practice, they you can't walk across the street and chew gum at the same time.

Let me tell you how Huey P. Newton, the leader, the organizer, the founder, the main man of the Black Panther Party, went about it.

The community had a problem out there in California. There was an intersection, a four-way intersection; a lot of people were getting killed, cars running over them, and so the people went down and redressed their grievances to the government. You've done it before. I know you people in the community have. And they came back and the pigs said "No! You can't have any." Oh, they dont usually say you can't have it. They've gotten a little hipper than that now. That's what those degrees on the thermometer will get you. They tell you "Okay, we'll deal with it. Why dont you come back next meeting and waste some time?"

And they get you wound up in an excursion of futility, and you be in a cycle of insaneness, and you be goin' back and goin' back, and goin' back, and goin' back so many times that you're already crazy.

So they tell you, they say, "Okay niggers, what you want?" And they you jump up and you say, "Well, it's been so long, we don't know what we want", and then you walk out of the meeting and you're gone and they say, "Well, you niggers had your chance, didnt you?"

Let me tell you what Huey P. Newton did.

Huey Newton went and got Bobby Seale, the chairman of the Black Panther Party on a national level. Bobby Seale got his 9mm, that's a pistol. Huey P. Newton got his shotgun and got some stop signs and got a hammer. Went down to the intersection, gave his shotgun to Bobby, and Bobby had his 9mm. He said, "You hold this shotgun. Anybody mess with us, blow their brains out." He put those stop signs up.

There were no more accidents, no more problem.

Now they had another situation. That's not that good, you see, because its two people dealing with a problem. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, no matter how bad they may be, cannot deal with the problem. But let me explain to you who the real heroes are.

Next time, there was a similar situation, another four-way corner. Huey went and got Bobby, went and got his 9mm, got his shotgun, got his hammer and got more stop signs. Placed those stop signs up, gave the shotgun to Bobby, told Bobby "If anybody mess with us while were putting these stop signs up, protect the people and blow their brains out." What did the people do? They observed it again. They participated in it. Next time they had another four-way intersection. Problems there; they had accidents and death. This time, the people in the community went and got their shotguns, got their hammers, got their stop signs.

Now, let me show you how were gonna try to do it in the Black Panther Party here. We just got back from the south side. We went out there. We went out there and we got to arguing with the pigs or the pigs got to arguing-he said, "Well, Chairman Fred, you supposed to be so bad, why dont you go and shoot some of those policemen? You always talking about you got your guns and got this, why dont you go shoot some of them?"

And I've said, "you've just broken a rule. As a matter of fact, even though you have on a uniform it doesn't make me any difference. Because I dont care if you got on nine uniforms, and 100 badges. When you step outside the realm of legality and into the realm of illegality, then I feel that you should be arrested." And I told him, "You being what they call the law of entrapment, you tried to make me do something that was wrong, you encouraged me, you tried to incite me to shoot a pig. And that ain't cool, Brother, you know the law, dont you?"

I told that pig that, I told him "You got a gun, pig?" I told him, "You gotta get your hands up against the wall. We're gonna do what they call a citizens arrest." This fool dont know what this is. I said, "Now you be just as calm as you can and don't make too many quick moves, cause we don't wanna have to hit you."

And I told him like he always told us, I told him, "Well, I'm here to protect you. Don't worry about a thing, 'm here for your benefit." So I sent another Brother to call the pigs. You gotta do that in a citizen's arrest. He called the pigs. Here come the pigs with carbines and shotguns, walkin' out there. They came out there talking about how they're gonna arrest Chairman Fred. And I said, "No fool. This is the man you got to arrest. He's the one that broke the law." And what did they do? They bugged their eyes, and they couldn't stand it. You know what they did? They were so mad, they were so angry that they told me to leave.

And what happened? All those people were out there on 63rd Street. What did they do? They were around there laughing and talking with me while I was making the arrest. They looked at me while I was rapping and heard me while I was rapping. So the next time that the pig comes on 63rd Street, because of the thing that our Minister of Defense calls observation and participation, that pig might be arrested by anybody!

So what did we do? We were out there educating the people. How did we educate them? Basically, the way people learn, by observation and participation. And that's what were trying to do. That's what we got to do here in this community. And a lot of people don't understand, but there's three basic things that you got to do anytime you intend to have yourself a successful revolution.

A lot of people get the word revolution mixed up and they think revolutions a bad word. Revolution is nothing but like having a sore on your body and then you put something on that sore to cure that infection. And Im telling you that were living in an infectious society right now. Im telling you that were living in a sick society. And anybody that endorses integrating into this sick society before its cleaned up is a man whos committing a crime against the people.

If you walk past a hospital room and see a sign that says "Contaminated" and then you try to lead people into that room, either those people are mighty dumb, you understand me, cause if they weren't, they'd tell you that you are an unfair, unjust leader that does not have your followers' interests in mind. And what were saying is simply that leaders have got to become, we've got to start making them accountable for what they do. They're goin' around talking about so-and-so's an Uncle Tom so we're gonna open up a cultural center and teach him what blackness is. And this n****r is more aware than you and me and Malcolm and Martin Luther King and everybody else put together. That's right. They're the ones that are most aware. They're most aware, cause they're the ones that are gonna open up the center. They're gonna tell you where bones come from in Africa that you can't even pronounce the names. Thats right. They'll be telling you about Chaka, the leader of the Bantu freedom fighters, and Jomo Kenyatta, those dingo-dingas. They'll be running all of that down to you. They know about it all. But the point is they do what they're doing because it is beneficial and it is profitable for them.

You see, people get involved in a lot of things that's profitable to them, and we've got to make it less profitable. We've got to make it less beneficial. I'm saying that any program that's brought into our community should be analyzed by the people of that community. It should be analyzed to see that it meets the relevant needs of that community. We don't need no n*****s coming into our community to be having no company to open business for the n*****s. There's too many n*****s in our community that can't get crackers out of the business that they're gonna open.

We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I'm talking about the white masses, I'm talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We've got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you do'nt fight racism with racism. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don't fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.

We ain't gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we're gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we're gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That's what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.

We have to understand very clearly that there's a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he's black and sometimes he's white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don't care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun!

A lot of us running around talking about politics don't even know what politics is. Did you ever see something and pull it and you take it as far as you can and it almost outstretches itself and it goes into something else? If you take it so far that it is two things? As a matter of fact, some things if you stretch it so far, it'll be another thing. Did you ever cook something so long that it turns into something else? Ain't that right?

That's what were talking about with politics.

That politics ain't nothing, but if you stretch it so long that it can't go no further, then you know what you got on your hands? You got an antagonistic contradiction. And when you take that contradiction to the highest level and stretch it as far as you can stretch it, you got what you call war. Politics is war without bloodshed, and war is politics with bloodshed. If you don't understand that, you can be a Democrat, Republican, you can be Independent, you can be anything you want to, you ain't nothing.

We don't want any of those n*****s and any of these hunkies and nobody else, radicals or nobody talking about, "I'm on the Independence ticket." That means you sell out the republicans; Independent means you're out for graft and you'll sell out to the highest bidder. You understand?

We want people who want to run on the People's Party, because the people are gonna run it whether they like it or not. The people have proved that they can run it. They run it in China, they're gonna run it right here. They can call it what they want to, they can talk about it. They can call it communism, and think that that's gonna scare somebody, but it ain't gonna scare nobody.

We had the same thing happen out on 37th Road. They came out to 37th road where our Breakfast for children program is, and started getting those women who were kind of older, around 58---that's, you know, I call that older cause Im young. I aint 20, right, right! But you see, they're gonna get them and brainwash them. And you ain't seen nothin till you see one of them beautiful Sisters with their hair kinda startin getting grey, and they ain't got many teeth, and they were tearin' them policemen up! They were tearing em up! The pigs would come up to them and say "You like communism?"

The pigs would come up to them and say, "You scared of communism?" And the Sisters would say, "No scared of it, I ain't never heard of it."

"You like socialism?"

"No scared of it. I ain't never heard of it."

The pigs, they be crackin' up, because they enjoyed seeing these people frightened of these words.

"You like capitalism?"

Yeah, well, that's what I live with. I like it.

"You like the Breakfast For Children program, n****r?"

"Yeah, I like it."

And the pigs say, "Oh-oh." The pigs say, "Well, the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic program. Its a communistic program."

And the women said, "Well, I tell you what, boy. I've been knowing you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, n****r. And I don't know if I like communism and I don't know if I like socialism. But I know that that Breakfast For Children program feeds my kids, n****r. And if you put your hands on that Breakfast For Children program, I'm gonna come off this can and I'm gonna beat your ass like a ...."

That's what they be saying. That's what they be saying, and it is a beautiful thing. And that's what the Breakfast For Children program is. A lot of people think it is charity, but what does it do? It takes the people from a stage to another stage. Any program that's revolutionary is an advancing program. Revolution is change. Honey, if you just keep on changing, before you know it, in fact, not even knowing what socialism is, you dont have to know what it is, they're endorsing it, they're participating in it, and they're supporting socialism.

And a lot of people will tell you, way, Well, the people dont have any theory, they need some theory. They need some theory even if they don't have any practice. And the Black Panther Party tells you that if a man tells you that he's the type of man who has you buying candy bars and eating the wrapping and throwing the candy away, he'd have you walking East when you're supposed to be walking West. Its true. If you listen to what the pig says, you be walkin' outside when the sun is shining with your umbrella over your head. And when it's raining youll be goin' outside leaving your umbrella inside. That's right. You gotta get it together. Im saying that's what they have you doing.

Now, what do WE do? We say that the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic program. It teaches the people basically that by practice, we thought up and let them practice that theory and inspect that theory. What's more important? You learn something just like everybody else.

Let me try to break it down to you.

You say this Brother here goes to school 8 years to be an auto mechanic. And that teacher who used to be an auto mechanic, he tells him, "Well, n****r, you gotta go on what we call on-the-job-training." And he says, "Damn, with all this theory I got, I gotta go to on-the-job-training? What for?"

He said, "On on-the-job-training he works with me. Ive been here for 20 years. When I started work, they didn't even have auto mechanics. I ain't got no theory, I just got a whole bunch of practice."

What happened? A car came in making a whole lot of funny noise. This Brother here go get his book. He on page one, he ain't got to page 200. I'm sitting here listening to the car. He says, "What do you think it is?"

I say, "I think its the carburetor."

He says, "No I don't see anywhere in here where it says a carburetor make no noise like that." And he says, "How do you know its the carburetor?"

I said, "Well, n****r, with all them degrees as many as a thermometer, around 20 years ago, 19 to be exact, I was listening to the same kind of noise. And what I did was I took apart the voltage regulator and it wasn't that. Then I took apart the alternator and it wasn't that. I took apart the generator brushes and it wasn't that. I took apart the generator and it wasn't that. I took apart the generator and it wasn't even that. After I took apart all that I finally got to the carburetor and when I got to the carburetor I found that that's what it was. And I told myself that 'fool, next time you hear this sound you better take apart the carburetor first.'"

How did he learn? He learned through practice.

I dont care how much theory you got, if it don't have any practice applied to it, then that theory happens to be irrelevant. Right? Any theory you get, practice it. And when you practice it you make some mistakes. When you make a mistake, you correct that theory, and then it will be corrected theory that will be able to be applied and used in any situation. Thats what we've got to be able to do.

Every time I speak in a church I always try to say something, you know, about Martin Luther King. I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther King. I think he was one of the greatest orators that the country ever produced. And I listened to anyone who speaks well, because I like to listen to that. Martin Luther King said that it might look dark sometime, and it might look dark over here on the North Side. Maybe you thought the room was going to be packed with people and maybe you thought you might have to turn some people away and you might not have enough people here. Maybe some of the people you think should be here are not here and you think that, well if they're not here then it won't be as good as we thought it could have been. And maybe you thought that you need more people here than you have here. Maybe you think that the pigs are going to be able to pressure you and put enough pressure to squash your movement even before it starts. But Martin Luther King said that he heard somewhere that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And we're not worried about it being dark. He said that the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward heaven.

We got Huey P. Newton in jail, and Eldridge Cleaver underground. And Alprentice Bunchy Carter has been murdered; Bobby Hutton and John Huggins been murdered. And a lot of people think that the Black Panther Party in a sense is giving up. But let us say this: That we've made the kind of commitment to the people that hardly anyone else has ever made.

We have decided that although some of us come from what some of you would call petty-bourgeois families, though some of us could be in a sense on what you call the mountaintop. We could be integrated into the society working with people that we may never have a chance to work with. Maybe we could be on the mountaintop and maybe we wouldn't have to be hidin' when we go to speak places like this. Maybe we wouldn't have to worry about court cases and going to jail and being sick. We say that even though all of those luxuries exist on the mountaintop, we understand that you people and your problems are right here in the valley.

We in the Black Panther Party, because of our dedication and understanding, went into the valley knowing that the people are in the valley, knowing that our plight is the same plight as the people in the valley, knowing that our enemies are on the mountain, to our friends are in the valley, and even though its nice to be on the mountaintop, we're going back to the valley. Because we understand that there's work to be done in the valley, and when we get through with this work in the valley, then we got to go to the mountaintop. We're going to the mountaintop because there's a motherfucker on the mountaintop that's playing King, and he's been bullshitting us. And weve got to go up on the mountain top not for the purpose of living his life style and living like he lives. We've got to go up on the mountain top to make this motherfucker understand, goddamnit, that we are coming from the valley!


From Opine Season...

Remembering Chairman Fred

by Ricardo Levins Morales
This article was written originally in 2004 for the 35th anniversary of Fred Hampton’s death.


Screeching tires.  Flashing lights.  Heavily armed men rushing up the dark stairwell open fire through walls and doors on the sleepers inside.  When it is over at least 90 holes mark the trajectories of police bullets entering the apartment, mostly aimed at a young man’s bed.  One bullet had answered from within.  It was December 4, 1969.
Ricardo Levins Morales
Ricardo Levins Morales
A few hours later my junior high teacher asks me about my black arm band.  “Fred Hampton was murdered this morning,” I reply.  Over the next few days members of the Chicago Black Panther Party will usher clusters of supporters (my father included), through the shattered and blood-stained apartment—until the police seal off the evidence. It will be learned that Hampton’s body guard, a police informant, had laced his juice with a sedative and given the cops a floor plan of the apartment, an X marking the location of his bed.
The official line, trumpeted in the media by FBI-linked reporters, was that the Panthers were a danger because they were racist and violence-prone.  Internal FBI memos tell a different story.  It was precisely the Party’s ability to bridge racial divides that they found so alarming.  The Fed’s failure to provoke deadly violence between the Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers street gang led to the pre-dawn raid.
The following years saw me organizing walkouts and marches, conferences and occupations in support of the besieged party.  I worked in the Panther Defense Committee and even my high school’s banned Black Student Union (where I held the cherished title of “Token Spic”).  While a young Mumia Abu Jamal was hawking theBlack Panther newspaper on the streets of Philly, I—though a member of neither group—was selling the Panther along with Pitirre, the paper of the Young Lords Organization, in Chicago.  The Lords were like Puerto Rican Panthers.  They’d been a street gang that went political under the Panther’s influence.  Fred Hampton mentored them.  Chairman Fred also pulled in the Young Patriots, white street kids born of the Appalachian migratory stream.  He brought them all into an alliance for which he coined the name “The Rainbow Coalition.”  It was 1968.
Fred Hampton is remembered as a martyr of the FBI’s war on the radical left, the COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program).  What folks forget is the promise he embodied.  While the national leaders in California, Huey Newton, Bobby Seal, Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, became household names, there were stars shining in the chapters.  Fred was one of the brightest.  Soon after he’d founded the Chicago Chapter he had five “Free Breakfast for Children” programs running on the west side, along with a free health clinic, door to door screening for sickle cell anemia, and the Panther’s famous police watch patrols.  He had a charismatic ability to communicate with all kinds of people, a way of cutting through the ideological fog, and a love for the abused and disrespected of the streets that was contagious.  He was soon talking with the Latin Kings, the Blackstone Rangers, and the Disciples, looking for ways to bring them out of the street wars and into the struggle.  (It’s a credit to the politics he personified that this tribute to him is written by a Jewish Puerto Rican.)  He was the kind of leader that FBI field offices were warned to watch out for and, when identified, to “neutralize.”   When he fell he had been tapped to become national Chief of Staff for the Party.  He was twenty one years old.
The wave of repression that took Fred Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark that morning, swept across U.S. communities of color leaving hundreds dead, wounded or in prison (where many remain).  In its wake came the money, federal funds pouring into new social service agencies and police departments.  A “leader” in our communities was now anyone who got to head up an agency.  As whites fled the cities and funds were shifted elsewhere, dark faces were allowed into mayoral offices to preside over the wreckage.
The craving for dignity and respect that electrified the struggle of a generation ago still echoes in our streets, but without the hope it finds its outlet in gangs.  In place of the “survival programs” there are “non-profit corporations.”  Stripped of revolutionary vision, they are designed to administer, not to transform.  Two forms of community “management,” neither of them a threat to the structures of wealth.
Brother Chairman, the challenges we are facing are no harder than those you confronted.  If you were with us you’d simply insist that the despised and oppressed are the solution, not the problem.
We lost you too soon, little brother (cruel history has made me your elder now).  I’m sorry we couldn’t protect you.  I’m sorry that your son has had to follow your road without ever having touched you.
And as for us?  What can I say, man… wish you were here.

I Remember Fred: A Brilliant Leader Struck Down in His Youth
by Bruce A. Dixon, former member of the Illinois Black Panther Party

I remember Fred Hampton.  For the last year of his life, which was the whole time I knew him, he was Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party.  Fred was a big man whose inexhaustible energy, keen insight and passionate commitment to the struggle made him seem even larger still.  We called him Chairman Fred.  Chairman Fred was murdered by the FBI and Chicago Police Department in the pre-dawn hours of December 4, 1969.  He was just 21 years old.  Fred’s family and comrades mourned him for a little while and have celebrated his life of struggle, service, intensity and sacrifice ever since.

For such a short life there is much to celebrate.  A gifted communicator and natural leader, Fred was organizing other high school students at the age of 15.  A brilliant student, he had passed up the chance to go to an elite college and the straight road to some lucrative and prestigious career.  Inspired by examples from the civil rights movement to anti-colonial struggles in Vietnam and Africa, Fred chose to live and work on the West Side of Chicago and devote all his talents and energies to ending the oppression of woman and man by man, helping to organize and lead the Black Panther Party in Chicago. 

Chairman Fred led by example.  He had high standards and challenged all those in his orbit to get up as early, to read as much, and to work and study as hard and as productively as he did.  I never saw anybody meet that challenge for long, but he made us want to keep trying.  Fred sought out principled critiques of his own practices, and taught us the vital role of constructing, receiving and acting on such criticism in building a sound organization. 

Fred assumed a lead role in organizing the party’s Breakfast for Children program, in which we solicited donations of food and facilities and provided or recruited the labor to serve free hot breakfasts to children on the way to school in some of thecity’s poorest neighborhoods where local authorities assured us that no hunger problem existed.  Not long afterward the city of Chicago began using federal funds to provide hot breakfasts to children in lower income neighborhoods across the city.  Fred worked with the Medical Committee for Human Rights to open the Black Panther Party’s free medical clinic on the West Side of Chicago where authorities again solemnly declared there were no shortage of such services.  And again, not long afterward the Chicago Board of Health was persuaded of the need to open a network of clinics providing free and low-cost services in the city’s poorer areas.

Fred reached out to work with the Young Lords Organization in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, and to a group of  white working class youth who called themselves the Young Patriots.  He made time to speak to and with student groups in high schools and colleges all over Chicago and the surrounding area.  He organized community surveys to get snapshots of the actual and perceived needs of some neighborhoods.  1969 was well before the epidemics of powdered and crack cocaine put large and permanently corrupting sums of money into the hands of gang leaders.  Fred was instrumental in crafting a principled approach not just to individual members but to the rank and file and leaderships of black Chicago’s two major street gangs to put aside their differences and work for the good of the entire community.  His efforts met with some initial success, and earned him some extra special attention from the FBI.

There was much more, really an awful lot going on for a young man of 20 or 21, all the more amazing as most members of the organization he led were a year or two or three younger than Fred.  Despite arrests and threats of imprisonment or death hanging over him, Fred persevered and challenged us to do the same.  He was impatient with injustice, as the finest young people of every age always are.  Fred was animated, almost consumed by a love for our people and for all of humanity and determined to do whatever it took to end the exploitation of woman and man by man.
Times do change and the mechanisms of oppression evolve into new forms.  Political organizations and strategic visions crafted for the needs of one era don’t make the grade in another.  If Fred was alive today he’d be a middle-aged grandfather in his fifties.  It’s hard to know exactly how he’d be doing but there is no doubt that Fred would still be teaching and learning and inspiring, still tirelessly organizing and struggling in the great cause of human liberation.  Chairman Fred called us to a lifetime of service to humanity.  If we weren’t doing something revolutionary, Fred told us many times, we should not even bother to remember him.  So we continue to work hard to be worthy of his memory.