1. What can we learn from the history of revolutionary struggles about the transition from bourgeois forms of security and policing to proletarian forms of state security
As a class question, we must of course begin with distinguishing between bourgeois and proletarian forms of state power. The state is nothing but the organization of the armed force of one class over its rival class(es). The bourgeoisie, as a tiny oppressor class that exploits or marginalizes all other classes to its own benefit, organizes its institutions of state power (military, police, prisons), that exist outside and above all other classes, to enforce and preserve its dominance and rule over everyone else.
To seize and exercise state power the proletariat, as the social majority, must in turn arm itself and its class allies to enforce its own power over the bourgeoisie.
Which brings us to the substance of your question concerning what lessons we’ve learned about transitioning from bourgeois state power (the capitalist state) to proletarian state power (the socialist state). In any event it won’t be and has never been a ‘peaceful’ process, simply because the bourgeoisie will never relinquish its power without the most violent resistance; which is the very reason it maintains its armed forces.
Well, we’ve had both urban and rural models of such transition. Russia was the first urban model (although subsumed in a rural society), China was the first successful rural one. There were many other attempts, but few succeeded however.
What proved necessary in the successful cases is foremost there must be a vanguard party organized under the ideological and political line of the revolutionary proletariat. This party must work to educate and organize the masses to recognize the need, and actively take up the struggle, to seize power from the bourgeoisie.
In the urban context, (especially in the advanced capitalist countries), where the bourgeoisie’s armed forces are entrenched, this requires a protracted political approach focused on educating and organizing the masses and creating institutions of dual and alternative collective political and economic power, with armed struggle prepared for but projected into the distant future (likely as civil war).
But in the rural context, where revolutionary forces have room to maneuver because the bourgeoisie’s armed forces are much less concentrated, the masses may resort to relatively immediate armed struggle, with political work operating to keep the masses and the armed forces educated and organized, and revolutionary politics in command of the armed struggle. This was Mao Tse-tung’s contribution to revolutionary armed struggle called Peoples War, and with its mobile armed mass base areas these forces operated like a state on wheels.
But the advances of technology since the 1970s, have seen conditions change that require a reassessing of the earlier methods of revolutionary struggle and transition of state power.
The rural populations (peasantry) of the underdeveloped world who are best suited to Mao’s PW model have been shrinking, as agrobusiness has been steadily pushing them off the land and into urban areas as permanent unemployables and lumpen proletarians, where they must survive by any means possible. Then too, with their traditional role as manual laborers being increasingly replaced by machines, the proletariat in the capitalist countries in also shrinking, and they too are pushed into a mass of permanent unemployables and lumpen.
So the only class, or sub-class, whose numbers are on the rise today are this bulk of marginalized largely urban people who don’t factor into the traditional roles of past struggles, with one exception. That being the struggle waged here in US the urban centers under the leadership of the original BPP, which designated itself a lumpen vanguard party. As such the BPP brought something entirely new and decisive to the table.
As the BPP’s theoretical leader, Huey P. Newton explained this changing social economic reality and accurately predicted their present development in his 1970 theory of “Revolutionary Intercommunalism,” and met the challenge of creating the type of party formation suited to meeting the new challenges of educating and organizing this growing social force for revolutionary struggle.
The BPP was able to create a model for developing institutions of dual and alternative political and economic power through its Serve the People programs creating the basis for transition of power to the marginalized under a revolutionary intercommunalist model instead of the traditional national socialist model.
The challenge in this situation where such work has been met with the most violent repression by bourgeois state forces is developing effective security forces right under their noses to protect the masses and their programs.
This is the work we in the NABPP are building on and seek to advance.
2. What has your experience of being a hyper-surveilled, incarcerated revolutionary taught you that is broadly applicable to the secure practice of revolutionaries in general
For one, the masses are our best and only real protection against repression. So in all the work we do, we must rely on and actively seek and win the support of the people, which is the basic Maoist method of doing political work and is what the imperialists themselves admit makes it the most effective and feared model of revolutionary struggle.
I’ve also learned that a lot of very important work fails because many people just don’t attempt it, due to policing themselves. Many fear pig repression and think any work that is effective must necessarily be done hidden out of sight, fearing as they do being seen by the state.
Essentially, they don’t know how to do aboveground work, and don’t recognize the importance of it, especially in these advanced countries. They think for work to be ‘revolutionary’ it must be underground and focused on armed struggle. And even those who do political work they stifle it by using an underground style which largely isolates them from the masses.
I think Huey P. Newton summed it up aptly when he stated,
“Many would-be revolutionaries work under the fallacious notion that the vanguard party should be a secret organization which the power structure knows nothing about, and that the masses know nothing about except for occasional letters that come their homes in the night. Underground parties cannot distribute leaflets announcing an underground meeting. Such contradictions and inconsistencies are not recognized by these so-called revolutionaries. They are, in fact, afraid of the very danger they are asking the people to confront. These so-called revolutionaries want the people to say what they themselves are afraid to say, to do what they themselves are afraid to do. That kind of revolutionary is a coward and a hypocrite. A true revolutionary realizes if he is sincere, death is imminent. The things he is saying and doing are extremely dangerous. Without this … realization, it is pointless to proceed as a revolutionary.
“If these impostors would investigate the history of revolution they would see that the vanguard group always starts out aboveground and is driven underground by the oppressor.”
3. Do you see it as a vulnerability to have our leaders organizing from prison? Some comrades refuse to engage in party/mass organizational work if it is conducted from prison. Don’t we sacrifice our best leadership if we don’t work directly/organizationally with our incarcerated leaders?
It can be a disadvantage, because it slows down development. But it is also an advantage, and our party is an example of this.
Historically, most revolutionary parties began on the outside and ended up targeted with repression, which included imprisonment of its cadre and supporters — fear of repression served as a deterrent for many would be revolutionaries as it was intended to do. For the NABPP, we developed in exactly the opposite direction. We began inside the prisons and are now transitioning to the outside.
Our cadre are getting out and hitting the ground going directly to work for the people. Look at our HQ in Newark, NJ where our chairman got out and has in less than a year led in developing a number of community STP programs, organizing mass protests that have shut down a prison construction project, given publicity and support to the people facing a crisis with lead in the water systems, etc.
So unlike the hothouse flower we’re already used to and steeled against state repression. The threat of prison doesn’t shake us — we’ve been there and done that. Like Huey asked, “Prison Where is Thy Victory?,” and John Sinclair of the original White Panther Party said, “prison ain’t shit to be afraid of.” And it was Malcolm X who was himself transformed into the great leader that he was inside prison who called prisons, “universities of the oppressed.”
All of my own work has been done from behind prison walls, and I have the state’s own reports and reactions of kicking me out of multiple state prison systems to attest to the value of what I’ve been able to contribute.
So, I think that, yes, some of our best leadership is definitely behind these walls.
Consider too that some of our best leaders developed inside prison: Malcolm X, George Jackson and Atiba Shanna aka James Yaki Sayles, for example. Which is something our party has factored into its strategy from day one. We’ve recognized the prisons to be potential revolutionary universities. Since our founding the NABPP has actively advanced the strategy of “transforming the prisons into schools of liberation,” of converting the lumpen (criminal) mentality into a revolutionary mentality.
In fact we can’t overlook remolding prisoners, because if we don’t, the enemy will appeal to and use them as forces of reaction against the revolutionary forces. Lenin, Mao and especially Frantz Fanon and the original BPP recognized this. What’s more, with the opposition’s ongoing strategy of mass imprisonment, massive numbers of our people have been swept up in these modern concentration camps. We must reach them with the politics of liberation. They are in fact a large part of our Party’s mass base.
4. How do you vet leadership and cadre? On what criteria to you make your judgement? Organizationally and personally.
Ideally this is determined by their ideological and political development and practice. But we expect and give space for people to make mistakes, although we also expect them to improve as they go. So we must be patient but also observe closely the correlation between their stated principles and their practice.
5. How should underground work relate to aboveground? How can the masses identify with the work of underground revolutionaries without compromising the security of the clandestine network?
Underground work serves different purposes and needs. One of which being to protect political cadre and train cadre to replace the fallen. Also to create a protective network and infrastructure for political workers forced to go to ground in the face of violent repression.
In whatever case the above ground forces should actively educate the masses on the role, function and purpose of underground actions while ensuring that the clandestine forces consist of the most disciplined and politically grounded people. It must also be understood that these elements do not replace the masses in their role as the forces that must seize power.
6. In your assessment, has the balance of forces between the police and the potential of revolutionary mass action fundamentally shifted over the past 5 decades? How does this affect our ability to form organs of political power among the masses?
What shifted, but I don’t think is generally recognized by many, is the PW theory is today too simplistic. Today we must organize and create base areas under the nose of the bourgeoisie with the growing concentration of marginalized people in impoverished urban settings. As I noted earlier the traditional mass base of rural peasants who feature in the PW strategy is shrinking. And Maoist forces in rural areas have been pushed to the furthest margins of those areas unable to expand.
There is little opportunity for New Democratic revolution in these countries, which calls for alliances with the native national bourgeoisie who are now being rendered obsolete by the rise and normalization of neocolonialism and virtual elimination of nation states.
Exactly 400 years ago, in August 1619, enslaved Africans touched foot in the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States for the first time. The centuries since have seen the development of a racial system more violent, extractive, and deeply entrenched than any other in human history. Yet where there is oppression, there is also resistance. Since 1619, Black radicals and revolutionaries have taken bold collective action in pursuit of their freedom, threatening the fragile foundations of exploitation upon which the United States is built. These heroic struggles have won tremendous victories, but they have also produced martyrs—heroes who have been imprisoned and killed because of their efforts to transform society.
“Black August” is honored every year to commemorate the fallen freedom fighters of the Black Liberation Movement, to call for the release of political prisoners in the United States, to condemn the oppressive conditions of U.S. prisons, and to emphasize the continued importance of the Black Liberation struggle. Observers of Black August commit to higher levels of discipline throughout the month. This can include fasting from food and drink, frequent physical exercise and political study, and engagement in political struggle. In short, the principles of Black August are: “study, fast, train, fight.”
George Jackson and the origins of Black August
George Jackson was a Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party while he was incarcerated in San Quentin Prison in California. Jackson was an influential revolutionary and his assassinations at the hands of a San Quentin prison guard was one of the primary catalysts for the inception of Black August.
A 19-year-old convicted of armed robbery, in 1961 George Jackson was sentenced to a prison term of “1-to-life,” meaning prison administrators had complete and arbitrary control over the length of his sentence. He never lived outside of a prison again, spending the next 11 years locked up (seven and a half years of those in solitary confinement). In those 11 years—despite living in an environment of extreme racism, repression, and state control—George Jackson’s political fire was ignited, and he became an inspiration to the other revolutionaries of his generation.
Jackson was first exposed to radical politics by fellow inmate W.L. Nolen. With Nolen’s guidance, Jackson studied the works of many revolutionaries, including Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Frantz Fanon. Nolen, Jackson, and other prisoners dedicated themselves to raising political consciousness among the prisoners and to organizing their peers in the California prison system. They led study sessions on radical philosophy and convened groups like the Third World Coalition and started the San Quentin Prison chapter of the Black Panther Party. Jackson even published two widely read books while incarcerated: Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye.
Unfortunately, if predictably, these radical organizers soon found themselves in the cross-hairs of the California prison establishment. In 1970, W.L. Nolen—who had been transferred to Soledad prison and planned to file a lawsuit against its superintendent—was assassinated by a prison guard. Days later, George Jackson (also now in Soledad Prison) and fellow radical prisoners Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette were accused of killing a different prison guard in retaliation for Nolen’s death. The three were put on trial and became known as the Soledad Brothers.
That year, when it was clear that George Jackson would likely never be released from prison, his 17-year-old brother Jonathan Jackson staged an armed attack on the Marin County Courthouse to demand the Soledad Brothers’ immediate release. Jonathan Jackson enlisted the help of three additional prisoners—James McClain, William Christmas, and Ruchell Magee—during the offensive. Jonathan Jackson, McClain, and Christmas were all killed, while Magee was shot and re-arrested. Ruchell Magee, now 80 years old, is currently one of the longest held political prisoners in the world.
On August 21, 1971, just over a year after the courthouse incident, a prison guard assassinated George Jackson. The facts regarding his death are disputed. Prison authorities alleged that Jackson smuggled a gun into the prison and was killed while attempting to escape. On the other hand, literary giant James Baldwin wrote, “no Black person will ever believe that George Jackson died the way they tell us he did.”
While the particular circumstances of Jackson’s death will likely forever remain contested, two facts are clear: his death was ultimately a political assassination, and his revolutionary imprint can’t be extinguished. Through the efforts and sacrifice of George and Jonathan Jackson, Nolen, McClain, Christmas, Magee and countless other revolutionaries, the 1970s became a decade of widespread organizing and political struggle within prisons. Prisoners demanded an end to racist and violent treatment at the hands of prison guards, better living conditions, and increased access to education and adequate medical care. Tactics in these campaigns included lawsuits, strikes, and mass rebellions. The most notable example may be the Attica Prison rebellion, which occurred in New York State just weeks after George Jackson was murdered. In protest of the dehumanizing conditions they were subjected to, about 1,500 Attica Prison inmates released a manifesto with their demands and seized control of the prison for four days, beginning on September 9, 1971. Under orders from Governor Nelson Rockefeller, law enforcement authorities stormed Attica on September 12 and killed at least 29 incarcerated individuals. None of the prisoners had guns.
This is the context out of which Black August was born in 1979. It was first celebrated in California’s San Quentin prison, where George Jackson, W.L. Nolen, James McClain, Willam Christmas and Ruchell Magee were all once held. The first Black August commemorated the previous decade of courageous prison struggle, as well as the centuries of Black resistance that preceded and accompanied it.
Political prisoners and the prison struggle
Observers of Black August call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in the United States. That the US government even holds political prisoners is a fact they attempt to obscure and deny. In reality, dozens of radicals from organizations such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, the American Indian Movement, and MOVE have been imprisoned for decades as a result of their political activity. As Angela Davis, who was at one time the most high profile political prisoner in the US, explains:
“There is a distinct and qualitative difference between one breaking a law for one’s own individual self-interest and violating it in the interests of a class of people whose oppression is expressed either directly or indirectly through that particular law. The former might be called criminal (though in many instances he is a victim), but the latter, as a reformist or revolutionary, is interested in universal social change. Captured, he or she is a political prisoner… In this country, however, where the special category of political prisoners is not officially acknowledged, the political prisoner inevitably stands trial for a specific criminal offense, not for a political act… In all instances, however, the political prisoner has violated the unwritten law which prohibits disturbances and upheavals in the status quo of exploitation and racism.”
Prisons in the United States are a form of social control which serve to maintain the status quo of oppression. Over the last few decades, prisons have become an increasingly important tool for the US ruling class. Prisons not only quarantine revolutionaries, but also those segments of the population who have become increasingly expendable to the capitalist system as globalized production, deindustrialization, and technological automation decrease the overall need for labor-power. These shifts, which began in earnest in the 1970s, have hit Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities the hardest, as exemplified by the sky high unemployment and incarceration rates those communities face. These groups are also historically the most prone to rebellion. Angela Davis noted in 1971 that as a result of these trends, “prisoners—especially Blacks, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans—are increasingly advancing the proposition that they are political prisoners. They contend that they are political prisoners in the sense that they are largely the victims of an oppressive politico-economic order.”
Though that definition of political prisoner is unorthodox, it illustrates the political and economic nature of criminalization. This is why observers of Black August connect the fight to free “revolutionary” political prisoners to the broader struggle against US prisons. Mass incarceration is a symptom of the same system that political prisoners have dedicated their lives towards fighting.
As increasing numbers of the US working class are “lumpenized,” or pushed out of the formal economy and stable employment, the potential significance of political struggle among the unemployed and incarcerated increases. George Jackson wrote in Blood in My Eye that “prisoners must be reached and made to understand that they are victims of social injustice. This is my task working from within. The sheer numbers of the prisoner class and the terms of their existence make them a mighty reservoir of revolutionary potential.”
George Jackson’s own journey is a perfect example of that revolutionary potential. Jackson didn’t arrive in prison a ready-made revolutionary. He had a history of petty crime and was apolitical during his first years in prison. He would have been dismissed by many people in our society as a “thug.” But comrades who knew that he held the potential inherent in every human being found him and took him in. They helped him understand his personal experiences within the context of capitalism and white supremacy. In turn, George Jackson dedicated his life to doing the same for others incarcerated individuals.
Black August today
August, more than any other month, has historically carried the weight of the Black Liberation struggle. Of course, enslaved Africans were first brought to British North America in August 1619. Just over 200 years later, in August 1831, Nat Turner led the most well-known rebellion of enslaved people in US history. This historical significance carried into the 20th century, when both the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the Watts Rebellion—an explosive uprising against racist policing in Los Angeles—occurred in August during the 1960s.
Even today, the month remains significant in the struggle. John Crawford, Michael Brown, and Korryn Gaines were three Black Americans who were murdered in high-profile cases of police brutality; Crawford and Brown in August 2014, and Gaines in August 2016. Their deaths have been part of the impetus for a revived national movement against racist police brutality. Finally, on August 27, 2018, the 47 year anniversary of George Jackson’s death, thousands of U.S. prisoners launched a national prison strike. They engaged in work stoppages, hunger strikes, and other forms of protests. The strike lasted until September 9, 47 years after the Attica Prison Uprising began. Like the Attica prisoners, the 2018 prison strike organizers put forth a comprehensive list of demands that exposed the oppression inherent to the U.S. prison system, and laid out a framework to improve their conditions.
Each of these historical and contemporary events reveal a truth that the Black radical tradition has always recognized: there can be no freedom for the masses of Black people within the white supremacist capitalist system. The fight for liberation is just that: a fight. Since its inception in San Quentin, Black August has been an indispensable part of that fight.
In the current political moment, when some misleaders would have us bury the radical nature of Black resistance and instead prop up reformist politics that glorify celebrity, wealth, and assimilation into the capitalist system, Black August is as important as ever. It connects Black people to our history and serves as a reminder that our liberation doesn’t lie in the hands of Black billionaires, Black police officers, or Black Democratic Party officials. Those “Black faces in high places” simply place a friendly face on the system that oppresses the masses of Black people in the United States and around the world, often distorting symbols of Black resistance along the way. Black liberation lies, as it always has, in the hands of the conscious and organized masses. Study, train, fight, and in the words of George Jackson, “discover your humanity and your love of revolution.”
Interview with NABPP Chairman Shaka Zulu by Heather Warburton of New Jersey Revolution Radio
Heather Warburton: This is Wine Women and Revolution with your host Heather Warburton coming at you here on New Jersey Revolution Radio. You can find us online at http://njrevolutionradio.com/. Get us wherever you get your podcasts from and follow us on all the social media.
Today I am really excited about this interview. I have someone with me that the group he’s with is probably doing some of the best organizing I’m seeing in the state of New Jersey right now. And I do not say that lightly. They really are doing really impressive work up in the Newark area. Welcome to the show, Chairman Shaka Zulu of the New African Black Panther Party.
Chairman Zulu: All power to the people! Glad to be here and I’m glad to talk to your audience.
Heather Warburton: I’m so happy that New Jersey Revolution Radio was able to support you guys and help get your message out. And that’s one of the things I’m probably most proud of that we’re doing here on NJRR. Because like I said, you guys are doing amazing organizing. I’m just not seeing the kind of organizing you’re doing – that grassroots neighborhood empowerment organizing – by many other groups in the state.
So I wanted to take a little trip back to your origin story. How did you come to be a revolutionary? How did you get this thought, revolutionary thought, in you? And you’re going to start empowering communities? Where did that come from?
Chairman Zulu: Well, I think that how I became a revolutionary was my encounter with the criminal justice system. I think that the police encounters, the prison cell, that kind of kicked me into the revolutionary movement. When I initially went to prison, I was a common criminal. You know, I sold drugs. I robbed. I’d steal. I did all the things that people that are cut off from the economy do to survive.
But when I went to prison, that’s when I encountered a hardcore revolutionary idea – that with study with time and practice one can change their behavior, one could change their ethics and morals, their values, and join with the rest of humanity trying to make a better place for everybody. So I began to read books. I began to talk to political prisoners. I began to do a lot of writing. And in that process, I discovered the importance of ideas – what it meant, how can we apply it?
And in essence, how can I relate to those ideas in a meaningful way? So I encountered books that I still read to this day, “Soledad Brother” by Comrade George Jackson, Huey P. Newton’s “Revolutionary Suicide” or “To Die for the People,” Bobby Seale’s “Seize The Time.” Obviously, I read Assata Shakur, I read Angela Davis’ “If They Come in the Morning.” So I read a lot of revolutionary books that dealt with the Black condition here in the United States.
But as I began to delve deeper into ideas, revolutionary ideas, I began to become familiar with Mao Tse-tung, Lenin and Marx, Che Guevara and their lifestyle, their ideas; the ideas match their action. So I said in order to be a true, genuine revolutionary, I had to marry theory with practice. And so I became a revolutionary within the enemy prison system.
Heather Warburton: And so obviously, you’re reading a lot of early, you know, the Black Panther movement stuff? And is that really … had you had any familiarity with the original Black Panther Party before you were in prison? Or did you really come to finding their ideology while you were in prison?
Chairman Zulu: Oh no. I think that the average Black person, whether they are part of the Black lumpen class or the Black working class or the Black petty bourgeois class, knows of the history of the Black Panther Party in a superficial way. Because our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers had some kind of encounter with the Black Panther Party, whether they saw it growing up, or they experienced it by participating in the many programs that the Black Panther Party had.
So I always knew that the Black Panther Party existed. I didn’t know its ideology. I didn’t know its membership. I didn’t know its international reach. And I certainly didn’t know its theoretical practices. But I knew of the Black Panther Party name.
It’s similar to old folk tales that we have within the Black community. Especially during slavery, there will be periods where the African slaves would get together, and they would talk about Old Jack, or they would talk about Old Kennedy. These are Black slaves that rose up in rebellion. They escaped the plantation, and they raided the slavemaster’s house for the corn for the chicken. But they were never caught.
And so 10 years, 15 years, 20 years down the line, this tale is still being told to African slaves, about the behavior of Old Jack or Old Kennedy, who was able to outmaneuver the slavemaster, in fact, the slave state, but he was never discovered. And in some instances, it’s a fairy tale. Because with African culture, you want to inspire. You want to motivate. You want to put people in a position where they believe they can win.
So the Black Panther Party has that sort of mysticism, that sort of mystique within the Black community. Some of us don’t understand its ideology and think that all it is is a hate whitey party. You know, others, perhaps thought it was, or still think that it’s about kill police or guns, you know.
But it was only when I begin to read that I begin to understand that the most important aspect to the Black Panther Party was the social programs. Was this ability to empower people who were hopeless, who had no sense of what it means to be agents of change, and not depend on the enemy state, not depend on charity, not depend on handouts, but become proactive, transforming your conditions where you at right now.
You may not have all the resources, but you have something to start with, and that idea of the Black Panther Party, that you can empower yourself, empower the community, empower the nation, empower the world through a revolutionary thrust for freedom inspired me. And that’s where I became enamored with social programs as a prerequisite to the liberation of all oppressed people.
Heather Warburton: Well, I think that leads really well into my next question: We obviously know the problems with capitalism; we know the problems of imperialism; we know the problems of racism in this country right now. So what does a good functional society look like to you? We know what we’re struggling against, but what are we struggling for? What do you want to see reflected in society?
Chairman Zulu: Yeah, I think that one of the most beautiful things about being a communist is that we have over 150 years of solid practice to look back on to determine what kind of society we want. Obviously, the first socialist society in 1917 did not get the chance to fully develop as a socialist society, because it was constantly under attack. It was surrounded by imperialist enemies.
And from 1917, really to 1953, we saw a microcosm of a world that we want today. We saw woman liberated from the household, and Russia’s situation, liberated from the peasant life, the peasantry, the backwardness of that kind of life, so they could become leaders of the society. We saw free healthcare. For the first time in history, we saw housing become a human right. The means of production, the resources under the earth, and on the earth, was put into the hands of the state, and the state used it to lift up the living conditions of its people.
So I think when we look at capitalism, and try to compare it to the kind of world that we envision today, the most important aspect that everybody can agree with is that all of the resources under the earth belong to all up the people on top of the earth. That these resources will give us a world that is free from militarism, racism, a world that is free of negative isms.
Because if you look at resources, resources are primarily responsible for the way that the world is constructed. Today, there’s uneven economic development, because there is a part of the world that hordes and monopolizes the resources and the Earth. So that gave birth to racism. That gave birth to wars. That gave birth to a sort of seeking refuge in a religious understanding.
So if the resources were in the hands of the people, we won’t have a Congo that has been at war essentially all of its life since Leopold invaded during a scramble for Africa. But I’m talking about since 1996, when Laurent Kabila assumed power in the Congo and was assassinated. Since the next year, there has been a low intensity war taking place in the Congo over the resources – the gold, the diamonds, the tantalum – that go into cell phones, airports, jets etc.
So if we can grab hold of the resources that are in the hands of the 1,670 billionaires, if we can grab hold of those resources, we can change the world that we live in, and we can start giving people housing as a human right. We could give them education as a human right. We can abolish prisons. We can abolish warfare as a means of resolving contradictions between nation states and individuals.
So I think that the kind of world we want is a socialist world; it is the only viable alternative to capitalism. There have been others who try a third way, you know, monarchies, and others who sort of mix capitalism and socialism. None of that stuff works.
We know that socialism gives us the ability to put humanity on the right course and on the right foot. Capitalism, from the get go, put humanity on the wrong course. So I think [we can] envision a world that is free of pollution, free of sexism, patriarchy, a world that is free of militarism, a world that gives humanity the opportunity to live in peace and harmony and to enjoy the fruits of the earth in an equal way. So that’s the kind of world we want: We want a socialist world.
Heather Warburton: And I was really hoping that’s what you’d touch on. Because everything you said just makes sense. People don’t always understand what communism or socialism means. And they build things up in their head. But really everything that you said I think everyone can relate to.
I think everyone can see the contradictions of their current life, and how some other way of forming society just makes sense. That we’re actually living collectively as opposed to constantly in conflict with each other. And conflict comes out of capitalism or any class society really.
Chairman Zulu: Exactly, man, if you look at the earth, it’s been around a long time, almost a billion years. States, the modern construction of a state where you have people existing on top of one another, the working class, the ruling class – that is a new invention. And it came into existence as a result of dividing up the resources of the world.
Prior to that, for thousands of years, people lived in a kind of world where intercommunally everything was shared amongst the people. So if we wanted grapes, it wasn’t a grape store down the street that monopolizes the grapes. You know, if we wanted apples, we didn’t have to go to Chiquita and ask them, can we buy a pound of apples. You simply went and plucked some apples off the tree.
You got enough to make sure that the whole village got some apples when they wanted some. So this is the kind of world that we can only create. This is the kind of world that we can only create, through a revolutionary struggle of the working class, against those who seek to continue to hoard, control, dominate, monopolize the resources of this earth that belong to everybody.
Heather Warburton: And I think to that end is where you’re doing really amazing organizing work. And I’m hoping you can tell us a little bit about some of the work that you started doing. You’re building an actual base of revolutionary power in the city of Newark. So can you tell everybody a little bit about what you started doing there?
Chairman Zulu: Oh, that’s beautiful. I think. This base, this base area, this idea that there’s liberated territory, that revolutionaries here in the United States can go to and strategize, come up with tactics, come up with ways of clarifying theories, and values and ethics and more rules came out of my study.
It came out of the fact that the Black Panther Party created base areas in the country where all people who were struggling for justice could come and meet and talk. Sometimes, in these areas, discussions got heated, you know; they were intense, but they were meant to clarify the conditions that oppressed people were struggling with.
So what we want to do is rebuild that infrastructure of revolutionary thought, a revolutionary structure – revolutionary into communalism. We want to rebuild that because it gives us the opportunity to extend that revolution outwardly from a base area. I think that a lot of revolutionaries and progressives have moved away from the construction of a base area, because of the way that helter skelter politics is organized nowadays.
There is a need to respond to so many conditions of brutality and exploitation. And as a result, the painstaking work of doing what Antonio Gramsci called “building the organic leader in the community” working with the grassroots who have suffered.
So we’re trying to re-institute that infrastructure. And we have been moving in that direction for the last few months. Our first campaign was to stop a prison that they was trying to build. Here in the City of Newark, they wanted to build a prison smack in the heart of the oppressed community. They wanted to tear down houses in that particular community in order to build the prison.
So we put together what we call a No Prison Friday Rally. And for nearly two months, we were on South Orange Avenue here in the city of Newark protesting and rallying every Friday. And we got the governor, the enemy governor, to state that there will be no prison built on South Orange here in the city of Newark. That was the work of the New African Black Panther Party and the United Panther Movement.
Others have come along, the Johnny-come-latelys, and claimed responsibility; that’s okay. But the community in which we stage these rebellions knows who put the groundwork down. Know who was there every week, to stand in solidarity with them. So that was one of our initial programs. And we still continue that program under a different set of work conditions.
We no longer focus strictly on the prison, per se. But now we incorporate mass incarceration, criminal justice, you know, there’s 2.5 million people in the enemy prison today. There’s 6.5 million people on some form of criminal justice supervision. There’s 500,000 people waiting right now in county jails across the country. So we exist, we live in a mass incarcerated state. And any revolutionary organization that truly wants to liberate the ground has to take on this ugly behemoth of mass incarceration.
So Fridays, we call it “No mass incarceration; we want liberation!” That’s our new project.
Our other project is Empower the Block. That is something that we put together two weeks ago – and a Saturday survival program. We go out into the community, not to bring charity, not as an act of pity.
But we do it as a way of empowering the people in the community. Letting them know that you don’t have to wait on the garbage truck to come. You don’t have to wait on the mayor to come. You don’t have to wait on the state to come.
You could simply get on your block, pick up a broom, and empower each other by cleaning the neighborhood. And then talk about why did you need to clean the neighborhood, because the resources that other communities have are not available in these poverty stricken communities that are left out of the national economy.
So it’s the means of revolutionizing the minds of the people. Let them know that we could start with something small and build that project into a mighty revolutionary force. And so that’s what Empower the Block does. It gives the people the opportunity to come out of their house to meet one another again, and to begin to talk to each other about why our blocks (are the way they are).
Why would communities of nations have to suffer the way they are suffering? It’s because of capitalism, white supremacy. It’s because of an idea that, in order for capitalism to maximize the rate of dollar, it must exploit the labor power of the masses of the people. We have to teach that.
They have to understand that economics is primarily responsible for their condition. It is not individual white men. It is an economic system that has privileged white society over Black society. So we get rid of capitalism; then we could sit down all of us – Black, white, Latino, Asian and the indigenous people – and talk about the kind of world we could build. But it starts with grassroots organizing.
Heather Warburton: What you were saying reminded me a lot of Thomas Sankara when he says, people who just give us food, you’re not helping our community really. [The ones] giving us fertilizer, giving us plows, so we can empower ourselves is who’s really helping us.
And you know this confusion of like, charity is great – you’re filling a temporary need – but you’re not really teaching people how to empower themselves and do it themselves. And that’s really where revolution comes from, is enabling people to know that they really hold the power. And you know, that’s your slogan, right? All power to the people.
Chairman Zulu: And that’s beautiful, that’s beautiful, because that’s the difference between a capitalist society; they individualize heroic acts. As a socialist society, we make heroic collective work.
So if there is a village or an urban setting that is suffering from a lack of resources and the state is unwilling or unable to provide those resources, then we have to come up with a methodology to pool what little we have to make sure that our brothers or sisters can eat or have access to health care or stop police brutality or get a decent education.
So Thomas Sankura was right. You know, giving us a bowl of rice, it’s not the same weight as teaching us how to plant rice in order to feed the whole community. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to hand out a bag of food and simply say, that’s the work of revolution.
We’re trying to build confidence in the idea that you could start a community garden, and plant your own vegetables, plant your own food, and utilize that as a way of empowering your community. So charity is an act of capitalism. Empowering people, allowing people to become agents of change, is an act of socialism.
Heather Warburton: I think you just said that beautifully. Really, I think that was perfectly stated. And I hope that’s going to resonate with some people.
One other thing that I did want to touch on with you is historically, when we think about revolutionaries, it kind of is more from a masculine viewpoint. You know, we think about some of the great revolutionaries throughout history, it’s always men. And I know you’re specifically working on empowering women as well in your community to make them revolutionary leaders. It’s not just a men’s only club for the New African Black Panther Party.
Chairman Zulu: You know what, Comrade? That is very important to us. We have we have a multiplicity of rules and regulations that prohibit discrimination or sexism or patriarchy against not just revolutionary women, but women in general. We find it a stamp of disapproval that we should subject the other half of humanity to psychological chains or to physical chains – to a tradition that denied them their full stature as human beings.
So we make it a case to put qualified, qualified sister comrades in leadership positions. And we have in place currently, within our various two organizations, sisters, revolutionary sisters, who are leading, who are making decisions, who are highly qualified to move this revolutionary struggle forward.
And all of the men within our organization respect, adhere to and push forward with this idea that half of humanity cannot be in chains, while the men sit, eat apples, drink water and talk about freedom. We can’t do that. So it would be reinforcing a kind of bourgeois tradition to say that only men can pick up rocks. Or only men can write a dissertation. Or only men can speak eloquently to move the masses.
I know that history shows us definitely and we have those examples that we teach to one another on a day to day basis. So some of our comrades lead these particular study groups; female, woman comrades lead study groups. You know, they lead the protest rallies that we organize.
So it’s a wonderful opportunity to show the rest of the country – and by extension the world – what mighty power lies dormant in a woman when they’re given an opportunity to lead revolutionary movements and to express revolutionary ideas, because all of the ideas, all of the projects that we have been doing have come from our female comrades.
I’m the face of the revolution. But behind me is a cadre of women revolutionaries who prod me every day, who tell me every day, be mindful of how you speak. Be mindful of what you do, because you have to represent everybody, not just men.
And we’ve just elected to the branch committee of the New African Black Panther Party a deputy minister of finance, who is a female. She is from Delaware, and she and hopefully the world will get the opportunity to see her pretty soon, but she is a wonderful revolutionary leader.
So we’re making sure that anyone who’s qualified within our organization and within our ally organizations are that if you don’t push women forward who are qualified, we don’t want to have anything to do with you. Because we’re not going to a set a new form of slavery within a socialist framework. It’s not going to work.
We’re either for the total freedom of humanity, or we’re for the continuation of the division of humanity that we have today. We are for total freedom – the New African Black Panther Party is for the complete and total liberation of all humanity. And that includes our significant, mighty force of woman revolutionaries.
Heather Warburton: And I think that’s great that you’re putting that into practice and not having ally organizations that are upholding misogyny and upholding male supremacy. If you’re going to be an organization that affiliates with you, you’ve got to put this stuff into practice. You can’t just talk about it; you’ve got to do it. So I thank you for that.
You had said something to me at – I think it was at – the Green Party convention. It was a quote about women, something about holding up half the sky. What was that called?
Chairman Zulu: Ah, Mao Tse-tung! Let me tell you Mao Tse-tung said that first. And it’s a famous quote that women hold up half the sky, now bound up with that as a whole lot of ideas of values and ethics.
But Malcolm X said it in a way where he made it more plain. He said that you can tell the political development of a people by the political development of its women. So what he meant was, an equal and virtuous society will prioritize the most disenfranchised and victimized people within that society [and help them rise] to a level where they are on an equal footing with others. And for us, since we’re talking about women, they have been the most brutalized in this society, because they have always been under the foot of a patriarchal, dominating kind of structure.
Heather Warburton: Yeah, I thought that was a great quote. So I wanted to make sure that you said that again. So what if people want to help? How can they get involved and help you? How could if somebody wanted to start organizing a revolutionary base somewhere like Philadelphia or other cities? What can they do? How can they get involved?
Chairman Zulu: Well, the easiest thing is you can visit the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Facebook page. And we have an email address: You can email ZuluS6003@gmail.com. And we will talk to you about what are the requirements, how you go about opening up a collective or a branch within Pennsylvania or any other state.
There is a prerequisite to that: You have to go through an orientation process. So we will explain all of that to anyone. All you have to do is send me an email at ZuluS6003@gmail.com.
Heather Warburton: And you accept donations as well?
Chairman Zulu: That’s right. In fact, we can’t do anything without donations. The word … they say that revolution ain’t free. Freedom isn’t free. So we collect the nickels and dimes of the masses of the people.
If anybody wants to donate, they could CashApp $Szulu. Again, they could CashApp $SZulu. And we will certainly appreciate whatever contribution you could make to us building this base area of social, cultural and political revolution here in the city of Newark.
Heather Warburton: All right, you guys, like I said, you really are doing some of the best organizing I’m seeing. So it’s just a different spirit you’re organizing with, and I think it’s starting to show that people are starting to really pay attention. You didn’t brag about it yet yourself. And I asked you to brag a little bit about some of your work you’re doing. You had 500 people show up to an event?
Chairman Zulu: Yeah, that was wonderful. Mao Tse-tung got a saying that a small spark can start a prairie fire. That sometimes revolutionaries and progressives around the world, especially in the West, which is Britain, France, United States, they get discouraged. They get discouraged when lot of people don’t show up. They get discouraged when their ideas don’t readily take off. They get discouraged when they don’t see immediate gratification.
And as a result, their work suffers. They may have a great idea. But because we have this immediate gratification mentality, we end up not staying with the idea, not sticking to the idea. When we started the prison rallies, it was only 15 of us, mostly from our organization. But each week, it increased. It gradually increased. It brought more people in.
So we can’t simply take credit for all of those people coming out. We know that the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice also participated in that rally, and their voice was able to help persuade a lot more people to come.
So we was just happy that folks stood up; they raised their voice of condemnation of the prison by putting their bodies on the line. And this is the kind of work that we want to do, we will continue to do.
I think that we’re building a beachhead, a true genuine beachhead in New Jersey, and there are gonna be folks coming from all around this country watching what we do. And I mean this in the collective sense, watching what we do. And we hope that this small, small spark, here in the state of New Jersey and the city of Newark becomes a prairie fire around the country.
Heather Warburton: And Brian and I have always joked here of calling New Jersey the great nation of New Jersey, and the thought was that we would start the communist nation of New Jersey or the People’s Republic of New Jersey. But you guys are actually doing that. You guys are starting your own area that can spread and I think it will.
I really genuinely believe in the work you’re doing and that it’s going to spread. And you’re going to build an actual revolutionary base here in New Jersey and spread out from here.
Do you have any closing words today before we wrap it up?
Chairman Zulu: No, I just want to say all power to the people and encourage our brother and sister organizations out there, the masses of the people, that change can only come through small incremental steps. That we shouldn’t automatically be enamored with the glitz and glamour of struggle, but get our hands dirty, get on our knees, and turn some screws, and knock some nails to some wood. That’s how you build an infrastructure of revolution.
And I’m excited. I’m happy. And we’re just getting started. Hopefully, like I said, we build this thing into a dual and contending power with the enemy system. And it leads to a true genuine revolutionary overturning of capitalism and imperialism.
Heather Warburton: And I ask a lot of people if they’re an optimist, and I genuinely believe you are because you see, in practice and in theory and practice, change happening. Time is short, and we need this change to happen. And I don’t see a lot of other movements that could bring about this change that we all need.
[Without it] we will die ultimately; capitalism is killing us. It will wipe out humanity. And we need revolution now. And you’re one of the only organizations I see that’s even remotely making that happen. So, so much for the work you’re doing.
Chairman Zulu: Thank you. I appreciate this interview, and any time you need us, the New Afrikan Black Panther Party will be there. We will be on the scene. And we appreciate the work that you’re doing at this radio station as well.
Heather Warburton: And same thing: Whenever you need publicity or you want to talk about anything, our air waves are your airwaves. You know that that anything you want to talk about, we’re here for.
Chairman Zulu: All power to the people!
Heather Warburton: All power to power to the people! To my listeners, thank you so much for joining us today. This interview should be inspiring to you. This interview is probably the breath of fresh air a lot of you need right now. Because things are grim. And it’s easy to get bogged down in how grim things are. And that’s why we’re here. We want to inspire you. We want to help elevate the voices of the people that are doing the actual hard work of changing society.
We appreciate you so much here as our listeners and our family at NJRR and we do unfortunately have to ask for your help occasionally. We take no corporate money; we can’t be your voice if we’re being paid off by the corporations. So we only can rely on donations from the activist community.
If you can go on to our website, www.njrevolutionradio.com, click on that Donate button, even if it’s only $2 a month. That really helps us budget and know what we’re going to have coming in so we can get more people out to cover events, so we can get more places.
You know, Brian and I are the only two of us. We need to be able to hire more people to get out and cover these events. So anything you can do, we really appreciate it. The future is yours to create; go out there and create it.