By Alex Kruse
In December of 1969, 14 Cook County police officers raided the home of 21-year-old Fred Hampton in Chicago. The officers fired 90-99 shots into the apartment, where Hampton’s pregnant fiancée and a few of his friends were sleeping. The officers dragged a wounded Hampton out of his bed, executed him at point blank range, and left his body in the hallway. All this was done at the command of the FBI, based on the orders of J. Edgar Hoover, who wished to prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’. Hampton was only one of many who were targeted by the FBI. Since his early teenage years, Hampton was a prominent member of the Illinois State NAACP, and he became an up-and-coming member of the Illinois Black Panther Party (BPP). Hampton was, and rightfully so, a person who embodied the spirit of the revolutionary class.
In the midst of Black History Month, and with the release of the new movie “Black Panther,” we must remember the BPP’s radical critique of capitalism, and its grassroots organizational approaches to proletarian revolution. Often forgotten is the BPP’s Ten-Point Program, which detailed the demands of the Party, and is a rallying call for the oppressed. Their program called for self-determination for the black community, full employment of the people, an end to robbery by capitalists and landlords, housing for all, specialized education, exemption from military service, an end to police brutality and murder of black people, freedom for the incarcerated, and fair trials held by peers.
The BPP was not only focused on creating theory, they were focused on grassroots organizing of their communities. Their practice included hosting The Free Breakfast for School Children Program, community health clinics, and a Free Clothing program. The BPP was a revolutionary socialist organization that championed grassroots organizing. Their call for revolution included theory as well as practice. They were devoted to making change, not only in the communities in which they served, but worldwide, as they opened chapters across the world.
The Black Panther Party and its leaders (like Fred Hampton) weren’t the only socialists involved in the Black Liberation movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was perhaps the best known of any Civil Rights leader, but his radical politics are often overlooked by centrist politicians and journalists. Both MLK and Fred Hampton saw the connections between racism, capitalism and imperialism. Those issues are not independent of one another, and they all must be fought at once. We must support present-day organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the recently launched Poor People’s Campaign, in order to combat the evils of racism, capitalism and imperialism.
To end with the words of Fred Hampton, “We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity.”
Due to technological difficulties, articles from the Feb. 15 issue were posted late. The Lorian apologizes for the late update.