---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 04 May 2002 22:22:24 -0400
Subject: The Panthers
Replying to Jama Lazerow's reply to make remarks about the Panthers, I think that in her laudable work with and about the Panthers she has distorted my position. I'm replying to her in a spirit of solidarity, hopefully to correct any misconceptions the wording of my hastily written letter may have provoked.
(1) "... this guy is, it seems, just wants to forget them [the Panthers]."
Where this idea comes from, I don't know. I don't want to forget the Panthers. My political intentions were: to refute the garbage coming from the Horowitz camp with regard to the Panthers, to defend the attitude of the left towards them, to provide some insight into the nature of this important African American revolutionary organization and to underscore the hypocrisy of the right wingers who screech about the Panthers and willfully ignore the mass political murder of Vietnam, which makes the "crimes" of the Panthers seem like flea bites.
(2) "Interestingly, his understanding of them fits perfectly with the right wingers he's bored by. That they were a media creation is precisely the dismissive conclusion of the now standard source on the Panthers used by American historians -- _The Shadow of the Panther_ by Hugh Pearson, an author heavily indebted to David Horowitz."
My exact words were, "...the Panthers were much more of a media phenomenon than a reality." I may be quite wrong. However, having had the advantage of some contact with the Panthers and having been part of the general political milieu they functioned in, to engage in an attack on me such as Lazerow does is politically irresponsible. Criticize, refute, yes, but do it with the facts, not with a literary form of guilt by association.
(3) "Moreover, almost all the "facts" in this post are wrong. "In only a few places, e.g. Oakland, were [the Panthers] able to establish any kind of grass roots"? I wonder if Berger has read Yohuru Williams's _Black Power/White Politics_ on the New Haven Panthers."
My words stand for themselves. I said "In only a few places," not "in no places." I gave an example, Oakland; Lazerow gives another, New Haven. However, the fact that neither of us can give a large number of examples makes my point.
(4) "Their connections were almost always with lumpen-proletariat elements rather than the working class"? I wonder if Berger has heard of the Boston Black Panthers, one of the strongest and long-lasting chapters in the country?"
Same point as above. My words were "almost always," not "never."
(5) "As for COINTELPRO, the Panthers weren't even added to the list until 1968 (despite Berger claims about "undeniability")."
This is just silly, an angry quibble. If the Panthers were targeted by COINTELPRO by 1968, that means, for all practical purposes, that they were infiltrated from the beginning. When did the Panthers begin? I began to hear of them around '67, and they were around earlier than that. So, within two years of their origins, the government was after them.
(6) "The problem here is that people have a lot of memories of the Panthers, and those memories serve a lot of (current) political agendas, but very few are interested in uncovering the history and looking at a complicated story (stories, really) in historical context."
This is virtually a slander. What "(current) political agendas" does Lazerow think I serve? I am engaging in constructive criticism of a movement that I worked in solidarity with and which was destroyed by a multitude of forces, the most powerful of which was covert government oppression. In her zeal to defend the Panthers, Lazerow has aimed at the wrong target. Moreover, she ignored the second major point I made about the hypocrisy of the right wing attack on the Panthers.
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