George Jackson Re-visited “A Critical Thinking, Critical Analysis Tutorial” “The tool of analysis is for us a further development of the Historical Materialist method, the dialectical method. We will not even waste our time debating the values of Marxism with those who are emotionally hung up on white people hung up to the point of ideological blindness. We understand the process of revolution, and fundamental to this understanding is this fact: Marxism is developed to a higher level when it is scientifically adapted to a peoples unique national condition, becoming a new ideology altogether. Thus was the case in China, Guinea Bissau, Vietnam, North Korea, the Peoples Republic of the Congo and many other socialist nations. For Black people here in North America our struggle is not only unique, but it is the most sophisticated and advanced oppression of a racial national minority in the whole world. We are the true 20th century slaves, and the use of the dialectical method, class struggle and national liberation, will find its highest development as a result of us. This dialectic holds true not only for Marxism, but for revolutionary nationalism as well it holds true for concepts of revolutionary Pan-Africanism it is true of the theoretical basis in developing revolutionary Black culture. All of these ideological trends will find their highest expression as a result of our advanced oppression. Yet, we must be ever mindful that the same objective process is true for reactionary refinement as a result of our struggle. This is the unity of opposites in struggle with each other. To defeat our enemy and render his reactionary allies impotent, we must have a truly revolutionary perspective informed by concepts of revolutionary class struggle, a movement without such a perspective will fail to defeat our common oppressor. We are not afraid of white people controlling our movement, for our formations, guns, and ideas are built with our own hands, efforts, and blood. With this in mind, we address ourselves to the Black Liberation struggle, its activist elements and organizations.” Our call is for UNITY, FOR A NATIONAL BLACK LIBERATION FRONT. We must build to win! Nyurba Source: Black Liberation Army Political StatementN.B. - In order to further facilitate your interpretation of these essays within a “Black NationalistPanAfrikanist” context please refer to RBG Tools for Analysis
Icebreaker Video An establishment documentary (FORD Foundation perspective) that details of the murder of George Jackson at San Quentin Prison in 1971"To the slave, revolution is an imperative, a love-inspired, conscious act of desperation. Its aggressive. Itisnt `cool or cautious. Its bold, audacious, violent, anexpression of icy, disdainful hatred! It can hardly beany other way without raising a fundamentalcontradiction. If revolution, and especially revolutionin Amerika, is anything less than an effectivedefense/attack weapon and a charger for the people tomount now, it is meaningless to the great majority ofthe slaves. If revolution is tied to dependence on theinscrutabilities of `long-range politics, it cannot bemade relevant to the person who expects to dietomorrow." (Blood in My Eye pp. 9-10)
A RW analysis of the quote above for your considerationAugust 1971: The Day the Pigs Offed Brother GeorgeJacksonSource: Revolutionary Worker#1230, February 22, 2004, posted at rwor.orgThis article originally appeared in the Revolutionary Worker (issue #618) in August 1991—20years after George Jackson was murdered by cold blood at San Quentin Prison. For more onGeorge Jackson and his writings, see RBG Black August Studies CollectionGeorge Jackson was eighteen in 1961 when he was sentenced to prison for stealing $70 from agas station. In the California prison system racist attacks on Black prisoners by white-Nazi gangsand guards were intense. Jackson led others to fight back--in the beginning by organizing a Blackcountergang. George Jackson spent the remaining ten years of his life in prison, nearly eight ofthem in the solitary punishment cells. The special punishments were usually for defending oravenging others.Heavy political winds blew into prison from ghetto streets. George Jackson became arevolutionary. He studied Marx, Lenin and Mao Tsetung and wrote, "I dont want to die andleave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a worldthat is liberated from trash, pollution, racism, nation states, nation state wars and armies, frompomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand brands of untruth, and licentious, usurious economics.George Jackson wrote, "We attempted to transform the black criminal mentality into a blackrevolutionary mentality. He described struggling with brothers who "think they dont needideology, strategy or tactics. They think being a warrior is quite enough. And yet, withoutdiscipline or direction, theyll end up washing cars, or unclaimed bodies in the city-statesmorgue. He urged unity among prisoners of different nationalities: "Im always telling thebrothers that some of those whites are willing to work with us against the pigs. All they got to dois stop talking honky. When the races start fighting, all you have is one maniac group againstanother. Thats just what the pigs want."The Black Panther Party made George Jackson a Field Marshal. His articles appeared in theparty press, the Black Panther newspaper.In January 1970 a guard at Soledad State Prison shot three Black prisoners dead in an exerciseyard. Three days later a grand jury ruled the killings were justifiable homicide. Half an hourlater, a white guard was found beaten to death. George Jackson and two other prisoners werecharged with killing the second guard.
The growing radical movement outside prison walls took up the defense of these three "SoledadBrothers." And Jacksons first book, Soledad Brother, found an eager audience.Revolutionary Threats to the SystemThe San Francisco Chronicle later wrote (Aug. 24, 1971): "There was something new. Inmateswere showing signs of organized radical groups, not just within single prisons, but reaching fromprison to prison around the nations scattered system of penal institutions."Such developments threatened the system. The normal brutal operations of the prison systemwere exposed and denounced broadly in society. Even more, the prisoners themselves wereemerging as an important revolutionary force, allied with other sections of the people.On August 7, 1971 Jonathan Jackson (Georges 17-year-old brother) walked armed into theMarin County Courthouse. He liberated three men who were there on trial. Together they tookhostages and demanded freedom for the Soledad Brothers. A major shootout ended in four dead,among them Jonathan Jackson and Judge Haley.The Assassination of George JacksonGeorge Jackson was a powerful voice in revolutionary times. The trial of the Soledad Brotherswas coming up at the end of the summer of 1971, and the powers expected that George Jacksonwould put them on trial for their tremendous crimes. And they wanted him dead.On August 21, 1971 the authorities killed George Jackson. The full details of that day may neverbe known. But this much is known: they murdered this revolutionary brother in cold blood tosilence him.The Official Version of Events: The authorities claimed that Panthers outside had put anautomatic pistol, ammunition and an Afro wig into a small tape recorder. George Jacksonslawyer was supposed to have smuggled the tape recorder to Jackson in prison. George, theyclaimed, hid the gun under the Afro wig, planning to stash it in his cell for a later escape. He thensupposedly walked, wearing this gun and wig, 50 yards to the triple maximum security of SanQuentins special "Adjustment Center." There they claimed that an alert guard saw somethingshiny in his hair. Jackson supposedly made a break for it, sparking an uprising. The authoritiessaid Jackson finally ran out into the prison yard, gun in hand, heading for a 20-foot wall, and wasmowed down by gunfire. The officials claimed they found a 9mm automatic. Police recordstraced the weapon to BPP Field Marshal Landon Williams.This story had been set up so that the authorities could arrest Georges contacts and comrades.His lawyer feared assassination and went underground for fourteen years. Landon Williams wasarrested.Prison authorities were so arrogant that they didnt even bother to construct a careful lie. Theyassumed they would be automatically believed, as they had so many times in the past.
But Jacksons lawyer had gone through a battery of metal detectors and searches and couldhardly have brought in a gun and ammo without police approval.The San Francisco Chronicle hired a model to reproduce the police story of the "gun under thewig": "The models attempt to hide the gun by lifting the front of the wig and sliding the weapononto the top of his head failed. He eventually removed the wig, placed the gun inside and forcedthe hairpiece back on his head with some struggle. The wig was obviously askew, and with everystep he took, the gun wobbled dangerously, bringing his hands instinctively to his head." Theautomatic stuck three inches out from under the models wig.The police produced a gun that had once belonged to Panther leader Williams. But it had beenconfiscated by the FBI after an arrest in 1969. It was planted in the San Quentin prison yard--andis evidence of direct involvement by the FBIs COINTELPRO program in this assassination.Louise Tackwood, one of COINTELPROs own agents, later said the murder plot involvedCalifornia authorities and the prison guards.The most likely events: As Jackson was led out of the meeting with his lawyer, guards tried tospring some kind of a trap. But it appears that instead Jackson succeeded in overpowering hisexecutioners temporarily. There was a brief rebellion in that wing of the prison in which threeguards and two prisoners were killed.Inmates of the Adjustment Center later said that George Jackson did not run out into the prisonyard in a futile attempt to escape. Instead, they said, he sacrified himself. Knowing he was thetarget, he separated himself from the other inmates and saved them from being massacred withhim.His autopsy showed that a bullet had shattered his shin, bringing him to the ground. Then asecond bullet was pumped into his back at close range, killing George Jackson as he knelt on allfours. It was a summary execution.The Memory of George JacksonGeorge Jackson burned with impatience for revolution--he hated to live even one more day undertheir rule. He was fearless.From the oppressors own dungeon, he called for revolutionary violence and blasted preachers ofslow reform. His words moved people, and his example inspired them. George Jackson steppedinto the political spotlight for only twenty short months. Though he did not develop a correctrevolutionary strategy for seizing power, he was proud to call himself a communist. He used histime to speak for the revolutionary aspirations of those the system throws away without athought:"As a slave, the social phenomenon that engages my whole consciousness is, of course, therevolution. The slave--and the revolution. Born to a premature death, a menial, subsistence-wageworker, odd-job man, the cleaner, the caught, the man under hatches, without bail--thats me, thecolonial victim. Anyone who can pass the civil service examination today can kill me
tomorrow.with complete immunity. Ive lived with repression every moment of my life, arepression so formidable that any movement on my part can only bring relief, the respite of asmall victory or the release of death. In every sense of the term, in every sense thats real, Im aslave to, and of, property.""Weve been made the floor mat of the world, but the world has yet to see what can be done bymen of our nature. There will be a special page in the book of life for the men who have crawledback from the grave. This page will tell of utter defeat, ruin, passivity, and subjection in onebreath, and in the next of overwhelming victory and fulfillment."Recently, I went back and re-read the writings of George Jackson, especially Blood in My Eye,which I found very interesting and full of a lot of insights on the question of how to makerevolution in a country like the U.S.--even though, ultimately, I found I had to reject GeorgeJacksons basic approach as a strategy for revolution. But I didnt start re-reading his writingswith the orientation that I disagreed with them. Based on a previous reading of his work (as wellas my general understanding of the theory and practice of revolution), I thought that his basicstrategic orientation had to be rejected, but I consciously approached the re-reading of hiswritings by "suspending" my previously-held conclusions on this. I said to myself, "I am goingto read this as if Ive never seen his writings--I am going to look at his line and see, in light of mybasic understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), does his line make sense after all." Ihad to end up concluding, once again, that we should reject his line, as a strategic approach. Butalong the way there are a lot of real things--very important contradictions--that he is grapplingwith, and there are some real insights in the way he is grappling with them, even thoughultimately I think the line has to be rejected as a strategic orientation.Now, it is important to note that by the time George Jackson wrote the letters and other writingsthat went into Blood in My Eye, he considered himself a communist and insisted on beingconsidered a communist. He specifically said I am a communist--I am not a "communalist," I ama communist.It is very interesting--he did have elements of the view that African society sort of naturally lendsitself to communism, to collectivism and cooperation, but he didnt want to be considered a"communalist." He wanted to be considered a scientific communist. That is very interesting andvery positive: he openly promoted communism and was not the least bit apologetic or defensiveabout it. That is very striking in re-reading these writings.At the same time, his view of communism was somewhat of an eclectic mix of genuinecommunism--as represented by his continual references to Mao Tsetung and his attempts toapply important aspects of (what we then called) Mao Tsetung Thought. But it was an eclecticmix of genuine communism on the one hand with aspects of revolutionary nationalism and infact revisionist influences (via people like Angela Davis, who had a significant influence onGeorge Jackson, among others). But, despite that, there is still much that we can learn from hiswritings--through applying a consistently communist, that is an MLM, method and approach.
To the Slave Revolution Is an ImperativeThe following from Blood in My Eye goes very much to the heart of the contradictions involvedin building the revolutionary movement among those whose conditions most cry out forrevolution, and among the basic youth in particular:"To the slave, revolution is an imperative, a love-inspired, conscious act of desperation. Itsaggressive. It isnt `cool or cautious. Its bold, audacious, violent, an expression of icy, disdainfulhatred! It can hardly be any other way without raising a fundamental contradiction. If revolution,and especially revolution in Amerika, is anything less than an effective defense/attack weaponand a charger for the people to mount now, it is meaningless to the great majority of the slaves. Ifrevolution is tied to dependence on the inscrutabilities of `long-range politics, it cannot be maderelevant to the person who expects to die tomorrow." (pp. 9-10)I think that in this statement George Jackson manages to capture and concentrate a lot of theintense contradictions of our road--our path to revolution--and of everything we are trying to do.Lets talk about what there is to agree with in the basic orientation expressed in this statement,what do we have to disagree with, and what synthesis can we come up with in relation to what itraises. It is important to note here that, to a large degree, what George Jackson is polemicizingagainst, in this passage and repeatedly throughout Blood in My Eye, is the "gradualist" line of therevisionists. Even though, ironically, he was significantly influenced by the revisionists, the factthat he was polemicizing against the revisionist line and outlook is a reflection of the fact that theonly two real alternatives he saw were the line he put forward (as reflected in the statement citedabove) and the revisionist line of slow gradual evolutionism.The fact that he saw these as the only two alternatives is a reflection of, on the one hand, theeclecticism in his own thinking and, on the other hand, some real lacunae, some real gaps in hisown thinking. Even though he read Mao Tsetung--in terms of actually finding a way through thedifficult contradictions of making revolution in a country like the U.S. and not getting drawn intoeither "left adventurism" or openly rightist, revisionist lines (the opposite dangers of Charybdisand Scylla* as they pose themselves in the revolutionary process in a country like the U.S.)George Jackson didnt find the right synthesis. He didnt find the right synthesis that would rejectthe revisionist line, but reject it on a correct basis, and avoid falling into a line--which ultimatelycouldnt be maintained--that would lead to getting onto a war footing with the imperialists, underconditions where that could only lead to the revolutionary forces being smashed and defeatedpolitically as well as militarily.He was grappling with the contradictions in some very important ways--and, again, I am notsaying this mainly to negate what he did or to cast him mainly in a negative light. I think that,particularly for the time (almost 30 years ago now), his was very advanced thinking and inparticular very advanced grappling with the contradictions that continually re-assert themselvesin terms of making revolution in a country like the U.S.We have to persevere and make breakthroughs in coming up with the necessary synthesis, in lineand in practice, particularly in terms of what revolution is, what it aims for, what kind of
revolution is needed, how such a revolution can actually be made, and what is the relationbetween how the revolution is fought and what it is fighting for. (This is once again the questionof "winning...and winning"--winning in the more immediate sense of overthrowing the systemand how this relates to winning the prize in the fullest sense--moving to seize power and doingthat, carrying forward the revolutionary process as a whole, in a way that is consistent with andadvances things toward the final aim of communism, worldwide).In this regard we can agree and also have to disagree with certain aspects of the first part of whatGeorge Jackson says in the statement cited above here. He says, "To the slave, revolution is animperative, a love-inspired, conscious act." Overwhelmingly, we agree with that.It is an act "of desperation." Well, yes, there is definitely an element of desperation, it is true, butit cannot be essentially that. Revolution should not be principally an act of desperation, eventhough if it doesnt contain an element of desperation, it wont be revolution. There is not goingto be any revolution or revolutionary sentiments that dont contain an element of desperation. Ifthere is no desperation there is no revolution, to put it simply. But here we have another unity ofopposites: Revolution inevitably will have and must have an element of desperation, but on theother hand it cannot be essentially defined as an act of desperation.Revolution "is aggressive." Yes. "It isnt cool or cautious." Yes, and no. Essentially, in theprincipal aspect, that is correct. Revolution isnt cool or cautious, though there does have to be anelement of what he means by "cool and cautious," in the sense that it has to be scientific. Butessentially he is correct here, it isnt cool or cautious."Its bold, audacious, violent..." Yes. That goes along with Mao Tsetungs point, which I am sureGeorge Jackson was very conscious of, that revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay,or doing embroidery, and so on and so forth. It cant be so courteous, refined etc. It is an act ofviolence by which one class overthrows another. So, yes, it is bold and audacious and it isviolent.What about the next part?--it is "an expression of icy, disdainful hatred!" Again--yes, and no. Itdefinitely must have--any real revolution will have--an element of icy disdainful hatred, but itcannot be principally that. It also has to be more than that--and he says this himself, in speakingof how it is "love inspired." But beyond that, it has to be guided by and essentially infused withhigher objectives than simply revenge. Revolution cant be, in its essential ideological content,"icy disdainful hatred," even though it cannot do without icy disdainful hatred. So thats anotherunity of opposites.Again, I think the correct synthesis on these ideological points does contain elements of what hesays, but is more fully represented by what I wrote toward the end of For a Harvest ofDragons.** There it speaks of meeting and defeating the enemy on the battlefield amidst terribledestruction, but in the process not annihilating the fundamental and essential difference betweenus and the enemy. And then the end of that passage speaks to what are after all the loftier aims,objectives and character of what this is all about, when it points to the need to "maintain ourfirmness of principle and our flexibility; our materialism and our dialectics; our realism and ourromanticism; our solemn sense of purpose and our sense of humor."
And, again, whats posed in all of this is how to correctly deal with the contradiction between thepresent situation and the strategic objective of revolution, the seizure of power as the first greatleap in revolution,--the contradiction we sometimes formulate as between today and tomorrow.In essential terms, the problem is: how to build a revolutionary movement among crucialsections of the basic masses, and among broader sections of people, in the overall conditions ofU.S. society, and do this in accordance with the strategy, along the strategic road, that can lead toactually waging, and winning, the revolutionary war to overthrow this system and establishsocialism as part of the worldwide advance toward communism. Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World Rereading George Jackson By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA Source: Revolutionary Worker #968, August 9, 1998
The Road to RevolutionLets go back to George Jacksons basic approach to these contradictions. To put it simply, whatwas his basic strategy?In a certain sense, given the emphasis that he placed on the importance of themilitary element (which is sort of encapsulated in that passage from Blood in MyEye cited above), it was surprising--and it struck me as surprising at the time--that, when there was a split in the Black Panther Party, George Jackson ended upgoing with the Huey side and not the Eldridge side. I always wondered why thatwas, and in re-reading Blood in My Eye different elements of the answer comethrough. It is answered very directly where he recalls how he wrote Eldridge aletter telling Eldridge why he rejected his line (at the time Eldridge Cleavers linewas for urban guerrilla warfare) and why what Eldridge was attempting to dowould lead to being smashed. And what George Jackson says is that to simplyengage in military activity without a political component to it would lead tobeing isolated and smashed.So what he came up with instead was what I would characterize as trying to give the bestinterpretation to Hueys line--the line of "serving the needs of the people," which wascharacterized at one point by Huey as "survival pending revolution." And the way that GeorgeJackson gave this a more revolutionary interpretation was by coming up with a line of trying tocombine the military and the political, or using the military aspect in conjunction with servingthe needs of the people. Increasingly and essentially, under the leadership of Huey P. Newton,"serving the needs of the people" became sort of a "social service" approach. But GeorgeJackson tried to give this a different interpretation, make it part of a different approach.Basically, his approach was one of establishing, as he saw it, a sort of "model" in the inner cities--what he referred to sometimes as a "Black commune" in the inner cities. He envisioned that theneeds of the people would be met in things like the "breakfast for children" program and otherways; and these programs would inevitably come under attack by the authorities the more thatthey were actually meeting the needs of the people; and then various forms of military activitywould be used both to defend these programs and to strike blows at the other side to get them toback off from attacking these programs and to back off from attacking the vanguard forces thatwere leading these programs.So it was sort of a combination of political work and a military element that was objectivelylargely defensive but, as he saw it, would have tactically offensive military actions within it. Andthis would become an increasing pole of attraction for broader sections of basic masses and evenmore broadly in the society, and through this somehow at some point it would be possible tomove from the overall defensive to an overall offensive position.Im trying to boil this down to its essence. If you read through Blood in My Eye, this is more orless the essence of what he is coming up with. It is his attempt to find a way to deal with thiscontradiction that is very sharply expressed in Blood in my Eye: how to find a way to involveNOW, a lot of the youth who do not expect to live very long (and this, of course, has become
much more acute since the time George Jackson wrote this). He is searching for a way to involvethese youth now in various forms of activity while also being able to involve broader masses ofpeople and be able to set up a model, an attractive force, to win over broader layers of societyand eventually be able to go over to the offensive, to overthrow the system. It isnt at all clear inhis strategy how you were going to be able to go over to the offensive, and thats largely becausethis isnt a strategy that would enable you to do that, but he was trying to think through thesecontradictions.Now this model, this road he was putting forward, is not one which can in fact lead to revolution,to overthrowing the capitalist system. But, again, there is much to learn from the way he posesthe contradictions--and in particular the very acute point that if revolution is some sort of off inthe distant future type of thing it can have no meaning to someone who expects to die tomorrow.While ultimately George Jacksons attempt to resolve this acute and profound contradiction iswrong and has to be rejected, the fact that he is grappling with this and even the ways hegrapples with it contain important things that we can and must learn from. Another way ofsaying this is that if this line should ultimately be rejected, because it is not a line and road thatcan lead to victory, it should not be one-sidedly rejected or negated.George Jackson was grappling with some decisive contradictions. And although his "resolution"does not represent the correct synthesis--and although, in addition, there have been, over the last25 or so years, some significant changes in the conditions and mode of life of many of themasses that he seeks to rely on and mobilize--there are important things that can be learned andmust be learned from George Jacksons writings on these questions. Overall, there is much to bedone--in the realm of theory and of practice, and in the dialectical back-and-forth between thetwo--proceeding on the basis of the line our Party has forged so far and continually enriching itthrough this dialectical back-and-forth. And this overall process should include criticallyassimilating important aspects of the contributions of George Jackson and his thinking on thesedecisive questions.NOTES:* In "Getting Over the Two Great Humps" Bob Avakian discusses the challenge forrevolutionaries of avoiding two dangers in the revolutionary process--"settling in" during periodsof revolutionary preparations or getting prematurely drawn onto a war footing. In talking aboutthese dangers he uses the metaphor of "Charybdis and Scylla." "Charybdis and Scylla" were apair of monsters in Greek and Roman mythology. In ancient myths they were two periloushazards in a strait off the coast of Sicily: Scylla was a dangerous rock and Charybdis a dangerouswhirlpool--which threatened to sink ships navigating their way through the strait. So we have"Charybdis and Scylla" along our road--and we have to steer our revolutionary course betweenthese two hazards (avoiding both "settling in" and getting prematurely drawn onto a warfooting).
Learn more: RBG Black August Studies Collection