“Bobby Seale is going through all types of physical and mental torture. But that’s alright because we said even before this happened, and we’re going to say it after this and after I’m locked up and after everybody’s locked up, that you can jail revolutionaries, but you can’t jail the revolution. You might run a liberator like Eldridge Cleaver out of the country, but you can’t run liberation out of the country. You might murder a freedom fighter like Bobby Hutton, but you can’t murder freedom fighting, and if you do, you’ll come up with answers that don’t answer, explanations that don’t explain, you’ll come up with conclusions that don’t conclude, and you’ll come up with people that you thought should be acting like pigs that’s acting like people and moving on pigs. And that’s what we’ve got to do. So we’re going to see about Bobby regardless of what these people think we should do because school is not important and work is not important. Nothing’s more important than stopping fascism, because fascism will stop us all.”
In the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, the life of Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party was extinguished at 21 by the Chicago Police Department working off information provided by informant William O’Neal, who died an ignominious death befitting his betrayal by running into traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway in 1990. O’Neal’s reactionary suicide was undoubtedly the consequence of the psychological fruits of his betrayal of the most important revolutionary organization to ever hit the United States. Enough about the pig. Let’s talk about the man, Fred Hampton. Chairman Fred was born on August 30, 1948, in Chicagoland. He spent his entire teenage years and his short adult life working for the people. He cut his teeth with the NAACP and honed his oratorical/leadership skills through tireless work with the people and practice. Fred Hampton consistently sought to blend theory with practice. The Black Panther Party operated on the principle that New Afrikans are an activist people, not a people easily taken in by or obsessed with hollow and unapplied theory or ideological debate. “What the fuck does this have to do with us” is our mantra. If it can’t help us in the here and now, we ain’t about it. This is what many fail to realize and why settler left formations fail to attract the attention or loyalty of our people.
Chairman Fred was on track to become the BPP’s National Chief of Staff and would have held this position had he not been murdered by pig treachery on that cold night 50 years ago. While we do not adhere to “great man” theory or overfocus on personalities, undoubtedly the presence of a Chicago “wing” in Oakland dedicated to work and not caught in the beefing between Cleaver and Newton that would tear the party asunder two years afterward would have had a mitigating influence on the ideological and political decline of the Party. Chairman Fred was once asked to provide “Panther sisters” as “entertainment” for visiting West Coast cadre who had come to Chicago, he refused and told them that Panthers in Chicago work on Panther programs and are not on call as sex workers for Oakland cadre. This displayed a remarkable principle and courage and possibly would have resulted, had he lived, in a pole against Huey Newton’s right opportunism and warlordism that would mark the BPP in Oakland in the 1970s, along with Eldridge Cleaver’s left opportunist “guerilla war now” line.
Fred Hampton’s murder shows the necessity for developing all cadre for leadership. After his murder, the Chicago branch essentially fell to pieces. Reliance on individual personalities over the strength of the organization itself and the ability of cadre to step in and fill the places of cadre who are incarcerated or murdered is a grievous error. The modern-day so-called Left has gutted Fred Hampton of his revolutionary principles, turning him into a symbol that colonizers feel all too comfortable using to cover their opportunism and as a cudgel against revolutionary nationalism. This is ironic, considering that European participants in the Rainbow Coalition under Hampton’s leadership (SDS and YPO) acknowledged the BPP as leadership and knew that the Panthers would not tolerate stupidity. Chairman Fred himself pitched Weathermen downstairs and knocked Mark Rudd to the ground, called their adventurist “Days of Rage” stunt “Custeristic” and lambasted the childish pseudo-anarchists for bringing down pig heat on the Black community in Chicago. He also struggled the Young Patriots Organization out of using the Confederate Battle Flag. What Europeans fail to realize is that they control nothing in the grand scheme of things and are not going to lead any revolution. Their job is to be auxiliaries to our broader struggle, not leaders of us. Failure to realize this results in justified physical correction.
Lastly, Fred Hampton’s work with the lumpen/proletariat serves as his most compelling legacy. He was able to recruit dozens of street people to the Black Panther Party and negotiate gang truces in the service of the revolution. This, more than anything, is why the Chicago Police and J. Edgar Hoover saw him as a threat that needed to be taken out immediately. The raid on December 4, 1969, was intended to serve as a fearsome example to any who would dare to organize material threats to the existence of the United States. Instead, it offered us many lessons in protecting our leadership and our organizations and the life of Chairman Fred himself serves as an example in how to organize those who matter to struggle for national liberation and socialism in our time.
“So we say—we always say in the Black Panther Party that they can do anything they want to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary. And you’re going to have to keep on saying that. You’re going to have to say that I am a proletariat, I am the people. I am not the pigs. You’ve got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pigs. The people are going to have to stand up against the pigs. That’s what the Panthers are doing here. That’s what the Panthers are doing all over the world.”