Huey P. Newton
Original publication:

In Defense of Self-Defense (1968)

10 minutes | English | Anarchism Black Liberation

We should understand there is a difference between the rebellion of the anarchists and the black revolution or liberation of the black colony.

This is a class society; it always has been. This reactionary class society places its limitation on individuals, not just in terms of their occupation, but also regarding self expression, being mobile, and being free to really be creative and do anything they want to do.

The class society prevents this. This is true not only for the mass of the lower or subjugated class. It is also true within the ruling class, the master class. That class also limits the freedom of the individual souls of the people which comprise it.

In America, we have not only a class society, we also have a caste system and black people are fitted into the lowest caste. They have no mobility for going up the class ladder. They have no privilege to enter the ruling structure at all.

Within the ruling class they’re objecting (resisting?), because the people have found that they’re completely subjected to the will of the administration and to the manipulators. This brings about a very strange phenomenon in America, that is, many of the rebelling white students and the anarchists are the offspring of this master class. Surely most of them have a middle class background and some even upper class. They see the limitations imposed upon them and now they’re striving, as all men strive, to get freedom of the soul, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement without the artificial limitations from antique values.

Blacks and colored people in America, confined within the caste system, are discriminated against as a whole group of people. It’s not a question of individual freedom as it is for the children of the upper classes. We haven’t reached the point of trying to free ourselves individually because we’re dominated and oppressed as a group of people.

Part of the people of this country — which is a great part — are part of the youth themselves. But they’re not doing this as a group of people because, as a group, they’re already free to an extent. Their problem is not a group problem really, because they can easily integrate into the structure. Potentially, they’re mobile enough to do this: they’re the educated ones, the “future of the country,” and so forth. They can really gain a certain amount of power over the society by integrating into the rulership circle.

But they see that even within the rulership circle, there are still antique values that have no respect for individualism. They find themselves subjugated. No matter what class they’re in, they find themselves subjugated because of the nature of this class society. So their fight is to free the individual’s soul.

This brings about another problem. They’re being ruled by an alien source that has nothing to do with freedom of individual expression. They want to escape this, to overturn this, but they see no need to form a structure or a real, disciplined vanguard movement. Their reasoning is that, by setting up a disciplined organization, they feel they’d be replacing the old structure with other limitations. They fear they’d be setting themselves up as directing the people, therefore limiting the individual again.

But what they don’t understand, or it seems that they don’t understand, is that as long as the military-industrial complex exists, the structure of oppression of the individual will continue. An individual would be threatened even if he were to achieve the freedom he’s seeking. He’ll be threatened because there will be an organized lower group there ready to strip him of his individual freedom at any moment.

In Cuba they had a revolution, they had a vanguard group that was a disciplined group, and they realized that the state won’t disappear until imperialism is completely wiped out, structurally and also philosophically, or the bourgeois thoughts won’t be changed. Once imperialism is wiped out they can have their communist state and the state or territorial boundaries will disappear.

In this country the anarchists seem to feel that if they just express themselves individually and tend to ignore the limitations imposed on them, without leadership and without discipline, they can oppose the very disciplined, organized, reactionary state. This is not true. They will be oppressed as long as imperialism exists. You cannot oppose a system such as this without opposing it with organization that’s even more extremely disciplined and dedicated than the structure you’re opposing.

I can understand the anarchists wanting to go directly from state to non-state, but historically it’s incorrect. As far as I’m concerned, thinking of the recent French Revolution, the reason the French uprising failed is simply because the anarchists in the country, who by definition had no organization, had no people that were reliable enough, as far as the mass of the people were concerned, to replace DeGaulle and his government. Now, the people were skeptical about the Communist Party and the other progressive parties because they didn’t side with the people of medium living. They lagged behind the people, so they lost the respect of the people and the people looked for guidance from the students and anarchists.

But the anarchists were unable to offer a structural program to replace the DeGaulle government. So the people were forced to turn back to DeGaulle. It wasn’t the people’s fault; it was Cohn-Bendit’s fault and all the other anarchists who felt they could just go from state to non-state.

In this country — getting back home to North America now — we can side with the student radicals. We would try to encourage them and persuade them to organize and wield a sharp cutting tool.

In order to do this they would have to be disciplined and they would have at least some philosophical replacement of the system. This is not to say that this itself will free the individual. The individual will not be free until the state does not exist at all, and I think — I don’t want to be redundant — this cannot be replaced by the anarchists right away.

As far as the blacks are concerned, we are not hung up on attempting to actualize or express our individual souls because we’re oppressed not as individuals but as a whole group of people. Our evolution, or our liberation, is based first on freeing our group, freeing our group to a certain degree. After we gain our liberation, our people will not be free. I can imagine in the future that the blacks will rebel against the organized leadership that the blacks themselves have structured. They will see there will be limitations, limiting their individual selves, and limiting their freedom of expression. But this is only after they become free as a group.

This is what makes our group different from the white anarchists — besides he views his group as already free. Now he’s striving for freedom of his individual self. This is the big difference. We’re not fighting for freedom of our individual selves, we’re fighting for a group freedom. In the future there will probably be a rebellion where blacks will say, “Well, our leadership is limiting our freedom because of the rigid discipline. Now that we’ve gained our freedom, we will strive for our individualistic freedom that has nothing to do with organized group or state.” And the group will be disorganized, and it should be.

But at this point we stress discipline, we stress organization, we do not stress psychedelic drugs and all the other things that have to do with just the individual expansion of the mind. We’re trying to gain true liberation of a group of people, and this makes our struggle somewhat different from the whites.

Now, how is it the same? It’s the same in the fact that both of us are striving for freedom. They will not be free — the white anarchists will not be free — until we are free so that makes our fight their fight, really. The imperialists and the bourgeois bureaucratic capitalistic system would not give them individual freedom while they keep a whole group of people based upon race or color oppressed as a group. How can they expect to get individual freedom when the imperialists oppress whole nations of people? Until we gain liberation as a group, they won’t gain any liberation as individual people. So this makes our fight the same, and we must keep this in perspective and always see the similarities and the differences in it.

There’s a tremendous amount of difference in it, and there’s a due amount of similarity between the two cases. Both are striving for freedom and both are striving for liberation of their people, only one is advanced to a degree higher than the other. The anarchists are advanced a step higher, but only in theory. As far as actuality of conditions, they shouldn’t be advanced higher because they should see the necessity of wiping out the imperialistic structure by organized groups just as we must be organized.