We Must Survive Until We Can Transform Society (1970)


Huey P. Newton

Hampton Classics Series

Source: The Huey Newton Reader



A Ten-Point Program is not revolutionary in itself, nor is it reformist. It is a survival program. We, the people, are threatened with genocide because racism and fascism are rampant in this country and throughout the world. And the ruling circle in North America is responsible. We intend to change all of that, and in order to change it; there must be a total transformation.

But until we can achieve that total transformation, we must exist. In order to exist we must survive; therefore, we need a survival kit: the Ten-Point Program.

It is necessary for our children to grown up healthy with functional and creative minds. They cannot do this if they do not get the correct nutrition. That is why we have a breakfast program for children. We also have community health programs. We have to have busing program. We realize that the fascist regime that operates the prisons throughout American would like to do their treachery in the dark. But if we get the relatives, parents, and friends to the prisons they can expose the treachery of the fascists. This too is a survival program.

We must not regard our survival programs as an answer to the world problem of oppression. We don't even claim it to be a revolutionary program. Revolutions are made of sterner stuff. We do say that if the people are not here revolution cannot be achieved, for the people and only the people make revolutions.

Our total survival program works very much like the first-aid kit that is used when a plane falls and you find yourself in the middle of the sea on a rubber raft. You need a few things to last until you can get the shore, until you can get that oasis where you can be happy and healthy. If you do not have the things necessary to get you to that shore, then you will probably not exist.

At this time the ruling circle threatens us to the extent that we are afraid that we might not exist to see the next day or see the revolution. The Black Panther Party will not accept the total destruction of the people. As a matter of fact, we have drawn a line of demarcation and we will no longer tolerate fascism, aggression, brutality, and murder any kind. We will not sit around and allow ourselves to be murdered.

When we started in October 1966, we were what one would call Black nationalists. We realized the contradictions in society, the pressure on Black people in particular, and we saw that most people in the past had solved some of their problems by forming into nations.

We therefore argued that it was rational and logical for us to believe that our sufferings as a people would end when we established a nation of our own, composed of our own people.

But after a while we saw that something was wrong with this resolution of the problem. In the past, nationhood was a fairly easy thing to accomplish. If we look around now, though, we se that the world - the land space, the livable parts as we know them - is pretty well settled. So we realized that to create a new nation we would have to become a dominate faction in this one, and yet the fact that we did not have power was the contradiction that drove us to seek nationhood in the first place.

It is an endless circle, you see: to achieve nationhood, we needed to become a dominant force we would at least have to be great in number. So we developed from just plain nationalists or separatist nationalists into revolutionary nationalists. We said that we joined with all of the other people in the world struggling for decolonization and nationhood, and called ourselves a "dispersed colony" because we did not have the geographical concentration that other so-called colonies had. But we did have Black communities throughout the country - San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Haven - and there are many similarities between these communities and the traditional kind of colony. We saw that it was not only beneficial for us to be revolutionary nationalists but to express our solidarity with those friends who suffered many of the same kind of pressures we suffered. Therefore we changed our self-definitions. We said that we are not only revolutionary nationalists - that is, nationalist who want revolutionary changes in everything, including the economic system the oppressor inflicts upon us - but we are also individuals deeply concerned with the other people of the world and their desires for revolution.

In order to show this solidarity, we decided to call ourselves internationalists.

Originally, as I said, we assumed that people could solve a number of their problems by becoming nations, but this conclusion showed our lack of understanding of the world's dialectical development. Our mistake was to assume that the conditions under which people had become nations in the past still existed. To be a nation, one must satisfy certain essential conditions, and if these things do not exist or cannot be created, then it is not possible to be a nation.

In the past nation-states were usually inhabited by people of a certain ethnic and religious background. They were divided from other people either by a partition of water or a great unoccupied land space. This natural partition gave the nation's dominant class, and the people generally, a certain amount of control over the kinds of political, economic, and social institutions they established. It gave them a certain amount of control over their destiny and their territory. They were secret at least to the extent that they would not be attacked or violated by another nation 10,000 miles away, simply because the means to transport troops that far did not exist.

This situation, however, could not last. Technology developed until there was a definite qualitative transformation in the relationships within and between nations.

We know that you cannot change a part of the whole without changing the whole, and vice versa. As technology developed and there was an increase in military capabilities and means of travel and communication, nations began to control other territories, distant from their own. Usually they controlled these other lands by sending administrators and settlers, who would extract labor from the people or resources from the earth - or both. This is the phenomenon we know as colonialism.

The settlers' control of the seized land and people grew to such and extent that it wasn't even necessary for the settler to be present to maintain the system. He went back home. The people were so integrated with aggressor that their land didn't look like a colony any longer. But because their land didn't look like a free state either, some theorists started to call these lands "neocolonies."

Arguments about the precise definition of these entities developed. Are they colonies or not? If they aren't, what are they? The theorists knew that something had happened, but they did not know what it was.

Using the dialectical materialist method, we in the Black Panther Party saw that the United States was no longer a nation. It was something else; it was more than a nation. It had not only expanded it territorial boundaries, but it had expanded all of its controls as well. We called it an empire.

Now at one time the world had an empire in which the conditions of rule were different - the Roman Empire. The difference between the Roman and the American empires is that other nations were able to exist external to and independent of the Roman Empire because of their means of exploration, conquest, and control were all relatively limited.

But when we say "empire" today, we mean precisely what we say. An empire is a nation-state that has transformed itself into a power controllingall the world's lands and people.

We believe that there are no more colonies or neocolonies. If a people is colonize, it must be possible for them to decolonize and become what they formerly were. But what happens when the raw materials are extracted and labor is exploited with a territory dispersed over the entire globe? When the riches of the whole earth are depleted and used to feed a gigantic industrial machine in the imperialist's home? Then the people and the economy are so integrated into the imperialist empire that it's impossible to "decolonize," to return to the former conditions of existence.

If colonies cannot "decolonize," and return to their original existence as nations, then nations no longer exist. Nor, we believe, will they ever exist again. And since there must be nations for revolutionary nationalism or internationalism to make sense, we decided that we would have to call ourselves something new.

We say that the world today is a dispersed collection of communities. A community is different from a nation. A community is a small unit with a comprehensive collection of institution that exists to serve a small group of people.

And we say further that the struggle in the world today is between the small circle that administers and profits from the empire of the United States and the peoples of the world who want to determine their own destinies.

We call this situation intercommunalism. We are now in the age of reactionary intercommunalism, in which a ruling circle, a small group of people, control all other people by using their technology.

At the same time, we say that this technology can solve most of the material contradictions people face, that the material conditions exist that would allow the people of the world to develop a culture that is essentially human and would nurture those things that would allow the people to resolve contradictions in a way that would not cause the mutual slaughter of all of us. The development of such a culture would be revolutionary intercommunalism.

The people of the world must seize power from the small ruling circle and expropriate the expropriators, pull them down from their pinnacle and make them equals, and distribute the fruits of our labor that have been denied us in some equitable way. We know that the machinery to accomplish these tasks exists and we want access to it.

Imperialism has laid the foundation for world communism, and imperialism itself has grown to the point of reactionary intercommunalism because the world is now integrated into one community. The communications revolution, combined with the expansive domination of the American empire, has created the "global village." The peoples of all cultures are under siege by the same forces and they all have acdcess to the same technologies.

There are only differences in degree between what's happening to the Blacks here and what's happening to all of the people in the world, including Africans. Their needs are the same and their energy is the same. And the contradictions they suffer will only be resolved when people establish a revolutionary intercommunalism where they share all the wealth that they produce and live in one world.

We call Blacks and Third World people in particular, and poor people in general, "unemployables" because they do not have the skills needed to work in a highly developed technological society.

You remember my saying that every society, like every age, contains its opposite: feudalism produced capitalism, which wiped out feudalism, and capitalism produced socialism, which will wipe out capitalism. Now the same is true of reactionary intercommunalism. Technological development creates a large middle class, and the number of workers increases also. The workers are paid a good deal and get many comforts.

But the ruling class is still only interested in itself. They might make certain compromises and give a little - as a matter of fact, the ruling circle has even developed something of a social structure or welfare state to keep the opposition down - but as technology develops, the need for workers decreases.

It has been estimated that 10 years from now only a small percentage of the present work force will be necessary to run the industries. Then what will happen to your worker who is now making four dollars an hour? The working class will be narrowed down, the class of unemployables will grow because it will take more and more skills to operate those machines and fewer people.

And as these people become unemployables, they will become more and more alienated; even socialist compromises will not be enough. You will then find an integration between, say, the Black unemployable and the White racist hard hat who is not regularly employed and mad at the Blacks who he thinks threaten his job.

We hope that he will join forces with those people who are already unemployable, but whether he does or not, his material existence will have changed. The proletarian will become the lumpen proletarian. It is this future change - the increase of the lumpen proletariat and the decrease of the proletariat - which makes us say that the lumpen proletariat is the majority and carries the revolutionary banner.