A response to "Revolutionary suicide & the need to abolish the United States"
In this article, we dismantle the line of thinking from Rainer Shea's recent analysis on the Center for Political Innovation, and their inarticulate comparisons to the Black Panther Party.
With the growth of any political organization, it is not surprising growth will give rise to critique. A supposed recent “critique” of the Center for Political Innovation has made the rounds on social media in an attempt to frame CPI as purely a “reformist” organization, posted by Rainer Shea. In this written response, we will dismantle this intellectually lazy line of thinking; comparing a think tank (CPI), to a Political Party (The Black Panthers).
Initially Rainer put out a tweet, followed by a Substack article, where Rainer makes this incompatible comparison between two completely unrelated organizations, isolated from their historical contexts.
The article that followed continued with this comparison between a think tank and a political party. We can immediately dismiss the entire crux of Rainer’s argument, of which its very foundation is built upon a contradiction. Instead, we will continue to analyze Rainer’s thought process and how they came to these conclusions about two completely unrelated organizations.
The second paragraph in Rainer’s article reads:
These differing perspectives are especially relevant in the context of settler-colonialism, because the colonial contradiction adds an extra, racialized layer to the revisionist theory that the reformists put forth. We can see this in the theory from the Center for Political Innovation, the organization of an ideological strain that calls itself “the city-building tendency.” This year, the CPI’s guiding polemicist Caleb Maupin wrote a more nuanced version of the stance he’s previously articulated about how the “city-builders” want a “peaceful, democratic transition to socialism,” adding some qualifiers to this sweeping statement:
Immediately we can begin to see Rainer is substituting the Marxist dialectical method with some abstract moralistic understanding of Revolutionary Suicide, charging that CPI is not sufficiently revolutionary in the context of Settler Colonialism™! Rainer further expands on this topic by bringing up the historical context of Communists being exterminated within their borders as a justification to assert CPI should seek more violent options within their organizational apparatus.
It’s that vision of ending settler-colonialism which is consistent with revolutionary suicide, because as the Black Panther Party’s newspaper stated, revolutionary suicide is “suicide motivated by the desire to change the system or die trying, to change the reactionary conditions.” A stance that seeks to “rescue” the settler state, and rejects guerrilla overthrow as going against democracy, innately goes against revolutionary suicide, as it seeks complacency with the reactionary conditions instead of defiance of them. Conditions where a settler state exists are inescapably reactionary. But the CPI doesn’t share that desire to escape them.
The CPI’s camp might argue that this is an arbitrary boundary to draw between revolution and reaction, that just because the U.S. was founded on genocide (as Maupin acknowledges it is), doesn’t mean abolishing it is required to end our reactionary conditions. If land reform is carried out under a workers democracy, as their camp advocates, wouldn’t national oppression end? This argument represents a deviation of the correct stance on the national question within the United States, as articulated by U.S. communist parties such as the Panthers. This stance being that the United States should not be changed into some redeemed settler state, but abolished.
From these two paragraphs, Rainer reveals quite a bit about their understanding of revolution and how it comes to form. Revolutions do not come into form, purely as a result of voluntarism. It appears Rainer read this piece from a Black Panther publication and thought that applying the historical contexts of the Panthers, in that time period, to a modern-day 2022 think tank (CPI), passes as serious political analysis.
If we want to continue on this path of comparing a think tank to a political party, let us analyze what the Panthers actually wrote down in paper on this topic of revolution shall we?
Huey P. Newton writes in “The Correct Handling of a Revolution:”
Many would-be revolutionaries work under the fallacious illusion that the vanguard party is to be a secret organization that the power structure knows nothing about, and the masses know nothing about, except for occasional letters that come to their homes by night. Underground parties cannot distribute leaflets announcing an underground meeting. These are contradictions and inconsistencies of the so-called revolutionaries. The so-called revolutionaries are in fact afraid of the very danger that they are advocating for the people. These so-called revolutionaries want the people to say what they themselves are afraid to say, and the people to do what they themselves are afraid to do. This makes the so-called revolutionary a coward and a hypocrite.
If these imposters would investigate the history of revolution, they would see that the vanguard group always starts out above ground and is later driven underground by the aggressor. The Cuban Revolution exemplifies this fact; when Fidel Castro started to resist the butcher Batista and the American running dogs, he started by speaking on the campus of the University of Havana in public. He was later driven to the hills. His impact upon the dispossessed people of Cuba was very great and received with much respect. When he went into secrecy, Cuban people searched him out. People went to the hills to find him and his band of twelve. Castro handled the revolutionary struggle correctly. If the Chinese Revolution is investigated, it will be seen that the Communist Party was quiet on the surface so that they would be able to muster support from the masses. There are many areas one can read about to learn the correct approach, such as the revolution in Kenya, the Algerian Revolution, Fanon’s THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH, the Russian Revolution, the works of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and a host of others.
We can see that Huey immediately dismantles this utopian depiction of revolution as simply willed into existence by escalated violent tendencies through voluntarism. Instead, we see those revolutions, and the reaction from their involved parties, is in constant development responding to the current contradictions of their time. Fidel beginning on a college campus (Sound familiar?) and later forced into the hills. Fidel did not jump straight to voluntarism due to an abstract, moralistic, understanding of Cuba’s unique situation. Instead, Fidel applied the Marxist Dialectical Method, carefully analyzing his options and responding appropriately to state persecution.
Even if we were to evaluate the Center for Political Innovation to the standard of a revolutionary vanguard party, the Panthers themselves disagreed with Rainer’s line of thinking, in that CPI would be in its phase of being “as quiet on the surface so that they would be able to muster support from the masses” - as Huey puts it.
The irony of this entire debate reveals itself when we analyze the fact that the Black Panthers themselves originally had a Ten-Point program, that of which Rainer would surely condemn as reformist, directly comparable to CPI’s Four-Point Plan, aside from specific considerations directly for the Black Community. In fact, the only calls for “violence” are purely in self-defense, something I am sure no principled Marxist would disagree with.
Huey P. Newton’s Ten-Point program:
Center for Political Innovation Four-Point Program:
Both of these point programs are directly compatible with one another, discussing the nationalization of industries, housing, healthcare, education. With regards to the constitution in point number 9 specifically, Huey takes this “reformist” approach as Rainer puts it, by having the constitution enforced, instead of destroying it. Huey correctly understood the important distinction between a Nation, its people, and the form of the state. In fact Newton goes on to quote the declaration of independence, perfectly showcasing his understanding between this distinction.
Without a doubt, Huey understood the distinction between a nation and a state that governs it. He is not calling for the abolishment of a nation, but the abolishment of the government, which is the form of the state of that particular nation. As Stalin notes in The National Question:
The Final Nail in the Coffin
This actually is not the first time Rainer has misunderstood the Black Panther’s position on this topic. Let us take Rainer’s own source, and analyze it closely, to see if it conveys the same line of thinking as Rainer Shea asserts:
We can clearly see the Black Panthers did not hate the constitution. Instead, they felt as if it had not been legitimized and enforced appropriately. Let us take a look at a few quotes from this work more closely:
When Huey and Bobby drew up the Ten Point Platform and Program of the Black Panther Party, they included in it passages from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to let the people know that these rights and privileges were supposed to be protected and legitimized by the documents that were drawn up by the forefathers of this country who at that time might have been sincere in their beliefs.
Additionally, Rainer quotes in their article the concluding section of that work:
Here Rainer makes the assumption that the Black Panthers are talking about destroying all laws and all documents in their entirety. Rainer failed to read the remaining part of that sentence that qualifies what he means: “that have been misconscrewed and made non-functional for the people, including the present constitution of the U.S.A.”
The Black Panthers were not calling for the abolishment and destruction of the rights defined within the constitution, even going as far as to say the details contained within them are eternal. Where the Panthers call for the destruction of the present U.S.A constitution, they are referring to the state apparatus that actually gives meaning to the document, that in their words ‘legitimizes’ it. If Huey managed to get his wish and draft a new constitution, chances are a lot of the old texts within that document would still be included.
Finally, Rainer’s assumption that Caleb Maupin, or the Center for Political Innovation simply only wants to ‘add-to’ the current constitution is simply unfounded. In Point 4 of CPI’s plan, it discusses adding to ‘the US constitution’ generally, however CPI, nor Caleb has never taken a hard stance against a new constitution being written, rather they simply recognize that, whichever form Socialist America will take, will likely have a constitution enforced by a Communist Party, such as the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. This is something completely reconcilable with the goals of the Black Panther Party.