“I have a plan, I will give, and give, and give of myself until it proves our making or my end.”
As we honor the birthday of our beloved, Comrade George Jackson, Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party behind prison walls, may we remember his revolutionary ideas and practice, his mentors and his sacrifice.
Author of two books, Soledad Brother: the Prison Letters of George Jackson, a 1970 bestseller reprinted three times and translated into several languages, and Blood In My Eye, published posthumously and recently reprinted. In a New York Times editorial titled, Death of a Brother, Tom Wicker described George as a “talented writer, a sensitive man, a potential leader, and a political thinker of great persuasiveness.”
Born in Chicago, George was one of five children, three girls and two boys, Jonathan the youngest. His father was a postal worker, his mother a devout Catholic who sent their children to Catholic school and church on Sundays. When George began getting into trouble in Chicago’s Troop Street projects, his father decided to move his family to Los Angeles in hopes of finding a better environment for his family. However, there was no escaping institutionalized racism in America, so George continued to have brushes with the police, and in 1960 he was captured in a gas station robbery of $70 for being an accomplice.
Repeatedly denied parole during his 11 years in California prisons (most in solitary), George spent countless hours secluded in study. “I met Marx, Lenin Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me…”
In fact, Mao’s “little Red Book” became the Panther Bible – its guide to revolutionary action and party discipline. Originally obtained to raise funds for the Party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, co-founders of the BPP, bought copies of The Quotations of Chairman Mao TseTung, for 10 cents each and sold them on the college campuses for $1 a copy. Before long, Panthers’ revolutionary message spread across the nation, creating numerous chapters.
“Recall: our Mao teaches that when revolution fails it isn’t the fault of the people; it’s the fault of the vanguard party. The people will never come to us and say, ‘Let’s fight.’ There have never been any spontaneous revolutions. They were all staged, manufactured, by the people who went to the head of the masses and directed them. The liberalist slogan ‘you can’t get ahead of the people’ is meaningless. From what other position can one lead….In all the successful class struggles and wars of liberation, the vanguard elements did get ahead of the people and pull. There is no other way in forward mass movement
….I’m not implying that the vanguard party act out the people’s role. I am not implying a ‘society superior to society.’ We must never forget that it is the people who change circumstances and that the educator himself [or herself] needs educating. ‘Going among the people, learning from the people, and serving the people’ [Mao] is really stating that we must find out exactly what the people need and organize them around these needs.”
“The task of a revolutionary is to make revolution.”
In a letter to me in 1971, George wrote: “…then read Gerassi The Coming of the New International, The War of the Flea, Taber, The Myth of Black Capitalism, Earl Ofari, The Enemy, Felix Green, Axioms of Kwame Nkruma. I have 200 such books in here…”
In Soledad Brother, George noted, “In his Guerrilla Warfare, Lenin wrote: ‘New forms of struggle, unknown to participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation changes; the coming crisis will introduce new forms of struggle that we are unable to foresee.
“In other words, the old guard must not fail to understand that circumstances change in time and space, that there can be nothing dogmatic about revolutionary theory. It is to be born out of each popular struggle.”
George Jackson’s example of developing mind and body to their highest level or greatest potential was one of his enormous contributions to the advancement of revolutionary theory and culture.
“I don’t want to die and leave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pollution, racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand different brands of untruth and licentious, usurious economics.” (“Soledad Brother”)
Long live the revolutionary spirit of Comrade George!