James Carr evolved from being one of the most notorious rebels in the California penal system of the 50s and 60s as leader of the infamous Wolf Pack to a comrade of famed Soledad Brother George Jackson. Carr was murdered April 6th, 1972 outside his home in San Jose, CA.
“I’ve been struggling all my life to get beyond the choice of living on my knees or dying on my feet. It’s time we lived on our feet. As a kid my rebellion was pure: unthinking, arbitrary, devilish; sometimes for fun or because I was bored, more often because I saw adults standing over me at every turn — parents, teachers and preachers — and sought ways to get even, to avenge my submission. I was always caught and punished in such a way that my feelings were only intensified and reinforced. Along with the stick, of course, they always showed me the carrot: clothes, cars, cigarettes and whisky and women — telling me that to get these things I’d have to be a success. Telling me out of the other corner of their mouths that I’d been born to be a failure. Always taunting, jeering, and lecturing me. I was completely disoriented, caught between acceptance and rejection of an alien world at once fascinating and disgusting. It’s a trap, the trap. I became a rebel—still caught, but proudly defiant.” From BAD: The Autobiography of James Carr
Black August Memorial/Commemoration Month History – Haki Kweli Shakur
Who killed James Carr, and why? The two hired killers who fired the shots were tried and convicted but it has never been proved who hired them. Both had previously been involved with the Black Panther Party, but whether as genuine members or police informers (or both) is not known. The whole American left scene of the 60s and 70s was so riddled with informers and agent provocateurs that “it is impossible to distinguish with any certainty between information and disinformation, fact, fantasy, wish-fulfillment and lie (14).” Carr could have been killed by the state, by the Panthers, or some other outfit. Former Panther Minister of Information David Hilliard, in his recent book “this Side of Glory” (15), implies that “supreme commander” Newton himself was responsible for Carr’s murder, having surrounded himself with “The Squad” – a violent internal security gang within the party, who were into offing anybody who criticised Huey. The Squad were particularly uptight about the cons around George Jackson’s recently formed Black Guerrilla Family, who wanted to be the military wing of the Panthers. It seems that the Family in their wildest moments wanted to eliminate the whole Central Committee; this must have fuelled Newton’s paranoia to fever pitch. Was this the reason for Carr’s murder? It’s logical to think his closest loyalties would remain with his prison comrades. In 1989, Tyrone Robins of the Black Guerrilla Family was arrested for Newton’s murder – a factional party feud still being played out nearly 20 years later in revenge for the likes of James Carr? Inevitably, Carr was not immune to getting caught up in the web of intrigue and paranoia spun by COINTELPRO-BPP intensifying the leadership power struggles typical of hierarchical groups; in the unlikely event that the full truth could ever be told it’s doubtful that Carr or anyone else would come out smelling entirely of roses. The difference was that he used his first-hand experiences to make a lucid and useful critique of Panther ideology and practice.
One more possibility is that Carr was a target for PRISAC. As one recently released prisoner tells it: “…from 1971 to 1973, the U.S. government instituted a program called the Prison Activist Program, PRISAC for short. This program was aimed at tracking the political prisoner while they were in prison, and determining who were their friends and their relationships and their visitors, so that when they came out of prison, when these other prisoners they educated came out, they could be targeted for neutralisation. Many of the brothers that we got out of prison in the early 70s and 80s were mysteriously assassinated by, we believe, government officials. And to this day, many of their murderers have never been brought to justice.” (16)
But what were the immediate reasons for Jimmy’s murder? Again, more speculation. The State was using its informers and police agents among the left to stir up paranoia and conflict between the various groups. One of its techniques, “bad jacketing”, was to spread false rumours about individuals, encouraging the belief that they had become creeps, informing on their comrades. Carr could easily have been a victim of this, leading to his death (17). But jacketing, at the time, was a veritable epidemic. Although the forces of law ‘n’order were, according to one estimate, responsible for 28 dead, many Panther deaths were victims of “friendly fire”, via internal conflicts (some no doubt manipulated by the cops), with those involved all too easily accusing each other of being informers/FBI agents etc.
Indeed even now, over two decades later, there are still Panthers such as the L.A. Panther Geronimo Pratt and others in jail, victims of frame-ups. It seems COINTELPRO set them up but even today courts in America, afraid of the FBI, are still loathe to release them though much evidence points to the fact that they weren’t involved in the crime they’ve been indicted for (18).
Another related theory is that Carr’s death is related to the Angela Davis trial that began shortly after his murder. One of the most famous black militants of her time and facing charges of murder and kidnapping, those involved in her legal defence are said to have considered the State prosecution evidence as being very weak and speculated that there might be a surprise star witness that the prosecution were going to use in the trial against her. Some apparently thought that James Carr would be that surprise witness. Carr’s release from prison after being returned there for breaking his parole conditions was interpreted by some as evidence that he had made a deal to get back out of jail. The speculation is endless. (or so the story is told in Who Killed George Jackson?, for what it’s worth.) It’s just as likely, though, that these speculations could have been put out by the Panthers to undermine what Carr was putting out about them – not to the cops but to rebellious youth. These included the allegations that some Panthers were into racketeering – that, for instance, much of the money they collected to fight sickle cell anemia went into the Central Committee’s cocaine fund, while ostensibly the Panthers were campaigning to get hard drugs out of town. Certainly there’s a fair number of Americans who believe these revelations about the Panthers were the motive for his murder. But there’s something of an understandably fearful silence on the subject in a country where the murderous tendencies of the secret services have such a long, unforgiving and lethal memory. It’s doubtful even after a revolution in the U.S. that their many murders will be clearly revealed, simply because most of those who pulled the triggers never knew who was pulling their strings, and all the information pinpointing the real culprits will have been shredded or erased from the computer long ago.
James Carr was a shrewd man – that’s why, against the odds, he survived for as long as he did. His story (like others of its kind) is inspiring and illuminating because he was among the “wretched of the earth” who rebelled, but with a growing subversive intelligence of the kind that will be sorely needed in our future battles as we destroy all the ghettos and prisons.
BAD: The Autobiography of James Carr, is the harrowingly brutal and unapologetic story of the notorious African-American career criminal who went straight out of Compton to a reformatory after burning down his school at the age of 9. Originally released in 1972, BAD remains a harsh indictment of the American penal system and a primer for the seeds of institutionalized racism in this country.
BAD goes where no other book has ever gone before and so did James Carr. After years in and out of prison (mostly in) Carr wound up bunking with George Jackson (Soledad Brother) in Folsom Prison where they fought their way to a position of strength along the radical stream of the 1960s.
As Carr notes, “I’ve been struggling all my life to get beyond the choice of living on my knees or dying on my feet. It’s time we lived on our feet.” A book that strips the system bare, BAD is revealing as a telling document in the battle for prison reform that continues to this day.
Book James Carr Bad https://www.amazon.com/BAD-Autobiography-James-Carr/dp/B003GAN170
Part of this article Source:
PT II James Carr & The Black Panthers ( A look at the life and times of James Carr and the Black Panthers and their relationship to the prison struggles and wider social movements of the 1960s. )
“Jimmy was the baddest motherfucker…” – George Jackson.
Afterword to Bad: the autobiography of James Carr, Pelagian Press, UK, 1995. Bad is reviewed here.
Taken from the endangeredphoenix.com website
New Afterword on “Bad” 1993
– On the General Context and Some of the Hidden Connections Between Then and Now.
(BM Blob/News From Everywhere)
Bad, the superb autobiography of James Carr, the ex-Black Panther and co-founder of George Jackson’s “Wolf Pack” in Soledad Jail, was put together by situationist-influenced participants of the former “Contradiction” group in California. It was published in 1975 by Herman Graf Associates of New York. As soon as it was published, the California Department of Corrections threatened major law suits on behalf of several employees who, they contended, the book libelled. A deal was struck not to list the book in ‘Books in Print’, the definitive catalogue for booksellers. Thus, no-one could order the book unless they already knew about it and took the initiative to contact the distributors. Nevertheless, most of the print run of 110,000 sold, having a wide circulation not only in bookstores but in general consumer kiosks – Greyhound bus terminals/ freeway junk food outlets/ airport lounge reading counters etc. Any books that remained have long since been pulped. The suppression of the book was an easy task and there was a loud silence from the dissident liberal/left enclave in America who hadn’t liked Bad in the first instance, undermining as it did a lot of the hallowed icons of the time. This reprint of a most subversive book challenges, after so many years, both American leftism and the weighty edict of the Department of Corrections.
Bad is one of many books written by prisoners who have become radicalised by their experiences in American jails. However it stands out from a lot of the others because it avoids portraying the prisoner as a passive victim of social injustice – and also refuses the martyr role that liberals and leftists try to impose on convicts as a vehicle for their own fantasies and careers (whether as social workers, sociologists, politicians or “professional revolutionaries”). Freed from all these limitations James Carr was able to tell his story, warts and all, without worrying about what might or might not alienate liberal/leftist support. So, there is no glossing over his involvement in gang rapes, protection rackets or any of the more horrific aspects of his daily life in jail – nor are there any useless guilty apologies for his past. (Anyway, the story of his development makes clear his eventual understanding of why the prison regime deliberately encouraged this kind of divisive behaviour.)
The book shows how and why he eventually went beyond the moralistic practice and ideology of the 60s “New Left” in all its forms, ranging from the legal reformism of the white liberals (and leftists often of a Maoist character) to the armed reformism of the Black Panthers. There was in any case quite an overlap between them all. Although The Wretched of the Earth, written by the Algerian psychiatrist Franz Fanon was often quoted by the Panthers, it could be said that a Stalinism made more militaristic as filtered through Mao, Che Guevara and Castro was very effectively publicised by fellow traveller sacked white academics like John Gerassi. Using their glamorous notoriety and intellectual status they encouraged the spread of this simplistic ideology with its deadly consequences – particularly among many brave ghetto blacks and prisoners who were at the time casting around for a way forward from the impasse of the southern civil rights movement and had been inspired by the Watts rebellion of 1965 (1). One difference concerning James Carr was that he had a dialogue – though a few years later – with less sacrificial, more clued-in and subversive American whites than the likes of Gerassi, privileged though they were in comparison with ghetto blacks. It was an overlap that could really have gone somewhere if the State in particular hadn’t devastatingly intervened. This kind of black/white and now latino practical/theoretical overlap flowing both ways would seem to be a necessary ingredient eventually in any future struggles that emerge in and against American society.
Carr came out of jail and into the Panther scene with automatic status as being close to George Jackson and with a reputation as being one of the baddest guys around. But he quickly became disillusioned with their macho posturing and hierarchical cult of leadership plus their reformist social and political program, realising all this to be an obstacle to the revolution he desired. In his Conclusion, he illustrates how the “guerrilla ideology” that gradually came to dominate the party (“the purely military resolution of power relations”) is ultimately suicidal and futile both in and outside prison, and he blames the left, in part, for their role in encouraging this “false consciousness” in radical cons and ex-cons. In particular he refers to the murder of George Jackson and the Attica prison massacre of 1971 as examples of the practical consequences of this ideology. As he says, “Guerrilla ideology reduces all revolutionary questions to quantitative problems of military force” and “nothing could please the reactionary prison official more than a fight to the finish.” George Jackson’s book Blood in My Eye, although having some flashes of illumination, repeats this message over and over – believing it necessary to immediately create an elite warrior caste of professional revolutionaries who will be the vanguard that leads the masses to revolution (2). This strategy could seem feasible from within the prison walls, partly because the radical con’s view of the outside world was largely conditioned by his leftist allies’ description of it, and as usual they would exaggerate their own importance and influence on society at large. Coming out of jail “expecting to find a Red Army ready for revolutionary war”, Carr must have been disappointed to find the Panthers posing and lending street credibility to the dinner parties of uptown New York’s young and trendy social elite. It became the done thing amongst the very rich to hold “Radical Chic” fund-raising social events in their luxury apartments for various topical leftwing causes (including several for the Panthers). As Radical Chic became this season’s latest fashion it became both desirable and trendy for those hosting these events to dismiss their regular black servants and temporarily replace them with whites – this could save both hosts and guests much guilt and embarrassment (3). But in pointing this out one mustn’t be too glib by dismissively putting the Panthers down: there were many fine individuals amongst them who were sincerely seeking radical change and contemptuous of those seduced by status and fame, or who merely traded on the Party image.
“In the 1960’s I was part of a number of Black revolutionary movements including the Black Panther Party, which I feel partially failed because of the authoritarian leadership style of Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and others on the Central Committee. This is not a recrimination against those individuals, but many errors were made because the national leadership was too divorced from the chapters in cities all over the country, and therefore engaged in ‘commandism’ or forced work dictated by leaders. But many contradictions were also set up because of the structure of the organisation as a Marxist-Leninist group. There was not a lot of inner-party democracy, and when contradictions came up, it was the leaders who decided on their resolution, not the members. Purges became commonplace, and many good people were expelled from the group simply because they disagreed with the leadership. Because of the over-importance of central leadership, the national organisation was ultimately liquidated entirely, packed up and shipped back to Oakland, California. Of course, many errors were made because the BPP was a young organisation and was under intense attack by the state. I do not want to imply that these internal errors were the primary contradiction which destroyed the BPP, the police attacks on it did that, but if it were better and more democratically organised, it may have weathered the storm. So this is no mindless criticism or back stabbing attack: I loved the Party. And anyway neither myself nor anyone else who critique the Party with hindsight, will ever take away from the tremendous role that the BPP played in the Black Liberation movement of the 1960’s. But we must look at the full picture of our organisations from that period, so that we do not repeat the same errors.
I think my brief period in the Panthers was very important because it taught me about the limits of, and even the bankruptcy of, leadership in a revolutionary movement. It was not a question of a personality defect of a particular leader, but rather a realization that many times leaders have one agenda, followers have another.”
From Anarchism and the Black Revolution by Lorenzo Kom’Boa Ervin, MonkeywrenchPress/IWW, Philadelphia, 1994.
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the party founders, were ghetto youths who had acquired a college education but still hung out with friends from their neighbourhood. On campus the black political scene was dominated by intellectuals headed for professional occupations and cadre roles in the system. The politics of these students was a narrow Afro-cultural black nationalism, which Seale and Newton grew dissatisfied with as it offered few solutions and little or no help to those living in the ghetto. Rejecting the politics of the campus professional cadres, they set about recruiting, politically educating and organising the ghetto population – in particular the young unemployed “brothers on the block” or “lumpen elements”. Although of a finer calibre than the aspiring bourgeois black nationalists, self-appointed “Chairman” Seale and “Minister” Huey still retained a political cadre mentality typical of vanguard organisations. In his book, “Seize the Time”, Seale tells of his experiences as a foreman/supervisor on a poverty programme workfare-type scheme for ghetto youth, shortly before the Panthers were formed. He alternated his role between being “one of the boys” and using his authority to discipline the youths – docking their pay for breaking the rules or being work-shy, while Seale was on a comfortable $650 a month compared to their measly $1.35 an hour. Undoubtedly he encouraged the youngsters to try and make sense of their social situation and their own history, but generally in a patronising way and from a position of power over them (4).
These attitudes were carried over into the Panther vanguard ideology and hierarchical structures – i.e. Huey Newton with a guru role, all the false separations between leaders and followers, thinkers and doers, consciousness and practice etc. As the party grew, the hierarchical form could only amplify and favour the persuasive authority and articulation of those more educated – just as it favours them in society in general.
“Instead of the usual banter and conversation of inmates coming out of their cells to line up for the march to breakfast, officers were greeted by sombre inmates who moved silently out of their cells and lined up in rows of two with a Black man at the head of each row; many of them wore black armbands. They marched silently to where they took their usual places around the tables, but did not eat. Inmate participation at the morning meal was far from universal, and many of those who participated in the fast were unsure of the reason for it. By noon however, all knew they were observing a day of mourning and protest over the death of George Jackson. For the young correction officers who found themselves in the mess hall with 700 silent, fasting inmates wearing black armbands, the very silence and mood of unreserved hostility was the most threatening and frightening experience in their memory…”
– The Official Report of the New York Special Commission on Attica, describing the scene in the dining area of Attica State Prison on the morning of 22nd August, 1971 – the day after the murder of George Jackson by guards in San Quentin Prison.
“We are men. We are not beasts, and we will not be treated as such!” – The Attica Prison Rebels.
In the 1960s, the U.S. prison system was in crisis, with revolt on the inside fuelled by rebellion on the outside. The ghetto riots that swept through most major cities, student unrest, a massive anti-war movement against U.S. involvement in Vietnam – all this was reflected on the inside by a growing militancy and politicisation of prisoners. George Jackson played a highly subversive role in this: he was instrumental in beginning the breakdown of the racial divisions amongst the prison population that the guards used as their control mechanism. Eventually Jackson was murdered by guards at San Quentin in an escape attempt – the next day there was a multi-racial silent protest against his murder in the yard of Attica Prison. This was followed two and a half weeks later by the full-scale Attica Prison revolt that ended in a massacre of prisoners and their guard hostages by the State. Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale acted as one of the mediators between prisoners and authorities during the revolt, but for all their revolutionary phrases and forecasts of imminent revolution, the Panthers could offer no practical support to the rebels.
In a sense the militant image of the BPP could only play with fire. On the one hand guns were really being used (5), on the other hand a TV-style taunting of the bourgeoisie sporting the image of so-called “communism” (in reality state capitalism) of Russia, China and Cuba: the fevered antichrist/devil the American ruling class feared the most. To an extent it was an ID-kit designed to wind up the American State without subverting it. That was part of the BPP’s tragedy: they really did take all their self-appointed pompous titles, from military Field Marshals to Ministers, seriously. (In some ways one whimsically wonders if it would have been better to have used King, Count, Earl, Duke, like the earlier jazzmen!) Moreover, there was a conflict within the Panthers about the over-emphasis on guns. It was a tactic that rapidly became a media image which then got completely out of hand. On similar lines, David Hilliard, the Panthers’ Minister of Information, later noted how quickly the “Little Red Book” was abandoned for Mario Puza’s “The Godfather” once the Zeitgeist images changed. For sure, all this militaristic Leninism was never seriously thought through as is shown by the way Bobby Seale – probably in a casual, off the cuff kind of way – wanted to appoint Ben Morea, of the anarcho-situationist (often splendid, but just as often a sacrificially militant, confused and contradictory group) Up Against The Wall Motherfucker, to some kind of position in the BPP – a position Morea laughingly turned down (6). Seale was probably jesting anyway because, for certain, he’d never have got such a proposal through the Central Committee!
Basically, the Panthers wished to remain an American Black organisation but were constantly forging alliances with other rebels in American society whom they often learned from and who were often widely at variance with the Party’s paste-on Leninism. The BPP’s breakfast and health program came into existence influenced by the activities of Emmet Grogan’s revolutionary hippie group, the Diggers. Initially, Grogan delivered food for free distribution to the Oakland Panthers headquarters in a take it or leave it, unpatronising way, which the Panthers respected because there was no guilty white liberal bullshit in the gift. Grogan, of course, didn’t have to behave like that as he was a white, working class, tough street kid anyway (7).
There was little vision among the Panthers, or the rest of the “New Left” of the 60s, of a world freed of the most fundamental capitalist institutions and power relations such as wage slavery and all kinds of cops and prisons, although in a nebulous but palpable way all this was there in the active contestation of the period. In practice the Panthers were a movement of armed reformism seeking full and equal rights on a par with whites; their demands for decent jobs and housing, community control of the police(!) (8), greater black political representation and appeals to the United Nations for justice echoed the pleas of the earlier Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King. The essential difference was that whereas the Civil Rights movement leaders put faith in the bible and the moral righteousness of Christian/Ghandian non-violence, the panthers would rely on a revamped gang structure armed with Mao’s red book and a gun.
Later on, once the ferment of the times had been crushed, some former leaders moved on to become more acceptably straight career cadre of the American dream. In no time at all, Eldridge Cleaver was marketing Cleaver Jeans only to be followed by an even worse performance on the campuses supporting Reagan. And something of the same goes for Bobby Seale with his attempts at local government electioneering, his cuisine business and now a lefty college lecturer role – wheeled out like a frozen icon of the 60s’ with plenty of entertaining tales about the old days, but with nothing new to say or of much relevance to what’s happening now – ironic for a man who once wanted to seize the time. As others have said, they became Panthers in the zoo and not in the urban jungle. Huey Newton apparently suffered harassment for years afterwards, although accusations of dubious practices from former Panthers have been many and varied, their real value is difficult to quantify (9). Whatever, Huey got fucked up on crack and other hard drugs and was possibly murdered by a junkie over a crack deal in 1989. We say possibly because long festering police revenge cannot be ruled out as Huey Newton was murdered less than a block away from where he’d been accused of shooting Oakland patrolman John Fry in the late 60s. We will deal, further in this Afterword, with other possible reasons for Newton’s death.
The U.S. state machine is always scared at the prospect of the street gang system becoming united and radicalised. George Jackson stopped the bloody racial gang wars between prisoners by appealing for unity against their common enemy – the prison authorities. In response, he was put in solitary confinement. Panther leader Fred Hampton was seeking a merger between the Chicago Panther chapter and the Blackstone rangers, a South Side street gang with several thousand members, as well as with other local black gangs and, most amazingly, Latino groups like the Young Lords and poor immigrant Appalachian whites. For a brief moment there was some success: this is why the American State was so scared of Fred Hampton. (It was Fred who coined the term “the Rainbow Coalition” – just one of his imaginative characterisations – that Jesse Jackson was later to rip off.) A counter-insurgency COINTELPRO-BPP (10) operation – conducted by the FBI under the express orders of the boss, J. Edgar Hoover in 1967, to “exploit all avenues of creating dissension within the ranks of the BPP” – with the help of the infiltrator William O’Neal successfully prevented these mergers and encouraged instead violent conflicts between these organisations. And, throughout the years, this has been the pattern. But things might be changing. Two days prior to the start of the massive L.A. riot of 1992 a leaflet was circulated between the two main L.A. gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, calling for unity against their common enemy – the L.A. Police Department – and an end to inter-gang rivalry. In fact the truce was the result of delicate negotiations that had started quite awhile before the riot, as a response to yet another murder by the LAPD – in this case, of a well-respected Crip member. In South Central and Downtown L.A., the areas at the heart of the rioting, graffiti appeared calling for “unity between Crips, Bloods and our Mexican brothers”. “Unity”, of course, can be a meaningless, leftist, abstract concept but in the atomisation of present day America it really is something. The Crip/Blood gang pact is still largely holding but, so far, it has not been possible to bring the other ethnic gangs into the truce. Mexican/Chicano inter-gang warfare is as bad as ever and escalating, claiming 18 deaths in one weekend in early ’93. Unity-in-riot, and consciously so after, might be the ingredient that begins to put an end to the hellish civil war between and amongst black, latino and other gang youth, which has contributed to the 24,000 black deaths on the streets of America in 1991 alone – a higher cull of blacks than occurred during the worst years of the Vietnam war. The L.A. uprising seems to show that social war can begin to bring peace and unity between the gangs – while social peace can only perpetuate murderous gang warfare confirming that at the point of revolt is the starting point for the realisation of any real community (11).
One thing’s for certain though; the situation will not remain static. Whereas in the 60s it was the black churches that produced a reformist political leadership, could it be that in the 90s some gang members will step into a mediating role, administering pie-in-the-sky to their own flock? With Clintonomics promising greater state intervention, there may be attempts to absorb and integrate the gang leadership into the local state apparatus; some gang leaders have already shown themselves eager to add the wielding of political power to their weaponry. (For example, two once rival gang leaders accepted the invitation to Clinton’s presidential inauguration, whilst others acquired publicity agents and went on the college lecture circuit – but it is just as likely that they are only temporarily being used as pawns in the power games of black and white politicians (12).) But could they rely on the continued loyalty of their members, or would there be cries of “sell out”? Who knows what is fermenting at the rank’n’file level of gang members? Those left behind, in an imploding fit of rage, could just revive all the horrors of recreational slaughter. But they could take a more radical direction – giant steps could be taken and connections made if other forces start to move in American society. There are reports that since the ’92 rebellion several informal radical study groups have emerged in black and chicano areas, partly with the purpose of recovering their own history in the light of changing conditions. One group has suggested organising in the ghettos along the lines of the original IWW/Wobbly structure – a better starting point than any notions of party vanguardism.
In fact the origins of the Crips and especially their expansion (“cripping”) is linked to the rise and defeat in the early 70s of the Black Panthers – Crip originally meant “Community Resource Independent Project”. The Panthers sought to homogenise black gangs throughout America’s ghettos, turning their internecine warring tendencies into a united revolutionary assault force against the real enemy. The successive Crip absorption of smaller gangs reflected this but with a direction the Panthers would not have approved of, in spite of the false models of revolution the Party chose to emulate. Unable to break free of gang rivalry, which was given official encouragement by COINTELPRO-BPP, Panther ideology remained an undercurrent and the aim of revolutionary transformation (no matter how distorted this became in the hands of Panther ideologues) was lost sight of. What happened next is nightmarish, as the social fabric of Central L.A. began to unravel and disintegrate; “solidarity lost out in a razor fight with survival”. It’s important to stress the cause and effect relationship between massive government disinvestment and privatisation policies imposed on inner city America and the growth of increasingly impoverished and antagonistic social relations in the ghettos. The desperation created by health, employment, housing, education and social security cuts have created an increasingly privatised individual, forced to compete to survive in the war of all-against-all for shrinking resources. The rise of the drug economy (for many the only available source of employment) and its related gang warfare is but one symptom of the effects of this devastation. Inner city America is now increasingly being bankrupted and abandoned to Third World conditions by federal disinvestment, as funds have been rechanneled to service and protect the newer suburban “Edge Cities” where the majority of (mainly white) American voters – both Democratic and Republican – now live and work (13). Endless grim accounts detailing this catastrophe also supplied a good sales pitch. And so it was that NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” (and into the money) could function as a promo for disintegration (horror as a quasi Utopia – a recurrent L.A. theme), a “telling it like it is”, a money spinner, designed to scare. As a more profound explanation was never on offer – i.e. telling why it is and where it came from – all the memories of the thwarted revolutionary impulses of the 60s and 70s were obliterated, including especially that of James Carr’s more coherent rejection of the Panthers. COINTELPRO-BPP was successful in a brilliantly grim way, so it comes as no surprise that again this tactic is being used with FBI infiltrators fermenting conflict by spraying up fake ethnic and rival gang hate graffiti.
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