The Jewish participation in the radical student movements of the 1960s and early 1970s was comparable to the Jewish participation in Eastern European socialism and prewar American Communism. In the first half of the 1960s, Jews (5 percent of all American students) made up between 30 and 50 percent of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) membership and more than 60 percent of its leadership; six out of eleven Steering Committee members of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley; one-third of the Weathermen arrested by the police; 50 percent of the membership of California’s Peace and Freedom Party; two-thirds of the white Freedom Riders who went to the South in 1961 to fight racial segregation; one-third to one-half of the “Mississippi Summer” volunteers of 1964 (and two of the three murdered martyrs); 45 percent of those who protested the release of students’ grades to draft boards at the University of Chicago; and 90 percent of the sample of radical activists studied by Joseph Adelson at the University of Michigan. In 1970, in the wake of the invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four students at Kent State (three of whom were Jewish), 90 percent of the Jewish students attending schools at which there were demonstrations claimed to have participated. In a 1970 nationwide poll, 23 percent of all Jewish college students identified themselves as “far left” (compared to 4 percent of Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics); and a small group of radical activists studied at the University of California was found to be 83 percent Jewish. A large study of student radicalism conducted by the American Council of Education in the late 1960s found that a Jewish background was the single most important predictor of participation in protest activities
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Honoring Black Panther Party allies: The Chicano Revolutionary Party (CRP)
The 1960’s was a time when the activism of hundreds of thousands of protesters of many different ethnic groups created coalitions. From the Young Lords to the Peace and Freedom Party, from the Yippies (Youth International Party) to Rising Up Angry, the Black Panther Party formed coalitions with antiwar and radical activist. The Black Panther Party was about “All Power To All The People”, whether you’re black, white, blue, green, yellow, or polka dot. We believed in black unity, but only as a catalyst to help humanize the world. The Black Panther Party worked for self-determination and social justice for all people.
The Chicano Revolutionary Party was a close ally of the Black Panthers. In 1969 The Black Panthers helped the CRP start a Free Breakfast program for Latino and Black Children in the Fruitvale district. The Free breakfast program was based out of Mary help of Christians Church on E9th St in Jingletown. Like the Black Panthers The Chicano Revolutionary Party was targeted by the FBI COINTELPRO.
The Chicano Revolutionary Party (CRP) was based out of East Oakland’s Fruitvale District. The CRP as they were known began in 1968 created by Chicano and Latino students and Community members as a Chicano vanguard for the Chicano Community of East Oakland. The Chicano Revolutionary Opened an Office on 1423 Fruitvale Ave. The CRP began programs to educate The local Chicano community on several issues Ranging from Police Brutality, Immigration issues, Housing Rights, and more. The CRP also began a community newspaper called La Chispa dealing with local issues. Like the Black Panthers the CRP did nightly patrols against Police brutality. If they saw someone getting arrested they would observe the Police and would tell the person being arrested what their rights were.
The Party also keenly understood that the Black Liberation Struggle needed nonblack allies, particularly progressive white allies. An editorial in the Black Panther explained why this alliance was important: “The increasing isolation of the black radical movement from the white radical movement was a dangerous thing, playing into the power structure’s game of divide and conquer. We feel that in taking the step of making the coalition with the Peace and Freedom Party, we have altered the course of history on a minor, but important level.”
From its inception, the Black Panther Party had embraced both an uncompromising commitment to black liberation and a principled rejection of a separatist black politics. The coalition with the Peace and Freedom Party, which a number of black nationalists criticized, illustrated both. Explaining the Party’s position to its expanding black base was critical. “Because our Party has the image of an uncompromising stand against the oppression of the white power structure on Black people, we could take this step without getting shot down with the charge of selling out.”
As the Black Panther Party promoted the “Free Huey!” campaign, it built on emerging alliances with students and white antiwar activists, advancing an anti-imperialist political ideology that linked the oppression of antiwar protestors to the oppression of blacks and Vietnamese. Bobby Seale elaborated this position at a January 28, 1968, rally at UC Berkeley supporting students who had been arrested during Stop the Draft Week. Citing Newton’s article “On the Functional Definition of Politics,” Seale spoke to the crowd about self-defense power and the parallels between the Vietnamese and the black American liberation struggles. He pointed out that the antidraft students were locked up right alongside Huey Newton in the Alameda County jail. He made common cause with the students, arguing that the antiwar demonstrators faced a plight like that of the black community:
Black people have protested police brutality. And many of you thought we were jiving, thought we didn’t know what we were talking about, because many Black people in the community probably couldn’t answer your questions articulately. But now you are experiencing this same thing. When you go down in front of the draft [board], when you go over and you demonstrate in front of Dean Rusk, those pig cops will come down and brutalize your heads just like they brutalized the heads of black people in the black community. We are saying now that you can draw a direct relationship that is for real and that is not abstract anymore: you don’t have to abstract what police brutality is like when a club is there to crush your skull; you don’t have to abstract what police brutality is like when there is a vicious service revolver there to tear your flesh; you can see in fact that the real power of the power structure maintaining its racist regime is manifested in its occupying troops, and is manifested in its police department—with guns and force.
The new approach to draft resistance was compelling because of its universality. The black anti-imperialism championed by SNCC compared the plight of blacks in the United States with the plight of the Vietnamese and others throughout the world who were waging struggles against colonialism and imperialism. At SNCC’s invitation, student antiwar activists came to see themselves as fighting for their own liberation from the American empire. The imperial machinery of war that was inflicting havoc abroad was forcing America’s young to kill and die for a cause many did not believe in. Young activists came to see the draft as an imposition of empire on themselves just as the war was an imposition of empire on the Vietnamese.
SDS leader Greg Calvert encapsulated this emerging view in the idea of “revolutionary consciousness” in a widely influential speech at Princeton University that February. Arguing that students themselves were revolutionary subjects, Calvert sought to distinguish radicals from liberals, and he advanced “revolutionary consciousness” as the basis for a distinct and superior morality: “Radical or revolutionary consciousness … is the perception of oneself as unfree, as oppressed—and finally it is the discovery of oneself as one of the oppressed who must unite to transform the objective conditions of their existence in order to resolve the contradiction between potentiality and actuality. Revolutionary consciousness leads to the struggle for one’s own freedom in unity with others who share the burden of oppression.”
The speech marked a watershed in the New Left’s self-conception. Coming to see itself as part of the global struggle of the Vietnamese against American imperialism and the black struggle against racist oppression, the New Left rejected the status quo as fundamentally immoral and embraced the morality of revolutionary challenge. From this vantage point, the Vietnam War was illegitimate, and draft resistance was an act of revolutionary heroism.
How different the discourse of the Black Panthers is from much of today’s activism, with its concerns for “co-opting” struggles, for parsing actions down to discrete authentic groups, for emphasizing the special and distinct nature of each struggle, incommensurable with any other group’s oppression, even when they are locked up in the same cells.
The revolutionaries of a previous generation thought exactly the opposite: the struggle must broaden, and the way to do that was to identify common oppressions, and further, to identify oneself as oppressed. This absolutely did not mean co-optation – the Black Panthers never abandoned black liberation, they simply understood that it would require a global revolutionary movement uniting many oppressed people against racist imperialism. They aligned with other groups who were on board with these politics – which meant breaking ties with reformist black organizations. The authors also stress how the Black Panthers actually led the antiwar movement: they pioneered draft resistance tactics, and agitated on college campuses, emboldening a moribund student left.