Workers Vanguard No. 1169

7 February 2020


He Wanted to Be a Revolutionary

Black Panther Fred Hampton Killed by Cops 50 Years Ago

The following contribution was submitted to Workers Vanguard in December by Spartacist League Central Committee member Don Alexander.

Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was murdered 50 years ago. On 4 December 1969, the 21-year-old Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark were gunned down while they slept. Hampton was long in the crosshairs of the bourgeois state. No less than 4,000 pages filled the state’s files on his activities. The Chicago police and the FBI—with the assistance of an FBI informant who provided the floor plans of their apartment—carried out this heinous political assassination. The venal capitalist state framed up and jailed Panthers it didn’t succeed in killing, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) and others who have languished for decades in prison hellholes.

A central point of the murderous FBI COINTELPRO campaign was to frighten and dissuade as many militant black youth as possible from revolutionary politics. Or in the words of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover: “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”

A volume of Lenin was found by Hampton’s bedside. This was no mere accident. There were a few thousand subjectively revolutionary black militants and other anti-racists who were animated by a fight for social revolution to smash the racist capitalist system. However, the Panthers’ program of “revolutionary nationalism” cut them off from the only force with the strategic potential social power to overthrow capitalism: the multiracial working class. The Spartacist League fought then and now to free the Panthers. We fought to win the most conscious elements to the perspective of a proletarian-centered struggle for black freedom.

Those who have viewed the film The Murder of Fred Hampton may recall footage of Hampton proudly stating several times that “I am a revolutionary.” Along with that came a keen consciousness of his mortality. Not only the Panthers, but black militants in general, knew that they were feared, hated and wished dead by the racist capitalist oppressors. Longevity was not expected.

Bobby Rush, one of Hampton’s comrades at the time who spoke at his funeral, has for decades served as a Democratic Party Congressman. Not only that: Rush was also an important link in the chain promoting the ascent to power of Democrat Barack Obama, America’s first black imperialist president. This act of treachery by the likes of Rush was a repudiation of everything that the Black Panther Party initially opposed as champions of revolution.

For young revolutionary-minded youth today, who hate to their marrow the bankrupt profit system that squeezes them dry and spits them out, it’s important to know there is a way out, but just not under capitalism. Remember the words of the great Bolshevik V.I. Lenin, who spoke the bitter truth 100 years ago when he said that capitalism is a system of “horror without end” as he built and, together with Trotsky, led the internationalist revolutionary party that brought the workers and oppressed of Russia to power in October 1917. Study, study, organize, organize and champion the program of international workers revolution like our communist forebears, who showed what must and can be done.