Blood in my eye by George Jackson (book review)

Published in New Society 4 May 1972


Sower and seed

George Jackson, Blood in my Eye. Cape £1.95

If Soledad Brother charted George Jackson’s journey to self-discovery and revolutionary consciousness, Blood in my Eye places him firmly on the road to revolution. Not surprisingly, though-for it was in the nature of his growth that, having once assembled the perceptions, the observations, the data of his and his society’s conditions, he should then seek to find the inner dynamic that related them to each other and to himself. He was seeking, in other words, to comprehend and conceptualise the essence of capitalist society-with a view, finally, to ending it.

The path Jackson travelled in arriving this knowledge was, in its progression from perception to practice (the practice of changing his immediate reality), profoundly marxist, but it stemmed not so much from some abstract ideological know-how as fromthe direct experience of his particular oppression: as a black and, therefore, a prisoner. And it was this that enabled him to see that racial exploitation was qualitatively different from class exploitation and that the “black colony,” not the white working class, was “the principal reservoir of revolutionary potential in Amerika. ” He was able, that is, to examine the black predicament in marxist terms, with marxist methodology, without subjecting it at the same time to the classic class analysis which holds that racism is merely an expression of class oppression.

Jackson is, in that sense, the first truly indigenous black marxist to emerge from America. Malcolm x had, indeed, shown the way. . . Eldridge Cleaver’s theory of the colony within the mother country had, because of its inexactness, its partial view of the problem,  Angela Davis’s analysis seems. in spite of the vanguard role she attaches to the black people, to be an adaptation of orthodox communist ideology: the dimensions of difference which separate people by colour and not by class have not appeared anywhere in her writings. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale had, at the outset, been short on theory and long on practice.

But, over the years of their party’s struggle to defend their community and themselves against immediate economic and police oppression, they had begun, in Newton’s words “to derive ideology from reality,” theory from practice. In the process they had thrown up concepts which, though particular to the black experience in emphasis rather than in essence, pointed the way to the present Panther strategy of forming class alliances within the black community rather than ideological alliances with the whites. Not until their meeting up with George Jackson, however, did revolutionary conceptualisation of the black struggle begin to emerge. And here in the pages of Jackson’s posthumous work are the seedlings of that theory.

The book is comprised of essays, communications, reflections “written literally in bedlam” in the months shortly before his death in August 1971. Basically, they fall into two categories: an analysis of fascism and its current upsurge in America and an outline of the strategy and tactics to build a “black infrastructure.” And although these two aspects of the book do not follow sequentially, Jackson’s thoughts are so much a piece that it is difficult not to see their connection.

Fascism, according to Jackson-and he ranges in his study from Mussolini to Peron – from Falangist Spain to Rumanian Iron Guard, from Krupp to ITT-has many faces. “There have been as many different fascists ideals and arrangements as there have been fascist societies.” It is not, in that sense, to be evaluated in terms of ideology per se. “The ideals of obedience and creativity, authority and freedom, are so contradictory of each other, so mutally exclusive, that the ideology of fascism could never be taken seriously.” It is to be understood, instead, as an economic rearrangement of ruling interests faced with the challenge of socialism.

In America, the fascist thrust had begun as far back as the thirties when Roosevelt, faced with massive labour unrest and mass mobilisation, “put laissez faire to rest and initiated the acceptance of government intervention into economic affairs” with his “New Deal” policies. In the event, the working-class was coopted by the government and prepared the way for the merging of the economic, political and labour elites and the success of monopoly capitalism-which, by any other name, smells fascism. For “bourgeois democracy . ..simply cannot exist after the emergence of monopoly capital. Monopoly capital has its own political expression.”

America today is faced with a different set of class antagonisms. To argue, as Angela Davis has done, that the key to the triumph of fascism is its “ideological victory over the entire working class” is to overlook the co-option of the working class by the ruling elites. One could no longer indulge in the luxury of distinguishing between fascist tactics and overall fascist repression. “Repression is here now and we won’t reach the next level of revolutionary consciousness and activity until we…demonstrate to the people…that resistance is possible.”

That repression had overtaken the “black colony,” anyway. And the first task of the black community in a period of counter-revolution was to withdraw from confrontation and from its erstwhile alliances with the failed “new left” and give itself to the task of building a political infrastructure necessary to combat fascist oppression. In the pursuit of such a communal task, the “Vanguard Black Panther Party” must address itself not only to reviving black working class consciousness through organising them to achieve their realistic demands but to harnessing yet further the insurrectionary intelligence of the lumpenproletariat-for every antisocial act or “crime” of the oppressed must in the very nature of their oppression be considered an insurrectionary act, not deviance from an untenable white norm. As for those blacks who are “making it” within the class structure, conditions will have to be “manufactured” that would make them “neutral or complementary to the revolutionary effort.”

But if the vanguard party is to go about about its work of building a political infrastructure without fear of repression, it must be protected by a military cadre which while serving under the direction of “the political front,” would remain separate from it. Its task initially was to “keep the Panther alive by protecting the party workers with a show of underground strength, watching the watcher, assassinating the assassins . . .” in an effort of sustained antithesis to the counter-revolution. (And it was in the self imposed task of setting up their military arm unbeknown to the Panthers, that Jonathan was killed.) Later, however, “the secret army” would take military initiatives in moving, urban-guerilla fashion, against the oppressive forces of the system.

At this point, on ‘the fundamentals of urban guerilla warfare’ , Jackson’s analysis falls off and begins to rely more on Fidel Castro’s foco theory as enunciated by John Gerassi in The Coming of the New International. It is evident, however, that had Jackson been allowed to live, he would have continued to test the validity of his theories in practice, before further refining the for the next stage of the struggle – even from prison –  for George Jackson had the revolutionary genius of generating a thousand Jonathans, of creating the people that created him.