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Book Review
Last Updated: 10/19/2004
The Importance of Method
Simon Stander

Revolutionary Intercommunalism and the Right of Nations to Self determination,( edited by Amy Gdala) by Huey P Newton and Vladimir Lenin, Superscript Publishers, ISBN 0954291344, paperback, pp. 191, £10.


Revolutionary Intercommunalism and the Right of Nations to Self determination,( edited by Amy Gdala) by Huey P Newton and Vladimir Lenin, Superscript Publishers, ISBN 0954291344, paperback, pp. 191, £10.

 

This is a remarkably clear book, by which I mean it is easy to read. What’s more it is clear about a matter of great interest: can the supposed juggernaut of globalization be answered in a meaningful way through ideas? The answer in this book is yes.

 

Revolutionary Intercommunalism etc (long titles are no bad thing if they are catchy: remember Whatever You Wanted to Know etc?) is divided into four parts: one is an introduction and post comment by Amy Gdala, a second is a statement by Huey P Newton the not so pacifist leader and founder of the Black Panthers, a third an extract from Lenin taking on arguments as received by Rosa Luxemburg but the meat is a debate between Huey P Newton and a group of social theorists at the time of the shootings and protests at Jackson State and Kent State Universities: in this debate he addresses the question of the black divide and of how the world might be re-conceptualised..

 

Huey Newton, along with Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panthers in 1966. Their adoption of aggressive action on behalf of the black, now African-American, population of the USA was noted for its violence and Newton himself suffered a violent death (in 1989), most likely sources say as a result of involvement with illicit  drug mobsters. (By contrast, Bobby Seale is still alive and reasonably well: in his own words he is: "the old cripple-footed revolutionary humanist"  and, of course, has his own web page).

 

Newton eventually came to earn a PhD and along the way was insistent on finding a theoretical base for the Black Panther movement. He was taken intellectually, for instance, by the Kantian concept of universalism and the importance of recognizing both nuomena (ideas or modes of understanding) and the categorical imperative. Gdala argues that this Kantian Universalism has modern day relevance in South African and Rwanda restitutive rather than retributive justice.

 

What also emerges is Newton’s conviction, along with the whole school of dialectic materialists, that everything is in a constant state of change.  Since everything is changing all the time, the revolutionary struggle must not only be permanent but also be in a constant state of change. There can be no end to history (as if any intellectual in their right minds ever thought that might be the case.)

 

Another point, well made and which comes from Freud rather than Marx, is that good and evil cannot be separated out so easily, or as Freud would have it, eros and thanatos are both within us.

 

On the question of nations and nationalism Newton is equally perceptive. He argues that the US nation (along with all technologically advanced economies) has given way to Empire and that the international economic formation means total world domination so that decolonization is not even possible because the colonies cannot decolonize and become what they were formally. There is no going back. The world, in Newton’s words, is a “dispersed collection of communities”. But, as far as he is concerned, the world is in a state of reactionary intercommunalism: the world project is to turn this into revolutionary intercommunalism.

 

This core idea is well worth considering. Those younger writers, academics, journalists, activists and students who see globalization as something new may well consider that the changes apparently now upon us have long histories, and that Huey P Newton, whatever you might think of his ambiguous attitude to violence, has much to offer in a nuomenal sense. The fact that he was capable of violence and loved to be photographed with his guns does not alter the fact that he has much to say in terms of improving our methodology of honest understanding of ways of achieving peace. When he answers those who would attack his own leftist beliefs by crying out that Marx was a racist, he answers calmly that it is irrelevant. What was important is not Marx’s personal beliefs but his contribution to method.

 

In the last ten or fifteen years, new concerns have dominated the social sciences: governance, civil society, social capital, globalization: these terms were little heard of or have come to mean quite different things. This volume helps importantly to revive arguments worth reviving at a time when new ideologies obscuring the older ideologies, obscure, too, many universal truths. Everything changes all the time, but that means knowing and understanding our histories rather than erasing them. This clear text from Superscript Publishers should be read for that reason.

 

Simon Stander

 

The publishers can be contacted at Cyhoeddwyr y Superscript Ltd.,

404 Robin Square, Newtown, Powys, Wales, UK

drjbford@yahoo.co.uk

 

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