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On the Revolutionary "Intercommunalism" of Black Panther Huey P. Newton


At Viewpoint Magazine, Delio Vasquez explores the theory of “intercommunalism” advanced in the early 1970s by Huey P. Newton, cofounder of the Black Panther Party. Vasquez’s essay serves as an extensive introduction to Newton’s essay “Intercommunalism” (1974), which was previously locked away in an archive but has now been made available on the Viewpoint website. As Vasquez writes, Newton’s elaborate and nuanced theory sought to understand how subjugated populations across the globe could unite in a way that built revolutionary power without falling into the trap of nationalism. Here’s an excerpt from Vasquez’s piece:

Newton’s theory of intercommunalism seeks to provide an explanation for the dominating and ultimately determining political force of American capitalist empire on the world stage, the corresponding decline of the political influence of nation-states, and the deterioration of nationalism as a potentially liberatory political ideology. He refers to this condition and phase of capitalism as reactionary intercommunalism. According to Newton in 1970, nation-states can no longer meaningfully be said to exist. Instead, global capital has, through U.S. empire in particular, reduced the world to a collection of communities that lack control over their local conditions of life and which can at most only become autonomous “liberated territories” within that larger empire. These communities can, however, by seizing the material structures that allow for production, technology, and information media, fight to build an interconnected and “cooperative framework” among themselves in a global dynamic that he calls revolutionary intercommunalism. In the words of Elaine Brown, chairwoman of the BPP from 1974 to 1977, Newton’s notion of reactionary intercommunalism is an early conceptualization of what is today “casually euphemized by the capitalist class as ‘globalization.’” The theory of intercommunalism as a whole is an attempt to both describe how revolutionary change might be expected to unfold going forward given these conditions of global empire but also to prescribe how one might go about playing an agential role in such a project.

Image of Huey P. Newton via Medium.