Part 1: Straight talk about the New Cointelpro


Part 2 is called "The making and unmasking of informants."

by Mike Ely

Richard Aoki  was an early supporter of the Black Panther Party. He was credited with providing their first weapons for anti-police "stalk the stalkers" patrols. Now reports are surfacing that claim he was an informant during all those years.

The last time Richard Aoki was discussed on Kasama, it was to honor him after his death.

Now we have a different task.

We will probably avoid making our own verdict on Aoki too quickly.  He is dead and can't speak for himself. All we now have available are the accounts of others -- some by professionals of FBI disinformation. We may never know the full truth.

But this much can be said:

If Richard Aoki was once an inspiration in the past, let these charges be a warning for the present.

Many activists and revolutionaries are now confronting with forces they don't see (and too often, that they don't yet understand). And there is a need for people to become more sophisticated quickly. We need to deploy our embryonic collectivities to enable that.


We are living at a time when we can see the outlines of a New Cointelpro.

I repeat: The outlines of a New Cointelpro. If you don't yet understand what that means, please find out.

After 9/11, massive resources were unleashed by the U.S. government to infiltrate and observe all kinds of political and cultural groups. The recruitment and deployment of informants has (over and over) given rise to cases of agent provocateurs -- where naive or susceptible targets were drawn into entrapment by agents in their midst.

After the high tide of Occupy, police and FBI forces have clearly decided to target, isolate and break those they perceive as a hard-left edge of the Occupy movement. They are using both a classic media disinformation campaigsn and selected raids to intimidate and fish for "evidence." They try to associate the tactically militant with "terrorist" activities and also (ironically) with secret police activity.  Their goals include isolation, division, and the "distancing" of one from the other.

We are at a new beginning -- our rupture with tired past practices should also include a new sophisticated approach to the political police. They are on the move. And we cannot allow our brothers and sisters to stumble into this unprepared.

Some guidelines for discussion:

  • A revolutionary movement needs to be as open as possible to the people (especially in regard to its policies and goals), and as closed as necessary to its enemies.
  • A revolutionary movement needs a sober assessment of its enemies and strategic confidence in its cause.
  • A revolutionary movement cannot afford the illusions or methods of social-democratic forces -- we need a much more realistic sense of the viscousness of the state, the flimsiness of legal protections and the conflict inherent to any serious liberation struggle.
  • Infiltration deploys all the ugly powertrips of a sick society, and all the vices of human beings: Bribery of the financially desperate, corruption of the disaffected, ego flattery of the pathetic, exploitation of the damaged, blackmail of the legally compromised, and intimidations of the selfish -- these are some of their methods for creating informants. Informants don't appear like police types -- they are recruited from both the weak and damaged, from the grandiose and slick. Some come from without (as infiltrators), some come from within (as turn-coats). Informers offer intimacy and flattery. They exploit trust within community. They thrive on gossip and promote a culture of gossip. They often come with money, resources, creds, or useful skills ("What a god-send" becomes the reason to overlook the suspicious). Sometimes they just show up regularly, work hard, and listen without saying much at all.
  • Commitment that seems to surpass understanding is a warning  sign. Consciousness is often hard to fake.
  • Sleazy people do sleazy things -- so often informing is not the only game they play. Sometimes ugly behavior toward women is a marker of larger corruption.
  • Combat liberalism: A revolutionary movement needs to hold each other accountable for behavior. Not look the other way when suspicious things happen. Don't tolerate behaviors that endanger the whole. Deploy the wisdom and judgement of collectivity. Speak candidly and truthfully about problems.
  • Both laxness and paranoia are corrosive to our purposes. Both are encouraged and desired by our stalkers. Combat naiveté with consciousness. Use our rich history to overcome our current inexperience.
  • A movement that doesn't have secrets and can't keep secrets will never survive or flourish under repression.
  • Security is not about protecting each individual, but of protecting the survival and functioning of a movement. It is about taking care of the future within the present, the whole within the part.
  • Security cannot be ignored until repression starts. Security culture is about preparing to detect, deflect, avoid and survive repression well before it is actually unleashed.
  • Learn the laws: Know the legal limits of advocacy in the U.S. Understand how conspiracy laws, RICO, and the Patriot Act shaped government prosecutions. Study how police receive permissions to infiltrate and surveil. Be careful about money. Do not joke or talk loosely about potentially illegal things. Understand the hard legal constraints on international ties.
  • The development of security extracts a cost  from any network. Restricting the flow of protected information can restrict the flow of summation and accountability.
  • We need to do better than was done in the past -- and learn from both positive and negative features from previous experience (not just dismiss it without a thought).

Some specific needs of this moment:

  • To start to develop rudimentary, effective security cultures -- without falling into paralyzing paranoia or a cultish secrecy. This is a creative process, and a political process.
  • To be suspicious of ugly rumor campaigns and efforts to inflame differences into hostilities. Mutual suspicion, inter-left tensions, paranoia and the demoralization of betrayal are all goals of Counter-Intelligence Programs (Cointelpro).
  • To be protective of personal information within the movement.
  • To make sophisticated assessments of people and behaviors -- in a systematic, collective and non-liberal way.
  • To learn the basic profiles and behaviors indicative of infiltrators, informers and agent provocateurs -- and develop careful ways of investigating any troubling whiff of bacon -- without recklessly triggering witch-hunts or destructive snitch-jacketing.
  • To deploy nuanced policies of "need to know" -- where the movement and the people are able to evaluate their own progress, while some matters are kept private.
  • To practice elementary and substantive solidarity for those under attack -- in a way that distinguishes contradictions among the people from contradictions between the people and the enemy.
  • To work on the strategic perspective that deep roots among broad numbers of increasingly conscious people is the key basis for successful survival.

There is much to say about each point above. Much to learn from history. Much to update for our current times -- because of the reactionary legal changes after 9/11, the power of electronic surveillance and also the positive conditions following the birth of new radicalism (following the exhaustion of an older left).


* * * * * * * * *

This story was produced by the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting .

Activist Richard Aoki named as informant

by Seth Rosenfeld, 

Updated 9:33 a.m., Monday, August 20, 2012

Read more:



This story was produced by the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting (, the nation's largest investigative reporting team. E-mail:






The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training - which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s - was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.

One of the Bay Area's most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Capitol.

Aoki went on to work for 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator at the Peralta Community College District, and after his suicide in 2009, he was revered as a fearless radical.

But unbeknownst to his fellow activists, Aoki had served as an FBI intelligence informant, covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him.

That agent, Burney Threadgill Jr., recalled that he approached Aoki in the late 1950s, about the time Aoki was graduating from Berkeley High School. He asked Aoki if he would join left-wing groups and report to the FBI.

"He was my informant. I developed him," Threadgill said in an interview. "He was one of the best sources we had."

The former agent said he asked Aoki how he felt about the Soviet Union, and the young man replied that he had no interest in communism.

"I said, 'Well, why don't you just go to some of the meetings and tell me who's there and what they talked about?' Very pleasant little guy. He always wore dark glasses," Threadgill recalled.

Book details role

Aoki's work for the FBI, which has never been reported, was uncovered and verified during research for the book by this reporter, "Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power." The book, based on research spanning three decades, will be published Tuesday by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


In 2007, two years before he committed suicide, Aoki was asked in a tape-recorded interview for the book if he had been an FBI informant. Aoki's first response was a long silence. He then replied, " 'Oh,' is all I can say."

Later during the same interview, Aoki contended the information wasn't true.

Asked if this reporter was mistaken that Aoki had been an informant, Aoki said, "I think you are," but added: "People change. It is complex. Layer upon layer."

FBI code number

The FBI later released records about Aoki in response to a federal Freedom of Information Act request made by this reporter. A Nov. 16, 1967, intelligence report on the Black Panthers lists Aoki as an "informant" with the code number "T-2."


An FBI spokesman declined to comment on Aoki, citing litigation seeking additional records about him under the Freedom of Information Act.

Since Aoki shot himself at his Berkeley home after a long illness, his legend has grown. In a 2009 feature-length documentary film, "Aoki," and a 2012 biography, "Samurai Among Panthers," he is portrayed as a militant radical leader. Neither mentions that he had worked with the FBI.

Harvey Dong, who was a fellow activist and close friend, said last week that he had never heard that Aoki was an informant.

"It's definitely something that is shocking to hear," said Dong, who was the executor of Aoki's estate. "I mean, that's a big surprise to me."

Finding the informant

Threadgill recalled that he first approached Aoki after a bureau wiretap on the home phone of Saul and Billie Wachter, local members of the Communist Party, picked up Aoki talking to Berkeley High classmate Doug Wachter.


At first, Aoki gathered information about the Communist Party, Threadgill said. But Aoki soon focused on the Socialist Workers Party and its youth affiliate, the Young Socialist Alliance, which also were targets of an intensive FBI domestic security investigation.





By spring 1962, Aoki had been elected to the Berkeley Young Socialist Alliance's executive council, FBI records show. That December, he became a member of the Oakland-Berkeley branch of the Socialist Workers Party, where he served as the representative to Bay Area civil rights groups. He also was on the steering committee of the Committee to Uphold the Right to Travel, which worked to give students the right to travel to Cuba. In 1965, Aoki joined the Vietnam Day Committee, an influential antiwar group based in Berkeley, and worked on its international committee as liaison to foreign antiwar activists.

All along, Aoki met regularly with his FBI handler. Aoki also filed reports by phone, Threadgill said.

"I'd call him and say, 'When do you want to get together?' " Threadgill recalled. "I'd say, 'I'll meet you on the street corner at so-and-so and so on.' I would park a couple of blocks away and get out and go and sit down and talk to him."

'He had guns'

Threadgill worked with Aoki through mid-1965, when he moved to another FBI office and turned Aoki over to a fellow agent.


Aoki gave the Panthers some of their first guns. As Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale recalled in his memoir, "Seize the Time," the group approached Aoki, "a Third World brother we knew, a Japanese radical cat. He had guns ... .357 Magnums, 22's, 9mm's, what have you."

In early 1967, Aoki joined the Black Panther Party and gave them more guns, Seale wrote. Aoki also gave Panther recruits weapons training, he said in the 2007 interview.

Although carrying weapons was legal at the time, there is little doubt their presence contributed to fatal confrontations between the Panthers and the police.

Deadly shootouts

On Oct. 28, 1967, Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton was in a shootout that wounded Oakland Officer Herbert Heanes and killed Officer John Frey. On April 6, 1968, Eldridge Cleaver and five other Panthers were involved in a firefight with Oakland police. Cleaver and two officers were wounded, and Panther Bobby Hutton was killed.


M. Wesley Swearingen, a retired FBI agent who has criticized unlawful bureau surveillance activities under Director J. Edgar Hoover, reviewed some of the FBI's records. He concluded in a sworn declaration that Aoki had been an informant.

"I believe that Aoki was an informant," said Swearingen, who served in the FBI from 1951 to 1977 and worked on a squad that investigated the Panthers.

"Someone like Aoki is perfect to be in a Black Panther Party, because I understand he is Japanese," he added. "Hey, nobody is going to guess - he's in the Black Panther Party; nobody is going to guess that he might be an informant."

This story was produced by the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting (, the nation's largest investigative reporting team. E-mail:




People in this conversation

  • Guest - walterlx

    I joined the Young Socialist Alliance in 1962 and the Socialist Workers Party in 1967, remaining a member until my involuntary departure in 1983. After that I belonged to a small offshoot until 1988, and have not been organizationally-affiliated since 1988. I can tell you there was no such office as "executive council" in the YSA or SWP during the years I belonged to it. The leading local bodies were called "executive committees", not "councils". It's a small point, but should be noted.

    It's worth keeping in mind an historic tactic of the FBI which has become known as "putting a snitch jacket" on someone. This means, falsely planting allegations that someone is an FBI or other agency informant so as to sow distrust among activists in a political movement.

    Here are two items worth looking at in this connection:

    At this page put the term "snitch jacket" into your web search engine:

    Has anyone tried to find out what Diane C. Fujino thinks of all this? After all, she is the author of a major biography of Richard Aoki. By the way, I don't recall him during my years in the YSA and SWP, but I rarely visited the Bay Area.

  • Guest - louisproyect

    I am probably in a small minority on this but I believe the Panthers should have never carried guns in public after the first dramatic demonstration that brought them world attention. It was important as a symbol of militancy but anything that lent credibility to the idea that they were a liberation army in embryo was a terrible mistake, although understandable given the ultraleft mood of the period.

    Malcolm X never carried a weapon but he was promoting an agenda that had tremendous revolutionary potential. Also, Malcolm (who I heard speak in the winter of 1965 at a Militant Labor Forum 2 years before I became an SWP member) always used defensive formulations. When asked whether he was in favor of violence, he always said that he only advocated self-defense. Black people had the right to defend a church that was threatened by white racists for its civil rights advocacy, and so on.

    The rhetoric of "off the pigs" might have excited 19 year old SDS'ers but it confused the average American who was led to believe that the cops had a right to what amounted to self-defense. In other words, the victim became the criminal and the criminal the victim.

    The movement has to learn to prevent such misrepresentations. That is one of the reasons I was so dead-set against Black Bloc adventurism and dismayed by confusion about it here.

  • Well, I understand we disagree. Perhaps it is worth, at some point, teasing out your point:

    <blockquote>"The rhetoric of “off the pigs” might have excited 19 year old SDS’ers but it confused the average American..."</blockquote>

    it is related to the argument by Josh Sykes that supporting Obama is a kind of concession to where the people are at.

    In fact, there are many audiences and sections of the people -- and (as you correctly say) what excites a young radical may turn off an older more conservative person.

    I don't think that the solution is to confine our work to what is non-offensive to the broad middle strata. I think we should (on principle) not attack or threaten them (i.e. not treat them as enemies). But a politics confined to what the unawakened can appreciate is a politics that (almost by definition) will be drained of revolutionary content and energy.

    I think our politics should be aimed (precisely) at radically inclined 19 year olds (while also having "an eye" toward larger outreach and openings).

    The same things that drew (literally) millions toward revolutionary politics (in 1968-70) -- also propelled millions into the George Wallace movement and the beginnings of the religious right. We want a better polarization than we got in 1968, and how we present our politics has a role to play in that. (I'm not denying the value of paying attention to multiple audiences.)

    But -- Different times have different openings of course -- sometimes we are speaking to tens of thousands, sometimes we may speak to millions (i.e. have the opening to be "heard" by them). And whatever we do, it should flow from our politics (not from some other politics). I.e. it is one thing to imagine a mass line that is a method of <em>communist</em> leadership -- it is another thing to imagine a mass line that is essentially a mirror to the moment (and that reflects backward as well as advanced thinking).

    I'm convinced that in ordinary times, even the relatively advanced (generally in society) are not that receptive to revolutionary and communist politics -- but that there are pockets (cohorts) that are. This was part of what I drew from my experiences in the coalfields (where we led literally tens of thousands in wildcat strikes, and had occasionally real organization among active and militant miners) but where there was no interest or receptivity to socialist or revolutionary politics. (We only recruited one miner in the decade of work that I know of.)

    I explored the implication of this in a series of articles:

    But again: my main point is that confining our politics and tactics to what is easily accessible to intermediate people (in the U.S. of all places!) will lead directly to social democracy (and in America, to social democrats mascarading as left liberals) -- a politics often filled with white blindspots, patriotic national-selfabsorbtion, and inclinations toward electoralism.

    I'm just saying....

  • Guest - Moz

    Yes - shocking to say the least not so much, on a certain level the movement creating openings for this to happen - the historic tailing of the oppressed and cults that emerged - and even more shockingly still exist today but moreso how low can the enforcers of capitalism/imperialism can stoop, more now than ever with torture, racist brutality in targeting our brothers and their self defense/independence initiatives. It seems Aoki justified working w these enforcers and radicalism on "different layers" but they are inherently contradictory and produces the kind of alienation we to scientifically guard against.

  • Guest - louisproyect

    Mike, I learned my politics from people who actually armed self-defense against fascists in Minnesota in the 1930s, who learned their politics in turn from the leader of the Red Army. I don't believe that this vindicates them but it has fuck-all to do with voting for Obama.

    The United States in the 1930s became a battleground between industrial workers and the capitalist class over whether workers would be able to form industrial unions. There had been craft unions for decades, but only industrial unions could fight for all of the workers in a given plant or industry. This fight had powerful revolutionary implications since the captains of heavy industry required a poorly paid, docile work-force in order to maximize profits in the shattered capitalist economy. There were demonstrations, sit-down strikes and even gun-fights led by the Communist Party and other left groups to establish this basic democratic right.

    Within this political context, fascist groups began to emerge. They drew their inspiration from Mussolini's fascists or Hitler's brown-shirts. In a time of severe social crisis, groups of petty-bourgeois and lumpen elements begin to coalesce around demagogic leaders. They employ "radical" sounding rhetoric but in practice seek out working-class organizations to intimidate and destroy. One such fascist group was the Silver Shirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    In chapter eleven of "Teamster Politics", SWP leader Farrell Dobbs recounts "How the Silver Shirts Lost Their Shrine in Minneapolis". It is the story of how Local 544 of the Teamsters union, led by Trotskyists, defended itself successfully from a fascist expedition into the city. Elements of the Twin Cities ruling-class, alarmed over the growth of industrial unionism in the city, called in Silver Shirt organizer Roy Zachary. Zachary hosted two closed door meetings on July 29 and August 2 of 1938. Teamster "moles" discovered that Zachary intended to launch a vigilante attack against Local 544 headquarters. They also discovered that Zachary planned to work with one F.L. Taylor to set up an "Associated Council of Independent Unions", a union-busting operation. Taylor had ties to a vigilante outfit called the "Minnesota Minute Men".

    Local 544 took serious measures to defend itself. It formed a union defense guard in August 1938 open to any active union member. Many of the people who joined had military experience, including Ray Rainbolt the elected commander of the guard. Rank-and-filers were former sharpshooters, machine gunners and tank operators in the US Army. The guard also included one former German officer with WWI experience. While the guard itself did not purchase arms except for target practice, nearly every member had hunting rifles at home that they could use in the circumstance of a Silver Shirt attack.

    Events reached a climax when Pelley came to speak at a rally in the wealthy section of Minneapolis.

    Ray Rainbolt organized a large contingent of defense guard members to pay a visit to Calhoun Hall where Pelley was to make his appearance. The powerful sight of disciplined but determined unionists persuaded the audience to go home and Pelley to cancel his speech.

    This was the type of conflict taking place in 1938. A capitalist class bent on taming workers; fascist groups with a documented violent, anti-labor record; industrial workers in motion: these were the primary actors in that period. It was characteristic of the type of class conflict that characterized the entire 1930s. It is useful to keep this in mind when we speak about McCarthyism.

  • Guest - Moz

    The should have been stated "brothers and sisters". As was said in Rev China - women hold up half the sky. :)

  • Guest - Hopey, changey, smashy, smashy

    The Aoki revelations come from a period where the original COINTELPRO was in play so I'm not sure why the revelations constitute a "new" COINTELPRO. The only thing that is new about the FBI's nearly one hundred year practice of infiltrating, planting operatives and generally fucking with radical movements is that like most contemporary government agencies they now contract out to private firms and individuals.

    If the Aoki revelations are true it is shocking but I'm not sure if the moral outrage of this piece does radicals much good. Many informants in the past have been blackmailed into doing what they've done. Not sure if that makes them weak or pitiful. And even if it does how does that help radicals on the ground in dealing with this shadow dance with the surveillance state we've been doing since 1919 or thereabouts?

    Equally, combatting liberalism will not help radicals when infiltrators pose as revolutionaries as Aoki allegedly did.

  • HCSS writes:

    <blockquote>"The Aoki revelations come from a period where the original COINTELPRO was in play so I’m not sure why the revelations constitute a “new” COINTELPRO. "</blockquote>

    thanks for a change to make my point clearer.

    The Panthers were assaulted by the original Cointelpro (which originated in the 50s and developed into an elaborate and aggressive counter-insurgency program.) If Aoki was an FBI informant (and I believe we don't know that yet), he was part of that wave of Cointelpro.

    My argument is that after 9/11, a vast new covert offensive has been unleashed by the U.S. government and its political police. We are only seeing the early initial signs of that surfacing, and there is a large still-unseen series of operation. Many (probably most) of them are aimed as Muslim communities in the U.S. -- but we have more and more evidence of the exploitation of 9/11 hysterias to unleash secret police against the radical left as well. One of the most visible signs of this (so far!) is the series of agent provocateur entrapments aimed at forces that seem connected to Black Block anarchism.

    It is true, as you say, that the U.S. government has deployed political police throughout the last century. They launched the Palmer-Hoover raids against Communists in the 1920s. But it is not some single continuum. there have been period of intense persecution. And I am seeking to raise a warning that the government is aggressively seeking to infiltrate and destroy sections of the radical left, that much of this is still unseen, and that radicals today need to collectively up their common level of sophistication and alertness.

  • Guest - robert wood

    Louis, a lot of black bloc tactics got developed fighting fascists in the here and now, particularly in relationship to Anti-Racist Action and other similar groups. That being said, I'm not a big fan of the random property destruction transforms a protest from being 'symbolic' to something 'real' crowd.

    Hope, Change, and Smash, I agree that the combating liberalism can't get rid of all infiltrators, but it can lead to healthier, stronger revolutionary organizations, and mitigate the damage of provocateurs (and the all of the destructive stuff that exists in our movements that isn't directly connected to repressive state apparatuses.

  • Guest - moz

    I wanted to add to the criminal behavior of the capitalist system that also, apparently this all occurred when he was very young - if it did in fact occur - when he was out of the military so this oppressive report to the top dog mentality would have been at play.

  • Guest - Hopey, changey, smashy, smashy

    Interesting responses. Thanks. There hasn't been a single continuum in the FBI but then neither has there been one in the history of the radical and revolutionary left in the U.S. Each new political movement birthed new techniques in repression. And perhaps that could even be said to work the other way round. Equally, there has been a shifting sense of "alien threats" to the U.S. that the FBI and the U.S. government have targeted over the years, most tragically the Japanese-American community who were interned in concentration camps during the second world war. The singling out, repression and in many cases the destruction of different communities by governmental forces is also not new. I'd recommend Curt Gentry's book on J. Edgar Hoover who, if you believe that he masterminded the Palmer Raids, did represent a kind of continuum in his fifty year plus reign over the FBI and the administrations of multiple presidencies.

  • Guest - Miles Ahead

    <blockquote> “•To be suspicious of ugly rumor campaigns and efforts to inflame differences into hostilities. Mutual suspicion, inter-left tensions, paranoia and the demoralization of betrayal are all goals of Counter-Intelligence Programs (Cointelpro).” </blockquote>

    One of the ugly rumors encircling the BPP, was during the split in that organization—over line, strategy and tactics, as represented between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton. Rumor had it that (developed as stated fact—with very conspiratorial under-overtones) Eldridge was an informant, and was trying to lead the BPP astray.

    I have no idea where that rumor started. But am definitely NOT saying it emanated from those in leadership of the Huey faction; however, without an elevation in political consciousness and awareness, a schooling in a better understanding of the differences in line, amongst the rank and file (or even broader) damage was done—maybe most especially to some morale…both within the organization as well as with many supporters.

    And if one wants to see some effects of the “exposure” (and rumor-mongering) of Richard Aoki (which I find flimsy at best), and furthermore more of an indictment of the Black Panther Party and its overwhelmingly militant role in the Black Liberation Struggle, you need not look any further than the over 130 blog comments at the SF <i>Gate</i> site.

    I think this “article” is disturbing (and potentially dangerous) on a couple of fronts:

    One, some others close to Richard Aoki, who have been stalwart revolutionaries or radical political thinkers and doers for decades, are implicated by association.

    The assertion against R. Aoki is delivered posthumously (and relies on statements by two former FBI agents!) But more than his death (and his inability to speak for himself), I think the motivation is to drive another nail in what the Cointelpro and related forces, would like to see as the coffin of the BPP or any real militancy among the oppressed.

    Furthermore, this “exposé” makes it seem like Richard Aoki was the one, if not the only one, who was “calling the shots” and responsible for the BPP´s whole notion--the right of self-defense and protecting the Black community against wanton use of violence and murder by the cops and the State. Another attempt to discredit not only the BPP, but even Malcolm X or the Black Liberation struggle.

    The word “suicide” was mentioned several times—and from what I do know from sources I am close with, who remained close to Aoki until the end, suicide was not the cause of his death. Just stating “suicide,” without explanation, has set off many alarm bells among several people who are following (or weighing in as—judge, jury, and executioner—even though Richard Aoki is already dead) about his ultimate demise.

    Fact is, Richard Aoki had been suffering for a very long time from terminal illness. <i>If </i> he did commit suicide, any mention of his wanting to end his physical suffering, or the emotional suffering of his family, was conveniently not reported. And a conclusion drawn from some of the bloggers is indicative of the slanted way this was reported, one even saying, “no wonder he committed suicide….” (the implication a political one.)

    Are there real snitches and informants planted among various movements and organizations? Are the attempts to gather information or discredit leaders and rank and file real? Of course they/there are.

    (In 1969, there was a guy who was working a lot with the BPP, and kept trying to join—their regulations were fairly rigorous at the time for joining the organization. Then again, there were a few who undoubtedly fell through the cracks, and even more so as the struggle (and org.) broadened. But this particular individual was becoming suspicious—from some of his practice, questions and ideas touted. He was somewhat outted after more thorough investigation, and just as suddenly as he had appeared, he disappeared from the scene. I find it hard to understand how Richard Aoki would not have been found out long before now. And I have to question the motivation for this reporting in the first place.)

    So while I do think that the revolutionary-minded, et al. have to be less naïve, and more vigilant, we hopefully cannot allow Cointelpro and their ilk to paralyze us with paranoia and the like.

    Wasn´t long ago that Mike Ely was unjustifiably called a pig by an organization on the Left, so for some who are less informed, or may have recently gotten involved, those unwarranted attacks seemed directed at them…to stir up some phony pot and discredit and sidestep some vital political line struggle and differences.

    With all due respect to the Center for Investigative Reporting, who does do a lot of good work, here is their statement from their website as to what their purpose is—which might be informative:

    <blockquote> “About CIR

    “In today's media landscape, many news organizations no longer report – they merely repost. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is different. We arm the public with thoroughly reported stories that offer deep explanations of complex issues – from the environment to immigration, government accountability, education, health, campaign finance and more. And we cover those stories locally, nationally and internationally. Founded in 1977, CIR is the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative reporting organization – producing multimedia reporting that enables people to demand accountability from government, corporations and others in power.” </blockquote>

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "The book ... will be published Tuesday ..."

    I can't pretend to have much to say either way, but if anyone is going to take this up as a major topic then obviously getting the book and reading it carefully is required. Perhaps the book will prove to be based upon phantom inferences. Or maybe some substantive documentation will be contained therein. Either way, any detailed assessment will have to involve first studying what the book has to offer.

  • Guest - Binh

    Actually Malcolm X put together an assassination squad to "off the pigs" in 1962 in retaliation for the LAPD shooting NOI member Ronald Stokes as he surrendered to them with his hands in the air. The only reason Malcolm X didn't go through with it is because Elijah Muhammad ordered him to stand down.

    Malcolm X certainly used defensive formulations but it was those formulations that nearly led him to shoot back in 1962 as many Panthers did when cops started gunning for (or rather, at) them.

    People should buy and read Manning Marable's biography of Malcom X which is where this tidbit of history comes from.

  • Guest - dickreilly

    Louis Proyect writes "Malcolm X never carried a weapon but he was promoting an agenda that had tremendous revolutionary potential" - Louis, you might want to revise the first part of that sentence. Here's the iconic photograph of Malcolm that appeared in Ebony magazine.: As for Malcolm's position on armed self-defense, I'd suggest revisiting his legendary speech at Ford Auditorium. given on February 14, 1965 , the very night his house in NYC was firebombed. -

  • Guest - louisproyect

    Sorry, folks, "Off the pigs" was a bad, bad, bad formulation especially when it became a chant at Black Panther rallies that were televised. By 1970, the Black Panther newspaper was regularly featuring front-pages with images of porcine cops being riddled by bullets. Ultraleftism was endemic at the time, especially among groups styling themselves as Maoists. SDS destroyed itself by falling under the illusion that confrontations with the cops were key to moving forward, just as the Black Bloc believes today. The most pressing need in 1970 was to form a Black political party that could have led to the eventual dissolution of the Democratic Party allowing other more class-struggle oriented electoral formations to make a lasting impact on American politics. I am not sure how many of you have read this, but George Breitman's "How a Minority Can Change Society" makes a lot of sense to me:

    Finally, let's not kid ourselves. The key to ending racist police violence in America today is not the formation of Black militias. It is mass action that forces retreats. For example, stop and frisk, which has led to beatings and sometimes killings, is not going to be stopped by shoot-outs with the cops. The struggle will be advanced by large-scale protests such as the one that took place several months ago.

    I was in Houston, Texas in 1973-1975 when the city was literally under a reign of terror. The KKK had bombed the Pacifica radio tower twice, our headquarters once, and riddled the home of one of our comrades with machine gun bullets late one night. This was Fred Brode's home, a retired railroad worker who had been involved with street fights with the Nazis in Germany.

    Our strategy was not to arm ourselves but to form a democratic rights united front type coalition that put pressure on the city to rein in the Klan. We were successful. The Houston that emerged was one that did not have to fear Klan bombings. The worst thing we could have done was stock weapons in our headquarters. One Saturday afternoon we were organizing Militant newspapers sales when the KKK showed up on the streets below toting M-16s. I doubt that they intended to storm our headquarters and kill people but it could have been a disaster if we went out on the streets with guns ourselves.

    The Communist Workers Party in North Carolina made a tragic mistake in thinking that guns were the key to defense against the Klan. The cops are always acting in cahoots with such fascist-like groups and can help stage confrontations that leave us vulnerable. The CWP was a very promising group but this disaster led to its eventual collapse.

  • Guest - louisproyect

    Here’s the iconic photograph of Malcolm that appeared in Ebony magazine.:


    In general I am leery of Malcolm iconography, or Che Guevara iconography. We have had millions of Malcolm and Che t-shirts since their death but very few attempts to build movements based on their ideas, which require serious consideration not only of what they said right but also their mistakes.

  • Guest - louisproyect

    Actually Malcolm X put together an assassination squad to “off the pigs” in 1962 in retaliation for the LAPD shooting NOI member Ronald Stokes as he surrendered to them with his hands in the air. The only reason Malcolm X didn’t go through with it is because Elijah Muhammad ordered him to stand down.


    Well, Elijah Muhammad was right. The NOI was most certainly riddled with agents who would have revealed Malcolm's role in any assassinations. He would have been arrested and put in prison for the rest of his life, hence depriving us of the latter Malcolm X who was evolving toward socialism.

  • I'm not against having this conversation, Louis. There is a great deal to explore -- and much of it has to do with the evolution and impatience of the civil rights movement, and the leaps it took toward revolutionary impatience.

    In other words, you can't evaluate such leaps (which were popular, intense, and heartfelt among one of the most important sections of the people) apart from their organic quality. There was a vivid feeling of "we are not asking for our freedom any more, hat in hand, we are taking it. We are asserting ourselves. We are not asking from the powerful, we intend to take power." this mood was very real and powerful. And it was the most profound revolutionary sentiment to emerge in modern American history.

    The fact that it took forms that were sometimes impolitic is not surprising. Revolutionary sentiments often don't emerge in the forms or presentations that are expected... and they are often expressed by people not thinking in a larger strategic sense. "Let's not offend white people" was a drum that had been beaten by the old civil rights leaders -- and so the Black Power movement often simply dispensed with that concern, going for self-assertion, and "letting the chips fall where they may."

    Again: this was an organic movement. It expressed deep, popular sentiments of the most politically engaged and serious section of the oppressed. And it was extremely important for revolutionary people to join, support, learn from (and then on the basis of those three, influence).

    We Maoists said that "The panthers have ideologized the gun back onto the stage." This came after decades in which the CP (and various forces jumping out of the CP) had ideologized change without the gun.

    In one sense, the revolutionary movement had arrived (and the panthers were an acute expression of that), but the Revolution itself had not come (i.e. an actual attempt at power was not yet possible, or on the horizon).

    The chant you are referring to started "The revolution has come. Off the pig / time to pick up the gun, off the pig/ No more pigs in our community, off the pig / etc."

    I don't think we can reduce the experience of the Panthers to a textual summation of their chants. And clearly their chants were not (literally) accurate.

    I'm not going to go beyond this, at the moment. But I am trying to say several things:

    * There are moments when an organic revolutionary sentiment emerges from key strata of the people -- deep, fiery, unprecedented. And at such moments, every force in society has to decide where they stand. The Black Power movement, the scores of urban rebellions, and then the Panthers were such a sentiment, and created such a moment.

    * Politics (especially when it springs to life anew, in novel and unprecedented forms) won't confirm to scripts, and won't conform to textual critiques. The issue is to look at what movements and people *represent* objectively.

    * Mao urges us, in such moments, not to tail behind the people, complaining and gesticulating... but learn and lead.

    The Panthers were one of the best things that ever happened in American history. It was (imho) the highpoint of revolutionary politics since the civil war (and I know that having studied<a href="/’s-last-revolutionary-years/" rel="nofollow"> the 1930s</a> up close, and knowing the madness/complexity of the 60s directly).

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Don't take this wrong, and this is not an attempt to silence anyone or anything: but I have an overall problem with this particular discussion <em>dominating</em> the aftermath of Aoki:

    We are exploring whether there is uncovered still more evidence of FBI attack on the Panthers, or whether we have some new Cointelpro effort (now) to smear their legacy.

    And I think it is wrong to use that moment to attack the panthers (yet again). It is actually a moment to appreciate (again, more fully, and from the distance of time) how remarkable and valuable they were.

    If Aoki was an agent, it was because the FBI wanted to extinguish the revolutionary spark the Panthers had lit. (Not as some liberals say, with a mix of ignorance and dishonesty, because the FBI might have wanted to encouraged armed patrols following the Oakland police -- which is an absurd idea).

    We are in a time when Oakland has emerged as a key revolutionary center within the Occupy movement, where the Panther legacy is (with great justification) a source of pride and inspiration, and where liberals are trying to demonize Black Block groups (and make that demonization a way to attack or neutralizea broader radicalism within Occupy). And then, suddenly, in the middle of that, a now-dead, long-respected founding Panther is accused of being an informant.

    What is our response to that? To focus our discussion on criticisms of the panthers, to become a platform for some other attempt to dismiss their militancy? I think that would be very wrong -- it would be exactly the opposite of what is needed here.

  • Guest - louisproyect

    Okay, clearly you don't think that it is relevant that a possible FBI agent was an arms supplier to the Black Panther Party. We have very, very, very sharp disagreements about what all this means so I will not say anything else if for no other reason that I have said it all.

  • Guest - jfsp

    First of all young revolutionaries are not familiar in my opinion with the Panthers and a lot of other groups. "This is not your fathers revolution". Ask them about various groups from the past it's like "who?" I think that may be an interesting discussion.

  • Guest - Morning Window

    In the list above, what is meant by "be careful about money"? Is that to avoid "material support of terrorism" in the law?

    Also: "To make sophisticated assessments of people and behaviors — in a systematic, collective and non-liberal way." Is there a model for how to do this? It seems like it would be very hard to do well in the context of "Being protective of personal information" and "need to know."

  • Guest - walterlx

    Today's DEMOCRACY NOW features a debate between Seth Rosenfeld and Diance C. Fujino, who wrote the recently-published biography of Richard Aoki. Fujino rejects the allegation that Aoki was an FBI informant. Fujino, adding that she's open to whatever the truth might be, says the documentation provided by Rosenfeld doesn't convince her and is inconclusive at best.

    Here's the link to their debate:

  • Guest - X Y

    louis is a self-proclaimed "ex-trotskyist" but the same handicaps of american trotskyism persist in his worldview. there is thus a blindness to why most of the non-white radical and revolutionary organizing in the 60's and 70's gravitated towards the third-world oriented and m-l or m-l-m formations of the new communist movement. thus he thinks it's somehow "significant "that an (alleged) fbi informer provided guns. this assumes the panthers wouldn't have tried other means to obtain them, let alone even come together as an organization in the first place.

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