intro by Ashanti Omowali
This particular work by Eldridge was published after the 1971 split in the Black Panther Party, the approximate time was 1973-1974, and it was published by the Black Liberation Front of England. Here, Eldridge continues to demonstrate his strength and political value as a visionary and theoretician for the Struggle.
The strength and value of this particular writing lies in its daring to sharply veer from the traditional marxist norm by factoring in the impact of powerful technological processes. Such processes have qualitatively transformed the world and people’s relationship to each other based on the ownership and control of said technology. Traditional revolutionary concepts and ideas must be challenged in light of one’s growing and more penetrating analyses of the world.
Lastly, this writing also demonstrates an ever deepening and broadening clarification of such concepts as Lumpen and Lumpenproletariat. A comparison of On The Ideology Of The Black Panther Party, with this later work, On Lumpen Ideology, will help the reader to see Eldridge’s theoretical evolution, and his unfolding clarity as to the history of people’s struggles against odds, systems and mentalities of oppression.
Eldridge raises the issue of the profound influence of the role and function of Technology as a Frankenstein’s monster in the hands of a planetary pigocracy. He projects the Lumpen as the future grave digger of all authoritarian, fascist orders (capitalist, democratic, socialist/communist) and vanguard of a possible Utopia.
This is the Essential Eldridge, who, during the days of the Panther, demonstrated the X-factor as the Potential of any human being to rise above their circumstances and become strong, vital and powerful contributors to the Eternal Processes of Revolution.
POWER TO AFRIKANS-IN-AMERIKKA!
STRUGGLE TO UNIFY!
STRUGGLE TO POWER!
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
— PANTHER X ’94
ON LUMPEN IDEOLOGY
by ELDRIDGE CLEAVER
Reprinted from The Black Scholar, Nov-Dec, 1972
ELDRIDGE CLEAVER, author of Soul on Ice and Post- Prison Writings and Speeches, is internationally known as a black revolutionary and theoretician. Since 1969 he has resided in Algiers with his wife, Kathleen, and child. Formerly Minister of Information with the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver is now head of the International Black Panther Party in Algeria, and actively involved in third world national liberation struggles.
IN REALITY, TIME IS AN unbroken span of matter in motion, of movement and interaction. Objectively, the universe is timeless, and time is a category created by the relationship between form and motion. When we isolate any portion of matter in motion, for purposes of analysis, our efforts there by encounter, the primary disaster of inquiry, because a part has been substituted for the whole. And, as human beings, since none of us knows everything and all of us know something, I would argue that this partial understanding is the root of all evil. Here we are, each of us standing there with our separate realities, collectively looking like the pieces of a Chinese puzzle.
When it comes to studying and analyzing social, political, and economic problems, the situation created by our partial views of reality plunges us into a most unfortunate crisis. And since the discussion of social, political, and economic problems is a partisan arena, the special pleading and distortions intended to deceive keep us bogged down in a morass of confusion which renders many problems impossible to solve. In the first place, in order for people to move, together, united in a common design, they have to agree, they have to understand, and they must share a point of view. This would be a difficult enough task if our only problems were those of fitting together our pieces of the puzzle. But when we also have to deal with treachery and deception we end up driven by the ship, stumbling blindly, like oxen, pulling somebody’s wagon, fighting, dying, and working for goals we neither understand nor share. Sometimes we call this fate, or bad luck, or we just say that it’s fucked up. Yes, it’s fucked up. Partly because the human condition is fucked up from the go, like a herd of monkeys rustling through the leaves, and partly because there are people who are deliberately keeping the shit fucked up.
There are periods in history, however, when people have gotten their heads together on what’s happening. Enough of them understand clearly enough to unite with each other in the rejection of the lies, the treacherous distortions, and deceptive fabrications, enough so that they are able to unite, build some machinery, and move to solve some of the social, political, and economic problems that are oppressing them. The last time this was done on a world scale was signaled by the gigantic achievement in analysis and synthesis of Karl Marx.
DRAWING UPON A VAST AMOUNT of the storehouse of human knowledge, i.e., the information on the world centralized in the universities and libraries and museums of Europe, Marx was able to present a definition and picture of reality that could serve as a broad symbol for dealing rationally and programmatically with a world in chaos. Marx was interested in providing what he saw as the majority of humanity with a tool of understanding that would enable them to effectively combat and ultimately transform the capitalist system which had grown up and was then in control of the world. Starting in 1849, with the publication of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, in collaboration with Frederick Engels, Marx continued to develop, expand, and refine his analysis until, some 30 years later, he brought it to full flower in his epochal book, DAS KAPITAL.
Marx’s vision of capitalist society became the rallying point of the dispossessed people both inside the capitalist countries themselves and by the people in other parts of the world who were shackled in colonial bondage by the capitalist countries as they reached out to encompass the world in their system. Marx brilliantly described the monstrous concentration of the ownership of the means of production into the hands of the ruling bourgeois class, with the majority of humanity, the proletariat class, ground underfoot by the capitalists in their mad rush for profits, and chained by an iron law in slavery to wages.
Today, a full century after the time of Karl Marx, we find a very curious situation upon our hands. Heroic struggle has been waged against capitalism and the bourgeoisie, and the dispossessed people of the world have made great gains in their efforts to regain control of their lives and destiny, and to live a full and abundant, independent and free life. A number of people, numerically amounting to a huge hunk of humanity, and geographically spanning a vast area of the globe, have completely uprooted and rejected the capitalist system, building instead new social, political, and economic systems, patterned, vaguely, along the lines laid down by Karl Marx in his searching analysis of history, his present reality, and the probable future evolution of civilization. The socialist countries of the world are the children of Karl Marx, and they have grown gigantic and powerful, conglomerated into Superpowers, able to rival and stand off the whole of the capitalist world. And yet, we are not free. We are still oppressed. Indeed, we see clearly that even inside the socialist countries themselves the people are oppressed and subjected to totalitarian elite dictatorships that use state terror and police power to maintain their rule. At the same time, the level of oppression inside the capitalist countries has reached a point of desperate ruthlessness that has given rise to a social, political, and economic depravity unparalleled in the history of the world.
The fact is that, today, the vast majority of the people of the world are still oppressed, some inside the capitalist countries, some inside the socialist countries, and others inside the underdeveloped Third World, or formerly colonized areas, now transformed into states and nations, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In all of these areas, the oppressed people have one thing in common, not only does Marxism not ultimately help them either in understanding or dealing with their plight, but Marxism, in the form of socialist states and communist parties, has entered the camp of the enemy and joined with the enemy in the common task of repressing and blocking revolutionary forces in the world. That is a mindblower: the capitalists and the Socialist/Communists have gotten together, objectively if not subjectively, merged their pieces of the puzzle together to form a superpower perspective, and they are looking down, and askance, at us.
AND WHO ARE WE? Who is this ‘us’, still oppressed and longing to be free? Who are we that neither capitalism, socialism, nor third worldism provides for? Yes, we have an identity problem – or better yet, an identity crisis. We have no trouble in not identifying with capitalism, our old enemy, or in condemning, to death, the bourgeoisie. But we thought that Socialism was our future and represented what we were fighting for, and if we are not proletarians, what are we, what’s left? At this point, we know that we stand in a cross. We know damned well that we are not fighting to establish a society that will produce more Breshnevs, Chou En-Iais, Titos, Castros, Jomos, Mobutos, Satos, etc.! Yet, we have stood and watched, witnessed with our own eyes, the proletarian Working Class taking the long march into the system, becoming Socialist States, or Super Labor Unions, if still trapped within a capitalist state, and in both cases becoming, rapidly, foul, reactionary, and fanged. It was like field slaves watching yard slaves being lifted up and taken in by the master and transformed into House Niggers. And we say, truly, that the Working Class Proletarians are the House Niggers of Capitalism. So we had to back off, and go back, not to the beginning but at least to the roots.
THE CONCENTRATION AND CENTRALIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY
At the beginning of the period of European colonialist expansion, the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, when the nations of Europe were pouring all over the globe and committing the form of invasion and robbery called exploration and trade, the disparity between Europe and the rest of the world was not as great, relatively speaking, as that which exists today. North America, encompassing what is now the United States and Canada, was the preserve of the Red Man. The U.S. and Canada, as the glittering extension of European civilization, did not exist, considerably reducing the proportions, in all spheres, of the base from which the European invaders and man hunters came. There were societies all over the world that did not look with envy towards Europe. Indeed, it had been the Europeans themselves, looking out from the bleak rock of their peninsula, who were filled with envy and lust as they were looking out and tempted into banditry by the glitter of what they saw.
For hundreds of years, the spoils of the most barbarous, piratical, looting and pillage in the history of the world pumped such a concentration of wealth and technology into Europe that Europe as a whole was transformed into a new type of society, firmly established upon a qualitatively new technology. Bounded in the West by the Atlantic Ocean, in the North by the snow, Europe had been, for centuries, held in check by the pinzers of Islam in the South and the descendants of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun in the East. But with the concentration and centralization of wealth and technology in Europe, a naked power was produced that was used to conquer and subdue the rest of the world. We all know the story of the Europeans seeing the Chinese using gunpowder in their festive celebrations, latching onto that toy and turning it into weapons which were then used against the Chinese, crushing them down into centuries of slavery and exploitation. What is less often realized is that the same process took place in reference to gunpowder also took place with every other aspect of the technology and culture of the peoples who fell under the brutal, arrogant, rapacious rule of Europe.
HAVING DISPOSSESSED the people of the world of all control over their technology and culture, the powerful class growing up inside Europe, the bourgeoisie, was able to totally and completely usurp control over the technology and culture of each European state, making the concentration and centralization complete. This great usurpation of technology, which was thereby transformed into private property, progressively alienated the great masses of humanity from technology. As this technological conglomerate became more interconnected, taking on more and more the appearance of a gigantic machine with an independent existence, the natural, rightful, interdependent relationship between man and his technology was destroyed. Whereas technology is truly asocial product, it was now neatly packaged, bound and gagged, by the new system growing up in Europe, and the survival of the peoples, their very livelihood, fell to the mercy of the avaricious class, the bourgeoisie, which was blind to everything except its own prosperity and the forward march of the concentration and centralization of technology, in its own hands.
As this rip-off continued, concentrating and centralizing resources, technology, and information, this rich harvest, assembled and organized in a new way for the first time in history, took qualitative leaps and completely transformed the culture, lifestyle, values, and outlook of those who were closer to it, the Europeans, the colonizing, capitalist imperialists themselves. When Europeans bragged of bringing civilization to people, of bringing them into the modern world, this only referred to the incidental and unpreventable spilling over into the rest of the world of the fallout from the technological explosions going off in Europe.
While Europe was growing strong, throbbing, pulsating, expanding, bursting out of its seams by this burgeoning growth, the rest of the world, and the dispossessed and disinherited peoples of Europe were withering away, shriveling up, their vital lifelines cut. Natural growth and development were disrupted, and the life impulses of these cultures were turned into death throes, producing monstrous growths, anti-life forces that fed upon the people, those very people these cuItures were created, developed, and elaborated to nurture, to facilitate their survival in the struggle with nature. The people who were the victims of this annihilation of their survival skins continued to exist, but tortured, deformed, and in chains. The chains fastened upon their culture and technology were buried in their souls, as they stood there stoned. The alienation from their heritage, from manipulation and control of their apparatus of survival, plunged them into a form of stagnation so profound that centuries would pass without recovery or recuperation.
THE LUMPENIZATION OF HUMANITY
Once technology was separated from the people, flowing into large pools in the colonialist metropoli of the world, a qualitatively new relationship of the people to technology, unknown before in the history of civilization, came into being. Technology, which til then had been the collective possession of peoples and societies, speaking to their needs through their total culture in their struggle to survive in nature, was transformed into property in the hands and under the control of individuals and conspiracies who themselves were beyond the control of the people. This new relationship, the separation and alienation of the people from technology, is the basic problem of the history of our era. It is what we call the lumpen relationship of the people to technology, and the process of its development, the concentration and centralization of technology, produced this lumpenization of humanity.
The lumpenization of the people of the world created a dependent world population, at the mercy of those who controlled technology. The people of the world were enslaved by the control of technology exercised by predatory combinations of wolf-pack, bandit societies, vampirish in their sucking of other peoples’ lifeblood and murderous in their callous disregard for the fate of their victims. This condition of enslavement by technology is the lumpen condition. The phenomenon of people being cut off from technology, and then plugged back into it artificially through jobs became a dominant feature of our era, even though it has been misunderstood and often narrowly construed even when recognized.
IN RESPONSE to the usurpation of technology, its concentration and centralization, a mad scramble, by the people, was unleashed as, in order to survive, people began to hack out a new relationship to technology. In a sense, everything was up for grabs, a new image of what reality is like was delineated. Technology became parceled up in transferable packages, ownership of which was evidenced by a neat little piece of paper-a Bill of Sale or Deed of Trust. Things definitely had the appearance of being there for the taking. Even if this was more apparent than real, it became the spirit and outlook of the bourgeoisie, which in turn projected it into the consciousness of the people as a whole. But in fact, for the majority of the people, ownership of technology was a shrinking possibility and an expanding dream. As it turned out, most people had to settle for something less than participation in ownership of technology, as they rooted around for a hammerlock on the new technological landscape. What they got hold of was jobs. From an ownership point of view, everything was monopolized, owned, with someone standing there with a deed of trust saying, ‘That is mine.’ He may have been talking about a river, a mountain, or a huge section of the surface of the earth, or a tool making machine which in its creation contained the accumulated wisdom of humanity, drawn and assembled from all corners of the earth, and tracing back over time into misty eons of the past. But the way that things were reorganized, the usurpers were able to make their claims stick. They had cops and soldiers to back them up, with guns. Back them up they did, and they backed the people up too-against the wall.
Unable to get in on the ownership aspect of the new system, other unions of people worked out other accommodations, as functionaries and workers needed to keep the system rolling. This all-encompassing system, as it refined itself and got better organized, streamlined, automatized, cybernated and computerized-required fewer and fewer people to make it tick. Indeed, the vision became possible, and began to circulate in and out of dreams, of the ultimate machine, with one button, and with one technician standing there pushing it, or, better yet, a robot, itself part of the machine, standing there pushing its own button. The nightmare and the dream of the robots in control. Robots or not, this situation became the profound reality of the majority of the people of the world. As far as they were concerned, the robots might as well have been in control for a long time now. Those who worked out an accommodation with the system, from the Boards of Directors down through the executive hierarchy, through the technocratic elite, through the white collar functionaries and blue collar workers, down to the street cleaners and garbage men, found a form for their security, whatever its content. But the vast majority of the people, possessing no direct, stable relationship to the system, became even more dependent, they became true and pure lumpen. Dependency found new forms; enslavement manifested itself through other relationships. People who were connected to others who were themselves plugged into the system, found themselves at their mercy, camouflaged as natural family relationships, or relationships of race.
For a while, at the advent of this new system, the dispossessed people shared the same relationship to the concentrated and centralized technology. They shared a common lumpen relationship to the usurped technology. Later on, those who had managed to wiggle their way into plugs in the system, hiring themselves out as functionaries and workers, organized themselves and legitimized their relationship to technology. The formulations which Marx thought would emancipate humanity as a whole fell short of their mark, ending up as a new religion of those who had found their plug in the system- the Working Class. Those who were still left out, unplugged and dependent, ensnarled in a web of social relations thrown off by the new system, and with a status at the bottom of the ladder, became the candidates and objects of charity and welfare, or other forms of relief. CARE packages could now be sent out of the centers where technology had been concentrated and centralized, into those areas of the world that had been sacked and left drifting. It became possible to speak of technology-exporting countries and technology-importing countries.
THE MAJORITY OF the people were left standing there, regarding themselves as a vast army of job seekers, of unemployed workers. To find a job became a point of honor, to rise above the driftwood of the rest of humanity. A job in the system was viewed as natural, because that’s the way the system functioned, the way it was organized. One had to have a job, to work, to live. To be blocked out of the active labor force is to be blocked out of Production. Historically, to be blocked out of Production was to be blocked out of Consumption. To be blocked out of Consumption is to die. So that those who found jobs, who plugged themselves into the system, were jealous and eager to secure their plug, to which their lifelines were attached. They created Labor Unions and Communist Parties to secure and safe guard their relationship to technology. Thus, they turned their jobs into property, which they possessed as a right. To seal the bargain and block the army of job-seekers hovering around outside the factories, Seniority was thrown in as the joker. To be a man, one had to have a job. To be a woman, one had to have a man with a job. To be a man without a job or a woman with a man without a job was to be Lumpen.
The system of relief, of charity, of welfare, developed and elaborated into Social Security, is the best proof of the lumpenization of humanity. As the system, running now at the smooth speed of light, became richer, as the Surplus built up, something could be done to relieve the poor, those who had been left out, unplugged-the Lumpen. Call them unemployed workers if you want to, but there they are, and their condition has not changed. They will never become members of any Labor Union. Already, the Labor Unions have too many members, as the refinement and centralization of Production has eliminated the need for them.
Those who control the system know very well the functioning of Relief. That’s why they never give up total and complete relief. To do so, they would have to commit suicide, class, and in some cases, personal. The marvel of it all is that they can now afford it. From their huge Surplus, they can dole out a little, careful not to make it look like a dole, because they know that if the idea ever got around that the Surplus should be divided up, amongst the people, it would not be too long before the idea was refined into the simple principle that it should be divided equally. So they prefer to keep the whole thing quiet, refusing to acknowledge its true nature, and to toss out a dole, begrudgingly, as if uncertain as to the efficacy of the gesture. A miserly, stingy bourgeoisie with a greedy Working Class lick spittling its boots, standing there with the money bags, tossing out small change like tossing corn to the chickens.
A new vested interest is being created through the dole. The Relief People are being born. Instead of being plugged into the system through jobs, they are being plugged in through doles. As a neo-colonial technique of social control, it works. Through the dole, direct and indirect, camouflaged or naked, some people are bought off, the bought-off Lumpen. It was not exactly what they wanted.
They wanted dignity and equality, in all spheres, including economic. But they had to live. They had to eat. Everything else was shaky. It was easy to fill out those forms and then wait for the check. It was also hard to find a job. But there was nothing for them to do. They had not had much schooling, even though they went to school, and they did not know how to do any of these new things, like being a scientist. So the dole was better than nothing, and there were the kids to feed.
THE NEGATION OF THE NEGATION
So here we are in prison, in Babylon, in the Congo, in Moscow, England, France, Peking, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East/West Germany. Rhetoric is shot at us like bullets. They try to explain to us who we are, but we know that we are not whom they say we are. If everything was alright, if everything was as rosy as they say it is, there would be no problem, and we would not be in prison. But here we are, locked up in Gore Prison in Dakar, Senegal. The President of our country is a fascist dictator, a puppet of France, spouting socialist rhetoric. We are hunted everywhere. Nowhere is our party in power. Indeed, we don’t even have a party. Hunted in Paris, Berlin, New York, London, Tokyo, Moscow, and Peking, we are no less hunted in the other capitals of the world. We are also hunted by Labor Unions and Communist Parties. Marx said that we were the scum layer of society. That’s what he called the blood and shit down into which we were crushed. As if we had never been respectable once. We retaliate. We take a revolutionary position against every organized structure that exists in the world today. We do not support the present order of the world. And we keep reaching out for more. Even if we forget everything else we will never forget that the revolution is for more and not less. Thus, in constantly reaching out, we keep them constantly busy trying to deal with our hands. As soon as they think that they have us all tied down, with a new program, we shift our position and reach out for something else. Because we realize that no problem will be solved until we get it all. We know that we are involved in a struggle for the physical control of the machines, of the robots, to physically have them out of the hands of the bourgeoisie, and the working class, because as long as we are cut off we will be slaves.
And we are no longer seeking a job. We know that the system can be reorganized to reinvest us with our human heritage. Instinctively, we know this, so we will never be satisfied until these arrangements are made.
LUMPEN CONSCIOUSNESS AND LUMPEN REVOLUTION
One of the big mistakes made in the past by comrades who attempted to apply Lumpen ideology, this writer included*, was to make a narrow interpretation as to who were members of the Lumpen. I think this was because we have been so influenced and intoxicated by the brilliance of Marx that we failed to recognize and acknowledge his limitations. Even though we did not like the disparaging, snobbish way that he looked down upon the lumpen, characterizing them as the scum layer of society, we still accepted his over-all system of categories and thought of the so called criminal element, hustlers, pimps, etc., as composing the Lumpen. As to the rest of society, we accepted Marx’s division into the bourgeoisie and proletariat. We looked upon the proletariat as being synonymous with the Working Class, and accepted without questioning the Marxist assertion that all those who were not bourgeoisie were proletarians or members of the Working Class. This is a fundamental error. The reason we make this error is because we failed to define, accurately, and in a broad enough sense, just what is the Lumpen relationship to the means of production. Once we get this definition clear in our mind, then we can move beyond the limitations of Marx, recognizing that, in the final analysis, his categories were arbitrary and that they no longer serve us in our struggles.
On the opening page of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Marx and Engels give the classic definition of the bourgeoisie and proletariat: By bourgeoisie is meant the class of Modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labour. By proletariat, the class of modem wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live.
During the days when everybody was looking for a job, when jobs were more plentiful than they are now and have been for a long time, it is easy to see how people could accept Marx’s definition of the proletariat. Unemployment was viewed as unnatural and temporary. Politicians promised full employment. Capitalists said that after the economy picked up from its slump there would be work for everybody. Soon there would be a chicken in every pot. But this never happened. What did happen was that more and more people found themselves unemployed, permanently out of work. At the same time, the economic system was becoming so modernized through electronic controls that complete job categories were eliminated. Objectively, this should be viewed as a good thing, because human beings have been struggling all down through the ages to emancipate themselves from the drudgery of work. The more that work can be done by machines, freeing human beings, the better. But in the context of a capitalist system, the advance of technology becomes a tragedy to the workers who are displaced by machines. Thus the stories of workers smashing machines or greeting a brilliant technological advancement with hostility and opposition. To this very day, Labor Unions still fight the introduction of new machinery and technology to the productive process precisely because their members are displaced and thrown back onto the heap of unemployed or permanently lumpenized.
SO THAT IT IS clear that the basic condition of the dispossessed people, those who are cut off from technology, is not the proletarian condition described by Marx, but the Lumpen condition. The proletarian condition is that of those who have lifted themselves out of the Lumpen condition. When workers become permanently unemployed, displaced by the streamlining of production, they revert back to their basic Lumpen condition.
Once upon a time, when there were jobs to fight for, the Lumpen fought for jobs, for better working conditions, etc. Gradually, they won concessions from the capitalists. But later on, and even more so today the Lumpen realized that there are no jobs to fight for. Ideologically confused, perceiving their true situation unclearly, the Lumpen has been side tracked. But still the Lumpen posed a constant threat to the capitalist system, by their demands of the poor. They demanded to be let in on Consumption even if they were blocked out of Production by the absence of jobs or even future prospects on jobs. To cool out this situation, the capitalists responded with the dole – the system of relief. From the point of view of the Lumpen, the dole plays the same function as a job – it allows them to get in on Consumption. But the dole, the system of welfare and relief, can never really deal with the situation, nor is it intended to. Relief is only a stop-gap measure resorted to by the capitalists to cool people out and buy themselves some more time, by dividing the Lumpen by buying some of them off, thus postponing the showdown between the Lumpen and the capitalist system of production and consumption.
It is in this regard that Marxism has had disastrous effects upon the revolutionary movement. Marx, misunderstanding the basic condition of oppression, identified the proletariat, the working class, as the most revolutionary element of society. So that for generations, revolutionaries have been trying to bring about the revolution by relating religiously to the working class. This has gone on until today, to the point where it is now absurd, if not insane. In reality, the Working Class has become as much apart of the system that has to be destroyed as the capitalists themselves. They are the second line of resistance, after the cops.
The real revolutionary element of our era is the Lumpen, understood in its broader sense. What is lacking is a Lumpen consciousness, consciousness of the basic condition of oppression being the Lumpen condition and not the proletarian condition. In order for the revolutionary movement to progress, the Lumpen must become conscious of themselves as the vast majority, and the false proletarian, working class consciousness must be negated.
Lumpen consciousness is more advanced than the job-seeking, fringe-benefit consciousness of the AFL/CIO/Communist Party/ Working Class accomodationist movement. The basic demand of the Lumpen, to be cut in on Consumption in spite of being blocked out of Production is the ultimate revolutionary demand. What is wrong with the way that this basic Lumpen demand has been set forth in the past is that it has come out as a sort of begging, ashamed of itself, and it has accepted the dole. The dole of the system of relief is nothing but a sham substitute for equal distribution of the wealth of society. Brainwashed with the proletarian consciousness of the working class, the Lumpen has been made to feel that it does not have any rights; that the Lumpen are just unfortunate in that they cannot land a job, unfortunate because they are unskilled and unqualified to fit into the modern, science based labor force. In reality, all of this, which is the basic preoccupation of the proletarian, working class consciousness, is beside the point.
The point is that the Lumpen, humanity itself, has been robbed of its social heritage by the concentration and centralization of technology. The holding of the means of production as private property is illegitimate because it certifies the usurpation of technology and its concentration and centralization in the hands of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie. Once the Lumpen understands this, that technology belongs to the people, that our modern technology is the heritage of all humanity, then they will move to expropriate the expropriators, to abolish the usurpation, and take control of the machines, technology, into their own hands.
ALL DEMANDS for relief programs, welfare programs, survival programs, are nothing but reformist, sell-out, half-stepping adjustments to a system that needs to be replaced. The only satisfactory, revolutionary demand is for the restoration of the hegemony of the people over technology and equality in distribution and consumption. The point is not equality in Production, which is the Marxist view and basic error, but equality in distribution and consumption. We look forward to the day when all work can be done by technological advances, which will be a good thing. But this doesn’t mean that we should be blocked out of Consumption.
The basic task confronting revolutionaries today is to further define the Lumpen condition, to refine Lumpen Ideology, spread Lumpen Consciousness, and lead the struggle, through righteous practice, to seize physical control of the machines, of technology, and destroy, forever, hegemony of the usurpers over the social heritage of humanity.
*On The Ideology of The Black Panther Party, by Eldridge Cleaver.