Black Panther Commander Huey P. Newton: Speech at the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention (1970)

Speaker 6: So I bring you Huey P. Newton, the Minister of Defense and our Supreme Commander.

Huey P. Newton: I applaud you because you’re all such beautiful people, and the power is with you. And as soon as we realize that, we’ll make many changes. As a matter of fact, we will transform the world. The power is not with the Black Panther Party, the power is not within any individual. But you have the power collectively. You can move things. You can even move Bozo, and you can also move Tate.

Huey P. Newton: Today is the occasion for the plenary session leading up to our Constitutional Convention. This will be the first People’s Revolutionary Constitutional Convention ever held in this country. We do not recognize the one in 1777, because we know that it did not represent us, it did not represent the people, but it only represented a small ruling circle even at that time.

Huey P. Newton: We look for refuge in the law, we look for refuge in the Constitution, but we find none. We find none because we realize that Constitutions have no force. We realize that laws do not shoot bullets, people do. We want control of that power that is able to hurt us, and it’s surely not on paper. That power is entrenched in the ownership of the land and the institutions thereof.

Huey P. Newton: What we want to do here tonight is to start to establish an institution through which we can express our revolutionary spirit. At this time there is none. We can’t find it in electoral politics, we can’t find it in any arena that’s been developed by the reactionary racist ruling circle. So I shall read to you the Preamble to our Constitution, starting out with the Declaration that you’re all very familiar with.

Huey P. Newton: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them. A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to a separation.

Huey P. Newton: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Huey P. Newton: “Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism. It is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Huey P. Newton: Our sufferings have been long and patient. Our prudence have stayed this final hour. But our human dignity and strength requires that we still the voice of prudence with the cries of our suffering. Thus we gather in the spirit of revolutionary love and friendship for all oppressed people of the world, regardless of their race, or the race and doctrine of their oppressor.

Huey P. Newton: We gather to proclaim to the world that for 200 years we have suffered this long train of abuses and use of patience, while holding to the hope that this will pass. We recognize, however, that it has not passed, and we’re a people who enjoy no equal protection of the law, no due process of the law, and our future actions must be guided by our sufferance, not by our prudence.

01:11:03

Huey P. Newton: Two centuries ago when the United States was a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The conditions prevail in a nation, and the assumption on which this foundation were built were such that they ensured that the United States would come to its maturity under the circumstances, which means that for a substantial of citizens, life is nothing more than a living death. Liberty is nothing more than a prison of poverty. And the only happiness we enjoy is laughing to keep from crying.

Huey P. Newton: The United States of America was born at a time when the nation covered relatively little land. A narrow strip of political division on the Eastern seaboard. The United States of America was born at a time when the population was small, and fairly homogenous, but racially and culturally. Thus the people called Americans were different people in a different place. Furthermore, they had a different economic system. The small population and the fertile lands available meant that with the agricultural emphasis of the economy, people were able to advance according to their motivation and ability. It was an agricultural economy, and with the circumstances surrounding it, democratic capitalism flourished in the new nation.

Huey P. Newton: The following years were to see this new nation rapidly develop into a giant. The new nation acquired land and spread from a narrow strip on the Eastern seaboard, to cover the entire continent, but with few exceptions. The new nation acquired a population to fill this newly acquired land. The population was drawn from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Thus a nation conceived by a homogenous people of a small number and of a small area, grew into a nation of a heterogeneous people, comprised of a large number and spread across an entire continent.

Huey P. Newton: This change in the fundamental characteristics of the nation and its people substantially changed the nature of American society. Furthermore, the social changes marked by economic changes. A rural and agricultural economy became an urban and industrialized economy, as farming was replaced by manufacturing. The democratic capitalism of the early days became caught up in a relentless drive to obtain profits and more profits, until a selfish motivation for profits eclipsed the unselfish principles of democracy. Thus 200 years later, we have an overdeveloped economy, which is so effused with the need for profit that we have replaced democratic capitalism with bureaucratic capitalism.

Huey P. Newton: The free opportunity of all men to pursue their economic ends have been replaced by constraints placed upon Americans by large corporations which control and direct our economy. They have sought to increase their profits at the expense of the people, and particularly at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities. The history of the United States as distinguished from the promise of the idea of the United States, leads us to the conclusion that are assumption is basic to the functioning of the government of the United States.

Huey P. Newton: We see this and we know the basic contradictions found in the history of this nation. The government, the social conditions, the legal documents which brought freedom from oppression, which brought human dignity and human rights to one portion of our people of this nation and an entirely opposite consequence for another portion of the people. While the majority group achieved their basic human rights, the minority achieved alienation of the lands of their fathers and slavery. The evidence from this is clear and incontrovertible.

Huey P. Newton: We find evidence for majority freedom and minority oppression in the fact that the expansion of the United States government, and the acquisition of land was at the unjust expense of the American Indians, the original possessors of the land, and still its legitimate heirs. The long march of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and the actual disappearance of many other Indian nations, testify to the unwillingness and inability of this government and this government’s Constitution to incorporate racial minorities.

Huey P. Newton: We find evidence for majority freedom and minority oppression in the fact that even while the early settlers were proclaiming their freedom, they were deliberately and systematically depriving Africans of their freedom. These basic contradictions were further aggravated by acts which implicitly admitted that the majority was wrong, but unwilling to do right. Thus when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, the founding fathers struck all mentions of the slave trades. Thus when the United States Constitution was drafted, the founding fathers considered the slaves as equivalent to three-fifths of a man. Thus when the slaves were emancipated, the descendants of the founding fathers compromised that freedom to gain further territory.

Huey P. Newton: These compromises were so basic to the thinking of the forebears that legal attempts to correct the contradictions with Constitutional Amendments and Civil Rights laws have produced no change in our conditions, and we’re still a people without equal protection and due process of the law.

Huey P. Newton: We recognize then that the oppressing acts of the United States government, when contrasted with the testaments of freedom, carries forward a basic contradiction found in all the legal documents upon which this government is based. Generation after generation of the majority group have been born, they have worked, and they have seen the fruits of their labor in the life, liberty and happiness of their children and grandchildren.

Huey P. Newton: Generation after generation of Black people in America have been born, they have worked, and they have seen the fruits of their labors in the life, liberty and happiness in the children and grandchildren of the oppressor, while their own descendants wallow in the mire of poverty and deprivation, holding only to the hope of change in the future. The hope that’s sustained us for many years and has led us to suffer the administrations of a corrupt government.

Huey P. Newton: At the dawn of the 20th century this hope led us to formulate a Civil Rights movement, in the belief that the government would eventually fulfill its promise to Black people. We did not recognize, however, that any attempts to complete the promise of the 18th century Revolution, and the framework of a 20th century government, economy and society was doomed to failure. The descendants of that small company of original settlers of this land are not among the common people of today. They have become a small ruling class in control of a worldwide economic system.

Huey P. Newton: The Constitution set up by their ancestors to serve the people no longer serves the people, for the people have changed. The people of the 18th century have become the ruling circle of the 20th century, and the people of the 20th century are the descendants of the slaves and the dispossessed of the 18th century.

01:19:04

Huey P. Newton: The Constitution set up to serve the people of the 18th century now served the ruling circle of the 20th century, and the people of today stand wanting for a foundation for their own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The Civil Rights movement has not produced this foundation, and it cannot produce this foundation because of the nature of the United States society and economy. The vision of the Civil Rights movement is to achieve goals which have been altered by 200 years of change. Thus the Civil Rights movement and similar movements have produced no foundation for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They produce humiliating programs of welfare and unemployment compensation, programs with sufficient form to deceive the people, but with insufficient substance to change the fundamental distribution of power and resources in this country.

Huey P. Newton: Moreover, while the movements attempt to get minorities into the system, we note that the government continues this pattern of practice which contradicts its democratic rhetoric. We recognize now that we see history repeating itself, but on an international as well as a national scale. The relentless drive for profit led this nation to colonize, oppress and exploit its minorities. This profit drive took this nation from democratic capitalism and underdevelopment to bureaucratic capitalism and overdevelopment.

Huey P. Newton: Now we see that the small ruling circle continues its profit drive by oppressing and exploiting the people of the world. Throughout the world the proletariat is crushed so that the profits of the American industry can continue to flow. Throughout the world the freedom struggle of oppressed people are opposed by this government because they are a threat to the bureaucratic capitalism in the United States of America.

Huey P. Newton: We gather here to let it be known at home and abroad that a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness had in its maturity become an imperialistic power dedicated to death, oppression and the pursuit of profits. We will not be deceived by so many of our fellow men, we will not be blinded by small changes in form which lack any change of substance of the imperialist expansion. Our suffering has been too long. Our sacrifices have been too great. And our human dignity is too strong for us to be prudent any longer.

Huey P. Newton: The Black Panther Party calls for freedom and power to determine our destiny. The Black Panther Party calls for full employment for all our people. The Black Panther Party calls for an end to the capitalistic exploitation of our community. The Black Panther Party calls for decent housing for all people. The Black Panther Party calls for an educational system that will tell us the true facts about this decadent society.

Huey P. Newton: The Black Panther Party calls for exemptions from military service. The Black Panther Party calls for and end to police brutality. The Black Panther Party calls for freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of war. The Black Panther Party calls for trials by members of our peers when we’re brought to the court, and justice. The Black Panther Party calls for a United Nations plebiscite to determine the will of the Black people as to their national destiny.

Huey P. Newton: Black people and oppressed people in general have lost faith in leaders of America and the government of America, and the very structure of the American government that has the Constitution its legal foundation. This loss of faith is based upon the overwhelming evidence that this government will not live according to the Constitution, because the Constitution is not designed for its people.

Huey P. Newton: For this reason we assembled a Constitutional Convention to consider rational and positive alternatives. Alternatives which will place the emphasis on the common man. Alternatives which will bring about a new economic system in which the rewards as well as the work will be equally shared by all people, a socialist framework. Alternatives that will guarantee that within the socialist framework all groups will be adequately represented at decision making and administration which affect their lives.

Huey P. Newton: Alternatives which will guarantee that all men will obtain their full manhood rights. That they will be able to live, be free and seek out those goals which will give them respect and dignity, while permitting the same privileges for every other man, regardless of his condition or status. The sacredness of man of of the human spirit requires that human dignity and integrity to always be respected by every other man. We will settle for nothing less, for at this point in history, anything less is but a living death.

Huey P. Newton: We’re here to say to this government of the United States that we will be free. And we’re here to ordain a new Constitution which will ensure our freedom by enshrining the dignity of the human spirit. The people here tonight are responsible for the release of the 15 community members who were abused and mistreated by Bozo [Philadelphia Police Chief Frank Rizzo]. And we should say, when any one of you, when any one of you is abused, that we should consider it an abuse of all of us.

Huey P. Newton: We also would like to say that we feel it is criminal for one people to reduce another people to such a level that they could only express their political grievances through violence. We say that the man who stripped us of our community and of our institutions and of our family relationships, the man who stripped us of our human dignity by slavery, he is the man who is responsible for the violence. He is the same man who’s now attempting to strip all other third world people of their dignity, and of their wealth, through stripping their nations of the natural resources in order to feed the monster factories here in North America.

Huey P. Newton: We notice when these people of the third world use self-defense, then the oppressors says he doesn’t understand why they’re so violent. The fact is that the people are never violent, that the violence is only related to aggression. Self-defense is related to oppression. So we would like for this city to know the government of the city, and also the government of the United States, to know that we will not tolerate any longer the abuse that we’ve tolerated for many years.

Huey P. Newton: It is a fact that we will get change. We will transform the society. It is up to the oppressor to decide whether this will be a peaceful thing or we will use whatever means that is effective, regardless of the consequence, because it is our conclusion and our principle that a slave who dies a natural death would not balance two dead flies on the scales of eternity.

Huey P. Newton: We will have our manhood, even if we have to level the face of the earth in an attempt to get it. So I would like to say that we’re one tonight, let us be one in the future. Power to all of the people.

Audience: Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people.

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