Based in Las Vegas, Douglas french writes about the  economy and book reviews. 

Socialist Chic

Socialist Chic

Among his notable interviews, the now departed Anthony Bourdain, spoke with a founder of the Black Panthers party, Bobby Seale, over a meal at Miss Ollie’s in Oakland. Seale said the Panthers were formed for self-defense. Bourdain said in the voice over, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI “pretty much considered the Panthers  public enemy number one.”

The Panther push back impressed libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who wrote, "the great majority of anarcho-capitalists are highly enthusiastic about the Black Panthers and their potential for leading a black liberation movement," but that, "I must record my serious reservations about the value of the Panthers.”

Rothbard cited three "virtues" of Seale’s group,  "their capacity for organizing black youth," "their enormous ability to upset and aggravate the white police" and "excellent black nationalist ideas - particularly in emphasizing a black nation with their own land in such areas as the Black Belt of the South - as expressed in some writings of Eldridge Cleaver."

Rothbard’s reservation was, "There are increasing tendencies for the Panthers to abandon black nationalism almost completely for the Old Left virus of black-white Marxist working-class action." He wisely noted "an unfortunate eagerness to reach out and make alliances with white radicals, thereby contradicting the whole point of black power, which is to develop separate black movements resulting in black national self-determination." He goes on to say that the idea was to have alliances between separate "independent white and black movements."

To Rothbard’s point, Tom Wolfe, who died a few weeks ago, chronicled the Panthers’ romance with limousine liberals in his classic “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” Wolfe found his way into Leonard (Lenny, as Wolfe calls him) and Felicia Bernstein’s Park Avenue apartment to report on the “meeting” to raise money for the Panthers’ legal defense.

“So...Radical Chic was already in full swing by the time the Black Panther Party began a national fund-raising campaign late in 1969,” Wolfe explained. “The Panthers’ status was quite confused in the minds of many liberals, and to have the Panthers feted in the homes of a series of social and cultural leaders could make an important difference. Ideally, it would work out well for the socialities and culturati, too, for if there was ever a group that embodied the romance and excitement of what the Radical Chic is made, it was the Panthers.”  

Don Cox, Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party spoke to the high falutin friends of the Bernsteins.

Cox explained what the Panthers wanted, with peace being the most important thing. Except, I’m  the assembled Chic may not have realized that what Cox meant by peace was socialism.

“Everyone in the room, of course is drinking in his performance like tiger’s milk, for the...Soul, as it were,” Wolfe wrote. “All love the tone of his voice, which is Confidential Hip.”  

Yes, the likes of Barbara Walters and Otto Preminger were eating it up and pledging  thousands of dollars to help the Panthers’ cause.

When Cox was pressed, he confirmed Rothbard’s suspicion, saying, “We believe that the government is obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income...see...but if the white businessman will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessman and placed in the community, with the people.”  

The host and famous conductor responded with “How? I dig it! But how?”

Likewise, Bourdain called the late 60’s Panther agenda as “surprisingly moderate.”  Mr. Seale stressed that today’s activists must be progressive.

Ms. Walters asked Cox about his negative view of capitalism and whether he could “see any chance at all for a peaceful solution to these problems, some way out without violence.”  

“Not with the present system,” Cox answered. “”I can’t see that.  Like, what can change? There’s 750 families that own all the wealth in this country--”

“Dat’s not tdrue!” says Preminger. “Dere are many people wid wealth all over--”   

“The bad guys are winning,” Seale told Bourdain in 2015. “The Koch Brothers and the Tea Party, those right-wing idiots, so far, are winning.”   

Fifty years later, the same old socialist claptrap is trotted out as the solution to all that ails us. 


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