This short tribute was originally published by the Independent Working Class Association. We’re posting this in a bid to bring some perspective to the somewhat heated discussions about identity politics that are currently taking place in anarchist and radical movements…
On this day in 1969 Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, died. Hampton was murdered by state forces assigned to the office of Attorney Edward Hanrahan, whose anti-gang rhetoric Fred had called a “war on black youth”.
Fred Hampton began his political journey in the Youth Wing of the NAACP. Hampton was soon attracted to the Black Panther Party and was inspired by its working class socialist vision as outlined in the 10 Point Program.
He then joined the Illinois chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where, alongside his comrades, he began to score gains. These gains included, but were not limited to, encouraging and negotiating a nonviolence pact between Chicago street gangs.
Hampton realised the class nature of the struggle against poverty, racism and all other by-products of capitalism, including black struggles. He strove to push identity aside and ploughed time and effort into bringing together working class people of all races on a common ticket, one of social class.
Hampton and the rest of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party forged alliances with the Hispanic Young Lords and the white migrant Appalachian Young Patriots Organisation. The Black Panther Party in general, Illinois chapter in particular under Hampton, without foregoing the specific struggles faced by their own part of the community, pushed a class agenda.
This was the unifying factor upon which they chose to lay their foundations, under the leadership of Hampton. This is what the state and capitalist society found most terrifying: working class people foregoing arbitrary notions of identity, instead emphasising what brings us all together. For this, they murdered Fred Hampton in cold blood in his bed.
We learn from the past to shape the present and the future, and we must look at and become the legacy of genuine working class heroes such as Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party.
Rest In Peace Fred Hampton!