This past weekend, my socialist comrades rushed to the theatre to see the new movie about the Black Panthers. After all, a movie which tagline is “Vanguard of the Revolution” doesn’t warm your lefty cockles nothing will. I was left with many conflicting thoughts that needed to be discussed. Before we get to my thoughtful ruminations, let’s start with a brief synopsis.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution chronicles the rise and the fall of both the founders of the organization and their rank and file members. They cover the meeting of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, and how the organization with the addition of Eldridge Cleaver grew with multiple chapters across America. The movie attempted to explain the impact of Panther community actions such as the free breakfast for children program and the sickle cell anemia drives. Through these programs, the party attacted many diverse allies from the student movement, feminist groups and others.The Panthers were eventually the target of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover’s scorn. Through the implementation of COINTELPRO, the Panthers were infiltrated by informers and agents on a mission to disrupt their operations. The government succeeds and the leaders of the Panthers wind up dead, imprisoned, in exile or on drugs.
The movie was well made and visually interesting with wonderful interviews and vintage film and photos from the era. The film is not flawless. Those who were involved with the Panthers may have a problem with the chronology of the film. Others may wish there was further coverage on the women panthers or rank and file members of the group. However, I had one major complaint. The directors edited around the fact that the Panthers were a socialist organization. I almost comical to hear all the past socialist slogans and propaganda without the use of the words Socialism, Communism, or any of the other -isms we support on the left. I hope this omission was an oversight and not an attempt by the director to make the organization more palatable to people who are ignorant to the issue of socialism. I highly doubt it. I just hope this is not another attempt to defang the potency of leftist groups by disassociating the optimism of their ideals from the ideology.