What a *powerful*, *tremendous* document!!!!!!!!!!
Many thanks to Bro. Amiri Baraka for posting
this to the BlackList
(Y'all should check out Chickenbones online it's a
fantastic resource for historic info!! please excuse the formatting
i started fixing it but then got caught up in reading it and now
i've got to go!)
ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The Political Thought of James Forman
Edited by the Staff of Black Star Publishing
In January, 1969, James Forman published Sammy Younge, Jr., a biography of a young black man who was killed in Tuskeege, Alabama on January 3, 1968. In order to write that book he interviewed many people, including the mother of Sammy Younge.
Applying the same technique of tape recording interviews, Forman went to
Martinique and interviewed the family of Frantz Fanon. While there he also made an extensive study of the social and political realities of Martinique in order to better understand the early formation of Frantz Fanon.
The "Ten Year Plan" is a letter to two friends Donald and Flora Stone
describing the emotions he felt as he interviewed the mother of Frantz Fanon,
comparing the life of Sammy Younge Jr., to that of Frantz Fanon.
Forman takes the occasion in this letter to review his organization life for
the past ten years and to conclude that all efforts in the seventies must be
directed to the organizations of black workers, the vanguard of the
revolutionary struggle in the United States.
Sunday, December 21, 1969
TEN YEAR PLAN
Today is Sunday in Fort-De-France. We are living in the center of town and
all is quiet. Today is the one day that the workers have for rest, a respite
from the grueling pace of day to day living in the Antilles. The heat and the
humidity are sometimes formidable, but the courage and endurance of my
ancestors swells up in me and gives the fortitude to keep on pushing, trying to learn the Martiniquian reality, its history and contemporary status.
This is just one aspect of the work I am trying to do here, for as you know I
have long been working on the biography of Fanon. The other two aspects is
to interview people who knew Fanon and discuss his thought with some important thinkers of Martinique.
Last night I interviewed his mother who is seventy eight years old. She is
still very strong and healthy although her memory is fading. This is to be
expected. Few of us will live as long as Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and fewer still have the power of retention that he had at ninety years old should it be our
fortune to live that long. As for me, my dear brother and sister, I am not in
the least contemplating living that long and I am happy for each year that I am alive.
I have lived so close to death for so long that I have learned that each year
alive in the type of work that we do is a miracle unto itself. But my
interview with Mrs. Fanon impressed once again upon me the absolute need for historical documentation, and record keeping. Of course I have just finished reading Dr. DuBois's autobiography written at the age of ninety and that too impressed the same result upon my consciousness.
Sammy Younge & Frantz Fanon
Mrs. Fanon stated that she had a package of letters that she had been keeping from the time her son went into the army until his death. She wrapped them in a package and gave them to another one of her sons, Felix, who seems to have misplaced them. A storehouse of information has been lost, information that would have revealed, perhaps, Frantz Fanon's attitude about the second world war in which he participated as a fighting soldier. He was wounded three times in that war and one bullet was quite close to his heart. It was impossible, therefore, to dislodge. It stayed with him until his death, Lukemia is unknown in its origin and there is yet no cure. Perhaps that bullet and the wounds he received might have been a cause.
Our interview was conducted in her dining room around the table. It lasted
for an hour and a half. Her grandchild, Frantz Fanon, the nephew of the great writer and revolutionary helped us to conduct the interview. He will
translate at a later date the French of his grandmother. As you know I can
speak the language, but not well enough to transcribe tapes. As I recorded her words, a great sense of history swelled up in me, a sense that I was participating in a moment of enormous value, a moment that I wanted to share with you and Flora, with Joyce and Dorie, with all my friends in Atlanta and all my friends around the world.
It was a moment I lived when I interviewed the mother of Sammy Younge, but the moment was different and yet it was the same. It was the same moment for I was talking to the mother of another dead hero, another dead black hero, another man of Africa who had given his life to humanity, another man who had paid the same price as a Che Guevara, as a Patrice Lumumba, as a Malcolm X, as a Charles Mack Parker, as a Herbert Lee, as thousands of our brothers and sisters have paid over the years that we have been separated from our native continent, that glorious land which the Western imperialists are raping and plundering, robbing and destroying, choking and suffocating, exploiting and oppressing, mining its riches and stealing its profits, bribing its leaders and starving its children, propping up South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, and Ian Smith, while trying to eliminate Guinea, Tanzania, Congo Brazzville, Sekou Toure and Julius Nyerere.
It was more than the same moment. It was a different moment, for Mrs. Fanon lived in Martinique while Mrs. Younge lived in Tuskeege, Alabama. Their life experiences were different. One suffered under the hands of the racist Americans while the other suffered under the hands of the French. Mrs. Younge had two children. Mrs. Fanon had seven. Sammy Younge died at home at the hands of racist and is buried in Tuskegee.
Frantz Fanon died far away from Fort-De-France, from Martinique, from an
illness that cut short his revolutionary struggle against the racist French who
had dominated his life until he took up arms against them. Sammy Younge only
wrote a few articles for the school newspaper wailing against the system around
Tuskegee, Fanon wrote three major books and articles which are founded in a
fourth wailing against the total system of racism and colonialism.
It was more the same moment. Yet, it was a different moment only because the
life experiences of Sammy Younge and Frantz Fanon were different, but in
their essence it was the same moment, for it was a moment of talking to two
mothers, both of whom grieved and cried over their sons as they recalled their
memories, both of whom had preserved various papers from the military to show
their sons participation in the corrupt armies of their oppressors, both of whom
understood their sons belonged to history and who had made a historical
contribution to the liberation of man.
Hence, the difference in the life patterns of a Mrs. Younge and a Mrs. Fanon,
of both of their sons becomes only a matter of the smallest detail in the
broad span of history which the sons and daughters of Africa have written in
blood, sweat, slavery, the sugar cane fields of the Antilles, the cotton fields
North America, the heat of a Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico,
Martinique, the chilling cold of Boston, New York, Chicago, and other
centers of the United States.
It was a moment when I realized once more that all the sons and daughters of
Africa have paid a heavy price to build the great capitals of France, England,
Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, the United States, capitals that flourish
now off the backs of all of us who have been dispersed throughout the Western
Hemisphere, into the Antilles, North America, from the northern part of Canada
to the southern tip of South America.
It was a moment when my insides gripped each other, churned against my
stomach, for it was a moment when I had to face once again that the reality of
sons and daughters of Africa is that many of us do not understand our
historical relationship to the African continent, do not understand, cannot feel
whip lash of the white bosses over our black mothers and fathers as it sears
into their flesh as they swing the machete into the sugar cane or stoop over to
grab some cotton from its stalk, the whip lash, searing, bringing forth blood,
pain and anguish, muffled groans and loud cries, again, again it comes forth
and we do not understand.
We are colonized. Slavery was a thing of yesterday, a passing mirage, an
accident of history, an unknown, a forgotten quantity, Je suis francais, the
Queen of England rules over me, Belgium gave us independence after Livingstone
discovered us, I am clean like my Dutch friends, I am an American.
It was a moment of pain when I realized yet another time that the day is
still to come when we will shatter the myth of clinging to the allegiance of our
colonizers, when we will no longer yell we are French, English, Belgium, Dutch,
American, but assert our African allegiance, our black togetherness our
desire for Pan African Socialism, an end to racism, colonialism, capitalism, and
And the moment of malignant pain endured, lingered on, spreading throughout
my body as a cancer when I realized that those of us who lived under the yoke
of colonialism were only half of the African experience. Our brothers and
sisters in Africa have forgotten us, the sons and daughters of Africa, their
brothers and sisters. They have a flag, a seat in the United Nations, a capital
city, a few French, English or American cars, coca-cola, pepsi-cola, Kodak,
First National Bank of New York, Chase Manhattan Bank, Firestone, Goodyear,
Aluminum, Esso, Standard Oil, United Fruit and all the other trapping of
The pain endures, it is malignant because our brothers and sisters have not
paid attention to the experiences of those of us who have been wrenched from
the shores of Africa. They have not learned from the catastrophic, the earth
shaking dynamics of African history in which more than one hundred million souls
of Africans were dispersed throughout the Western world, killed, beaten,
brutalized, enslaved with only a few surviving.
It is not that they have not been told, they have heard many voices crying
out at night, wailing at midday, yelling Africa for Africans the world around.
They have heard all of this, they know the definitions of racism, colonialism,
capitalism and imperialism. They have heard but they do not understand.
They too cannot feel the whip lash. Alas! They too have been colonialized.
Slavery was a thing of yesterday, a passing mirage, an accident of history, an
unknown, a forgotten quantity.
An as Mrs. Fanon speaks of her son, Frantz Fanon, a ray of delicious
experiences enters my being like the coolness of rain on a hot tropical day,
me of how my grandmother in the heat of a Mississippi day would tickle her
toes under the flow of the same cool rain. My face lights up, my heart is less
heavy. She smiles as she talks of his concern for others, the same trait that
led him to Algeria and that drove him to fight with arms against the French.
It is the same moment I experienced with Mrs. Younge who wanted to talk of
her son and to tell of his humanity to others.
It was the same moment, two mothers proud of their sons. Yet it was
different for Frantz Fanon spoke to the total African experience and Sammy
been murdered when he was young and have lived enough to record his thoughts
on all humanity. Frantz Fanon spoke to the African experience in the West
Indies and Africa and Sammy Younge spoke to the Black experience in the United
But the moment was different only in time and place and circumstances of life
of both mothers and sons. But the experience of both sons, Sammy Younge and
Frantz Fanon was again the same essence, for both were sons of Africa, proud
black men whose voices cried out against racism and exploitation and whose
lives were cut short before the world knew what might have been their final
contribution to the liberation of man.
Brother Stone and Sister Flora, I have tried to share with you that moment of
last night when I began to interview Mrs. Fanon, you who are the second set
of grandparents for my son, James Lumumba along with Bobby and Mathew Jones,
Donald asked me the last time we met in New York if I would write a piece for
the magazine he is going to edit. He asked if I would delineate from my
experience certain concepts that might be useful and point to a direction for
struggle in the decade of the seventies.
The Black Vanguard & !970s Repression
I have given much thought to his request. At the time he made it, I told him
much of what I had written should be reproduced but that I wouldn't write
anything unless I felt that I had something fresh to say, some new construction
of ideas. I suggest you print this letter in its entirely, for it is written
not only for you but all of my friends.
I am convinced that the decade of the seventies will be one of serious
repression for us, black people in the United States. Although we are black and
will suffer the most from repression we must not fail to understand that the
racist United States government is going to try to kill all forms of dissent.
trial of the Conspiracy Eight in Chicago is only the latest example of the
repression which will come down on those who are white who are struggling to
died with the effects of racism and exploitation upon themselves.
In order to deal with this repression we will have to develop new forms of
struggle, not the least of which will be a conspiratorial method of fighting the
United States. All black people are already a conspiracy against the United
States. Since our arrival here we have been treated as if we were permanent
conspirators. We will have to adopt our form of struggle to meet the realities
of our lives.
More important than the form of struggle or just as important is the question
of our ideology with whom we work. For years as you know I have been waging
a fight against racism, colonialism, capitalism and against imperialism. I
have been vilified throughout the United States for my ideological positions,
sometimes by people who were very close to us at one time.
This has not bothered me, for the ideological struggle is one that must be
pursued without any mitigations especially if one thinks he has a correct
position and I am absolutely convinced without a doubt, without the least shade
doubt at that, that black people in the United States must see their fight and
our struggle as one clearly against racism, colonialism, capitalism and
imperialism. We must not hedge on that. We must not waver, but we must try to
recruits to our viewpoint.
It is not enough for revolutionary to be against something. He must fight
and be willing to die for something. Many years ago I came to the conclusion
that only socialism will solve the problem of black people and of all humanity
and I will not engage in polemics about the various forms of socialism which
might exist. I am talking about the form of socialism which all the wealth of
the United States rests with the state for the benefit of all mankind, a form
of socialism controlled by the workers, the poor families, and all the other
wretched of the American earth.
The type of government I am talking about will have to be created by a ruling
party dedicated to socialism and the end of exploitation of man by man.
However, in the reality of the United States which suffers from economic
exploitation and racism, the vanguard force of revolutionary change will be
people and my definition of black people are all nonwhites, including Indians,
Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, people of the Orient.
You might call them third world, but I think that is a mistake, for they are
black people and suffer from the same essence of racism and exploitation by
white America that all the African people suffer from. It would be the mistake
of the highest order for those of us who are black and who are from African to
fail to consider in our perspective that Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Indians and
Orientals are not black. They certainly are not white.
The black vanguard force which is the cutting edge and real dynamism of the
revolutionary movement in the United States must not give up its right to
leadership of the revolutionary struggle; otherwise there will be no real
consciousness of the effects of racism and concrete efforts to change the racist
of the United States. This point must be clearly understood by all black
revolutionaries. This is not a racist position and I do not feel compelled to
defend it but I am only delineating its dynamics and interrelationship. This is
absolutely necessary for we must know the type of world in which we wish to
Naturally a revolution for socialism cannot end racism in the United States
overnight once state power has been acquired and won by armed struggle. But
racism cannot e ever be eliminated unless one has power to control the means of
production. As you know there are some leading personalities in the black
movement who think our problem is only one of racism. These people have not yet
acquired sufficient understanding of the economics of the world or either
their class positions and material rewards resulting from the advocacy of this
position makes them unable to understand that we have both a class and a racial
fight and that it is not simply a question of race.
Quite often the dynamics of racism in the United States makes it difficult
for some black intellectuals to understand the question of class. They are
perplexed about what to do about white people. This is a legitimate question
must be understood from the point of view that we have suffered at the hands
of white people and it is impossible to ever imagine that there will be white
people who will fight imperialism in the United States. The record does not
bear out this conclusion and the recent bombings in New York which may have been
committed by some whites stands as proof against this argument.
Then, too, it is necessary to realize that our revolution is indeed many
years off and it is my contention based upon certain experiences that there are
and will be whites who will clearly understand the theoretical implications of
the theory of the black vanguard leading the fight for world socialism in the
United States. Indeed we will have a material and ideological struggle, but
that is all a part of the revolutionary process.
In the final analysis the distribution of power in the United States is yet
to be decided an it will not be our generation which will decide that although
we have a responsibility to state our position, clearly and without
reservation. As you know I do not run from the ideological struggle and my
out there for the world to judge.
Struggle for World Socialism
Brother Stone and Sister Flora, I am in Martinique precisely because I
believe that the ideological struggle is most important and that Frantz Fanon
much to say to those of us who are colonized in the United States. More than
that, if we do not arm ourselves with sound theoretical concepts we will not
survive the severe period of repression which is upon us.
We all know of too many people and leading personalities who have abdicated
the struggle inside the United States for various reasons, but one of them
comes from not understanding the long term nature of our struggle and a sound
theoretical position that our fight is against racism, colonialism, capitalism
imperialism and that world socialism is the only permanent answer to our
economic and political exploitation.
Personally, while I believe that ultimately the fight is for world socialism,
I am not opposed to short term objectives. For instance, the issue of Pan
Africanism is going to hit the stage inside the United States. This will be an
advancement over many concepts, but it will not be enough if it does not speak
to the economic framework of that Pan Africanism.
For inside Africa today there are many bourgeois nationalists running African
governments and exploiting the people in the name of Pan Africanism. We have
the right to at least demand that people regress from Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois who
in his later years was pleading for Pan African Socialism. I am for Pan
African socialism if it means taking all the wealth of Africa away from the
imperialists and using it for the disposition of all oppressed people.
Our ideological positions must lead us to the position that it is the poor,
the working class among black people who must have power. During the sixties
we concentrated too much on the middle class. Most of the gains except the
long range political consciousness have resulted in the middle class of the
community entrenching itself further.
Our failure to actively work with black workers is a serious indictment of
our movement as well as the abdication of our bases in the rural south. We made
a great mistake when we did not understand the long range importance of
holding the power we had acquired in the rural south and using those as
revolutionary bases which they were.
I cannot stress too much the importance of our working with poor unorganized
urban black workers. Many of them will be employed and most of them will be
off and on jobs. As you know I willing worked for the Black Panthers because I
saw in them an extension of Frantz Fanonâ?Ts concept of the lumpen proletariat
as being the most revolutionary force in a colonized situation, but since most
of the black workers face employment off and on and many are unemployed I
think it much better to talk in terms of organizing black workers, but keeping
accent on the youth.
In 1960 I felt that the greatest contradiction inside the United States
rested in the deep south where black people were denied voting and public
accommodations rights. I felt that a struggle could be waged there which could
in time into a very revolutionary struggle once the contradictions inside the
United States became popular issues. The support we are getting from
revolutionaries around the world proves that was a correct decision and
But I must repeat that we made a serious tactical mistake in abandoning those
bases of support that we had won through struggle in the deep south.
In 1969 the greatest contradictions are found in the urban ghetto. Black
workers are essential to those ghettoes, which really should be called urban
black communities. This is not suggest that we must go back into the rural
We must, but we must concentrate on the urban black communities, especially
those cities where black workers are strategically situated near the centers
of mass production of the essentials of any industrialized society, steel,
coal, automobiles and oil. We must carry with us the dynamism that we took into
the deep South, coupled with our analysis of racism, colonialism, capitalism
We must learn from the Black Workers and they must become the leaders of the
revolutionary movement. There are some of us who are already and have been
working class in our viewpoint with the poorest class of Africans in the United
States, the tenant farmer and the sharecropper and the workers of cities in
the deep south. Our abdication of leadership and shift to the urban North left
a vacuum that is now being exploited by certain middle class elements.
Hence, my own activity in the seventies will concentrate upon waging the
ideological struggle and creating bases in urban black communities centered near
the essential means of production. I shall try to get people back into the
rural South and I shall try to forge new unity between workers, farmers,
and street brothers.
My own ideological thinking has developed tremendously in the last ten years
and much of this is due to the writings of Frantz Fanon. As a people we must
try to make him and his ideas a popular hero to black people in the United
States and the world around.
One may correctly ask what were the weakness and strengths of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I am in the process of writing my
autobiography in which I deal extensively with this question. As you know I
finished one half of it and now I am in the process of writing the second half.
But it is essential to state in this public letter that with all its strength
of organizing the rural South and generating a revolutionary thrust around
the concept of Black Power, further internationalizing the struggle of black
people in the United States, one of the essential weakness was that it kept the
poor people, the working class people removed from the center of decision
making in its own ranks.
It never made the shift from a cadre organization to a representative mass
movement, although there were several opportunities to do that. It is my
contention that this is rooted in the class nature of the organizers especially
after its frontal assault on the racism and exploitation of the Democratic Party
in 1964. The power in the organizing ranks of the cadre shifted from a rural
base to an urban middle class orientation and this introduced all the conflicts
around power and method of operation.
The problem of the class nature of the organization which I treat extensively
in my autobiography is not just a problem isolated to us in the United
States. It is the fundamental plague upon the houses of all revolutionary
in the colonial world, for most of them have been started by the Western
educated elite who have failed to understand that any revolutionary movement
cannot succeed if the power of that movement is not in the hands of the poor.
The class composition of most of the African governments is middle class or
petit bourgeois as well as liberation movements in colonized situations. Until
this is changed one will not see much of revolution in colonial territories.
Therefore the problems I raise with regard to SNCC have their relevance the
world around, I am convinced.
Basically, the class nature of the organization made it impossible to
organize street brothers and carry forth the implications of its raising the
Panther as a symbol of the political process that black people should carry
forth. That is why it was left to others who understand the streets of the
ghettoes or urban black communities to organize the Black Panther Party,
although the role of certain members of SNCC in that process cannot be
Armed with a correct ideologyâ?"the fight against racism, colonialism,
capitalism, and imperialism and for the world socialismâ?"and rooting all
make sure black workers and poor farmers have power and lead the revolutionary
struggle, trying to develop all forms of popular struggle and building a network
of unknown revolutionaries, preparing for the long range armed struggle
inside the United States and uniting workers, students, farmers, and street
brothers into a disciplined, centralized, mass political party or workers
- there can be no doubt that our struggle will advance in the seventies.
We will be carrying on the work of the late Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon,
Malcolm X, Sammy Younge and all the other sons and daughters who have died
from the whip lash of racism, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.
* * * *
â?oNaturally a revolution for socialism cannot end racism in the United States
overnight once state power has been acquired and won by armed struggle. But
racism can never be eliminated unless one has the power to control the means of
production. As you know, there are some who think our problem is only one of
racism. There people have not yet acquired sufficient understanding of the
economics of the world, or either there class positions and materials rewards
resulting from the advocacy of this position make them unable to understand
that we have both a class and a racial fight. It is not simply a question of
* * * *
James Forman was born in Chicago in 1928, and grew up in a working-class
neighborhood on the cityâ?Ts South Side. Upon graduation from high school he
entered the Air Force, serving four years there. A veteran of the Korean War,
continued his formal education during the fifties.
The emerging Civil Rights struggle in the latter fifties and the Southern
student movement in particularâ?"had a stirring effect upon him. On assignment
a reporter for the Chicago Defender in 1958, Forman traveled to Little Rock,
Arkansas, to, gather information concerning the aftermath of the school
desegregation crisis. Not content with mere reportage, however, 1960 saw him
involved as an activists in Fayette County, Tenn. where he came into contact
then recently formed Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Forman was elected Executive Secretary of SNCC in 1961, a post which he held
until 1966, when he resigned. In 1967, as International Affairs Director of
SNCC, Forman traveled extensively throughout the African continent,
representing SNCC at the UN International Seminar On Apartheid in Lusaka,
winter of the same year he spoke before the Fourth Committee at the UN.
Seeing in the Black Panthers an â?oextension of Frantz Fanonâ?Ts concept of the
lumpenproletariat as â?¦ mass revolutionary force in a colonized situation,â?
Forman assumed the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Panthers in
February, 1968â?"a post he resigned the July. From here he began work on the
Manifesto, 1969. A member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in
Detroit, Forman has recently become Executive Secretary of the International
In addition to his daily political activities, Forman is committed to the
recording of his experiences on paperâ?"what many other dedicated black
revolutionaries in the U.S., unfortunately, have failed to do. A most important
his political autobiography, The Making Of A Black Revolutionary (Macmillan),
to appear in Fall â?T71. More than just a personal analysis, this book delves
into the essence of the black struggle as it passed through the forties,
fifties, and sixties, with great emphasis placed upon the entire SNCC
Also in progress is a work centered around the life of Frantz Fanon.
Source: The Political Thought of James Forman. Edited by the Staff of Black
Star Publishing. Detroit, Michigan, 1970.