Interview with Elaine Brown

Could you talk about the Panthers entry into the anti-war movement and taking a stand against Vietnam. Also, working in alliance with White radical groups. How did that come about and what were some of the events that you remembered?


Well, the, the Black Panther party was never a nationalist organization. Um, in the sense that we, our purpose was not to build a Black nation. We felt that the oppression of Black people was our primary, more subjective interest. And that interest could best be served by the freedom and the, ah, destruction of oppression for all people. So therefore that would include other people of color, women, and anybody else who was disenfranchised and was oppressed by the system that we felt was the real perpetrator of all of this, ah, harm and ill, which was a system of capitalism in the United States and ultimately of imperialism. So when we recognized early on that the war in Vietnam, ah, had nothing to do with Black people and our oppression, that we were doing no more than being cannon fodder--our first position was not to take a position against the war, but to suggest that Black men not go into the war. And so we promoted, if you look at some of our early papers, you'll see us promoting Black men saying, "Don't go to the war." We would never allow our own Panthers to be drafted. We would send them down to the draft boards in Panther uniforms with Panther papers, and say, yeah, I'm ready to go and of course the draft board would be glad to have them leave as opposed to go to Vietnam. So, generally speaking, we tried to discourage Black people from being a part of the war because we were cannon fodder, and we did not have an enemy in the Vietnamese people. We were one of the only Black organizations addressing the question of the war. But we were not anti-war activists in the sense that we thought there should just be peace in Vietnam. Our position became very clear and very strong as it evolved. And that was victory for the Viet--Vietnamese, victory for the Vietcong, which was not a very popular position. But nevertheless we did participate in a number of anti-war movements and demonstrations. But our line was very strong, and that was victory for the Vietnamese and, ah, destruction of, of U.S. troops in, ah, in ah, Vietnam.