Black Liberation Army

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The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was a militant black Marxist organization that operated in the United States from the early 1970s into the early 1980s. Founded by, and primarily composed of the most violent elements of the Black Panther Party (BPP), the BLA engaged in what was referred to as "armed struggle" against the government of the United States.

Formation

The Black Liberation Army developed as a splinter group of the Black Panther Party. Founded by followers of Eldridge Cleaver, as a response to what the more violent factions of the Black Panthers perceived as "selling out" the "armed struggle" [1] under the leadership of Huey Newton.

Activities

Although the Black Liberation Army was believed to be responsible for dozens of acts of violence during their brief existence, the group was most notable for its campaign to assassinate police officers. According to a 1978 Heritage Foundation report, "At least five police officers-were killed by the BLA or its associated groups in New York City and Jackson, Mississippi, in 1971 and 1972. Other armed assaults by the BLA have occurred in other cities, and in early 1972 BLA members had been taken into custody in St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, North Carolina."[2]

Violence targeting the police was a central strategy of the BLA. Convicted cop-killer Clark E. Squire warned at his 1974 sentencing for killing New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster, "if the police don’t want to get killed, they should stop murdering blacks and Third World people."[3]

Author Albert Parry described the BLA as, "Traveling across the continent in small teams, from San Francisco to St. Louis to Atlanta to New York, they financed themselves by bank and store robberies and, to a lesser extent, by sales of narcotics, as they made their main task the slaying of policemen."[4]

According to the 1978 Heritage Foundation Report, "jailbreak attempts on behalf of imprisoned BLA members were made in February, 1975. In the spring of 1974, the BLA robbed banks in Berkeley, California, and New Haven, Connecticut, critically wounding a police officer in the latter city. In April, the BLA tried to free its leaders imprisoned in the Manhattan House of Detention in New York City, and on May 7, 1975, the New York City Department of Corrections uncovered a plot of the BLA to free a female member from Rikers Island Prison that would have involved the kidnapping of six persons, five of them police officers."[5]

Ideology

While the BLA draped itself with the banner of seeking civil rights and equality for African Americans, the activities and associations of BLA members revealed a far more sinister underlying ideology.

Former California Attorney General Evelle Younger, listed the Black Liberation Army as one of several terrorist organizations active in the state. "While testifying before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee on September 23, 1974 he said, 'they all have an unmistakable Maoist basis. This is true of the Weather Underground, the SLA, BLA and their predecessors, the Revolutionary Union and the Venceremos organization. Although there are distinctive differences in how each group interprets its own role in bringing about a revolution in this country, their guiding political philosophy is Marxist Leninist doctrine as interpreted by Mao Tse-tung.'"[6]

Key Members

Even though Eldrige Cleaver provided the militant ideological leadership within the Black Panther Party that eventually led to the formation of the BLA, several other individuals were famously associated with the group.

David Horowitz described Cleaver as, "the most articulate and colorful tribune of the Panther vanguard. But what he represented most was a limitless, radical rage. Eldridge was indeed a rapist and possibly a murderer as well (he boasted to Timothy Leary, whom he held hostage in his Algerian exile, that he had a private grave- yard for his enemies). It was Eldridge who accused Panther leader Huey Newton of betraying the radical cause when Newton reversed his famous summons to 'pick up the gun' and begin the revolution. In protest against Newton's 'kinder, gentler' Panthers, Eldridge split the party and became spiritual godfather to the Black Liberation Army and other violent revolutionary factions."[7]

According to The Encyclopedia of the American Left, "The interaction of political militants and individuals with a criminal history led to a blurring of whether some acts were politically or criminally motivated. A number of armed car and bank robberies on the East Coast were said to be the work of black or Puerto Rican revolutionaries seeking funds for the movement. The most famous of these involved the 'Black Liberation Army' led by Joanne Chesimard."[8]

References

  1. David Horowitz, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes (Spence Publishing Company, 1999), 124
  2. Samuel T Francis and William T Poole, "Terrorism in America: The Developing Internal Security Crisis," Heritage Foundation, 1978, p. 7
  3. Albert Parry, Terrorism: From Robespierre to Arafat (Vanguard Press, 1976) 14
  4. Albert Parry, Terrorism: From Robespierre to Arafat (Vanguard Press, 1976) 316
  5. Samuel T Francis and William T Poole, "Terrorism in America: The Developing Internal Security Crisis," Heritage Foundation, 1978, pp 7-8
  6. Robert Morris, Self Destruct: Dismantling America’s Internal Security (Arlington House, 1979) 226
  7. David Horowitz, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes (Spence Publishing Company, 1999) 211-212
  8. Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Ceorgakas, Encyclopedia Of The American Left (St. James Press, 1990) 59
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