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Red Books for Guns

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From Seize the Time by Bobby Seale

We were sitting in a car one day, in front of a doctor's office, where Huey had gone. We had just finished reading in the papers about the Red Book. The Red Book was all over TV - the Red Book of China.

The Red Book became a key thing with the Cultural Revolution that was going on in China, and Huey said, "You know what? I know how we can make some money to buy some guns." I said, "How?" "We can sell those Red Books. I know that many brothers on the block would not even buy a Red Book, but I do know that many of those leftist radicals at Berkeley will buy the Red Book." Huey went on to talk about the community of 26,000 at Cal, and how maybe a third or maybe a quarter of them were radicals or liberals who'd be interested in the Red Book, since it was being publicized so heavily.

The next thing you know, Huey asked me, "How much money do you have?" And I said, "Well, I have about $45 or $50 on me." He said, "Well, let's go buy a batch of Red Books and go up to Cal and sell them. I bet we can get a dollar apiece for them." I said, "Right on time."

You know what we did? We went over to the China Book Store in San Francisco and we bought up two batches of the Red Book, thirty in a package, and got back over here and we sold them motherfuckers at Cal campus some Red Books. We sold the Red Books inside of an hour, at a dollar apiece and that shocked us. So we took all that money and we went back to the bookstore and bought all the Red Books the man had left in the store. I think we had three or four more packages. We bought out all the Red Books, paying thirty cents for them. We made a deal with the bookstore. We told them, "We are the Black Panther Party, and could an organization get a discount?" and the next thing I knew, we had enough money to buy two shotguns. This is the way it was.

We got up to Cal the next day at 10:00 A.M., right around the time the student traffic gets heavy in front of Sather Gate. Huey did his sales pitch, "Power comes out of the barrel of a gun. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Get your Red Book." The books were going like hot cakes.

I was hollering, "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Get your Red Book. I just learned that two CIA agents were converted to dedicated communists. Get your Red Book." I said, "All you free speechers up here who lost Mario Savio must read the Red Book and do it like the Red Guards did it." Brother Bobby Hutton could hardly get the title correct. He kept coming over and asking Huey or myself how to pronounce it. Huey would tell him, but he couldn't get it. He said, "If we can buy guns with money coming in this fast I don't have to be able to say it." So he just hollered, "Red Book, Red Book," and they really sold.

CIA, pigs, Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party, news cameramen, and other people took pictures for the next two hours as we sold Red Books. Richard Iokey walked up around the time that we first got there and told us to make sure that we didn't go on campus with the books because those agents were standing all around waiting to bust us. We made our Party over $170. We thought this was where it was at, because the Muslim brothers didn't seem to be selling more than one-fourth of all their papers as fast as we sold those books. They were getting twenty cents per paper and we got a dollar apiece, but this was to get some shotguns.

And if you ever had a "Freedom Now" feeling, you would have sure got it if you saw how we took off to buy some shotguns.

Huey said, "Let's go buy some shotguns." So we went to the B.B.B. department store where Virtual Murrell was working at the time, and we bought a shotgun. Huey bought a High Standard. (That's the brand name of the shotgun.) It holds six shots in a magazine after you take the plug out. And one in the chamber. Huey says, "Let's get some double 0 buckshot." I said, "What's double 0 buckshot?" And he said, "That's the same thing that the pigs use. Double 0 buckshot." I said, "Right on." I was right behind him. This brother was out of sight. He knew what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

We walked up to the counter and were paying for the shotgun after we requested it from the back counter where the sports material was located. We were drunk admiring those pistols, shotguns, rifles, what have you. And the woman at the counter says, and you could tell she was lying, "You know, these FBI men have been coming around to request information and names on everyone who buys a gun in our store." Huey says, "We don't care. That don't make any difference. There is my money. I'm Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party. Here's my money. I want my shotgun." And the woman looked at him, amazed. I don't know who she thought she was tricking, because she wasn't tricking Huey P. Newton - he couldn't give two goddams about who she thought she was intimidating with some supposed FBI investigation.

That's very important about Huey's attitude and his personality and the way he's going and the way he knows he's going. That's very important. Because Huey said, "Here's my money. My name is Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party," and we picked up that shotgun.

So we sold the Red Books, made the money, and used that money to buy guns. Me and Huey and the brothers in the core organization used the Red Books and spread them throughout the organization, because Huey made it a point that the revolutionary principles so concisely cited in the Red Book should be applied whenever they could. That is, whenever they could be applied within the confines of this system. Huey would say, "Well, this principle here is not applicable to our situation at this time." Where the book said, "Chinese people of the Communist Party," Huey would say, "Change that to the Black Panther Party. Change the Chinese people to black people." When he saw a particular principle told in the Chinese terms, he would change it to apply to us. So, from there, we righteously used the Red Book, because we talked about it, and Huey had us practicing the principles. And we used Fanon and Malcolm X - his autobiography and other material on him. Huey integrated all these principles of the other revolutionaries. We taught from all these materials, and from Che Guevara, too. We had initially used the Red Book as a commodity. Huey P. Newton knew the brothers well enough to know that they would not pay a dollar for the Red Book. Huey did know that the radicals on the campus would pay a dollar for that Red Book if we had it. And we were the only ones who had it. I remember SWP's (Socialist Workers Party), CP's (Communist Party), and a lot of people, asking very inquisitively, "Where did you get those books?" And we would say, "That's for me to know and for you to find out. You wanna buy one? Only one dollar. Get your Red Book Quotations from brother Mao Tse Tung. Aw come on." I would holler, "I know you're wondering what in the world are those Negroes doing with those Red Books?" And I would sell three or four.

We knew that at first the guns would be more valuable and more meaningful to the brothers on the block, for drawing them into the organization; then in turn we taught them from the Red Book. Huey was something else. Huey was out of sight. He knew how to do it. Huey was ten motherfuckers. He would say, "Bobby, you and I know the principles in this Red Book are valid, but the brothers and the black folks don't, and they will not pay a dollar or thirty cents for that book. So what we have to do is to get the white radicals who are intellectually interested in the book, sell the book, make the money, buy the guns, and go on the streets with the guns. We'll protect a mother, protect a brother, and protect the community from the racist cops. And in turn we get brothers in the organization and they will in turn relate to the Red Book. They will relate to political, economic, and social equality in defense of the community."

That's the way the shit went. At the same time, Huey would go off into Fanon. He would get off into Malcolm X. Huey would relate these principles. He was a motherfucker. You couldn't get around Huey. He knew the Red Book sideways, backwards and forwards. There are brothers in the Party that got to know the Red Book cattycorner. The brothers know that book sideways, backwards, forwards, upside down. Turn that book any way you want to - they tell you in a minute. "The Red Book and what else? The gun! The Red Book and what else? The gun!" That's what Huey would say.

Our last major selling escapade of the Red Book to radicals, leftists, and liberals was many months later at that big, 65,000 strong march against the war in Vietnam that wound up at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Huey and I had met Eldridge Cleaver by then. Eldridge spoke at that rally that day and the only time Huey and I took out time from selling the whole while we were there, was to listen to Eldridge's speech.

At the end, we made about $850 and had books left over. We had heard from the China Book Store man that he had received a shipment of 5,000 books, so we picked up about 1,200. They all could have been sold, but the manpower we had was short. Only about fifteen or sixteen brothers showed up that Saturday morning at the Black Panther Party office. First we followed the march up Market Street when it started that morning and followed it for about twenty-five blocks. All I could think of was books, dollars, then guns for us motherfuckers. "Get your Red Books, old liberal ladies." You know, the kind who decided to go against "Lynching" Baines Johnson because brother Martin Luther King finally went against the war.

The old broads, looking at me, amazed, couldn't figure it out. Probably asking themselves, "What are those colored boys doing with those 'communist books'?" As they walked along the street, I walked out into the ranks and held a Red Book up to them and said, "I know what you're thinking, so why don't you buy just one book and satisfy yourself." I gave one a slight smile, and she said, "OK." Her marching partner also wanted one. Hell, the first thing I know, ten books are gone and I'm working up a sweat running back and forth to the bundles that we had to keep moving.

Dollars for Red Books, and I mean those brothers who were working knew this meant more guns so we could defend ourselves and educate all black people to pick up the gun. Just like the Red Book itself says. The Party was in motion. Dollars for books to be able to get more guns.

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