Bobby Seale’s Confession: David Horowitz Was Right OnCulture Watch
Seale is best remembered for his 1969 courtroom histrionics as one of the Chicago Eight, the eight moral degenerates who were put on trial for inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Seale’s behavior caused the judge to order him shackled to a chair and gagged.
Seale is now apparently ungagging himself about the Panther past. In a recent speech at a Panther reunion, he confessed that the Panthers were little more than extortionists, gangsters and murderers and that they killed Betty Van Patter -- whose murder remains unsolved till this day.
As expected, the former Panther engaged in selective memory and exonerated himself from any personal wrongdoing in Panther crimes. He also called David Horowitz a liar –- even though he (Seale) simultaneously admitted that the Panthers were everything Horowitz has been saying they were.
Seale’s confession serves as yet another reminder of the Left’s practice of historical amnesia, since the Liberal Establishment has yet to reconcile itself with who and what the Panthers really were. This explains why there has been a literal blackout by the national media on this issue.
To fight this assault on historical memory, Horowitz has devoted much of his life to exposing Panther criminality. He has done so because the Panthers abducted and killed his friend –- Betty Van Patter. For speaking the truth about the criminality of the Left’s revolutionary vanguard, Horowitz has paid a large personal price. His life has been put in danger and his intellectual scholarship has been banned by the Nazi-like Leftist censors in academia.
Seale’s confession now serves as yet another vindication of Horowitz. Eldridge Cleaver’s confession did the same several years back. In the now famous 1998 60 Minutes program during which he admitted the pernicious ruthlessness of the Panthers, the former Panther leader discussed his change of heart. Cleaver stated,"If people had listened to Huey Newton and me in the 1960s, there would have been a holocaust in this country."
Betty Van Patter was one of the tragic victims of that holocaust in its beginning stages –- and fortunately that potential holocaust did not animate itself into a larger force.
Betty had been recruited by Horowitz in the early 1970s to keep the books of a"Learning Center" in Oakland that he had created to run a school for the children of Black Panthers. A Leftist radical at the time, Horowitz had become affiliated with the Panthers after he met their infamous leader, Huey Newton, and became enchanted with him.
Horowitz didn’t have a clue that the"Learning Center" served as a cover for Panther criminal activity; it was a military training center that was also being used as a vehicle to embezzle millions of dollars in California state and local education funds.
After Newton killed a teenage prostitute and fled to Cuba in 1974, Elaine Brown took over as leader of the Panthers. She asked Horowitz to recommend an accountant to run the Party’s finances. Horowitz suggested Betty.
Extremely naïve about what she was dealing with, Betty found something wrong with the Panthers’ record books and went to inform Brown. She subsequently disappeared. In January 1975, Betty’s battered body -- with her head caved in -- was found floating in San Francisco Bay.
Horowitz was horrified by the murder of his friend. He felt a personal responsibility because he had brought Betty into the fold. He began to ask questions about her death, but he faced a disturbing lack of curiosity among his Leftwing associates.
Horowitz was soon to learn that, in the mind of the Leftist, curiosity about Betty’s fate was tantamount to disloyalty to the cause. Jean-Paul Sartre had set the example long before: appealing to Leftists to avoid speaking, let alone seeking, the truth about Stalin's gulags, since doing so would demoralize the French proletariat. In his autobiography Radical Son, Horowitz explains:
"To doubt the Panthers was to jeopardize the faith that the Left had placed in them. Even though the era of revolutionary enthusiasm was over, they had remained a symbolic vanguard, the embodiment of black America’s revolt against white oppression and the incalculable odds every radical faced." (p.243)
In his essay,"Black Murder Inc." published in Hating Whitey, Horowitz notes,
"The existence of a Murder Incorporated in the heart of the American left is something the left really doesn't want to know or think about. Such knowledge would refute its most cherished self-understandings and beliefs. It would undermine the sense of righteous indignation that is the crucial starting point of a progressive attitude. It would explode the myths on which the attitude depends." (p.121)
Thus, Betty’s murder, and the eerie indifference shown to it by her Leftist friends and colleagues, forced Horowitz to face the unfathomable: that the revolutionary vanguard of his own socialist dream was a criminal entity. As a result, the radical’s utopian odyssey came to an abrupt and sudden end. His Whittaker Chambers-like conversion began.
As Horowitz considered the insignificance of Betty’s life and death in the eyes of his comrades, he began to recognize a familiar historical reality being played out in the surroundings of his own life: totalitarian and ruthless means were being perpetrated to build the fantasy of an earthly paradise. Real human flesh and blood was being sacrificed on the altar of ideals.
While Horowitz could no longer blind himself about the Panthers, the American Left continued to do just that. It explains why, even though many radicals of the counter-culture have knowledge about what happened to Betty Van Patter, no one has ever been charged in her death. It also explains why, after more than two decades, the national media have yet to conduct even one serious investigation into any Panther murders.
Now Bobby Seale has come forward and acknowledged that the Panthers murdered Betty. He has admitted that the Panthers were what the Left has always denied they were. His confession is no Twentieth Party Congress -- that landmark watershed in Soviet history (1956) that witnessed Nikita Khrushchev expose and denounce Stalin’s crimes. But one can hope that it might be the foundation for something that can become analogous to Khrushchev’s secret speech.
This is not to suggest that the Panther reality is equivalent to the Stalinist horror. Implying such a thing would only trivialize and minimize the large-scale diabolical evil that Stalinism was. But it is to suggest that many of the ingredients that spawned the Panther nightmare and the Stalinist terror were exactly the same.
Seale might have just let the genie out of the bottle, and maybe we will soon be told more truth about what a mutated form of Stalinism, albeit on a much smaller scale, perpetrated in America.
This article first appeared on FrontPageMagazine.com on April 25, 2002.
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Tereshia Fell - 12/4/2002
In my opinion this article is Bullsh*t. How could you say those terrible things about the Blank panthers? These guys were revolutionaries who fought for African -Ameriacn people to get their "rights" respected. Why try to bring them down with this hogwash about them being Murderers and extortionists. It is a shame that even in this day and time, we still have people trying to bring shame to a group of people who fought long and hard against the oppression from the dominant group. Maybe you should focus on why groups like the Black Panthers had formed in the first place.
Tristan Traviolia - 5/8/2002
The author's argument does not account for the other side of the story. It took two parties to tango in the streets of the east bay in the mid-60's. The same labels used to describe the Black Panthers fit the racist, brutal law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels who committed criminal acts also. The legal establishment freed Emmitt Tills killers, and law enforcement officials murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi and other cities. Did the corruption and hypocrisy of established authority make it easier for criminals like the Black Panthers to successfully recruit widespread support from non-criminal elements of society? We should not neglect either set of criminals in that sad chapter of American history.
Vince Nobile - 5/8/2002
The left has nothing to learn from David Horowitz about political blinders and careless loyalties. Here is a man who, by his own admission, fell under the spell of the Panthers until they murdered his friend, Betty Van Patter. When his other left wing associates remained silent on the matter he not only re-evaluated his own attraction to the Panther mystique, he denounced his politics as well. Then at the speed of light he moved to the same political address inhabited by the Reagan right, the Iran/Contra crowd and more recently the captains of corporate globalization.
It's one thing to lose one's soul to Huey Newton, but reclaiming it in the lap of Henry Kissinger et.al. suggests a pathological blind spot for political criminals be they left or right. Finally, the author is correct not to make too much of the Twentieth Party Congress and Bobby Seale's confessions. We should take Seale's admissions to remind us that great care must be taken in choosing the political company we keep. Horowitz has yet to learn even that small lesson. Before glotting too much, Horowitz and friends ought to have their current blinders refitted for some much larger ones. Then again, they certainly must have done that by now.
Dr. Vince Nobile
Professor of History,
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