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What is a ‘comrade’ and why we use the term

May 15, 2013

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, Minister of Defense, NABPP-PC

The concept of “comrade” has a special meaning and significance in revolutionary struggle. We have often been asked to explain our use of this term, especially by our peers who are new to the struggle, instead of more familiar terms like “brother,” “homie,” “cousin,” “dog,” nigga” etc.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson
Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson
Foremost is that we aspire to build a society based upon equality and a culture of revolutionary transformation, so we need to purge ourselves of the tendency to use terms of address that connote cliques and exclusive relationships. A comrade can be a man or a woman of any color or ethnicity, but definitely a fellow fighter in the struggle against all oppression.

Terms like “mister” or “youngster” imply a difference of social status, entitlement to greater or lesser respect and built-in concepts of superiority or inferiority. Terms like “bitch,” “dog,” nigga,” “ho” etc., are degrading and disrespectful – even when used affectionately – as some do to dull the edge of their general usage in a world that disrespects us.

“Comrade,” however, connotes equality and respect. It implies “I’ve got your back” and “we are one.” Comrades stand united unconditionally and, if need be, to the death. It implies a relationship that is inclusive, not exclusive, and not based on any triviality but revolutionary class solidarity. It represents the socialist future we seek to represent in the struggles of today and the eventual triumph of classless communist society.

Most forms of address used by New Afrikans carry subtle implications of differing status and worth or were originally meant to insult and dehumanize us. Embracing these terms has led to our subconsciously embracing these roles and feeling and believing we are inferior and treating each other as worth less than others.

The concept of “comrade” has a special meaning and significance in revolutionary struggle.

 

So it is definitely important that we remind ourselves constantly that we are equal to and as good as anyone else and address each other accordingly. As Malcolm X put it in an interview with the Village Voice in 1965:

“The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first; then you’ll get action.”

“Wake them up to their exploitation?” the interviewer asked.

“No,” Malcolm replied, “to their humanity, to their own worth.”

Conscious use of the term “comrade” instead of the many disparaging terms of address popular today explicitly connects all people up as humans and equals. It reminds us of our interdependence for survival; it promotes relations of equality, friendship and camaraderie between all oppressed and exploited people; it expresses the unified outlook of the proletariat; and it will promote a change in people’s outlook and thinking. It’s use identifies those committed to the revolutionary struggle and represents the future in the struggles of today.

“Comrade” connotes equality and respect.

 

As Amilcar Cabral expressed in “Our People Are Our Mountians”: “I call you ‘comrades’ rather than ‘brothers and sisters’ because if we are brothers and sisters it’s not from choice – it’s no commitment – but if you are my comrade, I am your comrade too, and that’s a commitment and a responsibility. This is the political meaning of ‘comrade.’”

In the interpersonal sense, camaraderie binds people by respect, mutual support and trust, making organizations cohesive and stable. It builds and cements unity in the process of struggle, generating mutual confidence between people, affirming that we can rely upon each other regardless of the dangers that come from standing for the people and social justice for all.

Examples of genuine camaraderie are inspirational to the people and build their willingness to make a commitment to the struggle. The development and maintenance of organizational structure depends on the close and genuine camaraderie of the revolutionaries – what we call Panther Love!

Rashid Johnson, a prisoner in Virginia who was transferred last year to Oregon, has been held in segregation since 1993. While in prison he founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter. As a writer, Rashid has been compared to George Jackson, and he is also the artist who drew the image that became the icon of the California hunger strikes. His book, “Defying the Tomb,” with a foreword by Russell “Maroon” Shoats and afterword by Sundiata Acoli, can be ordered at leftwingbooks.net, by writing to Kersplebedeb, CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3W 3H8, or by emailing info@kersplebedeb.com. Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 19370490, Snake River CI, 777 Stanton Blvd., Ontario, OR 97914.

 

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