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Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s

“We relate to a phrase coined by Malcolm X: ‘By any means necessary’ . . . you see . . . ‘By any means necessary’ . . . and by that we mean that we recognize that if you’re attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. The pigs, they say the Black Panthers are armed, the Black Panthers have weapons . . . see . . . and therefore they have the right to break in and murder us in our beds. I don’t think there’s anybody in here who wouldn’t defend themselves if somebody came in and attacked them or their families . . . see . . . I don’t think there’s anybody in here who wouldn’t defend themselves . . .”

—and every woman in the room thinks of her husband . . . with his cocoa-butter jowls and Dior Men’s Boutique pajamas . . . ducking into the bathroom and locking the door and turning the shower on, so he can say later that he didn’t hear a thing—

“We call them pigs, and rightly so,” says Don Cox, “because they have the way of making the victim look like the criminal, and the criminal look like the victim. So every Panther must be ready to defend himself. That was handed down by our Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton: Everybody who does not have the means to defend himself in his home, or if he does have the means and he does not defend himself—we expel that man . . . see . . . As our Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton, says, ‘Any unarmed people are slaves, or are slaves in the real meaning of the word’ . . . We recognize that this country is the most oppressive country in the world, maybe in the history of the world. The pigs have the weapons and they are ready to use them on the people, and we recognize this as being very bad. They are ready to commit genocide against those who stand up against them, and we recognize this as being very bad.

“All we want is the good life, the same as you. To live in peace and lead the good life, that’s all we want . . . see . . . But right now there’s no way we can do that. I want to read something to you:

“‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and . . .” He reads straight through it, every word. “. . . and, accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.’

“You know what that’s from?”—and he looks out at everyone and hesitates before laying this gasper on them—“That’s from the Declaration of Independence, the American Declaration of Independence. And we will defend ourselves and do like it says . . . you know? . . . and that’s about it.”

The “that’s about it” part seems so casual, so funky, so right, after the rhetoric of what he has been saying. And then he sits down and sinks out of sight behind one of the grand pianos.

The thing is beginning to move. And—hell, yes, the Reichstag fire! Another man gets up, a white named Gerald Lefcourt, who is chief counsel for the Panther 21, a young man with thick black hair and the muttonchops of the Movement and that great motor inside of him that young courtroom lawyers ought to have. He lays the Reichstag fire on them. He reviews the Panther case and then he says:

“I believe that this odious situation could be compared to the Reichstag fire attempt”—he’s talking about the way the Nazis used the burning of the Reichstag as the pretext for first turning loose the Gestapo and exterminating all political opposition in Germany—“and I believe that this trial could also be compared to the Reichstag trial . . . in many ways . . . and that opened an era that this country could be heading for. That could be the outcome of this case, an era of the Right, and the only thing that can stop it is for people like ourselves to make a noise and make a noise now.”

. . . and not be Krupps, Junkers, or Good Germans . . .

“. . . We had an opportunity to question the Grand Jury, and we found out some interesting things. They all have net worths averaging $300,000, and they all come from this neighborhood,” says Lefcourt, nodding as if to take in the whole Upper East Side. And suddenly everyone feels, really feels, that there are two breeds of mankind in the great co-ops of Park Avenue, the blue-jowled rep-tied Brook Club Junker reactionaries in the surrounding buildings . . . and the few attuned souls here in Lenny’s penthouse. “. . . They all have annual incomes in the area of $35,000 . . . And you’re supposed to have a ‘jury of your peers’ . . . They were shocked at the questions we were asking them. They shouldn’t have to answer such questions, that was the idea. They all belong to the Grand Jury Association. They’re somewhat like a club. They have lunch together once in a while. A lot of them went to school together. They have no more understanding of the Black Panthers than President Nixon.”

The Junkers! Leon Quat says: “Fascism always begins by persecuting the least powerful and least popular movement. It will be the Panthers today, the students tomorrow—and then . . . the Jews and other troublesome minorities! . . . What price civil liberties! . . . Now let’s start this off with the gifts in four figures. Who is ready to make a contribution of a thousand dollars or more?”


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