Wide screen devices may view this page better by clicking here

17 March 2021

Facebook   Twitter

Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Film Review

Judas and the Black Messiah - taste of Fred Hampton's politics, with lessons for fighting oppression today

  (Click to enlarge)

Deji Olayinka, Socialist Party Black and Asian group

Before watching the movie, my expectations were set low by Hollywood's history of diluting radical politics, but also by the movie's soundtrack which included track names like "Rich N*gga Problems". That Noname, a popular anti-capitalist rapper, turned down featuring on the album because of the movie's political representation seemed to confirm my fears.

However, a review of the movie was perfectly summarised in her tweet that read: "It was shot beautifully, the acting was amazing. But it's a movie about an informant, Fred is secondary and his radical communist politics are [not] central, at all."

That said, focusing the camera on his murder rather than the party's politics is probably the only way that Hollywood would release a movie about a black radical socialist without diluting their politics. It's within these constraints that we could see cinemas play Fred Hampton's speech, all the way up to him saying: "We're not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we're going to fight it with socialism", and for that I'm grateful.

The movie is about 'Judas' first and 'the black messiah' second - the individuals and not the radical movement. The plot flows through the steps that led the two main characters to their fate. But it's in these scenes and dialogue that the unfiltered politics of the Black Panther Party bleeds through.

In his first scene, actor Daniel Kaluuya channels the spirit of Fred Hampton in a speech to a room full of students feeling triumphant because a college was getting a black leader and being renamed after Malcolm X. Fred is unflinching in attacking these empty symbols of change. He argues in favour of "the revolution that will free you" versus "the candy-coated facade of gradual reform", and warns against "capitalists... in dashikis".

Fred was shown as brave, he wasn't afraid to negotiate with gangs, armed with nothing but his words. And even in the face of impending imprisonment and death, he remained committed to the people and their liberation.

The movie made it clear that Fred wasn't a black nationalist, instead he was determined to build a multicultural rainbow coalition with groups like the 'Young Patriots Organization', and Puerto Ricans in the 'Young Lords'. The full range of the Black Panther Party was shown, including scenes showing the school breakfast programme, discussions on building health clinics, and sections in the party's political education classrooms.

Lessons of the Black Panthers

It was a good taste of their politics, but I share Noname's hope that watchers will "go study Fred Hampton's analysis ... beyond just seeing a movie", and that their hunger will direct them to learn the lessons from the Black Panther Party (see 'Lessons from the Black Panthers' at socialistparty.org.uk).

The action in the movie is balanced by scenes that focus on some of the personal challenges faced by the victims of capitalism's racism and police brutality, as well as showing the challenges for those fighting against it.

One scene exposes the struggles of a mother whose son was killed in a firefight with the police. She had to battle grief while facing prank calls and the media's destruction of her son's legacy. Her words: "He did that, but that ain't all he did ... it doesn't seem fair that that's his legacy" could be uttered by many today whose loved ones end up on the wrong side of the law and the media.

The movie stayed true to Fred's politics, but it wasn't the great inspiration a movie on the Black Panther Party should be. Many watchers will be frustrated by the amount of time spent on Bill O'Neil and the FBI officer using him.

But while the conspirators of Fred's murder were humanised, their crimes certainly were not. The director, Shaka King, was unrestricted in depicting the crimes that the police and capitalist state committed to stop the socialist movement - disinformation, false arrests, murder and entrapment - before finishing with the brutal and bloody home invasion to assassinate Fred Hampton.

Despite being a dramatised version of a political assassination, many of the events of the movie could easily be recreated today. British spies can legally commit these very same crimes, thanks to a law that Keir Starmer whipped Labour Party MPs into abstaining on.

And the conditions that led to the formation of the Black Panther Party are still with us, which shows that many of the same battles still need to be fought and won. The Socialist Party is helping to lead that fight. Our black workers' charter contains the ideas needed to fight against the oppression black people in the UK face today.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 17 March 2021:

End violence against women

Violence against women - we will not be silenced


Rich pickings for private companies - peanuts for health workers

NHS workers map out strategy to win 15% pay rise


Judas and the Black Messiah - taste of Fred Hampton's politics, with lessons for fighting oppression today


Can the capitalist media prevent socialist change?

Workplace news

British Gas strike at crucial stage

Electricians protest against deskilling and lower wages

Goodlord workers continue strike against 'fire and rehire'

Thousands of BT workers to ballot for strike action

Government's bus plans fall short of making up for the cuts

Reinstate Moe - stop trade union-busting at Abellio!

PCS members at Swansea DVLA to strike for safety


Council funding crisis - We need a workers' programme to restore the stolen millions

We need a fighting strategy to win funding from the government - why I'm standing for TUSC

Standing for TUSC in Worcester

Help fund the Socialist Party's election campaign as part of TUSC

Campaigns news

Build for the Socialist Students day of action on 21 April

I couldn't just stand and watch! - Why I joined the Socialist Party

Socialist Party LGBTQ+ members meeting

Selling the Socialist

International news

Myanmar: workers brave brutal military crackdown


Home   |   The Socialist 17 March 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleTV Review - Help: Heart-wrenching portrayal of Covid care home crisis

triangleFilm Review: Martin Eden

triangleFilm review: Nomadland

triangleFilm Review: Moxie

triangleFilm Review: The White Tiger


triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: United struggle against racism and oppression

triangleTory review won't deliver justice for rape victims

triangleOnline meeting - Ending violence against women, the socialist approach

triangleInternational Women's Day rally, Sunday 7th March, 3pm. Click here for Facebook and Zoom links.


triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Socialism and the fight for black liberation

triangleYouth Fight for Jobs - why we're marching on 9 October

triangleBlack history month and its relevance today


triangleTV review: Squid Game

triangleTV review - Grenfell: The Untold Story


triangleSocialist Party Scotland: Socialist change to end climate change


triangleArms fair: Hundreds of protesters defy police 'dispersal zone'


triangleContainer delay carnage makes the case for socialist planning

Black Panthers:

triangleCaerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: Lessons of the Black Panthers

Article dated 17 March 2021

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party


Pay in Fighting Fund

Pay in paper and book sales


Bulk book orders

New member submission


triangle25 Oct Leeds Socialist Party: Socialism and the fight for black liberation

triangle27 Oct Hackney & Islington Socialist Party: What is fascism?

triangle28 Oct West London Socialist Party: The legacy of the collapse of Stalinism


The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party

Subscribespacer|spacerebook / Kindlespacer|spacerPDF versionspacer|spacerText / Printspacer|spacer1152 onlinespacer|spacerBack issuesspacer|spacer Audio files

In a world facing crisis on every front, discussion on how socialist ideas can change the world is more necessary than ever. Buy a ticket now for the Socialism 2021 weekend, 19 to 21 November.

What We Stand For
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Platform setting: =

Desktop version