"Cleaver? All we ever heard of him is he wrote a book. We've never even seen him out here. We're sticking with Huey," a Chicago Panther official said yesterday.
The Meaning of a Murder
On March 8, New York Panther Robert Webb was shot in Harlem; a local leader of the Party immediately charged that Webb had been assassinated by Newton's agents in an effort to discipline the renegade chapter.
Some observers have compared the Webb case to the Rackley case. However, a key difference is that the villains in the Panther version of the Rackley case are the police, while Panthers are now accusing fellow Party members of the Webb murder.
Whether or not Webb's death turns out to be the first of a series of internecine killings, the rhetoric of the struggle is ominously violent.
Prison Spells Peril
For instance, the March 20 issue of the Panther paper headlines an open letter from San Quentin Panthers threatening Cleaver with death in any California prison.
It is difficult to predict the lines along which the Party may divide, or how much violence may accompany the split, just as it is hard to pinpoint its ideological or practical basis.
Also, the effect of the schism on the Panthers' radical backers is unknown. Both Party members and their coterie of white supporters are chronically anxious about bad publicity, especially since the Party's popularity as a political cause among whites seems to have declined over the past year.
The key to the future may be the next word from Algiers; Eldridge Cleaver fired the first round but he hasn't had much to say since.