By Lenny Brody
Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a former leader of the Baltimore Black Panther Party passed away on February 13, 2023 at the age of 76. Eddie was arrested on phony charges in 1970 and was convicted in 1971. He served almost 44 years in prison and was released in 2014. He is the co-author of the book, Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther (AK Press, 2011).
When Eddie was released from prison he joined The Real News Network, an online political news outlet. I met Eddie at The Real News office in Baltimore and set up an in-person visit and a subsequent Zoom meeting with him and several University of the Poor members. We recorded these conversations to capture his knowledge and insights. Younger activists were very interested in Eddie’s thoughts on remaining active over the “long haul.”
Those who knew Eddie could not help but be impressed by his courage and dedication as a revolutionary cadre. First and foremost, he was a deep thinker. From his early days as a Panther, he looked at the situation in Baltimore and the nation strategically. He attempted to understand how the class enemy and the police were moving against the Panthers. He pushed the national Panther leadership to remove a Baltimore leader who was working for the U.S. National Security Agency.
While in prison, he continued to organize. He developed a corps of revolutionary cadre who held political education classes, sometimes twice a week, and organized among the broader prison population. Eddie advocated strongly for political education. He believed that one of the factors that led to the destruction of the Black Panther Party was the difficulty in instituting political education within the Party. He believed the Panthers grew “too fast” and were unable to develop cadre to absorb the fast growing membership.
During a 12-part interview series with Paul Jay on The Real News, Eddie discussed his experiences and political views. He explained that what the ruling class fears most is the unity of those on the bottom of society. The classic ruling class tool throughout history has been “divide and conquer.” He talked about the importance of finding issues that affect everyone and can lay the basis for unity. Eddie identified poverty as one of those issues.
Eddie leaves us with a wealth of knowledge and experience that can assist us in the battles ahead.
Lenny Brody has been politically active since the early 1960s. During the mid-1960s he was a volunteer with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in South Carolina. As part of his activities in protest of the Vietnam War he refused induction into the Army. He was a founding member of the Communist Labor Party and has studied economics and theories of political change while continuing his political activism. Currently he is one of the coordinators of the University of the Poor Think Tank and a member of the University of the Poor Journal Editorial Committee.