Franz J.T. Lee, February, 2005

Malcolm X's emancipatory relevance for the Bolivarian Revolution

Often, in his myriad of fiery speeches, addressing the Venezuelan sovereign, encouraging Citizen Power, President Hugo Chavez Frias reminds us of the struggles of the North American working class outcasts, especially of their beloved leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

As revolutionary, Malcolm X had very much in common with Venezuela's leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, and he surely would have supported all our emancipatory endeavors wholeheartedly.

Surely, a revival of the actions and thoughts of Malcolm X in America will help to pave our road towards continental unity and world emancipation with victorious success. It could reveal the true capitalist identity of the "house negroes," who completely identify themselves with their local, regional and corporate imperialist bosses, could encourage the anti-imperialist "field negroes," in enlightened unison to stop saying: "Boss, we are sick!"

The following is a brief summary of the life of Malcolm X, of his battle to annihilate all forms of mental slavery, of boss-slave relations, of world fascism. We, classified as "tin-collectors" by the local counter-revolutionary cliques, can learn much from Malcolm X, that is, how to eradicate ideological inferiority complexes and virulent racism from the very soil of America.

In the 1960s, as result of structural changes within world capitalism, and the global protests against the US War in Vietnam, within the African-American social movements, a contradictory, revolutionary tendency came into being: the Gandhist, nonviolent pacifism of Martin Luther King, Jr. versus the radical Black Nationalism of Malcolm X. The latter has special emancipatory significance for the Bolivarian Revolution.

In a previous commentary, we already dealt with Martin Luther King, here we will just summarize the central social revolutionary actions and ideas of Malcolm X,

Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), of very poor African-American parentage, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925, and was baptized as Malcolm Little. His father, a Baptist minister, was influenced by Pan-Africanism, by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association.

His family was permanently harassed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, and their house was once set on fire. In 1929, living in Lansing, Michigan, his father was brutally killed, probably by a radical, racist gang.

Psychologically, this traumatic act completely disturbed his mother, and she was eventually interned in a mental institution. Malcolm left for New York, looking for a job. He ended up selling and using drugs, had to steal to survive and, in 1946, eventually landed in prison to serve a ten-year term sentence.

While in prison, he became acquainted with the Black Muslim Movement, led by Elijah Muhammad, and was converted to Islam. On parole, after 1952, contrary to Martin Luther King, studying colonial history, he became convinced that social evil was an intrinsic attribute of colonialism, of the "white man's Christian world."

In the USA, in that epoch, the radical "Blacks" became conscious of their "blackness," of their "Black Power" as third-class citizens, and thus very rapidly they began acquiring a "Black Consciousness", the pre-stage of a social, working class consciousness. Logically, this came into being as a radical negation of US "white racism", of the white "Great Society." Later, in South Africa, a similar process of social class conscient-ization took place.

Thus, in 1963, fully aware of the lies in the mass media, and of the disinformation campaigns, Malcolm declared the Kennedy assassination, as a case of "chickens coming home to roost." This was too much for the reformist movement of Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm was immediately ostracized.

In protest, he formed his own Organization of Afro-American Unity, calling for a united front against capitalist evils. In 1964, on pilgrimage to Mecca, dropping his colonial identity, he adopted a Muslim name. Discussing with other leaders of various liberation movements, he moved from the "race struggle" to the "class struggle," and maintained that not all "whites" are evil, and that both "whites" and "blacks" should cooperate to eradicate the evils of world capitalism.

Very rapidly, negating religious, obsolete ideas, he was moving closer to scientific and philosophic socialism, to Marxism.

At home, the reactionary wing of the "Black" nationalist movement opposed his new views, even more so, the US establishment saw his growing popularity as a serious threat to domestic social stability. In fact, driven on by the profound social contradiction of King's civil disobedience and Malcolm's radical nationalism, the domestic social situation in the USA became unbearable, very explosive. Later this social tension detonated in violent riots in the "Black" ghettos of Watts and Harlem.

In the fascist eyes of the radical right, it was time to stop both Malcolm and Martin Luther King. The violent reaction was rapid. On February 14, 1965, Malcolm's home was firebombed, and a week later, on the 21st, during a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, he was shot and killed by right wing Muslim mercenaries.

Like President Chavez of Venezuela, Malcolm was a "man of the people," a "man on the street"; whether white or black, he addressed the common folk in their own blunt, picturesque language; they understood him, he reflected their deepest aspirations. Some still listened to King's peace-loving sermons from the pulpit, others enjoyed Marcuse's sociological lectures on the college campus, but Malcolm's clarion call already woke up millions for centuries held in slave bondage as "pariahs," "coolies," "camel drivers," "Kaffirs" and "tin-collectors" in the "Third World."

In spite of the many attempts of the global mass media, to defile his name, to mask his historical emancipatory endeavors, by giving full publicity, even greater importance, to other world events like the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Malcolm's revolutionary influence acquired global dimensions:

"The memory and image of Malcolm X has changed as much after his death as his own philosophies changed during his life. At first thought to be a violent fanatic, he is now understood as an advocate of self-help, self-defense, and education; as a philosopher and pedagogue, he succeeded in integrating history, religion, and mythology to establish a framework for his ultimate belief in world brotherhood and in human justice."

Heroically, Malcolm X fought against the North American "plague" (Simon Bolivar), made his revolutionary contribution to world emancipation, to American integration, to the revolutionary unity of praxis and theory, to human justice; as such historically he entered the sublime realm of the American Bolivarian Revolution.