A broad array of forces in the Black community attended the May 6 meeting at the Apollo Theater in Harlem that featured Louis Farrakhan and Betty Shabazz. Organized in response to government indictments against Qubilah Shabazz, in the background of this meeting stood the legacy of Malcolm X and the political repercussions of his assassination.
The only major voice of a current in the Black struggle not heard was that representing Malcolm X. The revolutionary struggle that he dedicated his life to and its lessons for today were absent at this gathering.
Farrakhan publicly acknowledged for the first time that "members of the Nation of Islam were involved in the assassination of Malcolm X." He then tried to explain away this admission by declaring the government to be the "real culprit" who manipulated "the zeal and ignorance inside the ranks of the Nation of Islam and among the followers of Brother Malcolm X" that created the climate that "allowed him to be assassinated."
Farrakhan's efforts to put in the past and minimize the responsibility of the Nation of Islam in the assassination of Malcolm X should be rejected by all supporters of the fight for Black liberation and the struggle for social justice and equality.
It is not true that Malcolm and others who left the Nation of Islam and formed the Organization of African Unity and Muslim Mosque Inc. fell into a government trap that ended in the assassination of Malcolm X.
In his speeches, interviews, and writings, Malcolm explains the moral and political factors that lay behind his parting of the ways with the Nation. He openly pointed to and helped educate fighters on the role of government police agencies in attempts to undermine the Black struggle.
Any serious fighter against racism and other evils produced by capitalism knows the government will use spies, provocateurs, dirty tricks, and assassination to try to disrupt and derail the struggle. That's a given.
Organizations that claim to advance the struggle of the oppressed and exploited are not helpless in the face of government disruption efforts. The leadership of every such organization that claims to fight for the oppressed has the responsibility to conduct itself in a manner that will make the movement, its organizations, and members as impervious as possible to the stock-and-trade of secret police operations: agent-baiting, poison pen letters, and the resolution of political differences by acts of thuggery, murder, and so on.
Ten weeks before Malcolm's assassination, Farrakhan wrote in the Nation of Islam's newspaper at the time, Muhammad Speaks, "Only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom, will follow Malcolm." At that time, Farrakhan and "nearly every minister in the Nation of Islam was making incendiary speeches about Malcolm," explained one of those convicted in the killing of Malcolm.
Before Malcolm's death, several former members of the Nation who had broken from it were physically attacked and some of them murdered by Nation of Islam members.
When Malcolm was murdered, Elijah Muhammad called him a hypocrite and said that "Malcolm X got just what he preached." Malcolm separated from the Nation of Islam after learning about the corrupt personal behavior and hypocrisy of Muhammad, who had engaged in sexual relations with a number of teenage women in the organization. Elijah Muhammad then organized humiliating internal trials and suspended the women from membership, after several had become pregnant.
As recently as 1993, Farrakhan sought to justify Malcolm's assassination when he said in a speech, "Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with [Malcolm] like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours?-A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats."
The May 6 meeting at the Apollo was Farrakhan's attempt to win credibility among Blacks who associate the Nation with the assassination. Malcolm's growing popularity among youth keeps this "albatross" around his neck.
But far from dimming the Nation's role in Malcolm's murder, Farrakhan's statements at the Apollo underline the politically destructive character of those who use the methods practiced by the Nation - then, now, or in the future.
While a leading minister of the Nation of Islam in the early 1960s, Malcolm's revolutionary political views broadened under the impact of the struggles by Blacks and other oppressed peoples in the United States and around the world. This course diverged from that of the Nation, which abstained from any political activity.
During the last year of his life, Malcolm sought to effectively fight against racist injustice and for the human rights of Blacks and all the oppressed and exploited. His identification with revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggles in Vietnam, the Congo, Cuba, and Algeria ran counter to the politics and actions of the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm sought to explain, educate, and convince the oppressed of their self-worth, and capacity to think, act, and change the world and themselves. "You're living at a time of- revolution, a time when there's got to be a change," Malcolm told students at Oxford University in Britain at a nationally televised talk in 1964. "I for one will join with anyone, I don't care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth."
A fitting response to Farrakhan's admission of the
Nation of Islam's involvement in the assassination of
Malcolm X would be to grab hold of Malcolm's living legacy
found in his speeches, writings, and interviews, to better
understand and join in the struggle for the type of just and
humane world he fought for.
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