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Vol. 74/No. 41      November 1, 2010

‘Can’t separate Africa
from Black struggle’
Part 2 of January 1965 interview
with Malcolm X for ‘Young Socialist’
(feature article)
Below we continue our installments from the recently published book Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. From the book this week we reprint the second part of an interview with Malcolm X in January 1965 that originally appeared in the Young Socialist magazine. The interview was conducted by Barnes, then national chairman of the Young Socialist Alliance, and Barry Sheppard, a staff writer for the Militant. The rest of the interview will be printed an upcoming issue.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: How much influence does revolutionary Africa have on the thinking of Black people in this country?

MALCOLM X: All the influence in the world. You can’t separate the militancy that’s displayed on the African continent from the militancy that’s displayed right here among American Blacks. The positive image that is developing of Africans is also developing in the minds of Black Americans, and consequently they develop a more positive image of themselves. Then they take more positive steps—actions.

So you can’t separate the African revolution from the mood of the Black man in America. Neither could the colonization of Africa be separated from the menial position that the Black man in this country was satisfied to stay in for so long. Since Africa has gotten its independence through revolution, you’ll notice the stepped-up cry against discrimination that has appeared in the Black community.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: How do you view the role of the U.S. in the Congo?1

MALCOLM X: As criminal. Probably there is no better example of criminal activity against an oppressed people than the role the U.S. has been playing in the Congo, through her ties with Tshombe and the mercenaries. You can’t overlook the fact that Tshombe gets his money from the U.S. The money he uses to hire these mercenaries—these paid killers imported from South Africa—comes from the United States. The pilots that fly these planes have been trained by the U.S. The bombs themselves that are blowing apart the bodies of women and children come from the U.S. So I can only view the role of the United States in the Congo as a criminal role. And I think the seeds she is sowing in the Congo she will have to harvest. The chickens that she has turned loose over there have got to come home to roost.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What about the U.S. role in South Vietnam?

MALCOLM X: The same thing. It shows the real ignorance of those who control the American power structure. If France, with all types of heavy arms, as deeply entrenched as she was in what then was called Indochina, couldn’t stay there,2 I don’t see how anybody in their right mind can think the U.S. can get in there—it’s impossible. So it shows her ignorance, her blindness, her lack of foresight and hindsight. Her complete defeat in South Vietnam is only a matter of time.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: How do you view the activity of white and Black students who went to the South last summer and attempted to register Black people to vote?

MALCOLM X: The attempt was good—I should say the objective to register Black people in the South was good because the only real power a poor man in this country has is the power of the ballot. But I don’t believe sending them in and telling them to be nonviolent was intelligent. I go along with the effort toward registration, but I think they should be permitted to use whatever means at their disposal to defend themselves from the attacks of the Klan, the White Citizens’ Council, and other groups.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What do you think of the murder of the three civil rights workers and what’s happened to their killers?3

MALCOLM X: It shows that the society we live in is not actually what it tries to represent itself as to the rest of the world. This was murder and the federal government is helpless because the case involves Negroes. Even the whites involved, were involved in helping Negroes. And concerning anything in this society involved in helping Negroes, the federal government shows an inability to function. But it can function in South Vietnam, in the Congo, in Berlin,4 and in other places where it has no business. But it can’t function in Mississippi.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: In a recent speech you mentioned that you met John Lewis of SNCC in Africa. Do you feel that the younger and more militant leaders in the South are broadening their views on the whole general struggle?

MALCOLM X: Sure. When I was in the Black Muslim movement I spoke on many white campuses and Black campuses. I knew back in 1961 and ’62 that the younger generation was much different from the older, and that many students were more sincere in their analysis of the problem and their desire to see the problem solved. In foreign countries the students have helped bring about revolution—it was the students who brought about the revolution in the Sudan, who swept Syngman Rhee out of office in Korea, swept Menderes out in Turkey.5 The students didn’t think in terms of the odds against them, and they couldn’t be bought out.

In America students have been noted for involving themselves in panty raids, goldfish swallowing, seeing how many can get in a telephone booth—not for their revolutionary political ideas or their desire to change unjust conditions. But some students are becoming more like their brothers around the world. However, the students have been deceived somewhat in what’s known as the civil rights struggle (which was never designed to solve the problem). The students were maneuvered in the direction of thinking the problem was already analyzed, so they didn’t try to analyze it for themselves.

In my thinking, if the students in this country forgot the analysis that has been presented to them, and they went into a huddle and began to research this problem of racism for themselves, independent of politicians and independent of all the foundations (which are a part of the power structure), and did it themselves, then some of their findings would be shocking, but they would see that they would never be able to bring about a solution to racism in their country as long as they’re relying on the government to do it.

The federal government itself is just as racist as the government in Mississippi, and is more guilty of perpetuating the racist system. At the federal level they are more shrewd, more skillful at doing it, just like the FBI is more skillful than the state police and the state police are more skillful than the local police.

The same with politicians. The politician at the federal level is usually more skilled than the politician at the local level, and when he wants to practice racism, he’s more skilled in the practice of it than those who practice it at the local level.

1. The Congo declared its independence from Belgium June 30, 1960. The prime minister of the newly independent government was Patrice Lumumba, who had led the liberation struggle there. Washington and Brussels moved swiftly to prepare Lumumba’s overthrow, organizing attacks by Belgian troops, units of mercenaries, and forces of the imperialist-backed secessionist regime of Moise Tshombe in Congo’s southern, mineral-rich Katanga province. In face of this onslaught, Lumumba took the fatal step of requesting military help from the United Nations. In late 1960 Congolese army officer Joseph Mobutu, at the instigation of Washington and Brussels, deposed Lumumba and placed him under arrest. As Swedish troops wearing the blue berets of UN “peacekeepers” looked on, Mobutu handed Lumumba over to Tshombe’s forces, who murdered the Congolese leader in January 1961.

In 1964 Tshombe was installed as Congolese prime minister. Forces that looked to Lumumba, based in the country’s eastern provinces, rebelled. Mercenaries and Belgian troops aided Tshombe in crushing the uprising. Washington organized a force of U.S. planes flown by U.S. pilots to carry out bombing and strafing missions. Thousands of civilians were killed in putting down the revolt.

2. From 1946 to 1954 the French government waged a war against liberation forces in Vietnam, which was then part of the French colonial empire. With France unable to defeat the independence movement, the war ended in a partition of the country. The liberation forces took power in North Vietnam and, under the workers and peasants government established there, the toilers went on to expropriate the landlords and capitalists. The French occupiers withdrew, and a U.S.-supported neocolonial regime was established in the south. Facing a renewal of the liberation struggle in South Vietnam, by the early 1960s Washington had sent thousands of troops, initially called “advisers.” By 1968 there were 540,000 U.S. combat troops in Vietnam.

3. In June 1964 three civil rights workers—two white, one Black—were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The bodies of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney were not found until August 4. The state of Mississippi never handed down murder indictments for the killings.

In late 1964 the U.S. Justice Department indicted nineteen men on federal conspiracy charges in connection with the killings, but charges were dropped two years later. In 1967 twenty-one men were arrested by the FBI, again on conspiracy charges under federal civil rights laws. Seven were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years, with none serving more than six.

In 2005 Edgar Ray Killen, an organizer of the Klan attack who had not been convicted in the 1967 trial, was tried on Mississippi state manslaughter charges. Killen, eighty at the time, was convicted and sentenced to sixty years in prison.

4. During the 1960s, the United States maintained a garrison of more than five thousand troops in Berlin. In October 1961 U.S. and Soviet tanks had faced each other in a standoff across the newly built Berlin Wall in the heart of the partitioned and occupied city.

5. In 1960 student-initiated demonstrations in South Korea and Turkey led to the ouster of South Korean president Syngman Rhee and Turkish premier Adnan Menderes. Sudanese ruler General Ibrahim Abboud resigned in November 1964 following a month of student demonstrations.
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