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Vol. 74/No. 40      October 25, 2010

‘American colleges skillfully
used to miseducate’
Part 1 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 first 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 in two more issues.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What image of you has been projected by the press?

MALCOLM X: Well, the press has purposely and skillfully projected me in the image of a racist, a race supremacist, and an extremist.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What’s wrong with this image? What do you really stand for?

MALCOLM X: First, I’m not a racist. I’m against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: Why did you break with the Black Muslims?

MALCOLM X: I didn’t break, there was a split. The split came about primarily because they put me out, and they put me out because of my uncompromising approach to problems I thought should be solved and the movement could solve.

I felt the movement was dragging its feet in many areas. It didn’t involve itself in the civil or civic or political struggles our people were confronted by. All it did was stress the importance of moral reformation—don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t permit fornication and adultery. When I found that the hierarchy itself wasn’t practicing what it preached, it was clear that this part of its program was bankrupt.

So the only way it could function and be meaningful in the community was to take part in the political and economic facets of the Negro struggle. And the organization wouldn’t do that because the stand it would have to take would have been too militant, uncompromising, and activist, and the hierarchy had gotten conservative. It was motivated mainly by protecting its own self-interests.

I might also point out that although the Black Muslim movement professed to be a religious group, the religion they had adopted—Islam—didn’t recognize them. So religiously it was in a vacuum. And it didn’t take part in politics, so it was not a political group. When you have an organization that’s neither political nor religious and doesn’t take part in the civil rights struggle, what can it call itself? It’s in a vacuum. So all of these factors led to my splitting from the organization.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What are the aims of your new organization?

MALCOLM X: There are two organizations. There’s the Muslim Mosque, Inc., which is religious. Its aim is to create an atmosphere and facilities in which people who are interested in Islam can get a better understanding of Islam. The aim of the other organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is to use whatever means necessary to bring about a society in which the twenty-two million Afro-Americans are recognized and respected as human beings.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: How do you define Black nationalism, with which you have been identified?

MALCOLM X: I used to define Black nationalism as the idea that the Black man should control the economy of his community, the politics of his community, and so forth.

But when I was in Africa in May, in Ghana, I was speaking with the Algerian ambassador, who is extremely militant and is a revolutionary in the true sense of the word (and has his credentials as such for having carried on a successful revolution against oppression in his country*). When I told him that my political, social, and economic philosophy was Black nationalism, he asked me very frankly: Well, where did that leave him? Because he was white. He was an African, but he was Algerian, and to all appearances, he was a white man. And he said if I define my objective as the victory of Black nationalism, where does that leave him? Where does that leave revolutionaries in Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania? So he showed me where I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries dedicated to overturning the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary.

So I had to do a lot of thinking and reappraising of my definition of Black nationalism. Can we sum up the solution to the problems confronting our people as Black nationalism? And if you notice, I haven’t been using the expression for several months. But I still would be hard pressed to give a specific definition of the overall philosophy which I think is necessary for the liberation of the Black people in this country.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: Is it true, as is often said, that you favor violence?

MALCOLM X: I don’t favor violence. If we could bring about recognition and respect of our people by peaceful means, well and good. Everybody would like to reach his objectives peacefully. But I’m also a realist. The only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are Black people. I’ve never heard anybody go to the Ku Klux Klan and teach them nonviolence, or to the [John] Birch Society and other right-wing elements. Nonviolence is only preached to Black Americans, and I don’t go along with anyone who wants to teach our people nonviolence until someone at the same time is teaching our enemy to be nonviolent. I believe we should protect ourselves by any means necessary when we are attacked by racists.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What do you think is responsible for race prejudice in the U.S.?

MALCOLM X: Ignorance and greed. And a skillfully designed program of miseducation that goes right along with the American system of exploitation and oppression.

If the entire American population were properly educated—by properly educated, I mean given a true picture of the history and contributions of the Black man—I think many whites would be less racist in their feelings. They would have more respect for the Black man as a human being. Knowing what the Black man’s contributions to science and civilization have been in the past, the white man’s feelings of superiority would be at least partially negated. Also, the feeling of inferiority that the Black man has would be replaced by a balanced knowledge of himself. He’d feel more like a human being. He’d function more like a human being, in a society of human beings.

So it takes education to eliminate it. And just because you have colleges and universities doesn’t mean you have education. The colleges and universities in the American educational system are skillfully used to miseducate.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What were the highlights of your trip to Africa?

MALCOLM X: I visited Egypt, Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (now Tanzania), Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea, and Algeria. During that trip I had audiences with President Nasser of Egypt, President Nyerere of Tanzania, President Jomo Kenyatta (who was then prime minister) of Kenya, Prime Minister Milton Obote of Uganda, President Azikiwe of Nigeria, President Nkrumah of Ghana, and President Sékou Touré of Guinea. I think the highlights were the audiences I had with those persons because it gave me a chance to sample their thinking. I was impressed by their analysis of the problem, and many of the suggestions they gave went a long way toward broadening my own outlook.

* In 1962 Algeria won its independence from France following an eight-year war of liberation. At the time Malcolm is describing, a popular revolutionary government in Algeria led by Ahmed Ben Bella was organizing urban and rural working people to make increasing encroachments against capitalist social relations. That workers and peasants government was overthrown in a coup led by Houari Boumedienne in June 1965.

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