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Vol. 80/No. 8      February 29, 2016

(Books of the Month column)

Malcolm X: ‘Capitalism today is more like a vulture’

Malcolm X was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, at the age of 39. In the last year of his life he emerged as the outstanding leader of the struggle for Black liberation in the United States. “Malcolm X challenged American capitalism from right inside,” notes Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. “He was living proof for our generation of revolutionists that it can and will happen here.”

Today the main sources of “information” about Malcolm come from the Autobiography of Malcolm X prepared by Alex Haley or from the 1992 “Malcolm X” movie by Spike Lee. But both freeze Malcolm X’s political trajectory in April 1964 when he made the hajj to Mecca, only a month after his public break with the Nation of Islam. “Malcolm’s experiences and the political conclusions he drew didn’t stop there,” Barnes notes. “In fact, he had barely begun.”

As Malcolm X saw more clearly the need to advance the “global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter,” his political attraction to the Cuban Revolution grew.

Pathfinder Press publishes numerous books of Malcolm X’s speeches and interviews so that new generations of fighters can learn from his example. The selection below is from a Jan. 18, 1965, interview by Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard, published in the March-April 1965 Young Socialist and reprinted in By Any Means Necessary, one of February’s Books of the Month. Copyright © 1970 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


QUESTION: 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.

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

MALCOLM: 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. …

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

MALCOLM: 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.

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

MALCOLM: 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 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. …

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

MALCOLM: 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 and in other places where it has no business. But it can’t function in Mississippi. …

QUESTION: What is your opinion of the Democratic Party?

MALCOLM: The Democratic Party is responsible for the racism that exists in this country, along with the Republican Party. The leading racists in this country are Democrats. Goldwater isn’t the leading racist — he’s a racist but not the leading racist. The racists who have influence in Washington, D.C., are Democrats. If you check, whenever any kind of legislation is suggested to mitigate the injustices that Negroes suffer in this country, you will find that the people who line up against it are members of Lyndon B. Johnson’s party. The Dixiecrats are Democrats. The Dixiecrats are only a subdivision of the Democratic Party, and the same man over the Democrats is over the Dixiecrats. …

QUESTION: What is your opinion of the worldwide struggle now going on between capitalism and socialism?

MALCOLM: It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.  
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