Tag Archives: Malcolm X

Malcolm X Was Right About America; He, perhaps better than King, understood the inner workings of empire. We are the nation Malcolm knew us to be.

3 Feb

 

NEW YORK—Malcolm X, unlike Martin Luther King Jr., did not believe America had a conscience. For him there was no great tension between the lofty ideals of the nation—which he said were a sham—and the failure to deliver justice to blacks. He, perhaps better than King, understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.

“It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck,” Malcolm said. “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.”

King was able to achieve a legal victory through the civil rights movement, portrayed in the new film “Selma.” But he failed to bring about economic justice and thwart the rapacious appetite of the war machine that he was acutely aware was responsible for empire’s abuse of the oppressed at home and abroad. And 50 years after Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem by hit men from the Nation of Islam, it is clear that he, not King, was right. We are the nation Malcolm knew us to be. Human beings can be redeemed. Empires cannot. Our refusal to face the truth about empire, our refusal to defy the multitudinous crimes and atrocities of empire, has brought about the nightmare Malcolm predicted. And as the Digital Age and our post-literate society implant a terrifying historical amnesia, these crimes are erased as swiftly as they are committed.

 

 

“Sometimes, I have dared to dream … that one day, history may even say that my voice—which disturbed the white man’s smugness, and his arrogance, and his complacency—that my voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even fatal catastrophe,” Malcolm wrote.

The integration of elites of color, including Barack Obama, into the upper echelons of institutional and political structures has done nothing to blunt the predatory nature of empire. Identity and gender politics—we are about to be sold a woman president in the form of Hillary Clinton—have fostered, as Malcolm understood, fraud and theft by Wall Street, the evisceration of our civil liberties, the misery of an underclass in which half of all public school children live in poverty, the expansion of our imperial wars and the deep and perhaps fatal exploitation of the ecosystem. And until we heed Malcolm X, until we grapple with the truth about the self-destruction that lies at the heart of empire, the victims, at home and abroad, will mount. Malcolm, like James Baldwin, understood that only by facing the truth about who we are as members of an imperial power can people of color, along with whites, be liberated. This truth is bitter and painful. It requires an acknowledgment of our capacity for evil, injustice and exploitation, and it demands repentance. But we cling like giddy children to the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. We refuse to grow up. And because of these lies, perpetrated across the cultural and political spectrum, liberation has not taken place. Empire devours us all.

“We’re anti-evil, anti-oppression, anti-lynching,” Malcolm said. “You can’t be anti- those things unless you’re also anti- the oppressor and the lyncher. You can’t be anti-slavery and pro-slavemaster; you can’t be anti-crime and pro-criminal. In fact, Mr. Muhammad teaches that if the present generation of whites would study their own race in the light of true history, they would be anti-white themselves.”

Malcolm once said that, had he been a middle-class black who was encouraged to go to law school, rather than a poor child in a detention home who dropped out of school at 15, “I would today probably be among some city’s professional black bourgeoisie, sipping cocktails and palming myself off as a community spokesman for and leader of the suffering black masses, while my primary concern would be to grab a few more crumbs from the groaning board of the two-faced whites with whom they’re begging to ‘integrate.’ ”+

 

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Malcolm’s family, struggling and poor, was callously ripped apart by state agencies in a pattern that remains unchanged. The courts, substandard schooling, roach-filled apartments, fear, humiliation, despair, poverty, greedy bankers, abusive employers, police, jails and probation officers did their work then as they do it now. Malcolm saw racial integration as a politically sterile game, one played by a black middle class anxious to sell its soul as an enabler of empire and capitalism. “The man who tosses worms in the river,” Malcolm said, “isn’t necessarily a friend of the fish. All the fish who take him for a friend, who think the worm’s got no hook on it, usually end up in the frying pan.” He related to the apocalyptic battles in the Book of Revelation where the persecuted rise up in revolt against the wicked.

“Martin [Luther King Jr.] doesn’t have the revolutionary fire that Malcolm had until the very end of his life,” Cornel West says in his book with Christa Buschendorf, “Black Prophetic Fire.” “And by revolutionary fire I mean understanding the system under which we live, the capitalist system, the imperial tentacles, the American empire, the disregard for life, the willingness to violate law, be it international law or domestic law. Malcolm understood that from very early on, and it hit Martin so hard that he does become a revolutionary in his own moral way later in his short life, whereas Malcolm had the revolutionary fire so early in his life.”

There are three great books on Malcolm X: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley,” “The Death and Life of Malcolm X” by Peter Goldman and “Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare” by James H. Cone.

On Friday I met Goldman—who as a reporter for a St. Louis newspaper and later for Newsweek knew and covered Malcolm—in a New York City cafe. Goldman was part of a tiny circle of white reporters Malcolm respected, including Charles Silberman of Fortune and M.S. “Mike” Handler of The New York Times, who Malcolm once said had “none of the usual prejudices or sentimentality about black people.”

Goldman and his wife, Helen Dudar, who also was a reporter, first met Malcolm in 1962 at the Shabazz Frosti Kreem, a Black Muslim luncheonette in St. Louis’ north-side ghetto. At that meeting Malcolm poured some cream into his coffee. “Coffee is the only thing I liked integrated,” he commented. He went on: “The average Negro doesn’t even let another Negro know what he thinks, he’s so mistrusting. He’s an acrobat. He had to be to survive in this civilization. But by me being a Muslim, I’m black first—my sympathies are black, my allegiance is black, my whole objectives are black. By me being a Muslim, I’m not interested in being American, because America has never been interested in me.”

He told Goldman and Dudar: “We don’t hate. The white man has a guilt complex—he knows he’s done wrong. He knows that if he had undergone at our hands what we have undergone at his, he would hate us.” When Goldman told Malcolm he believed in a single society in which race did not matter Malcolm said sharply: “You’re dealing in fantasy. You’ve got to deal in facts.”

Goldman remembered, “He was the messenger who brought us the bad news, and nobody wanted to hear it.” Despite the “bad news” at that first meeting, Goldman would go on to have several more interviews with him, interviews that often lasted two or three hours. The writer now credits Malcolm for his “re-education.”

Goldman was struck from the beginning by Malcolm’s unfailing courtesy, his dazzling smile, his moral probity, his courage and, surprisingly, his gentleness. Goldman mentions the day that psychologist and writer Kenneth B. Clark and his wife escorted a group of high school students, most of them white, to meet Malcolm. They arrived to find him surrounded by reporters. Mrs. Clark, feeling that meeting with reporters was probably more important, told Malcolm the teenagers would wait. “The important thing is these kids,” Malcolm said to the Clarks as he called the students forward. “He didn’t see a difference between white kids and kids,” Kenneth Clark is quoted as saying in Goldman’s book.

 

James Baldwin too wrote of Malcolm’s deep sensitivity. He and Malcolm were on a radio program in 1961 with a young civil rights activist who had just returned from the South. “If you are an American citizen,” Baldwin remembered Malcolm asking the young man, “why have you got to fight for your rights as a citizen? To be a citizen means that you have the rights of a citizen. If you haven’t got the rights of a citizen, then you’re not a citizen.” “It’s not as simple as that,” the young man answered. “Why not?” Malcolm asked.

During the exchange, Baldwin wrote, “Malcolm understood that child and talked to him as though he was talking to a younger brother, and with that same watchful attention. What most struck me was that he was not at all trying to proselytize the child: he was trying to make him think. … I will never forget Malcolm and that child facing each other, and Malcolm’s extraordinary gentleness. And that’s the truth about Malcolm: he was one of the gentlest people I have ever met.”

“One of Malcolm’s many lines that I liked was ‘I am the man you think you are,’ ” Goldman said. “What he meant by that was if you hit me I would hit you back. But over the period of my acquaintance with him I came to believe it also meant if you respect me I will respect you back.”

Cone amplifies this point in “Martin & Malcolm & America”:

Malcolm X is the best medicine against genocide. He showed us by example and prophetic preaching that one does not have to stay in the mud. We can wake up; we can stand up; and we can take that long walk toward freedom. Freedom is first and foremost an inner recognition of self-respect, a knowledge that one was not put on this earth to be a nobody. Using drugs and killing each other are the worst forms of nobodyness. Our forefathers fought against great odds (slavery, lynching, and segregation), but they did not self-destruct. Some died fighting, and others, inspired by their example, kept moving toward the promised land of freedom, singing ‘we ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.’ African-Americans can do the same today. We can fight for our dignity and self-respect. To be proud to be black does not mean being against white people, unless whites are against respecting the humanity of blacks. Malcolm was not against whites; he was for blacks and against their exploitation.

Goldman lamented the loss of voices such as Malcolm’s, voices steeped in an understanding of our historical and cultural truths and endowed with the courage to speak these truths in public.

“We don’t read anymore,” Goldman said. “We don’t learn anymore. History is disappearing. People talk about living in the moment as if it is a virtue. It is a horrible vice. Between the twitterverse and the 24-hour cable news cycle our history keeps disappearing. History is something boring that you had to endure in high school and then you are rid of it. Then you go to college and study finance, accounting, business management or computer science. There are damn few liberal arts majors left. And this has erased our history. The larger figure in the ’60s was, of course, King. But what the huge majority of Americans know about King is [only] that he made a speech where he said ‘I have a dream’ and that his name is attached to a day off.”

Malcolm, like King, understood the cost of being a prophet. The two men daily faced down this cost.

Malcolm, as Goldman writes, met with the reporter Claude Lewis not long before his Feb. 21, 1965, murder. He had already experienced several attempts on his life.

“This is an era of hypocrisy,” he told Lewis. “When white folks pretend that they want Negroes to be free, and Negroes pretend to white folks that they really believe that white folks want ’em to be free, it’s an era of hypocrisy, brother. You fool me and I fool you. You pretend that you’re my brother, and I pretend that I really believe you believe you’re my brother.”

He told Lewis he would never reach old age. “If you read, you’ll find that very few people who think like I think live long enough to get old. When I say by any means necessary, I mean it with all my heart, my mind and my soul. A black man should give his life to be free, and he should also be able, be willing to take the life of those who want to take his. When you really think like that, you don’t live long.”

Lewis asked him how he wanted to be remembered. “Sincere,” Malcolm said. “In whatever I did or do. Even if I made mistakes, they were made in sincerity. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong in sincerity. I think that the best thing that a person can be is sincere.”

“The price of freedom,” Malcolm said shortly before he was killed, “is death.” By Chris Hedges Posted on Feb 1, 2015 http://www.truthdig.com

 

 

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We are the authors and actors of our own history; Neoliberalism is in crisis, like all previous forms of capitalism before it — it is running out of time:

11 Sep

 

As neo-liberalism struggles to find a long-term survival strategy, a new book explores how Marxism can contribute to the praxis of contemporary movements. In our new book We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism by Laurence Cox on September 10, 2014

 

Neoliberalism is in crisis. Some of the elements of this are fairly obvious: the financial crisis of recent years and elites’ inability to chart an effective strategy for long-term profitability; the decline of US geopolitical hegemony, most visibly in its one-time backyard of Latin America and the strategically central Middle East and North African region; a legitimacy crisis around surveillance and military intervention more broadly; severe problems with making the WTO, FTAA and other such arrangements actually produce the intended results; the EU’s increasing inability to secure mandates for austerity in referenda or elections; not to mention the medium-term threats to fixed assets (and supporters) caused by climate change.

To say that neoliberalism is in crisis is not to say that it is powerless, or that it is not causing immense suffering across the world in many different ways. It is to say that — like all previous forms of capitalism before it — it is running out of time: it is ceasing to work for many of the groups which were once central for the alliance that constructed neoliberal hegemony; it is failing to chart a survival course for capitalist elites; and it is struggling to manage everyday problems. Coercion, however terrifying we may find it, is not a viable long-term strategy.

It is important to say this in the face of arguments which — rightly horrified or terrified by the realities of neoliberalism — ascribe omnipotence or inevitability to its continuation. Watching the screen (increasingly of smartphones or tablets rather than TV or newspapers), transfixed by the daily dose of violence and a sense of powerlessness, such arguments remain caught within their own local realities — taking the last couple of decades as defining of human existence, but also taking what is available to an increasingly narrow mediasphere as defining What Is Happening. Put another way, they constitute elaborate rationalizations of personal experience without being able to stand outside the structures that constitute that experience, either historically or in terms of reading the world from below, in terms of popular struggles.

 

 

Premature Obituaries and Zombie Neoliberalism

Almost as soon as any new movement from below appears on the radar screen of the North’s elites, writers proclaim it dead, irrelevant, or past its prime. This has been so for the Zapatistas (now celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their uprising), for the global ‘movement of movements’ against neoliberalism (despite events in Latin America), for the movement against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (despite everything) and increasingly for anti-austerity movements. In part, of course, these are deliberate attempts to write off movements by apologists for our current regimes: to misquote Howard Zinn (1999), we might wonder why it is necessary to proclaim movements dead again and again.

Another reason for this obituary-writing lies in how journalists, academics, literary writers and so on are trained. There is a natural tendency to defend one’s own hard-won intellectual capital: where this consists of a particular way of writing about how things are at present, and of ‘business as usual’ tendencies into the future, anything which suggests that there may be more to the present than meets an eye focused on routines, and that the future may not yet be written in stone, will be unwelcome. There is also a need to have something to say about everything, and to appear to know something about any possible subject of conversation (‘relevance’, for a very media-oriented value of the word). Given the complexity of reality and how little of it anyone can know (not to mention how pressures for intellectual productivity squeeze the time available for exploring new areas of knowledge), what is most needed is a stock of ready-made dismissals for whatever falls outside one’s own sphere of interest and actual knowledge (see Sotiris 2013).

For us, the most interesting part of the obituary-writing process is that engaged in by movement activists themselves. This too has multiple roots: frustration and despair, a sense of having lost particular internal or external battles, a desire to argue for different strategies (a return to trade union struggles, a return to communities, the construction of utopias), and the belief that today’s movement is the strongest available argument for one’s own flavor of theory. Perhaps the most significant, though, is the experience this chapter addresses, of stalemate: of having made huge efforts, having moved further in recent years than most of us would have thought possible in the 1990s, and yet of having in some terms achieved so little.

 

 

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The first chapter of We Make Our Own History discusses how theory can grow out of activist experience and what this means for “movement-relevant theory”, identifying Marxism as one such form of movement theorizing which activists can “repair, reuse and recycle”. We then ask how a Marxism oriented to the praxis of movements and communities can help activists change the rules of the socially constructed game which academic social movements research often wants to confine them to.

The central chapter rethinks Marxism as a theory of social movements, including both movements from below and the agency of the powerful and wealthy — the social movements from above whose weight we daily feel on our backs. We go on to use this framework to explore how movements from above and below have structured the historical development of capitalism, in its many changing forms. Finally, we discuss movements from below against neoliberalism and ask how they can win: what it means, in practice, to make another world possible.

Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen, We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism is now out from Pluto Press.

Laurence Cox directs the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and co-edits the social movements journal Interface. He is active in a wide range of movements and has published Marxism and Social Movements (2013) and Understanding European Movements (2013).

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen. His research focuses on social movements in the Global South. He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India (2012) and co-editor of Social Movements in the Global South (2011) and Marxism and Social Movements (2013).

 

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No War but Class War! Chomsky: U.S. Plunges the Cradle of Civilization into Disaster, While Its Oil-Based Empire Destroys the Earth’s Climate!

6 Sep

Humanity has the effect of an immense asteroid hitting the planet.

 

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Art Work by WissamAlJazairy

 

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.
 
The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.
 
The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck’s devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.
 
One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in aNew York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today’s sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.
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Art Work by WissamAlJazairy

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”
 
Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group’s major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.
 
Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt’s fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

 

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Art Work by WissamAlJazairy

 

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

 

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Art Work by WissamAlJazairy

 

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before its summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

 

 

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

 

 

 

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