Workers Vanguard No. 997
2 March 2012
Honor Malcolm X, Militant Voice of Black Struggle
Manning Marables Malcolm X: A Liberals Reinvention
A Review by J.L. Gormoff
Malcolm X was one of the most courageous political voices of the second half of the 20th century. At the time of his assassination in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in 1965, when he was not yet 40 years old, he was the most admired and respected, the most hated and feared, black man of his generation. He spoke truths that other black leaders refused to say. Rejecting the pacifism of the liberal civil rights establishment, he was the voice of self-defense for black people. While Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph and others looked to Democratic politicians like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to grant black rights, Malcolm forthrightly denounced the Democratic Party, North and South, as racist to the core.
On the 20th anniversary of Malcolm’s assassination, Young Spartacus, newspaper of the Spartacist League’s youth organization at the time, wrote:
“At a critical moment in contemporary American history Malcolm X was the voice of black militancy. His importance and appeal lay, in particular, in his intransigent opposition to the ‘white man’s puppet Negro “leaders”,’ as he called them. Martin Luther King told the world that black people loved the white oppressor and would answer the racists’ bombings and beatings with Christian forgiveness.... The idea that blacks had to prove to the ‘good white massa’ that they were peaceable folk and god-fearing Christians enraged Malcolm to the depths of his being. It was degrading. Like the sheep reminding the wolf when it’s time for dinner. Malcolm X cut through the sanctimonious claptrap and foot-shuffling hypocrisy of the ‘respectable’ black leaders like a sharp knife going through a tub of butter.”
—“Malcolm X: Courageous Fighter for Black Liberation,” reprinted in Black History and the Class Struggle No. 2 (1985)
In the decades since his assassination, Malcolm X has been claimed by people espousing almost every sort of politics. As early as November 1965, Rustin, a social democrat who for decades embodied the “moderate” black leadership that Malcolm X castigated as doing the bidding of the white rulers, asserted: “Malcolm was moving toward the mainstream of the civil rights movement when his life was cut short,” although he “still had quite a way to go” (Down the Line: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin ). Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable is the latest in this genre.
For more than a decade, Marable, a professor at Columbia University and a leading liberal black intellectual, had been working on this biography; he died just before Viking published it last spring. The book is now out in paperback. Marable promised that his book would shatter everybody’s view of Malcolm X. While his research has yielded some interesting details that fill in Malcolm’s life, the book mainly covers ground dealt with more convincingly in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published shortly after his assassination.
What Marable’s book does offer is truly a “reinvention” of the political views of Malcolm X, a contradictory figure. Marable does his best to recast Malcolm as moving toward conventional liberal protest politics. As he puts it, at the time of his death Malcolm was approaching “the idea that perhaps blacks could someday become empowered within the existing system.” Marable casts Malcolm X in today’s terms as “a multicultural American icon” and “a man who emphasized grassroots and participatory politics.” As Marable would have it, he cultivated “alliances with Third World nations” so that “black Americans could gain leverage to achieve racial empowerment.” Beneath the trendy terminology, there is politics: Marable’s book packages Malcolm X for the era of Barack Obama.
As is well known, after Malcolm broke with Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI), he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. There he was welcomed by Muslims of all races, leading to his renunciation of all racism. This was an important step. But for Professor Marable and many others before him, it was important because it presaged Malcolm’s supposedly being reborn as a liberal integrationist. In other words, since Malcolm had supposedly broken from the NOI’s black nationalism, then he must have been moving closer to the black liberal establishment. In fact, Malcolm X admitted that he did not yet know what his overall political philosophy was at that point. Marable’s purpose is the same one that liberals and social democrats have always pursued: to counsel against militant struggle by black people and youth and to imbue them with faith in the lie that they can achieve social equality within the confines of the American capitalist system.
In our obituary in Spartacist No. 4, May-June 1965 (reprinted on page 7), we termed Malcolm X a “heroic and tragic figure” and summarized:
“Malcolm could move men deeply. He was the stuff of which mass leaders are made. Commencing his public life in the context of the apolitical, irrational religiosity and racial mysticism of the Muslim movement, his break toward politicalness and rationality was slow, painful and terribly incomplete. It is useless to speculate on how far it would have gone had he lived.... At the time of his death he had not yet developed a clear, explicit, and rational social program. Nor had he led his followers in the kind of transitional struggle necessary to the creation of a successful mass movement.”
Never breaking from black nationalism, Malcolm X was far removed from our revolutionary Marxist worldview. For us, his significance was his ability to cut through the self-serving hypocrisy of bourgeois political discourse and expose the racism and oppression at the heart of this society. At his most effective, he mercilessly attacked the idea that black people seeking freedom should link their cause to the Democratic Party. He identified with the black masses who were being held in check by “preachers and the educated Negroes laden with degrees” (Autobiography) and exposed these leaders’ subordination to the Democrats. This lesson remains no less crucial today and is for us the enduring legacy of Malcolm X.
“Reinvention” and Reconciliation
In the epilogue to his book, Marable criticizes “a tendency of historical revisionism,” namely, attempts “to interpret Malcolm X through the powerful lens of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: that Malcolm was ultimately evolving into an integrationist, liberal reformer.” He calls this “not only wrong, but unfair to both Malcolm and Martin.” Yet in the very next paragraph, Marable claims of Malcolm that “at the end of his life he realized that blacks indeed could achieve representation and even power under America’s constitutional system.”
Marable’s evidence is, first, what he terms “black encouragement.” He draws a line from the “Black Power” movement that began in the mid 1960s to black politicians from Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s and Jesse Jackson up to Obama himself. (Marable references Obama no less than four times in the epilogue.) Second, Marable approvingly looks upon the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism. This was a ludicrous appeal to the UN—that den of imperialist thieves, their accomplices and their victims—to turn itself into a force against racial oppression. Though Marable doesn’t quite sign on to Obama’s view that American society is “post-racial,” he speculates that if Malcolm X were alive today he would “have to radically redefine self-determination and the meaning of black power.” Whatever Malcolm X might have thought had he lived to see it, it’s clear that for Professor Marable, Obama’s empowerment signified black power.
Manning Marable was a social democrat—in other words, a reformist “socialist”—of some distinction. He had been a founding vice chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. Later he was an initiator of the Committees of Correspondence, a lash-up of various social democrats and former members of the Communist Party. In the late 1990s, he was a founder of the Black Radical Congress. Whatever their differences, the perspective of all these groups has been to try to pressure the Democratic Party—currently the ruling party of American capitalism—to the left in order to serve the interests of workers, minorities and the poor.
Of course, Marable voted for Obama in 2008, calling this Wall Street Democrat “a progressive liberal” who “has read left literature, including my works, and he understands what socialism is” (Socialist Review, December 2008). Barack Obama is a servant of the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression and thus a committed enemy of socialism, which means the revolutionary working-class overthrow of the class he represents. He campaigned to become the first black Commander-in-Chief by explicitly praising the anti-Soviet Cold War and the presidential record of Ronald Reagan in carrying that out.
The main way that millions of youth, black and white, have learned about Malcolm X is through his Autobiography, a product of collaboration between Malcolm and black writer Alex Haley (who would go on to write the best-selling Roots). The Autobiography was recently named by Time magazine as the 13th most influential nonfiction book written in English since 1923. Marable was particularly disdainful toward Haley and the Autobiography. In a 2009 interview, he denounced Haley as “deeply hostile to Malcolm X’s politics” because he “was a Republican, he was opposed to Black nationalism, and he was an integrationist” (International Socialist Review, January-February 2009).
Marable promised to present the real Malcolm, the one Haley had supposedly hidden. But on the whole, his book rehashes material that is already known. Much of the controversy about Marable’s book among black commentators has centered on its “exposé” that Malcolm, when he was a young hustler and petty criminal, supposedly engaged in “homosexual encounters” for money, or that later on Malcolm and his wife, Betty Shabazz, had marital problems. The furor about these “revelations” (which have been around since at least the early 1990s) only underscores how distant these talking heads are from even the memory of black struggle.
Black Oppression in
What does come through strongly in Marable’s book is a picture of how deeply torn Malcolm X was between the Nation of Islam, with its rejection of political and social struggle, and his passion to join the battles taking place to finally free black people and complete the unfinished promise of the Civil War.
Black oppression has always been central to the American capitalist system. The Civil War (1861-65) destroyed the slave system in the South. But the Northern bourgeoisie, acting on its class interests, went on to make peace with the Southern planters, and blacks were forced into backbreaking labor on the land as sharecroppers and tenant farmers. Following the end of Union Army occupation of the South during Reconstruction, naked white-supremacist rule was restored. By the late 19th century, the white propertied classes had imposed and legally enshrined Jim Crow segregation, enforced by what was virtually a racist police state, and further backed by night-riding Klan terror and lynching. Black people were consolidated anew as a specially oppressed race-color caste, forcibly segregated at the bottom of the social and economic structure of American capitalism.
In the “Great Migration” that started during World War I, millions of black people moved to the North in search of greater freedom and to escape dire poverty. In the Northern cities, they became increasingly integrated into the industrial economy while facing segregation in housing and throughout social life. In World War II black servicemen served in separate units. But many came home vowing to get some of the “democracy” they supposedly had fought for.
By the 1950s, when the civil rights movement arose, the mechanization of agriculture had undermined the viability of Southern subsistence farming by sharecroppers. A significant black proletariat existed in Southern cities like Birmingham, Alabama, in industries like steel. Furthermore, in its pursuit of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the U.S. government was finding the overt, official discrimination against black citizens and the images of brutal sheriffs and racist mobs an acute embarrassment internationally. In 1954, the Supreme Court issued its famous Brown decision that overturned school segregation, without creating any way to actually integrate schools (or anything else in American society). More and more working people and students were becoming involved in protests against segregation in the South, which were ruthlessly suppressed.
From the outset, the civil rights movement was dominated by a black middle-class leadership allied to Democratic Party liberalism. Its aim was to pressure the federal government to grant formal legal equality to the Southern black population. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., with his Christian religious appeals to the conscience of those in power, became the exemplar of this wing of the movement. Riding on their coattails, along with the reformist Communist Party, were the leaders of the very right-wing social democracy in the U.S., such as A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. These were Manning Marable’s ideological forebears. By pledging nonviolence, King and the other “mainstream” civil rights leaders were pledging the movement’s allegiance to the white power structure, promising that it would not go beyond the bounds set for it by the liberal wing of the ruling class. Advocacy of nonviolence dovetailed with the belief that black people could achieve equality and justice by relying on the government and “working within the system.”
Malcolm X denounced these misleaders from the perspective of black nationalism. Strongly influenced by the struggles in colonial and neocolonial countries for emancipation from imperialist subjugation, Malcolm viewed the American black struggle as one of the liberation of an oppressed nation inside an imperialist metropolis. In one of his most influential speeches, “Message to the Grass Roots” (November 1963), he espoused “revolution” and defined it in these terms: “Revolution…is based on land. A revolutionary wants land so he can set up his own nation, an independent nation.” For Malcolm, nationalism was the key dividing line between his ideology and that of the liberal leaders marching for integration: “These Negroes aren’t asking for any nation—they’re trying to crawl back on the plantation.”
Black nationalism is premised on the false idea that the doubly oppressed black population in the U.S. constitutes a separate nation. As a doctrine, nationalism can sometimes attract militants who are deeply alienated from this racist society and have no illusions that it can be reformed. Historically, it has meant for many of its proponents that black Americans should be given their own country, with some saying it should be situated in the so-called Southern “black belt,” where black people were the majority. To others, it meant a homeland “back” in Africa.
However, in the 1960s the term “black nationalism” became a synonym for various forms of racial separatism within the existing American capitalist state. (For Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, this had taken the form of a religious sect.) Under the rubric of “community control,” the main body of young self-styled black “nationalists” sought to become government-funded overseers of the ghettos. Such types were denounced as “pork-chop nationalists” and “dashiki Democrats” by the militants of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. Considering themselves “Marxist-Leninists” along the lines of the Stalinist Mao Zedong, the Panthers advocated the right to armed self-defense and raised calls such as “black power.” The Panthers sought to establish a paramilitary organization in the ghettos coexisting with and restraining the racist police. This effort, while heroic, resulted in their murderous repression given the existing balance of political forces.
Overwhelmingly, the thrust of black people’s struggles has been for social equality in this society, not separation. At bottom, black nationalism is an expression of hopelessness stemming from defeat, reflecting despair and the belief that the labor movement will never take up a fight for black rights. Black nationalism rejects the basic truth that the fundamental division in capitalist society is that between the bourgeois ruling class, which owns the means of production, and the working class, whose labor is exploited by the capitalists for profit. Moreover, the idea that the U.S. ruling class can be shamed or coerced into ceding a black homeland inside these borders is fantastical. Just as unrealistic is the notion that the bulk of the U.S. black population should renounce their claims to this country, which along with the working class as a whole they helped to build, and emigrate to Africa.
The Marxist program for black liberation is that of revolutionary integrationism: the struggle against all forms of racist discrimination and violence and for the integration of black people into an egalitarian, socialist society. As a race-color caste whose special oppression is integral to the workings of the American capitalist economy and every social institution, the black population cannot win equality except through socialist revolution. Black oppression and its legitimization through racist ideology are priceless tools for the exploiters in keeping working people divided, blinded and unable to organize to overthrow our common enemy. There can be no revolutionary workers party built in this country that does not grasp the strategic character of the fight for black emancipation. In building such a party, black workers are determined by history to play a vanguard role. This view stands flatly counterposed to both liberal integrationism and black nationalism.
Malcolm X and
the Nation of Islam
The contours of Malcolm’s life are well known. As “Detroit Red,” Malcolm was a street hustler and petty criminal during the 1940s in Boston and Harlem. He converted to the Nation of Islam while in prison in Massachusetts, changing his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X.
The Nation was a small sect under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad that combined religious superstition and black nationalism. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm became its most visible and effective spokesman. He made the group known by his denunciations of the “respectable” civil rights leaders. He organized several mosques, including in Harlem, the primary center of black politics and culture in the U.S. As activists were beaten and murdered, Malcolm was the only prominent black leader who asserted that black people should not beg to be integrated into American society. His denunciations of the liberal sellouts struck a chord among the ghetto poor and working-class blacks. But the Nation accepted the idea that America was a white man’s country and opposed integration.
Marable describes the political roots of the Nation of Islam in the movement founded by Marcus Garvey in Jamaica in 1914. Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association grew rapidly in the U.S. during the 1920s, when it seemed to many that no black struggle for social integration and equality could succeed. This was a heyday of the KKK, exemplified by the 40,000 robed and hooded Klansmen who paraded openly in Washington, D.C., in 1925. Jim Crow segregation was the law of the South and was enforced by terror, legal and extralegal, as black men and women were lynched for not “knowing their place.” Anti-Communist red scares were viciously waged in response to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The period was marked by aggressive union-busting, with notorious frame-ups of labor militants and prosecutions of unions under “criminal syndicalism” laws. Labor radicals and other immigrant workers were rounded up and deported.
Garvey’s political philosophy was for complete black separation from whites, including the demand for an independent black state in Africa. He emphasized the development of black-owned businesses—i.e., a black middle class that would profit from its monopoly of the patronage of black consumers. Marable notes Garvey’s continuity with the conservative, business-oriented philosophy of Booker T. Washington, pointing out that both Garvey and Washington were “accommodationists” who accepted segregation and did not challenge black disenfranchisement or separate schools for blacks and whites.
While other factors contributed to the destruction of Marcus Garvey’s organization, its appeal was decisively undercut when working-class struggle exploded in the 1930s. Black workers played a vanguard role in heroic strikes which organized industrial unions in the CIO—inclusive unions that sought to organize all workers in a given industry, breaking down craft categories and organizing skilled and unskilled workers across ethnic and racial divisions. As the working class emerged fighting out of the doldrums of the Great Depression, the illusory solace offered by Garvey’s brand of black nationalism tended to lose its appeal.
The Nation of Islam, which sprang up later, was primarily a religious organization. But its ideology was similar to Garvey’s. Explicitly disavowing organized political activism, the Nation espoused separate “development” of blacks in “white” America. Dedicated cadres of Garvey’s movement, Malcolm’s parents relocated repeatedly, from Philadelphia to Omaha, Nebraska, and elsewhere before settling in Lansing, Michigan, where Malcolm Little was raised.
By the early 1960s the Nation had begun to grow rapidly, attracting converts from diverse backgrounds. Malcolm X was personally responsible for a huge number of recruits, not only to Temple (later Mosque) No. 7 in Harlem, which he headed for years, but in many other cities, traveling the country as the NOI’s National Minister.
Despite its opposition to participating in organized protest, its religiosity and its advocacy of black capitalism, the NOI was viewed as some kind of radical organization. In this racist country, black radicals or those perceived as such will always be a target for the political police (who especially fear the intersection of blacks and communism). The FBI and the New York police red squad were all over the NOI, employing constant surveillance and infiltration as well as provocations seeking to fan the flames of jealousy and distrust among its leaders. The sect was denied legal protections afforded other religions, and salesmen of its newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, were harassed by the cops. One of the strengths of Marable’s book is its use of police records to demonstrate the extent of state surveillance, harassment and provocation of black militants, including Malcolm X.
The Crucible of the
Civil Rights Struggles
The civil rights movement helped to undermine the reactionary Cold War consensus of the 1950s. Seen as a struggle against entrenched racial oppression and for equality, it drew many thousands of workers and youth into the streets of cities and towns in the South and inspired solidarity worldwide. As the struggle sharpened and racist atrocities against blacks multiplied, NAACP organizer Robert F. Williams in North Carolina undertook armed self-defense. Williams was suspended from the NAACP, and in 1961 government repression drove him to flee the country to Cuba, where the revolution had just expropriated the capitalists in the face of U.S. imperialist hostility. In Louisiana, the Deacons for Defense, many of whom were Korean War veterans, organized to protect civil rights demonstrators.
In response to an emerging mass movement that showed increasing willingness to openly defy the Jim Crow police state, dominant sections of the Northern bourgeoisie saw that it was time for the South to adopt the same formal democratic norms as the rest of the country. It is to this wing of the bourgeoisie that the leaders of the civil rights movement handcuffed the fight for black freedom. The civil rights struggles won partial gains for black people in the South, such as access to public facilities, voting rights and a degree of school integration. But these gains did not challenge capitalist class rule. And when the movement came North and tried to take on the conditions of the segregated inner cities—widespread poverty and unemployment, racist cop brutality, inferior housing and schools, etc.—it foundered. These conditions of oppression and capitalist immiseration could not be ameliorated by more speeches or new laws. Beginning with Harlem in 1964, the Northern ghettos exploded, registering the depth of anger and disappointed hopes.
It was in the period of the civil rights movement that Malcolm X came of age politically, and this would throw him into an irreconcilable conflict with the NOI. The Nation’s philosophy of black business helped enrich Muhammad (supposedly God’s messenger) and his family, but offered no solution to black oppression. The NOI was a religious movement in a political time; for all its inflammatory rhetoric, it stood aside from the struggle for civil rights, preaching individual religious enlightenment and renunciation of “sinful” conduct.
For Malcolm X, this religious ideology, which he deeply believed, became a wrenching contradiction with his passionate commitment to fight white supremacy, injustice and hypocrisy. He felt the pressure from young people who thought he ought to join them in militant action, stating in the Autobiography: “I felt that, wherever black people committed themselves in the Little Rocks and Birminghams and other places, militantly disciplined Muslims should also be there.” But for the NOI to have participated in struggles for integration would have violated their precepts and their very reason for existence.
Malcolm X gave voice to young activists’ increasing dissatisfaction with the housebroken civil rights leaders. Where liberals swooned as Reverend King intoned “I have a dream” at the 1963 March on Washington, Malcolm X termed the event “a circus, a performance that beat anything Hollywood could ever do.” This was more than irreverence, it was an attack on the pro-Democratic Party politics of the organizers. He named the individual black leaders, closely tied to the Kennedy administration, who worked overtime to keep any militancy out of the march.
For Marable, the March on Washington was a marvelous mass movement that nobody in his right mind could have resisted: “The supposedly ‘Uncle Tom’ leaders like Rustin, Randolph, and King had mobilized a quarter of a million people,” he writes. Marable goes on to say: “Malcolm argued that the Kennedy administration decided to ‘co-opt’ the demonstration…. Malcolm’s thesis was that the civil rights leaders were so craven and bankrupt that they were duped by whites in power. This version of events was a gross distortion of the facts—yet it contained enough truth to capture an audience of unhappy black militants.” The facts are that what could have been an angry outpouring was turned into an appeal for conscience and reconciliation. John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which had begun to reject the preachers’ allegiance to nonviolence, was prevented from delivering even a mild criticism of the Democrats. (Lewis later became a Democratic Congressman.)
Malcolm Breaks with
Malcolm had by this time become increasingly alienated from Elijah Muhammad. He was shocked by the stories that could not be suppressed of the NOI leader’s sexual relations with young women who were his secretaries. But fundamentally the sources of friction were political: Malcolm chafed at the Nation’s aloofness from political activity, while Elijah Muhammad increasingly resented and feared Malcolm’s popularity.
The conflict came to a head after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Muhammad, not wanting to attract attention, ordered his supporters to say nothing whatsoever about the assassination. But Malcolm famously declared that Kennedy’s assassination was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost,” adding that “chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they’ve always made me glad.” This disobedience infuriated Elijah Muhammad, but won Malcolm increased authority among the more militant black activists.
At that time, the most militant and politically conscious activists sympathized with the Cuban Revolution and solidarized with other struggles for national and social liberation. Few of them shed any tears for U.S. imperialism’s slain Commander-in-Chief, the man who had ordered the CIA-organized Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and had sent the Green Berets into South Vietnam. So when Malcolm made his “coming home to roost” comment, many black militants applauded, even if they were not themselves ready to go that far.
Marable’s tactic of falsification by omission is especially clear in his treatment of the 1960-61 Cuban Revolution, which had created a workers state, although one that was bureaucratically deformed from its inception. Marable recounts Malcolm’s strong sympathy and support for the revolution and the government of Fidel Castro, who had won plenty of support among American blacks when he decided to stay in Harlem’s Hotel Theresa on a trip to address the United Nations. But nowhere in Marable’s book is there any mention of the Democrat Kennedy’s relentless efforts to overthrow the Cuban government, including engaging the Mafia in an attempt to assassinate Castro.
Elijah Muhammad purged Malcolm from the Nation and NOI leaders relentlessly denounced him, including Malcolm’s former protégé, Louis X (today the reactionary demagogue Louis Farrakhan), who proclaimed him “worthy of death.” Marable’s book describes the NOI’s vendetta against Malcolm, relying heavily on an interview with Farrakhan and presenting the latter’s version of the events leading to the 1965 assassination.
That Malcolm felt liberated by his split from Elijah Muhammad was underlined by his telegram to American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell, which Malcolm read out to a rally in Harlem on 24 January 1965. The NOI’s racial separatism had led it to recognize “common ground” with fascists and other segregationists, as Marable documents. Malcolm’s message read:
“This is to warn you that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad’s separatist Black Muslim movement, and that if your present racist agitation against our people there in Alabama causes physical harm to Reverend King or any other black Americans who are only attempting to enjoy their rights as free human beings, that you and your Ku Klux Klan friends will be met with maximum physical retaliation from those of us who are not hand-cuffed by the disarming philosophy of nonviolence, and who believe in asserting our right of self-defense—by any means necessary.”
Between his split from the Nation and his murder, Malcolm lived barely a year. Much of this was spent abroad, including his pilgrimage to Mecca. Although he founded two organizations in rapid succession—the Muslim Mosque Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity—they had no real program beyond the eclectic views expressed in his speeches. While eventually millions would become aware of his impact, the organizations he founded probably never included more than a few hundred. Yet his impact on black activists and the nascent New Left radicalism was undeniable.
Malcolm X’s speeches and his Autobiography were hugely influential for thousands of militants who would never have dreamed of attending a meeting of the Nation of Islam. His appeal lay precisely in his debunking of liberal hypocrisy on the part of the Democratic politicians and especially his exposure of the mainstream civil rights leaders as servants of the system.
[TO BE CONTINUED]