Saturday, December 8, 2018
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Working Class Unity
Afscme Local 444, retired
This is a very powerful and accurate account, brief as it is, of how the European/White capitalist class built its base in the continent they were colonizing. Martin Luther King speaks in class terms here talking of the white European peasants and the need to build an "economic floor" under them in some ways similar to the floor they built under the Protestants they imported in to Ireland as a base from which to dispossess the native population of its land and rights.
I saw this on the internet posted by someone on Facebook, a religious group I believe. The person that posted it added the headline "The Real Reason the Government Took Him Out." I believe the author of the headline sees economic empowerment and black capitalism as the way to liberation and an end to racism. I do not agree with this view nor did Malcolm X.
So that headline is not completely accurate I don’t believe. The ruling class in the US did not like that he told the truth about the history of this country. What he says here is true and it is dangerous in that it undermines the accepted narrative intended to portray whites as superior in every way to blacks leaving out the favorable treatment one gets over the other. But what is the motive for this white ruling class history? It is to maintain it's position as a ruling class and to do that it must divide the exploited. Every ruling class does this.
Along with his ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people from all different backgrounds Martin Luther King was so dangerous because he was saying dangerous things and expressing ideas that if taken up by masses of people threaten the position of the ruling class and their exploitative brutal system.
Where MLK was a real threat to this white racist ruling class was his bringing together all oppressed peoples and toward the end of his life talking about the need to change the system. and talking of socialism. Martin Luther King led a mass movement against exploitation and injustice. His approach united the working class against oppression. This is what made him so dangerous, the concept of working class unity.
In a letter to Coretta Scott in July 1952 King wrote:
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.”
In a speech to his staff in 1966 he said:
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.”
“[W]e are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
And in a speech to the Southern Christian leadership Conference in Atlanta Georgia on August 16, 1967 he said:
“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…”
He said to New York Times reporter José Iglesias in 1968:
“In a sense, you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.”
Same with Malcom X who was increasingly moving toward the socialist alternative to capital. And both men were also moving closer to organized labor as well speaking at rallies strikes and labor events. They spoke in class terms.
Malcolm X said that "You can't have capitalism without racism". What is that but a condemnation of a social system. It is far more dangerous than going around saying all white people are devils. Malcolm X was not killed by the state when he was saying that, he was useful to the white racist ruling class who are not afraid of nationalism or separatists that make no class distinctions at all between groups.
Toward the end of his life he was questioning the concept of black nationalism and what it meant. He said: “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think it will be based on the color of the skin...” It is inconceivable that this statement from Malcolm X, who, along with Martin Luther King is one of the great US revolutionaries of the 20th century, did not terrify the white racist ruling class in this country. It is a statement which opens a path to him and his ideas for millions upon millions of oppressed and exploited people,
In a January 19, 1965, Toronto television interview, Pierre Berton asked Malcolm X whether he still advocated a Black state in North America he said he didn't and that, “I believe in a society in which people can live like human beings on the basis of equality.”
In the same interview he told of meeting the Algerian ambassador when he was visiting Ghana in 1964, a man who he respected, the issue of black nationalism came up. Malcolm X said, the ambassador asked him, “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.” Malcolm X The Final Speeches. Pathfinder Press
The struggle for working class unity does not negate the struggle for black liberation or the liberation of any specially oppressed section of society----it strengthens it.