Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Michael (Pili) Simanga

Malcolm X and Black leadership today

First Published: Unity, Vol. 4, No. 8, May 6-21, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Fifty six years ago on May 19, the great Afro-American leader Malcolm X was born. It was 16 years ago, on February 21, 1965, that this great fighter for the freedom of the Afro-American people was murdered by the vicious and violent forces of repression in the U.S. But the murder of Malcolm X did not and could not stop the struggles of the Afro-American people to be free.

Malcolm represented the best in the leadership of Black people, and inspired directly and indirectly a whole generation of young Black revolutionaries, who also became the targets and the victims of the violent and brutal murders, harassment and attacks at the hands of the federal government, and other organizations used to suppress the Black Liberation Movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This harassment and attacks upon the Black Liberation Movement continue to this day. It continues because, just as the forces of repression thought they could stop the Black Liberation Movement by murdering Malcolm X, they believe that they can still stop the movement by simply containing or murdering one or two individuals.

Since the murder of Malcolm X, the attacks upon the revolutionary leadership of the Black Liberation Movement (in the 60’s through the 70’s), a vacuum of national revolutionary leadership was created. The Black Liberation Movement was in retreat for a number of years. During this period of retreat, many things happened in the Black Liberation Movement, both positive and negative.

On the positive side, many of the activists who were involved in the earlier period continued to struggle, organizing in local communities, working in factories and shops, organizing schools, slowly, patiently and quietly building up the forces of the Black Liberation Movement. There were institutions and organizations of many kinds that were built and maintained in order to carry the struggle forward. New people were brought into the struggle. Many ideas were discussed, struggled over, to clarify the mistakes and sum up the lessons of the 60’s and 70’s. It is clear from all these activities that the struggle for Black liberation did not die in the 60’s. There has been a constant preparation to take the offensive once again.

On the negative side, the lack of national revolutionary leadership allowed the media-made Negro leaders, appointed by their masters, to rise and begin speaking for Black people once again. It allowed them to speak in many cases unopposed, because there was no voice, like Malcolm’s voice, to speak the truth. To speak for us, and to us. In this vacuum, the Negro leadership has made a mockery of the blood that is shed by the masses of Black people for Black liberation. They even defile the name and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King whom they claim to follow. These Negro leaders today, in the midst of one of the most brutally violent and bloody periods that Black people have experienced in a long time, openly attack the struggle of the masses of Black people, by selling us out to white right-wing politicians, or by denouncing the struggle of the Black masses against racist violence. As Malcolm once said, These Negroes are more concerned about their masters than they are about themselves.

On the other side of this are the people claiming to be revolutionaries who have not done any of the day-to-day organizing to build the forces of Black liberation, but instead seek to appoint themselves as the leaders of the Black masses through media-staged self-glorification acts of adventurism. It appears revolutionary, but in reality it is the acts of unserious, undisciplined forces who use the struggles and sentiments of our people for their own glorification.

Neither the Negro leaders appointed by their masters and projected by the white media, nor the super-revolutionary crazies, can lead the Black Liberation Movement. They are rejected by the Black masses and by history. The Negro leadership was shown to be inadequate next to the truth that Malcolm X taught, and to this day, the masses of Black people, poor, common Black people, reject them as having sold out. The masses of Black people also understand that since the beginning of our existence in this country, we have been taken advantage of by political, religious, social and cultural organizations and fanatics who are interested only in their own self-promotion, and not Black liberation.

When we look at the Black Liberation Movement today, we see that there is a tremendous amount of grass-roots activity happening and developing. All across the country there are struggles going on in the local areas against the oppressive conditions of the government structure as well as the struggle against the KKK and other right-wing forces. Action oriented mass based Black organizations are growing, such as the National Black United Front, the Johnson County Justice League of Wrightsville, Georgia, the Organization of Black Struggle in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Afro-American Justice League in Atlanta. These are just a few of the grass-roots organizations on the move. Also, recently thousands of Afro-Americans have taken back the streets in demonstrations and protests against racist violence, around social and living conditions, and to express the solidarity of our people in the face of the murders and massacres of Black children and young adults in Atlanta.

This is a very complex and difficult time for Black people in the U.S. and as the movement of the Black masses organized around a grass-roots level increases, the struggle to define the kind of Black leadership needed today will become more intense. Malcolm X provides a model for what we need. Not just a name. But more than that, but more than a single man, we need a movement led by Black revolutionaries who use Malcolm as a standard for what we strive for in our leadership.

The Black Liberation Movement needs revolutionary leadership. Leadership that works to uplift Black people from the decadence and self-destruction of U.S. society, by being an endless supply of discipline and self-respect, and working to instill it in us. Leadership that works tirelessly for the unification of our people and our movement. Leadership that fights for the day-to-day needs of our people as well as the long-range goal of real liberation, LAND AND POWER! SELF-DETERMINATION! Leadership that understands the international aspect of our movement and builds solidarity with the oppressed and struggling peoples of the world. We need leadership that learns from our people and stands with our people who are mainly poor and working class people. We need leadership that works with the educated and upper classes of our people emploring them to work with the Black masses. Leadership that takes action and believes in the strength of our people. Leadership that prepares our people to win their liberation by any means necessary. Today we need leadership that’s in love with life and full of compassion.

These are the qualities of Malcolm X, a revolutionary Black leader who demonstrated the qualities we seek. This type of leadership as it rises once again will come under attack just as it came under attack in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They will be attacked by the government, other reactionary forces as well as by Negro leaders and others. But we cannot despair. Black people will win. We will win because we are on the side of history and righteousness, we will win because we have suffered and labored for our liberation, we will win because we will struggle and fight to the very end, and we will win because we will have Black revolutionary leadership like Malcolm X, and it is only with this kind of leadership that we can win.