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Vol. 76/No. 3      January 23, 2012

Malcolm X: ‘US is criminal
in Congo and Vietnam’
(Books of the Month column)

Below is an excerpt from Malcolm X Talks to Young People, a collection of speeches and interviews by and with Malcolm X. The title is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for January. The excerpt is from a January 1965 interview for the March-April 1965 issue of the Young Socialist magazine. The interview was conducted by Jack Barnes, then national chairman of the Young Socialist Alliance, and Barry Sheppard, a staff writer for the Militant newspaper. Copyright © 1965 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

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

MALCOLM X: 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 country1). 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.

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

MALCOLM X: 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 [John] 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….

YOUNG SOCIALIST: How do you view the role of the U.S. in the Congo?2

MALCOLM X: As criminal. Probably there is no better example of criminal activity against an oppressed people than the role the U.S. has been playing in the Congo, through her ties with Tshombe and the mercenaries. You can’t overlook the fact that Tshombe gets his money from the U.S. The money he uses to hire these mercenaries—these paid killers imported from South Africa—comes from the United States.

The pilots that fly these planes have been trained by the U.S. The bombs themselves that are blowing apart the bodies of women and children come from the U.S. So I can only view the role of the United States in the Congo as a criminal role. And I think the seeds she is sowing in the Congo she will have to harvest. The chickens that she has turned loose over there have got to come home to roost.

YOUNG SOCIALIST: What about the U.S. role in South Vietnam?

MALCOLM X: The same thing. It shows the real ignorance of those who control the American power structure. If France, with all types of heavy arms, as deeply entrenched as she was in what then was called Indochina, couldn’t stay there,3 I don’t see how anybody in their right mind can think the U.S. can get in there—it’s impossible. So it shows her ignorance, her blindness, her lack of foresight and hindsight; and her complete defeat in South Vietnam is only a matter of time.

1. In 1962 Algeria won its independence from France following an eight-year war of liberation. At the time Malcolm is describing, a popular revolutionary government in Algeria led by Ahmed Ben Bella was organizing urban and rural working people to make increasing encroachments against capitalist social relations.

2. The Congo declared its independence from Belgium June 30, 1960. The prime minister of the newly independent government was Patrice Lumumba, who had led the liberation struggle there. Washington and Brussels moved swiftly to prepare Lumumba’s overthrow, organizing attacks by Belgian troops, mercenaries, and forces of the imperialist-backed secessionist regime of Moise Tshombe in Congo’s southern, mineral-rich Katanga province. In late 1960 Congolese army officer Joseph Mobutu, at the instigation of Washington and Brussels, deposed Lumumba and placed him under arrest. Mobutu handed Lumumba over to Tshombe’s forces, who murdered the Congolese leader in January 1961.

In 1964 Tshombe was installed as Congolese prime minister. Forces that looked to Lumumba, based in the country’s eastern provinces, rebelled. Mercenaries, Belgian troops and U.S. planes flown by U.S. pilots aided Tshombe in crushing the uprising.

3. From 1946 to 1954 the French government waged a war against liberation forces in Vietnam, which was then part of the French colonial empire. The liberation forces took power in North Vietnam. A U.S.-supported neocolonial regime was established in the south. By the early 1960s Washington had sent thousands of troops. By 1968 there were 540,000 U.S. combat troops in Vietnam. The war ended with the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 1973, the overthrow of its client regime in the South in 1975 and the reunification of the country in 1976.

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