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Vol. 78/No. 43      December 1, 2014

Malcolm X: ‘You’re living
at a time of revolution’
(Books of the Month column)

The French edition of Malcolm X Talks to Young People is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month. The excerpt below is from remarks Malcolm X made during a debate at Oxford University in Britain on Dec. 3, 1964. The proposition under debate was “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” a statement made by Barry Goldwater in his 1964 speech accepting the Republican Party nomination for president of the United States. Malcolm X was one of six speakers and one of three who defended this proposition. Copyright © 1965 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

I think the only way one can really determine whether or not extremism in defense of liberty is justified, is not to approach it as an American or a European or an African or an Asian, but as a human being. If we look upon it as different types, immediately we begin to think in terms of extremism being good for one and bad for another, or bad for one and good for another. But if we look upon it, if we look upon ourselves as human beings, I doubt that anyone will deny that extremism in defense of liberty, the liberty of any human being, is no vice. Anytime anyone is enslaved or in any way deprived of his liberty, that person, as a human being, as far as I’m concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again. [Applause] …

When the people who are in power want to use — again, create an image to justify something that’s bad, they use the press, and they’ll use the press to create a humanitarian image for a devil, or a devil image for a humanitarian. They’ll take a person who’s the victim of the crime and make it appear he’s the criminal, and they’ll take the criminal and make it appear that he’s the victim of the crime. And the Congo situation is one of the best examples that I can cite right now to point this out. The Congo situation is a nasty example of how a country, because it is in power, can take its press and make the world accept something that’s absolutely criminal.

They take American-trained — they take pilots that they say are American-trained — and this automatically lends respectability to them, [Laughter] and then they will call them anti-Castro Cubans. And that’s supposed to add to their respectability [Laughter] and eliminate the fact that they’re dropping bombs on villages where they have no defense whatsoever against such planes, blowing to bits Black women — Congolese women, Congolese children, Congolese babies. This is extremism. But it is never referred to as extremism, because it is endorsed by the West, it’s financed by America, it’s made respectable by America, and that kind of extremism is never labeled as extremism. Because it’s not extremism in defense of liberty. And if it is extremism in defense of liberty, as this talk has just pointed out, it’s extremism in defense of liberty for the wrong type of people. [Applause]

I’m not advocating that kind of extremism. That’s coldblooded murder. But the press is used to make that coldblooded murder appear as an act of humanitarianism.

They take it one step farther and get a man named Tshombe, who is a murderer. They refer to him as the premier or the prime minister of the Congo to lend respectability to him. He’s actually the murderer of the rightful prime minister of the Congo. [Applause] They never mention that this man — I’m not for extremism in defense of that kind of liberty or that kind of activity. They take this man, who’s a murderer. The world recognizes him as a murderer. But they make him the prime minister. He becomes a paid murderer, a paid killer, who is propped up by American dollars. And to show the degree to which he is a paid killer, the first thing he does is go to South Africa and hire more killers and bring them into the Congo. They give them the glorious name of mercenary, which means a hired killer; not someone that’s killing for some kind of patriotism, or some kind of ideal, but a man who is a paid killer, a hired killer. And one of the leaders of them is right from this country here. And he’s glorified as a soldier of fortune, when he’s shooting down little Black women and Black babies and Black children.

I’m not for that kind of extremism. I’m for the kind of extremism that those who are being destroyed by those bombs and destroyed by those hired killers are able to put forth to thwart it. They will risk their lives at any cost. They will sacrifice their lives at any cost against that kind of criminal activity. …

They came up with what they call a civil rights bill in 1964, supposedly to solve our problem, and after the bill was signed, three civil rights workers were murdered in cold blood. And the FBI head, [J. Edgar] Hoover, admits that they know who did it. They’ve known ever since it happened, and they’ve done nothing about it. Civil rights bill down the drain. No matter how many bills pass, Black people in that country where I’m from — still, our lives are not worth two cents. And the government has shown its inability, or its unwillingness, to do whatever is necessary to protect life and property where the Black American is concerned.

So my contention is that whenever a people come to the conclusion that the government which they have supported proves itself unwilling or proves itself unable to protect our lives and protect our property because we have the wrong color skin, we are not human beings unless we ourselves band together and do whatever, however, whenever is necessary to see that our lives and our property are protected. …

And in my opinion the young generation of whites, Blacks, browns, whatever else there is — you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I for one will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.  
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