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.
Excerpts from an interview printed in Malcolm X Talks to Young People given to Young Socialist Alliance leaders Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard on January 18, 1965.
Young Socialist: What are the aims of your new organization?
Malcolm X: There are two organizations. There’s the Muslim Mosque, Inc., which is religious. Its aim is to create an atmosphere and facilities in which people who are interested in Islam can get a better understanding of Islam. The aim of the other organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is to use whatever means necessary to bring about a society in which the twenty-two million Afro-Americans are recognized and respected as human beings.
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 country). 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....
Impact of Revolutionary Africa
Young Socialist: What were the highlights of your trip to Africa?
Malcolm X: I visited Egypt, Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar (now Tanzania), Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea, and Algeria. During that trip I had audiences with President Nasser of Egypt, President Nyerere of Tanzania, President Jomo Kenyatta (who was then prime minister) of Kenya, Prime Minister Milton Obote of Uganda, President Azikiwe of Nigeria, President Nkrumah of Ghana, and President S’ou Tour’of Guinea. I think the highlights were the audiences I had with those persons because it gave me a chance to sample their thinking. I was impressed by their analysis of the problem, and many of the suggestions they gave went a long way toward broadening my own outlook.
Young Socialist: How much influence does revolutionary Africa have on the thinking of Black people in this country?
Malcolm X: All the influence in the world. You can’t separate the militancy that’s displayed on the African continent from the militancy that’s displayed right here among American Blacks. The positive image that is developing of Africans is also developing in the minds of Black Americans, and consequently they develop a more positive image of themselves. Then they take more positive steps—actions.
So you can’t separate the African revolution from the mood of the Black man in America. Neither could the colonization of Africa be separated from the menial position that the Black man in this country was satisfied to stay in for so long. Since Africa has gotten its independence through revolution, you’ll notice the stepped-up cry against discrimination that has appeared in the Black community.
Young Socialist: How do you view the role of the U.S. in the Congo?
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, 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....
Youth Open to Revolutionary Politics
Young Socialist: In a recent speech you mentioned that you met John Lewis of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] in Africa.1 Do you feel that the younger and more militant leaders in the South are broadening their views on the whole general struggle?
Malcolm X: Sure. When I was in the Black Muslim movement I spoke on many white campuses and Black campuses. I knew back in 1961 and ’62 that the younger generation was much different from the older, and that many students were more sincere in their analysis of the problem and their desire to see the problem solved. In foreign countries the students have helped bring about revolution—it was the students who brought about the revolution in the Sudan, who swept Syngman Rhee out of office in Korea, swept Menderes out in Turkey. The students didn’t think in terms of the odds against them, and they couldn’t be bought out.
In America students have been noted for involving themselves in panty raids, goldfish swallowing, seeing how many can get in a telephone booth—not for their revolutionary political ideas or their desire to change unjust conditions. But some students are becoming more like their brothers around the world. However, the students have been deceived somewhat in what’s known as the civil rights struggle (which was never designed to solve the problem). The students were maneuvered in the direction of thinking the problem was already analyzed, so they didn’t try to analyze it for themselves.
In my thinking, if the students in this country forgot the analysis that has been presented to them, and they went into a huddle and began to research this problem of racism for themselves, independent of politicians and independent of all the foundations (which are a part of the power structure), and did it themselves, then some of their findings would be shocking, but they would see that they would never be able to bring about a solution to racism in their country as long as they’re relying on the government to do it.
The federal government itself is just as racist as the government in Mississippi, and is more guilty of perpetuating the racist system. At the federal level they are more shrewd, more skillful at doing it, just like the FBI is more skillful than the state police and the state police are more skillful than the local police.
The same with politicians. The politician at the federal level is usually more skilled than the politician at the local level, and when he wants to practice racism, he’s more skilled in the practice of it than those who practice it at the local level.
Young Socialist: What is your opinion of the Democratic Party?
Malcolm X: The Democratic Party is responsible for the racism that exists in this country, along with the Republican Party. The leading racists in this country are Democrats. Goldwater isn’t the leading racist—he’s a racist but not the leading racist. 2 The racists who have influence in Washington, D.C., are Democrats. If you check, whenever any kind of legislation is suggested to mitigate the injustices that Negroes suffer in this country, you will find that the people who line up against it are members of Lyndon B. Johnson’s party. The Dixiecrats are Democrats. The Dixiecrats are only a subdivision of the Democratic Party, and the same man over the Democrats is over the Dixiecrats....3
Young People Identify with the Struggle
Young Socialist: What part in the world revolution are youth playing, and what lessons may this have for American youth?
Malcolm X: If you’ve studied the captives being caught by the American soldiers in South Vietnam, you’ll find that these guerrillas are young people. Some of them are just children and some haven’t yet reached their teens. Most are teenagers. It is the teenagers abroad, all over the world, who are actually involving themselves in the struggle to eliminate oppression and exploitation. In the Congo, the refugees point out that many of the Congolese revolutionaries are children. In fact, when they shoot captive revolutionaries, they shoot all the way down to seven years old—that’s been reported in the press. Because the revolutionaries are children, young people. In these countries the young people are the ones who most quickly identify with the struggle and the necessity to eliminate the evil conditions that exist. And here in this country, it has been my own observation that when you get into a conversation on racism and discrimination and segregation, you will find young people are more incensed over it—they feel more filled with an urge to eliminate it.
I think young people here can find a powerful example in the young simbas [lions] in the Congo and the young fighters in South Vietnam.
Another point: As the dark-skinned nations of this earth become independent, as they develop and become stronger, that means that time is on the side of the American Negro. At this point the American Negro is still hospitable and friendly and forgiving. But if he is continually tricked and deceived and so on, and if there is still no solution to his problems, he will become completely disillusioned, disenchanted, and disassociate himself from the interest of America and its society. Many have done that already.
Young Socialist: What is your opinion of the worldwide struggle now going on between capitalism and socialism?
Malcolm X: It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.
1. Malcolm X spoke of his meeting with John Lewis at a January 7, 1965, meeting of the Militant Labor Forum. See Malcolm X Speaks, p. 209. Some comments by Lewis and another SNCC leader on the impact in Africa of Malcolm X’s trip there can be found in Malcolm X Speaks, p. 85.
2. In the 1964 presidential election, the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, who had made open appeals to racist and extreme anticommunist sentiment, was defeated by the Democratic candidate, Johnson.
3. The Dixiecrats were the openly segregationist and racist wing of the Democratic Party dominant at the time in most of the U.S. South.
Malcolm read and approved the final text, which appeared in the March/April 1965 issue of the Young Socialist. Copyright 1965, 1970, 1991, 2002 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press. Subheadings and notes in brackets are by the Militant.
Originally appeared in Young Socialist in 1965.