From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dorette Laszelere)
Subject: Malcolm’s revolutionary voice is needed in today’s world
Sender: Baptist McRee
Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2003 17:01:54 GMT
The following is the presentation by Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, at the February 8 launching in Havana, Cuba, of Malcolm X Talks to Young People (see accompanying article on the event). The book, a collection of speeches and interviews by the U.S.-born revolutionary leader, was recently published by Pathfinder in both English and Spanish editions. A Spanish edition for distribution in Cuba was also published by Casa Editora Abril, the publishing house of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Cuba.
The event was held as part of the Havana International Book Fair. Also speaking at it were Herminio Camacho, director of Abril, who chaired the meeting, and Enrique Ubieta, editor of Contracorriente magazine.
The remarks by Waters are copyright ’ 2003 by Pathfinder Press, and are reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.
First, a thank you to the compa’ros of Casa Editora Abril for
the opportunity to join with you in presenting Malcolm X Talks to
Young People at this 12th Havana International Book Fair, and
especially to Herminio and Rafaela [Valerino, of the book publishing
department of Casa Editora Abril], whose enthusiasm for this title and
tenacity in bringing it into being meant we could be here this
afternoon. Without exaggeration, we can say that this is an important
moment in history. For the first time ever, a collection of speeches
by this great American revolutionary working-class leader is being
published here in Cuba. And it is the first time in either the United
States or Cuba that we have a Spanish-language edition of this
valuable collection of Malcolm’s speeches to young
All over the world, Malcolm told the Young Socialist
magazine in early 1965,
it is young people who are actually
involving themselves in the struggle to eliminate oppression and
exploitation. They are the ones who most quickly identify with the
struggle and the necessity to eliminate the conditions that exist.
Malcolm X Talks to Young People has been available in English in various forms and editions since 1965 when the Young Socialist Alliance and Pathfinder first published it within a few short weeks of Malcolm’s brutal assassination. In the last thirty-eight years, tens of thousands of copies have been sold, making it one of the most popular titles ever in Pathfinder’s revolutionary arsenal.
Malcolm’s undiminished political appeal across the decades—indeed his ever-growing appeal—is attributable to one quality above all: without fear and without compromise he spoke the unvarnished truth. A few days before his death, in answer to a question from a reporter, Malcolm remarked that he was trying to wake Black people up.
Wake them up to their exploitation? the journalist asked.
No, Malcolm replied,
to their humanity, to their own worth,
to their heritage.
With eloquence, wit, and clarity, he spoke to the oppressed and exploited masses of working people—and he did awaken them to their own worth, their dignity, their capacity for struggle, their ability to change the world.
To many of us young socialists at the time who heard him, Malcolm’s voice was close to the voice of the Cuban Revolution, the voices of Fidel and Che above all.
Others this afternoon will speak about the meaning of this book for you here in Cuba. I want to briefly mention five reasons why Malcolm is so important to us in the United States as a revolutionary leader both of working people and of the Black nationality, why he was so feared and hated by the rulers of the empire, so slandered by their apologists.
1) Malcolm Little, as he was known then, first awoke to his own humanity while serving a prison sentence after having been convicted of burglary. It was in the prisons of the empire that Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam. And it was there that he began to read voraciously and acquired the self-respect, self-confidence, an ever-growing vocabulary, and the habits of disciplined hard work and study that made it possible for him to grow into, to become, Malcolm X. He was a living example of the motto of this book fair: Leer es crecer. To read is to grow.
The United States has the highest per capita prison population of any country in the world. Today, fully one third of all young males who are Black are either in prison, on parole, or otherwise caught up in the web of injustice that is the real structure of capitalist law and order. We should never forget these facts when thinking about the revolutionary work today being carried out by our five Cuban compatriots who, like more than two million others in the United States, find themselves in the toils of this same system. Our five brothers are working, studying, talking politics, bringing the world to their fellow inmates, and providing a revolutionary example, alongside not just one, but an untold number of potential Malcolms. We are proud that Pathfinder books like Malcolm X Talks to Young People have for many years circulated broadly in the prisons of the United States, and are today being used there by our five compa’ros.
Capitalism used to be like an eagle, Malcolm told the Young
Socialist magazine shortly before his assassination.
more like a vulture.
During the last year of his life, Malcolm spoke out more and more
directly about the capitalist roots of racism, exploitation, and
imperialist oppression. He never gave an inch to U.S. patriotism, the
smiling face of poisonous imperialist nationalism. Blacks in the
United States are
the victims of Americanism, he insisted.
3) Malcolm was an internationalist.
Any movement for freedom of
Black people based exclusively within the borders of the United States
is absolutely doomed to fail, he said. Over and over he condemned
in the most unyielding terms the actions of the U.S. government in the
Congo, and the war being waged against the people of Vietnam.
The Cuban Revolution, now
that’s a revolution, Malcolm
told a predominantly Black audience in Detroit in 1963. It
overturned the system. And he welcomed both Fidel and Che to
Harlem not simply as an act of solidarity; he welcomed them as
brothers in arms.
I love a revolutionary, Malcolm said in
December 1964, introducing a message from Che to a meeting of the
Organization of African-American Unity—the organization he had joined
with others earlier that year to found.
And one of the most
revolutionary men in this country right now was going to come out
here tonight, but had to cancel his appearance for security
reasons. Malcolm himself read Che’s message to the gathering,
you don’t see any anti-Castro Cubans around here. We
eat them up.
4) Malcolm was uncompromising in his refusal to support either of the
twin political parties of racism and capitalist exploitation in the
United States. He explained that
the Democratic Party is
responsible for the racism that exists in this country, along with the
Republican Party. It was the Democratic Party that was responsible
for U.S. actions in the Congo and Vietnam, he pointed out. The
revolutionary integrity underlying Malcolm’s political clarity
and intransigence on this question set him apart from—and won him the
enmity of—almost every other leader of prominent Black rights
organizations and trade unions as well as the vast majority of those
who considered themselves part of
In 1964 Malcolm was virtually the only voice among those claiming to speak in the interests of the oppressed and exploited who did not support, even if critically, the presidential campaign of Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson against Barry Goldwater, the right-wing candidate of the Republican Party. This imperialist system can produce a wolf or it can produce a fox, Malcolm insisted. But it cannot produce a candidate who will do anything but act on behalf of those whose very existence requires exploitation, oppression, racism, and wars.
Malcolm’s stand made us young socialists feel a lot less alone that year. The administration of Lyndon Johnson—the butcher of Vietnam—quickly validated the integrity of Malcolm and the correctness of his refusal to be wooed by the siren song of imperialist lesser-evilism.
5) Malcolm’s banner was freedom
by any means necessary.
He supported the mass struggle by Black people that in the early 1960s
was destroying the foundations of the Jim Crow system of racial
segregation in the U.S. South. One of the factors that led toward his
break with the Nation of Islam, of which he had been the most
prominent public spokesperson, was its refusal to carry out
militant action, uncompromising action, as part of that
But Malcolm didn’t support the so-called strategy of nonviolence
upheld by many leaders of that struggle such as Martin Luther King,
Jr. As the beatings, murders, lynchings, and other acts of violence
against Blacks and those involved in the civil rights movement
continued unabated, Malcolm spoke for thousands, including increasing
numbers of the youth like myself involved in that massive movement,
when he told the young socialists,
I don’t favor violence. If
we could bring about recognition and respect for our people by
peaceful means, well and good. But, he continued,
go along with anyone who wants to teach our people to be nonviolent
until someone at the same time is teaching our enemy to be
nonviolent. We should protect ourselves by any means necessary when we
are attacked by racists.
Like Fidel and the Centennial Generation he led, Malcolm believed that
you live in a society supposedly based upon law, and it
doesn’t enforce its own law because the color of a man’s
skin happens to be wrong, then I say those people are justified to
resort to any means necessary to bring about justice.
Those ideas, as incontrovertible as they were scandalously direct and unvarnished, were the foundations of Malcolm’s revolutionary, proletarian, course of action. And they set him apart.
Today, we are living through the opening stages of a worldwide capitalist depression such as we have not seen since the 1930s.
Already, in the last two years the major stock market indices in the
United States have lost almost a third of their value, and in some
cases as much as 70 percent, wiping out trillions of dollars of
fictitious paper capital—and markets have dropped even more sharply
in a number of other major imperialist powers. The real face of the
economic crisis can already be seen in the eyes of starving children
in Argentina and Africa. It is recorded in the brutal imperial assault
on the people of Iraq that Washington will unleash in a matter of
weeks, as the imperialist powers fight among themselves for a larger
piece of the redivision of oil and other resources and strategic
positions in the Middle East. It can be seen in the sharpening
imperialist drive to intensify the superexploitation of the peoples of
Latin America with the imposition of new so-called
And most important of all, it can be seen in the growing resistance that this real face of the capitalist system is generating among working people worldwide, including in the United States itself—and among protesting young people so attracted to this proletarian resistance, when they can see it.
This is a world in which we need the powerful voice of Malcolm more than ever. This book will be a modest, yet irreplaceable, step in that direction.
That is why Pathfinder has published this new edition of Malcolm X Talks to Young People in both English and Spanish, for use in the United States and elsewhere around the world. And it is why we are proud to be with you here today, together with Editora Abril, to present the first ever edition of this work in Cuba.