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A Book Review "A Life of Reinvention Malcoln X" by Manning Marable

June 13, 2011
by Lawrence Gulotta

June 13, 2011 • 12:02 am

I recall the assassination of Malcolm X, broadcast on local New York City television evening news. It was shocking and the memory of that terrible, bloody scene has never left me. I was a young teenager at the time.

There are many remarkable revelations in Manning Marable’s “A Life of Reinvention Malcolm X.” EMAHUNN CAMPBELL writes a good article, I must say, (http://theactivist.org/blog/remembering-malcolm). It wasn’t the Trotskyists relationship with Malcolm X that really impressed me. The Militant Labor Forum is a well known SWP forum series at which Malcolm X spoke on a number of occasions. I recall that the SWP’s press outlet, Pathfinder Press, printing interviews and essays by Malcolm X, on black nationalism. Clifton DeBerry and George Breitman had an editorial and political relationship with Malcolm X. I recall the SWP’s book tables in front of the old A+S Department store, on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, each Saturday. The SWP made a serious effort to recruit American Blacks, through support of black nationalism and an alliance that was in existence between the SWP leaders, DeBarry ,Breitman and Malcolm X..

What is certainly remarkable, in Marable’s biography, is the relationship Malcolm X had with our own comrades, all democratic Socialists. Malcolm often debated Bayard Rustin on the topic “Integration or Separatism,” on local talk radio, at universities, NYC’s Community Church, and in the open air on hot, tense 125th Street.

When A. Philip Randolph organized a Harlem coalition, the “Emergency Committee,” to address immediate community needs, Mr. Randolph reached out and included Malcolm X on the organizing committee, much to the displeasure of Elijah Muhammad. Manning Marable writes, ” …he had seen the fight shift in recent years from demanding more black jobs at businesses on 125th Street to seeking full representation for blacks within the political system. Such an effort required a united front from Harlem’s black community, and Randolph knew that Malcolm represented an increasingly significant constituency. But his admiration for Malcolm likely had an ideological component. Almost fifty years before, Randolph had introduced newcomer Marcus Garvey to a Harlem audience, and though he never endorsed black nationalism, he maintained throughout his career a sense of admiration for its fundamental embrace of black pride and self-respect.” Marable further notes, ” Bayard Rustin, who by that time had worked with Randolph for over twenty years, was also on the committee, and his presence may have furthered intrigued Malcolm about the group’s potential.”

CORE’s James Farmer also debated Malcolm X and the two men developed a personal bond of friendship. These leaders, each a democratic socialist and exponent of non-violence, reached out to Malcolm X, in a serious political fashion.

No church wanted to receive Malcolm X’s body, after the assassination, for fear of retribution by the NOI. Finally, after a week of calling Harlem churches, the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ was willing to arrange the funeral and made its auditorium available. A thousand people came to pay respects to Malcolm X and his family. The national civil rights leaders, and Harlem civic leaders, including Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, stayed away from the funeral. It was a small group of democratic socialists, including Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, James Furman, and John Louis, that were present at the funeral. Dick Gregory, not a socialist, was present. King, Whitney Young and Kwame Nkrumah sent condolences. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee presided over the program. Marable doesn’t mention Clifton DeBarry or George Breitman attending the funeral.

The Trotskyists receive their due in Marable’s book, but I feel from the evidence presented in Marable’s biography, the democratic socialists, centered around Mr. Randolph and the Negro-American Labor Council, deserve more credit and appreciation than they have received, heretofore, on the Left.
The Trotskyists had influence with Malcolm X. At a more substantive level, however, it was A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, James Furman and John Lewis which were the leaders responsible for reaching out to Malcolm X, working to include the politically evolving Malcolm X in the broad civil rights movement’s conception of “coalition politics.”

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