Fifty Years Since the Assassination of Malcolm X

Remembering Malcolm’s Life & Legacy—and Going Beyond It to Make Revolution and End the Hell on Earth This System Inflicts on Humanity!

by Carl Dix | February 20, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Fifty years ago this month, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was assassinated. His is a life that we must never forget.

In the movie Selma and elsewhere Malcolm X is often being portrayed today as a radical sidekick of Martin Luther King, someone whose presence served to give the rulers more reason to give King a hearing. This is nowhere near true. In fact, Malcolm stood out from every other major figure of his time and was pursuing a very different path than King.

Malcolm X, 1963. Photo: Library of Congress

As Bob Avakian put it in his book, A Horrible End, or An End To The Horror?, “Overwhelmingly, the main thing about Malcolm X, which made him stand out from every other major Black leader of his time (the early ’60s), was his basic revolutionary stand: his defiance right in the face of the system; his uncompromising hatred for the oppression of the Black masses and his determination to fight against it; his bold disloyalty to America and exposure of its whole history of barbarous crimes against Black people and others...”

Malcolm was far more radical than other forces active at that time, and this represented a serious threat to the powers-that-be and their system. He played an indispensable role in the transformation of the Black resistance movement of the 1960s, from one that was trying to deal with the savage oppression Black people faced by getting into the system to a movement whose most advanced elements had come to see that system as the source of this oppression.

Malcolm was relentless in condemning the U.S. for its crimes against Black people. Especially after he broke with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI), he called out the crimes the U.S. committed against oppressed people in Africa and other parts of the world. And he called out trying to deal with the oppression of Black people by trying to get into the system that was oppressing them as a foolish, no-win road. He ridiculed turning the other cheek while racist crackers got away with murdering Black people. He said he wasn’t an American and had sense enough to know it—he was one of the 20 million Black victims of America. Rather than appealing to the oppressors to give Black people equality because this would strengthen their global empire, Malcolm identified with the Vietnamese revolutionaries and others who were fighting that empire.

Malcolm told people they were fools if they thought they could trust the “foxes” in the federal government to do anything about the savage horrors the southern segregationists, the “wolves,” were inflicting on Black people.

And Malcolm didn’t hold back on telling people what the real deal was, refusing to wait until people were ready to hear what he had to say. He loved to tell his audiences, “I didn’t come to tell you what you want to hear. I came to tell you the truth, whether you like it or not.”

Malcolm’s work helped to move groups like the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to a more radical stance in challenging the vicious oppression of Black people. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale spoke openly of their debt to Malcolm, saying that his exposure of this system led them to take up self-defense against police brutality and to see the need for revolution right here in the belly of the beast, as we used to put it back in the 1960s and ’70s. On a personal note, Malcolm’s impact on SNCC and the Black Panther Party (BPP) was a big part of what enabled me to see that, as a Black person, I had no business going to Vietnam and helping drown the Vietnamese people’s war for liberation in blood. What the BPP and people like Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and H. Rap Brown were saying about Vietnam played a role in moving me to refuse orders to go to Vietnam.

At the end of his life, Malcolm was grappling with and promoting revolution and revolutionary leadership, including Mao Zedong’s leadership of the Chinese Revolution. But he never made the leap to becoming a communist. His program for freeing Black people still contained strong elements of promoting Black capitalism. And he never ruptured with the patriarchal views that women should play subordinate roles in society and in the resistance movements, views that were widespread in the movements of the 1960s.

I know the system’s official story on his assassination is that it resulted from his dispute with the NOI, but to this day the full story on the assassination has not been revealed, and many questions remain. It is clear both that the imperialists were at minimum complicit in this assassination, having kept Malcolm under intense surveillance and having infiltrated his organization, and that vicious personal slanders, physical threats, and physical attacks against Malcolm by forces associated with the Nation of Islam played a role in allowing the government to murk up what actually happened. (This latter point is something today’s movements of resistance have to study, learn from, and not repeat.)

Malcolm wasn’t struck down for nothing. His was a life that was dedicated to calling out and working to end the oppression of Black people. And in death his legacy influenced many more people to look at the reality of what America was really all about and to take the path of revolution, rather than reform.

This is a legacy we must cherish, and we must go beyond. Malcolm posed the question—the ballot or the bullet, which broke things out of the terms of the time. His influence helped lead to the powerful Black liberation movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s, which shook America to its foundations and put the question of revolution on the agenda. The system responded to that movement both with some concessions, but also with violent repression. The movement of that time, heroic as it was, was not able to go all the way. But we do have the lessons of that movement to sum up, as part of figuring out just what it will take to end the oppression of Black people and ALL oppression once and for all.

To end the oppression of Black people, and all the other horrors this capitalist/imperialist system inflicts on people around the world—the wars for empire, the devastation of the environment of the very planet we live on, the violence and degradation women are subjected to, the government spying and the rest—will take revolution, nothing less.

We have the leadership needed to make this necessary revolution in Bob Avakian (BA), a leader who has developed a new approach to making revolution and to bringing into being, thru revolution, a society that people would want to live in, and a society that is in transition to a classless, communist world. BA was both profoundly influenced by and played a significant role in the upheavals of the 1960s, and summing up the lessons of those years—what was so great about them and what the people back then ran up against—has been part of BA’s work in developing a new synthesis of communism. The revolutionary society envisioned by BA would wipe out the oppression of Black people and other oppressed peoples as an integral part of getting rid of all oppression and exploitation. You can check this out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And BA has developed a strategy that could actually make a revolution in the U.S.—which you can get into in BAsics. And he leads a party that is urgently working to make that vision real.

This party and the revolution it is working to bring about are for real. If you hate the oppression of Black people, and the other horrors this system is enforcing on people in this country and around the world, you need to check out this party. You need to go to the website and study what it says and what it does. And you need to get with this party and the movement for revolution it is building.


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