“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…”
That quote is taken from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965); and it demonstrates not only how incisive a thinker and speaker Malcolm X was, but also how relevant so much of what he spoke and wrote about still is, even 50 years after his assassination.
Without doubt one of the greatest (I’d argue the greatest) orators of the 20th century and unquestionably one of the most significant cultural, social and political figures (also one of the most divisive) of that century, Malcolm X continues to cast a large shadow and remain a significant presence whose power and influence is as strongly felt in the struggles and issues of today as it was fifty years ago.
In posting a much more lengthy piece about Malcolm X and his legacy, it occurred to me how much of what he said in various speeches seemed to have sympathetic resonance with contemporary issues and concerns. I have collected here a dozen quotes in particular that can be seen to perhaps resonate specifically with some of those problems, issues and struggles characterising the world and our societies in the 21st century; from Ferguson and ‘Black Lives Matter’ in America, the struggles of the Muslim world in general to the role of the corporate media, the problems of US imperialism and more.
This isn’t about necessarily agreeing with or disagreeing with every quote or statement: but about how significant or resonant they are today.
“I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.” – The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“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.” – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
“I do believe that there will be a clash between East and West. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin.” – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
“They [America] don’t practice what they preach, whereas South Africa preaches and practices the same thing. I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.” – The Oxford Union Debate (3 December 1964)
“Civil rights, for those of us whose philosophy is black nationalism, means: “Give it to us now. Don’t wait for next year. Give it to us yesterday, and that’s not fast enough.” – The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“You and I in America are faced not with a segregationist conspiracy, we’re faced with a government conspiracy. Everyone who’s filibustering is a senator – that’s the government. Everyone who’s finagling in Washington, D.C., is a congressman—that’s the government. You don’t have anybody putting blocks in your path but people who are a part of the government. The same government that you go abroad to fight for and die for is the government that is in a conspiracy to deprive you of your voting rights, deprive you of your economic opportunities, deprive you of decent housing, deprive you of decent education.” – The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“Any time Uncle Sam, with all his machinery for warfare, is held to a draw by some rice eaters, he’s lost the battle. He had to sign a truce. America’s not supposed to sign a truce. She’s supposed to be bad. But she’s not bad any more. She’s bad as long as she can use her hydrogen bomb, but she can’t use hers for fear Russia might use hers. Russia can’t use hers, for fear that Sam might use his. So both of them are weapon-less. They can’t use the weapon because each’s weapon nullifies the other’s. So the only place where action can take place is on the ground. And the white man can’t win another war fighting on the ground. Those days are over. The black man knows it, the brown man knows it, the red man knows it, and the yellow man knows it…”
“… So they engage him in guerrilla warfare. That’s not his style. You’ve got to have heart to be a guerrilla warrior and he hasn’t got any heart.”– The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“I don’t believe in any form of unjustified extremism. But when a man is exercising extremism — a human being is exercising extremism — in defense of liberty for human beings it’s no vice, and when one is moderate in the pursuit of justice for human beings I say he is a sinner.” – The Oxford Union Debate (3 December 1964)
“Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore we need enlightenment. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about.” – Malcolm X: The Man and his Times.
“The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal…”
“…this is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing…” – Speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (13 December 1964)
“That whole thing about appealing to the moral conscience of America – America’s conscience is bankrupt. She lost all conscience a long time ago. Uncle Sam has no conscience. They don’t know what morals are. They don’t try and eliminate an evil because it’s evil, or because it’s illegal, or because it’s immoral; they eliminate it only when it threatens their existence. So you’re wasting your time appealing to the moral conscience of a bankrupt man like Uncle Sam. If he had a conscience, he’d straighten this thing out with no more pressure being put upon him.” – The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“The modern 20th century weapon of neo-imperialism is ‘dollarism’. The Zionists have mastered the science of dollarism: the ability to come posing as a friend and benefactor, bearing gifts and all other forms of economic aid and offers of technical assistance… and this new kind of Zionist colonialism differs only in form and method, but never in motive or objective.” – Taken from the Egyptian Gazette (17 September 1964)
“When you take your case to Washington, D.C., you’re taking it to the criminal who’s responsible; it’s like running from the wolf to the fox. They’re all in cahoots together. They all work political chicanery and make you look like a chump before the eyes of the world…”
“…Here you are walking around in America, getting ready to be drafted and sent abroad, like a tin soldier, and when you get over there, people ask you what are you fighting for, and you have to stick your tongue in your cheek. No, take Uncle Sam to court, take him before the world.” – The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
“…He’s fighting you in the morning, fighting you in the noon, fighting you at night and fighting you all in between, and you still think it’s wrong to fight him back. Why? The press. The newspapers make you look wrong.” – Speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (13 December 1964)
“In Asia or the Arab world or in Africa, where the Muslims are, if you find one who says he’s white, all he’s doing is using an adjective to describe something that is incidental about him. There is nothing else to it. He’s just white. But when you get the white man over here in America and he says he’s white, he means something else. You can listen to the sound of his voice when he says he’s white. He means he’s boss.” – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
“In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again — as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.” – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
A much more in-depth article on Malcolm X’s life, legacy and assassination can be read here: ‘MALCOLM X: The Assassination, the Legacy, the Sixties & How the Establishment Won’…