Marable's Work Will Live On
Last Fall we witnessed Ron Walters (9/10/10) and Ambrose I. Lane Sr. (9/14/10), pass away. The first week of April saw Manning Marable return to the ancestors as well. I didn't really know Marable except thru twitter, where he informed me that he was in the process of writing his extensive volume on the life of Malcolm X. As much as I admire brother Malcolm I-for whatever reason-have avoided buying too many books written on him other than his own autobiography, a book on his last 4 speeches, "Malcolm" by Bruce Perry and two excellent works by author Karl Evanzz ("The Judas Factor," and "The Messenger;" which is essentially an investigative work on his former mentor and NOI head Elijah Muhammad). Fear of redundancy I suppose.
The title of this work is called "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention." The word reinvention intrigues me because of how blacks traditionally seem to steer away from reinvention, after all, what is reinvention on any level, anything but revolution? And as that song from the '70's bluntly implied; blacks are scared of revolution.
To be honest with you I never heard of Marable at all until back during the early '90's when I became a columnist for a small black newspaper out of Rochester NY; the Frederick Douglass Voice. Back then it's publisher Joan Howard regularly ran his column "Along the Color Lines." Howard-who knew Manning-disclosed to me a few days ago that what she appreciated most about him was that "he gave his writings away free to black newspapers and many others too." Of course she was quick to acknowledge his most famous work; How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, written in 1983. It doesn't take long to understand this brother was ahead of his time. "Truly his death is a loss to our people. I can hardly wait to read his new book and really sorry he didn't live long enough to hold some of those interviews and comment on it," added Howard.
A life of many accomplishments in just 60 short years (he was just a month shy of his 61st Birthday), many of us know of Professor Marable's work at the Columbia University where he taught history and Political Science and founded and directed the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. You can safely assume some right wing commentators will either marginalize or demonize Marable and his legacy, but none of them will make any attempt to understand why he was a known Marxist or the reasons for his feelings of detachment and alienation from the US. To get a basic understanding of it, one must first reference a quote by H. Rap Brown (Imam Jamil al-Amin) as a starting point. During an interview during the late 60's or early '70's Brown conveyed an approach to the overall influence of blacks in political power that sounds characteristically much like Marable's: "Politics as defined by the geographical and influential spheres of this country is irrelevant to black people and irrelevant to the masses of people. The vote has been used as a tool of oppression against black people... it does not profit black people or poor people anything to have the vote and not be able to select the candidates they wanna choose. I think the vote can only be used as a tool of organization, we can only use the vote to organize our people. Now to really believe that we can put someone in office and that these people would be responsive to our needs is naive, politically naive. Because even if one of the black candidates who ran for office, were to take the office of the President, then black people must be prepared to fight against that person. Because the system mandates the action of the individual. The individual does not determine how the country will function, this country works off the military industrial complex, which means that it's profitable to wage war."
At the time Brown made those statements, Eldridge Cleaver and Dick Gregory had both declared their candidacy for President of the US. The reality of Barack Obama's current tenure as President is more manifest in the eyes of more than a few blacks as more indicative of Brown's cryptic words about the Military Industrial Complex that preceded him, than all the black presidential candidates that preceded him.
Marable believed that blacks getting involved in politics was a complete utter waste of time. According to an except from How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: "the instant that the black politician accepts the legitimacy of the State, the rules of the game, his/her critical faculties are destroyed permanently, and all that follows are absurdities." Yet in spite of his strong sentiments against American politics and black participation, like Brown he wasn't opposed to using the vote as a tool of organizing blacks. In 2003-04 he co-founded and launched 250 college students to register new voters and repeal the still-existing voter laws made to discourage and suppress Democratic and African American voter turnout in Mississippi.
Marable's work on Malcolm was born out of ideas from his Center for Contemporary Black History called the Malcolm X project, which explores lingering questions regarding his assassination. By the time you read this it should have just reached the bookshelves at your local book outlets. Make sure you check your local black-owned bookstores first to reserve or purchase a copy, and if not available, check your large chains. My personal view on capitalism has always been that it's a good idea on paper, it's just those who abuse it that are the problem. Manning Marable's view is much deeper, he sees flaws in the writings. Was he a defeatist when he discouraged blacks from holding political office? No more than Brown was when he said that politics is irrelevant to black people. What he was teaching wasn't defeat, he was teaching change, and Marable-like Brown-was a revolutionary.
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BlackCommentator.com Columnist Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear on his blog; the Buffalo Bullet. Follow him on Twitter andFacebook. Click here to contact Mr. Stevenson.