Archive for the My Struggle On the Left! Category

Some Final Advice for Marvin X

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left! with tags , , , , on November 10, 2012 by playthell


RAM Comrades: Playthell, John Bracy, Muhammad Ahmed, Askia

Recovering Crack heads shouldn’t Rewrite History!

Yo Marvin, when I posted my critique on the misguided, silly and dangerous blather of Glen Ford – who said it didn’t matter if Afro-Americans voted in the Presidential election – I received a note from the great writer Ishmael Reed.  He warned me that since none of the people that I am critiquing on the left could prevail in a debate with me, they would resort to personal attacks.  Now I see what he means.

You say that I was never a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM?  You say you talked to former RAM members and they don’t know me?  Well either you are lying or they are lying.  But you should know better than to lie about things that are a matter of historical fact, and can be easily verified as such.  As a former history professor I sure as hell do!

But then Marvin, since the only things I know about you, or what you believe, is based on the things you have written about yourself and my encounter with you on FB, enriched by things I have heard from people who do know you well in the Bay area.  Early on I was forced to conclude you are a hapless fool stuck on stupid.  And everything you do confirms that conclusion.

For instance, when you wrote that mindless drivel on my page about “Negroes,” I recognized that you untended it as an insult…since the politically correct term is “black.”  But that’s such an asinine move I just decided to play past it.  But then you wouldn’t take no for an answer, you had to keep on pushing.  I have decided that you are suffering from what the psychologist call “projection,” which is a process by which one projects one’s own vices and shortcomings onto others.

In this case it is all too clear.  You are the one with the alter-ego named “Plato Negro,” who spouts pompous prattle that you evidently mistake for wisdom.  However the more I listen to what you have to say I find myself thinking of Queen Mother Moore’s definition of the term Negro – “No, Nay, Never Grow!” – she would say.  Hence it is the perfect term for you; since you are an intellectual anachronism, a poot-butt philosopher stuck in the past who never grows!

Maybe you are actually dumb enough to try and rewrite history while the actors in those events are still around. Perhaps that’s what smoking crack does to the human brain; since I have far better sense than to crack up I really don’t know.  But I did win the first annual Tom Focade Award for honesty and accuracy in drug reporting, presented by High Times Magazine, for my columns and feature stories on drug addiction and anti-drug laws in my in the Village Voice, and the Editorial Page of the “New York Daily News.”

I concentrated a lot on crack addiction becausecrack headsand crack dealers were wreaking havoc in black community at the time.  In my view both are enemies of the black community!  And by the way, I was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary, in 1995.

The nominating letter is on this blog, and anybody can read it – see: Playthell’s bio- A Thumbnail Sketch.  It is easy to see that thequalities enumerated in the nominating letter are clearly present in the commentaries on this blog, of which there are nearly 500, ranging from 800 to 80, 000 words!  And do note the fact that this is my second nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, the first was for political feature writing. That nominating letter is also on display.

The picture above was taken at a conference held at the University of Massachusetts about two years ago.  It was a program hosted by the WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, of which I was a founder.  The four men in the picture were discussing the founding of RAM, the Emergence of the Black Arts Movement, and the creation of Black Studies.  And we were speaking from personal experience because we were principal actors in those historic developments.

From left to right they are Playthell Benjamin, John Bracey, Max Stanford / Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, and the great poet Askia Muhammad.  Between the men in this picture are the founders of RAM, Black Studies and the Black Arts Movement. Max Stanford and I co-founded RAM in Philadelphia in 1962, John Bracey was a RAM cadre in Chicago, who became a professor of history, and Askia Muhammad was a leading force in the Black Arts movement, as well as a RAM cadre.

I presented some lectures at the University of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, and I talked about the development of the armed black “revolutionary” movement of the 1960’s.  There were several people in the audience who were there at the founding of RAM.  One of them was Walt Palmer, who not only was a witness to it all, but was instrumental in putting together legal representation for RAM cadres arrested for trying to poison the Philadelphia police, a dramatic development at the time.

Walt is a towering figure in Philadelphia.  He knows who was who and where all the political bodies are buried.  He is a remarkable man whose career includes radical activist, pioneering medical researcher, lawyer, writer, and a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and he recently ran the 100 meter sprint in the senior division of the Penn Relays at 73 years old!

At present he has designed and founded one of the best charter schools in the country.  He is a lucid and reliable witness…and there are others in Philly who attended my lectures and remember well who done what!   If you want to set the record straight about my involvement in the founding of RAM I will send you Walt’s number by private message and you can interview him.

I can also provide numbers for others who were there at the beginning!  You claim to be an intellectual so do your job chump!  But I doubt that you will pursue this because you are not really interested in the truth.  Ish pegged you clowns just right!  You are not smart enough   to win the debate with me. This is demonstrated by the fact that you are going through all of these changes to avoid answering the damn questions I put to you about how you intend to make this “revolution” you prattle on about ad- nauseum.  Instead, you attempt to attack my character and deny my personal history.

That’s really some low life punk-ass shit Marvin, especially since my story can be easily verified.   For instance, Walt Palmer has a “Wall of Heroes” in the multi-million dollar building that houses his “Learning and Leadership Charter School.  It is very impressive, with life size oil paintings of great freedom fighters from the 20th Century.  Walt gave me a tour of the Hall recently, and as I was perusing the handsome portraits of Kwame Nkrumah, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mao, and then….I suddenly came upon a striking portrait of yours truly!

Walt Palmer by Wall of Heroes

 Philly Activist, Educator / Griot 50+ years in Struggle!

 It was quite a surprise; I thought the artist really captured the real me.  Of course I photographed it, so you can check it out for yourself Dog.  But I hear that you will be visiting Philly, so you can call Walt and check it out.  You say you talked to people in Philly who don’t know me…you don’t say?

Playthell on the Wall of Heroes

Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Listen fool, I left Philadelphia in 1969, to go help build the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in the world: The WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, at U-Mass Amherst.  This turned out to be quite an achievement, as we persuaded the University to purchase and preserve the voluminous papers of Dr. DuBois, publishing several volumes of them under the distinguished Marxist scholar Dr. Herbert Aptheker, who was Dr. DuBois’ chosen executor of his papers.

I had rejected the idea of an armed revolution in America for some very complex reasons, when I went to Amherst.  That was 43 years ago Dog, and it was 50 years ago that Max and I founded RAM!   But when I quit the “revolutionary” movement I became a professor, and Max took longer to reach a similar conclusion, after spending time in prison for “revolutionary” activities.

He is now a professor too, right there at Temple University – as is Dr. Anthony Montiero, who also spent time in jail for “revolutionary” acts.   Hence it seems that Ram cadres were not only way ahead of the BPP of Oakland in political development….but we evidently had far better character too.  The book below was recently published by the Palmer Foundation; it istitled “Unveiling 150 Philadelphia Iconic Figures from 1950-2002.”  When you interview Walt Palmer ask him to sell you one: Me, Max and Tony are all there!

It’s on the Record
Prominent Philadelphians of the last half century

So what if people you talked to don’t know me.  There are plenty who do, and they were the ones who were around at the time.  I know fuckin well that Dr. Ahmed didn’t tell you no shit like that; so don’t lie on him Dog.  Because everything I am saying can be verified by neutral sources.  What they will tell you is that I was the one with the big following in Philly, because I was presenting black history lectures on the radio; plus I was a highly skilled orator who could move a crowd.  Max was the theoretician who had read widely in the works of Mao, but he was a boring speaker then and now, and he had no following.

So max conceived the organizational structure and was the chief theoretician, but I attracted the crowds from which the cadre was recruited with my black history lectures, which increasingly centered around the history of our struggle for liberation.  We made an effective team, and when I began speaking around the country through the OIC network, whose centers were located in the black ghettoes all over the country, I was by far the most effective national recruiter for RAM.  These were the years between 1962 and 1969, when I left the movement and became a professor.

These facts can be easily collaborated by both living witnesses, and the very accurate FBI Co-In-Tel-PRO documents.  If you really want to know my story chump: DO SOME FUCKIN RESEARCH!!!!!!  Beyond that you will have to await my memoir!  I don’t generally make a point of emphasizing my role in RAM, because unlike your experience in the Black Panther Party, I don’tdefine myself by it.  In fact, I consider it the folly of my youth…well intentioned folly, but folly no less!

Of course it does not surprise me that your approach to research is sloppy, because you have a history of undisciplined sloppy thinking.  This is very clear from the revelations you share in your book: “Wish I Could tell you the Truth.”  Well,  if there is more to your story I can’t wait to hear it.  However what you tell is damming evidence.  I ask the readers to consider the following passage, where you and Huey Newton are sitting in a Oakland crack house contemplating the “Revolution.”

“…it had been a long day’s journey into night but it was ending.  In 1989 I lost my comrade Huey Newton, killed by a young crack dealer in West Oakland.  I was happy to have one last conversation with Huey, even though it was in the crack house.  It was one of those rare times in the crack house when conversation was more important that smoking.”  Then Marvin recreates the voice of Huey, who asks

Huey:“Jackmon, what we gonna do about the present situation?

To wit Marvin replied:  “Well, it’s a pretty bad situation: the black army’s on crack – –the generals are on crack, man this is pitiful”

Huey replies: “We can come out of this, Man, we came out of slavery, see what I’m sayin?

Marvin: Yeah, we gonna come out of it or die…Being about five years for me, Huey, caused my family great pain and suffering.  I’m sure you did too.”

Huey: “Right”

Marvin X: “For what?  Some hot air…?”

Huey: “Ah, don’t beat yaself, Jackmon, enjoy yourself…On a lighter note, have you seen you- know- who- lately?

Marvin X: “You mean your buddy?”

Huey: “Naw, Jackmon, your buddy!”

Marvin X: “I don’t see Eldridge much anymore, not after our little escapade driving down the street with the Damned desk on top of the car.”

Huey: “Yeah, that was some funny shit, Jackmon, that shit made Jet magazine. “ 

Marvin X: Huey, on the real, think you and him will ever get together?”

Huey:  Not in my life time.”

Marvin X: “Why?”

Huey: “Too many people lost their lives behind Eldridge.  Just too much blood on the path between us, man, too much blood.  So even though I might want to get together with him, out of respect to the loved ones of those comrades who went down, I cannot deal with him, I will not deal with him.

Marvin X: Huey, fuck all that.  Arabs kill each other in the Middle East every day, but the next moment they are hugging and praying together in the Mosque.”

Huey: “We ain’t Arabs… “

Huey was right Marvin, yhall ain’t Arabs, because Arabs would have actually committed “Revolutionary Suicide” to destroy the enemy and make a statement…not sit around in a crack house conducting a pity party, crying about how yhall can’t fight because the “army” and “the general” is on crack!!!!!

I have nothing more to say to you Marvin, you are just a sad little fat guy, an intellectual mediorcity living in the past.  I shall let the readers reach their own conclusions.   Alas, this exchange has degenerated to the level of what the wise old folks in Florida, who were sober as judges, used to call “a damned nigger mess!”

Every move you make justifies my view of you as a pretentious, hapless, fool.  The proof of it is that you keep picking fights with your intellectual superior in public – anybody who doubts that you are my intellectual inferior should just read my broadly learned essays and compare them to the mindless prattle you write.  Maybe you just get off on public humiliation.  But I don’t want to play your jaded game anymore.  Find somebody else to whip you for your sins!

Henceforth I shall follow my grandfather’s advice: “Never argue with a fool in public, because the people looking on can’t tell who’s who!” You, on the other hand, would do well to understand that while Shakespeare was right, “All the world is a stage,” you are not writing the script!  Rather you should heed the warning of Mark Twain: “Tis far better to be thought a fool….than open yo mouth and remove all doubt!!!!!”

                                                                            Pootbutt Poet Marvin X
            The wisdom gained from 12 Years on CRACK!                
 Alas, Plato Negro I had to spank yo literary mentor too!

                  Chairing the Writers Panel with Sanchez and Baraka, Black Arts Festival


*** For my critique of Baraka read: ‘Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman” on this blog.



 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 10, 2012

A Good Cause but Bad Strategy

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , on September 16, 2012 by playthell
 Smiley and West Putting Their Heads Together

 Notes on the Smiley West Poverty Tour

           Watching Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on Morning Joe earlier today, I found myself in agreement with their condemnation of growing poverty in the United States; the richest country in the world.  But I remain confused about their strategy for changing it.  A persistent theme in their argument is that nobody cares about the plight of the poor.

Well, I care a lot about the poor because I’m one of them!  Unlike West and Smilie; who are makin grand theft dough, livin large and” eatin high up on the hog” as the old folks in Florida would say.  Nobody wants to see the development of a movement that can effectively address the persistent curse of poverty more than I do.  But I don’t see how any movement that is not fundamentally political can hope to change the economic structure of this country.

In the United States real political change, the kind of change that’s capable of introducing sweeping economic policies which can reduce or eliminate poverty on the scale that they are decrying, can only be achieved through one of the major political parties.

A casual survey of past and present Republican economic policies will reveal that they are not concerned with eradicating poverty; they are, and have always been, the party of the Plutocrats. The Republican solution to the problem of widespread unemployment and mass poverty is to cut taxes and regulations on private business: Let the rich get richer and it will trickle down to the rest of us. That’s it.

The Democratic Party however has a long history of fighting poverty.  In fact, all of the most effective measures against poverty, including the social safety net that prevents millions of Americans from falling into destitution, comes from two massive programs initiated by the democrats: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s and Lynden Johnson’s Great Society aka the “War On Poverty” of the 1960’s.”  And president Obama has continued that great Democratic tradition of proposing policies to address the problems of the poor.

Yet he has received constant criticism from Cornel and Tavis, who seemed reluctant to make a clear distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans, and rated President Obama only slightly higher that Mitt Romney regarding concern for the poor.  While West and Tavis base their assessment of the President’s concern for the poor on superficial things like monitoring his rhetoric.

They gleefully pointed out that the word “poverty’ was mentioned more times at the Republican convention than the Democratic convention – but they should be looking at the actual policies of the President instead.  If they had they would have seen what Time magazine reporter Michael Grunwald, who has been closely watching the results of President Obama’s policies, reports in his recently published book “The New New Deal.”

Aside from the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and the Affordable Health Care, there is the President’s Recovery Act, or Stimulus, the benefits of which Smiley and West seem as ignorant of as the Tea Party zealots.  But Grunwald tells us the Stimulus “includes the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance.”  Aside from these impressive achievements, President Obama has proposed massive jobs bills that would put millions of the unemployed to work immediately, but the Republicans have blocked them.

By obscuring the sharp differences between the two parties, and the profound difference in the values and vision of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, they are confusing people – along with a sob squad of leftist intellectuals who are conducting a non-stup pity party insted of getting their ass in gear and worjing to defeat thet Republicans!

These persistent whiners are turning Many people  off rather than inspiring them to vote in the coming elections.  This is self-defeating approach.  Hence while Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are promoting a good cause…they have a bad strategy for success.

 A Force for Good…

…unwitting allies of the Tea Party?


 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York


The Crisis of the Black Leftist Intellectual

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by playthell
Dr. Anthony Montero: Clueless Marxist Ideologue

Reflections On the Pitfalls of Ideology

I have argued for some time now, that as we approach the outer limits of the right and left on the American political spectrum, the more they begin to resemble each other in their conclusions.  One need only look at the present political debate around President Obama to gauge the veracity of my claim.   Consider for instance the following statement:

Bill Clinton continued the farce in his nominating speech for Barack Obama. More than farce it is cynicism, coverup…The Dems are performing a fake populism and a fraudulent claim to protecting the economy, saving the nation from depression and defense of the working class…. This fraud must not only be criticized, it has to be rejected.”

I bet you think this is yet another slander of our President by rightwing Tea Party fanatics, who are more likely than not white racists.  But this passage was actually written by Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a black professor of sociology at Temple University, who considers himself a militant defender of Afro-American interests and the working class in general.

I have known Tony since he was an undergraduate student at Lincoln University and barely out of his teens.  Indeed, I was one of the people who inspired him to become a radical activist (see: An Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Monteiro.”) He showed great promise as an intellectual early on, and was totally committed to the Afro-American freedom movement, as was true of legions of students in the 1960’s, an era of militant struggle.  Although even then he was something of a mindless militant with a poor sense of judgment, and ended up participating in an ill-conceived act of leftist adventurism that sent him to prison.

Yet that can be chalked up to the impetuosity of an impassioned militant youth on a freedom high. The central question begged by the statement above – which is at best a clear sign of intellectual incompetence; at worse a symptom of mental derangement that renders him incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality – is what happened?

How did Tony become a sad, deluded, bourgeois academic and de-facto ally of the Tea Party?  What drives him to serve the interests of the worst enemies of Afro-American aspirations, the Tea Party Patriots, by working to keep black Americans from voting for the reelection of President Obama?

The answer to this tragic enigma lies in Tony’s slavish devotion to a European ideology that has never managed to win the hearts and minds of the American people, especially its main targets: the white working class and Afro-Americans.  The fundamental problem is that this foreign ideology never fully addressed American realities.  Hence I agree with the great American writer John Dos Passos, in his chastisement of Michael Gold – editor of the Marxist Journal, New Masses, which was influential among early 20th century American radicals – over editorial policy.

I don’t think there should be anymore phrases, badges, opinions, banners, imported from Russia or anywhere else,” said Dos Passos.  “Ever since Columbus, imported systems have been the curse of this country. Why not develop our own?”

This is the crux of Professor Monteiro’s problem: he is attempting to analyze American politics through the eyes of a foreign ideology. Hence we shouldn’t be surprised that his pronouncements sound like unintelligible babble, unrelated to the realities that 95% of Afro-Americans, and has made him a figure of ridicule among many black intellectuals, and his ideas a dirty joke, among the black masses he pretends to represent.

Tony is a hardcore Marxist and would-be philosopher – if he could convince a philosophy department somewhere to give him a job spouting the Marxist prattle in which he is a true believer. The problem is that professional philosophers do not consider Marxism serious philosophy.  Professor Montiero is one of the last of the die-hard members of the American Communist Party who is still dealing with Post Traumatic Stress  from witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union; which to them represents the demise of the “worker’s paradise” – an idea history has proven a grand illusion.

Yet few understand the effect on the psyche of American communist when Boris Yeltsin, the leader of the Russian Communist Party, repudiated Communism as a false doctrine and scrapped the system. Professor Montero is like a committed Catholic who comes to Rome for Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square, seeking guidance from the Pope, backed by his College of Cardinals resplendent in their priestly costumes. But, alas, instead of performing the traditional homily, the Pope announces that God does not exist and Catholic teachings about the world are a myth!

Based upon his writings posted on Facebook these days, Professor Montero appears increasingly lost, frustrated, and drifting into madness the way true believers in Catholicism would respond to the Pope’s revelation.   He has become so irrational in his fanatical desire to prove his Russian mentors wrong, that anybody who does not share his communist delusions is automatically viewed as a traitor to the working class – a social formation that exists for him mainly as a theoretical abstraction.

Absent ideologically induced madness or severe delusion, how else can we explain the reasoning of a college Professor who writes the following jibberish?

“The Democratic party campaign is, if anything, even more cynical and false than Romney’s, because it portrays the Democratic incumbent as the defender of working people against Wall Street interests.. and the wealthy, when the truth is the direct opposite. Obama spearheaded the destruction of jobs and wages with the auto bailout, and helped launch the war on public education that has accounted for the largest single cut in jobs of the past three years: the wiping out of 600,000 jobs of teachers and support workers by state and local governments.”

When confronted with gobbledegook like this my grandmother used to say “That fellow’s understandin’ is bad.” Aside from the fact that these charges rival the worst anti-Obama propaganda emanating from the Tea Party – the extreme right of the Republican Party – it is a burlesque on scholarship.  Everybody who knows anything about this question knows that the reductions in state government jobs are the result of cuts made by the Republican governors of those states – or layoffs resulting from severe deficits due to the prolonged economic crisis.

Furthermore, the Republican controlled Congress has blocked all the President’s efforts at more federal assistance.  Why doesn’t Dr. Montero understand this?  All he has to do is read “It’s Worse Than it Looks,” the new study of the Congress by Dr. Norman Orenstein, the leading scholar on the US Congress.  Although Dr. Orenstien is a resident scholar at the rightwing American Enterprise Institute, he is able to maintain scholarly objectivity and follow the facts wherever they lead.

Alas, Professor Montero is obviously unable to free his mind from the grip of misguided Marxist dogma.  His confused and dishonest prattle exhibits the worst characteristics of the Romney campaign: telling lies that are easily disproved.  Yet it is one thing to hear these kinds of ridiculous charges from paid right wing propagandists, who are indifferent to the truth and bank on the ignorance of the electorate to get over; but from a black professor who expects to be taken seriously in the black community?

Tony is an embarrassment.  His argument is an obscene parody of a serious intellectual polemic; the academic equivalent of a coon show.  Especially since his hysterical claim is so easily disproven by just reading the rigorously detailed study of President Obama’s Stimulus plan: “The New New Deal” by Michael Grunwald.  This award winning Time Magazine reporter has been following the trail of the Stimulus money since the bill was signed into law.  And as of this writing he is the foremost authority on the subject.  Here are some of Mr. Grunwald’s conclusions about what President Obama has done for the American people.

“The stimulus has launched a transition to a clean-energy economy, doubled our renewable power, and financed unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, a smarter grid, electric cars, advanced biofuels, and green manufacturing. It is computerizing America’s pen-and-paper medical system. Its Race to the Top is the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It has put in place the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, the largest research investments ever, and the most extensive infrastructure investments since Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. It includes the largest expansion of antipoverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance. Like the first New Deal, Obama’s stimulus has created legacies that last: the world’s largest wind and solar projects, a new battery industry, a fledgling high-speed rail network, and the world’s highest-speed Internet network. “

This is real progress that will put this country on the path of economic recovery by creating a new economy – which is the only path to solving the critical problem of structural unemployment.  There is no Marxist solution to this problem.  Marx was a 19th century thinker who was living as an exile  in England after the failed “Young German” Democratic movement of 1848, which was brutally crushed by the Prussian army.

Like other talented “Forty Eighters” such as the great composer Richard Wagner, Marx was forced to flee Germany after their defeat and ended up in England. Hence Marx was witnessing the early stages of the Industrial Revolution in England when he was writing some of his major works, like the massive three volume tome Das Kapital.  But Marx was witnessing a very primitive form of capitalism that has very little in common with the advanced, post-industrial, cybernetic, finance capital system the exist in the contemporary USA.

Karl Marx: Father of Communism

Tony’s Messiah

But fanatical Marxists like Professor Monteiro evidently believe that Marx’s analysis is akin to Biblical revelation – not an analysis of the state of human society at the moment but an eternal truth.  An indication of how clueless self-righteous Marxists are can be seen in the comments of Grace Lee Boggs in an interview with the present writer.  The longtime wife of James Boggs, one of the most original thinkers about the place of workers in the American economy, Grace earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawyr at 23.  Now in her 90’s, she was a Marxist long before Tony was born.

And since she is a Chinese American from a well off New York family, that married an Afro-American factory worker/independent radical intellectual from rural Alabama, whom she met in Detroit during the great Depression, Grace Lee Boggs knows first-hand the struggles of real workers – not theoretical abstractions.  And since she was forced to take a secretary job at an auto plant because no university would hire her to teach western philosophy despite her impressive credentials, she personally experienced the horrors of racism.

James and Grace Lee Boggs

 Original Thinkers on the Left

I interviewed Grace when she was 92.  A longtime fan of the writings of her and James, I had taught two of James’ text when I was a history Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Worker’s Notebook, and Racism and the Class Struggle.” And I was reading “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century,” which Grace and James had written together.  So I held her opinion in high regard.

Hence when she told me that she found it absurd that anyone could believe that Marxism held the answers to the problems we face in contemporary America I felt enormous relief. Her observation had confirmed my own conclusions.  Grace Lee explained that Marx, brilliant observer of human society that he was, could not imagine the problems that confront mankind today.

She said if anybody had told Karl Marx that the smokestacks which were a measure of human progress in his time, would imperil the existence of mankind as a result of air pollution he would have dismissed them as a fool…and anyone who told him that man could poison the oceans and make the sea level rise would not have fared any better.  But these observations should come as no surprise, because Marx was just a man not a prophet or Messiah, and thus his understanding of the world was limited by the state of human knowledge at the time.

Marx would be as lost in contemporary American society as the architects of the US Constitution.  This is no gratuitous comparison. I referenced the Founding Fathers of the American Republic because the fanatics on the right – a mirror image of the far left – invoke the US Constitution with the same reverence that Marxists hold for the dialectical materialist graffiti of Karl Marx.  But the truth is that neither of these 18th and 19th century documents can guide us through the complex problems we face without revision.

In his book, The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Workers Notebook, published in 1960, James Boggs had already begun to point out the inadequacy of Marxist theory to provide answers to what he saw as the central crisis facing the working class.  Boggs saw that the central problem for the working class in the future was not going to be “wage slavery,” but no wages at all due to dramatic technological changes in the production process.

The great British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose economic prescriptions rescued the world from the “Great Depression,” had hinted of this development when he predicted an increase in “technological unemployment” in the future. But neither of them imagined the phenomenon of globalization, which encourages manufacturers to abandon workers in the advanced western societies – who had successfully fought for good wages, the eight hour workday, paid vacations, a benefits package that includes health care and retirement income – in favor of workers in third world countries who willingly work under conditions that have been outlawed in the west.

And the investor class doesn’t care where commodities are manufactured so long as they get a high return on their money.  That’s why Mitt didn’t give a shit if the American auto-industry collapsed.  His business was relocating businesses overseas to enhance the profits of investors.  President Obama takes exactly the opposite view.  He has taken extraordinary measures to reverse this trend and return manufacturing to the US.  And he is right to view technological innovations that will produce new industries as the key to the revival of American manufacturing.

James Boggs predicted that the permanent unemployment of masses of workers, caused by radical unplanned changes in the structure of America’s economy, would change the antagonism between labor and capital and heighten conflict between the employed and unemployed!  That’s what we are seeing now with workers who support the plutocrats in the Republican party who want to destroy unions and reduce workers to industrial serfs.  There are no Marxist solutions to these problems, and even if there were all of our experience shows that you couldn’t sell it to the majority of Americans at this juncture in our history.


If we are wrong, and there is a Marxist solution, why doesn’t Professor Monteiro write a serious book that instructs us how to do it in policy terms?  The kind of detailed work Dr. William Julius Wilson has done in defense of the liberal welfare state. I have been hearing Communist talk about the revolution coming when the capitalism system fails for at least 50 years.  But we just witnessed the world capitalist system on the brink of collapse and the Communists hadn’t a clue what to do!

Since he fancies himself a political theoretician, why doesn’t Professor Monteiro tell us what his strategy is for getting his ideas through both houses of Congress?  Without such a plan he is just pissing in the wind!  Instead of this kind of detailed scholarship, which would be of real value to people in the actual struggle for a better society, all we get from Professor Monteiro is incoherent, overly emotional, nihilistic tirades on Facebook, which he attempts to substitute for substantive scholarship.

Since Tony is such an admirer of Dr. DuBois, whose legacy he is distorting due to his Communist biases, it would seem that he would at least try to follow his example of careful scholarship.  Not so!  In fact, based on his production, Tony seems to be intellectually lazy; not at all like Dr. DuBois, who was one of the most productive scholars of his time. And DuBois never enjoyed the support provided by a professorship at a major white university.  When Dr. Dubois produced his brilliant pioneering work “The Philadelphia Negro” under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, he was given the title of “Assistant Instructor” and paid a paltry salary.

Dr. WEB DuBois, Engaged Scholar

 A Great Activist Intellectual

Dr. DuBois was not allowed any contact with students and was forced to live in a cramped apartment in South Philly above a dive where violence often broke out as he was writing his masterpiece.  He also conducted his own interviews, convincing all classes of black folk to talk with him about their lives – even the criminal class.  And he was one of the best qualified men in the American academy.

In fact DuBois says that when he returned from Germany he was “educated within an inch of my life.”  Where is Tony’s update of “The Philadelphia Negro?”  This would be a valuable contribution, because the story of Philadelphia over the last forty years is a representative anecdote for the decline of urban America.

Dr. Monteiro is a sad mediocrity next to Dr. DuBois, who had  completed a Ph.D. at Harvard in history under Professor Albert Bushnell Hart – who practically invented the modern scientific documentary historical method – and also studied with Max Weber, “the Father of Sociology” in Germany.   But he had also completed all the requirements for the Ph.D. in Economics at the Kaiser Wilhelm University, including the defense of his dissertation written in German, and he was only 25!

And he did it in half the allotted time.  And most telling, while Dr. Montero pines to be accepted as a philosopher, Dr. George Santayana, Harvard Professor and one of the world’s leading philosophers, begged the young DuBois to become a philosopher, he even offered to personally mentor him, but Dubois turned him down!

The reason Dr. DuBois turned down an offer that Dr. Monteiro would exchange his balls for – if he had any – is because DuBois thought that sociology, history and economics were better weapons for an intellectual warrior committed to liberating and uplifting the race.  I think he was right, and it is as true today as it was then.

Based upon his nefarious activities in this critical election period, when the working class stands to lose every gain they have made since the passage of the Wagner Act and the New Deal, I can fathom no evidence that Professor Montero understands Dr. Santayana’s most famous axiom: Those who refuse to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes.

If Dr. Monteiro had any clue about the implications of all that European political history any Marxist worth his salt is grounded in, he would recognize the folly of the role he is playing now.  For instance he would understand that the main reason why Hitler managed to get himself elected and bring the Nazi Party to power, in the most intellectually advanced nation in the world, was because of squabbling on the left between the Socialists and Communists, and divisions in the Jewish community between Nationalist/ Zionists, Socialists and Communists.  These divisions so fragmented the opposition that the Nazis came to power.  And we know what happened after that.

Although Marxists are fond of drawing broad generalizations about historical phenomena, because they suffer from the conceit that Marxism is a “science” that has figured out the “laws of history, ” although it has proven to be about as scientific as astrology, Tony doesn’t seem to recognize that the role he, and other misguided leftist intellectuals and revolutionary poseurs, are playing can help Mitt Romney win the Presidency and the Grand Obstructionist Party take over the government in the coming elections. If he does not consider such an event an unmitigated disaster he is not only a deluded fool, but a dangerous fool.

And just what is Dr. Monteiro’s beef with President Obama that has caused his brain to go on the Fritz and decide to cut the fool in public? As near as I can tell he is pissed off because Barack can’t wave a scepter, or a magic wand, and make all his leftist fantasies come true…and what is worse there is no evidence that Barack even wants to – or would if he could. Yet the things he expects of President Obama are totally unreasonable given the political realities of contemporary America.

He does not seem to understand that this is not his beloved Soviet Union, where the Chairman of the Communist Party and the Central Committee could dictate policy with no opposition. To expect a similar result from President Obama is a retreat into absurdity.  In this country we have a two party system and divided government.  And the two major parties are further divided now than they have been since the outbreak of Civil war.

What Tony and his fellow buffoons on the far left like the shadowy and cowardly Glen Ford of the so-called “Black Agenda Report,” the pugnacious albeit clueless Comrade Dix – Bob Avaikian’s black puppet – from the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the Cornel West /Tavis Smiley traveling minstrel show, fail to take into account is that the majority of Americans do not support the things they propose.

In fact, they voted in the right-wing Tea Party fanatics to block President Obama’s progressive agenda, only two years after the Republicans wrecked the economy!   They ran on a pledge to undo the Affordable Health Care Act, and they have blocked any attempt to pass the President’s massive job creation bills.

None of the President’s verbose black critics have anything to say about the actual political realities he must accommodate.  They are silly automatons, having a collective temper tantrum in public. Just like the fanatics on the right – their mirror opposite – they view compromise as synonymous with selling out.  Yet unless we change the Constitution of the United States and create a one party state like the Communist countries, anybody who becomes President of the USA must compromise with the opposing Party in order to govern.

That’s the way the US government works, and there is absolutely no evidence that any sizable number of American citizens want to change it; the present writer included.  Because when all is said and done power resides in the hands of the people; they may misuse and squander it…. but they have it! This means that anyone who is successful in American politics must work within this system.

The thing that impresses me most about the President’s leftist critics is that their views on what the President can do bears no relationship to political reality.  That’s why the Marxist left in the US has settled for the role of national debating society.  They play no actual role in the real political life of the United States today.  All of their glory days are in the past.  And Marxist intellectuals like Tony Monteiro are producing no substantial work to convince their fellow Americans that a Communist government would be superior to the participatory democracy we now enjoy – with all its flaws.

Not only has Tony and his Marxist comrades – like that verbose simpleton Glen Ford of the so called “Black Agenda Report, who is next in line for a public chastisement – not produced any substantive policy proposals that could pass both houses of Congress, which means they cannot be taken seriously, there is no evidence that he really even understands practical politics.  Indeed, Tony often talks like one of the semi-literate white racists in the Tea Party in his assaults on the President.  Consider the following statement.

“But the only real defense of the Obama Administration and his reelection is the lesser of two evils mantra.   However, the moment in history, rather than making the lesser of two evils logic necessary has made it obsolete and an obstacle to ideological clarity and struggle.”

Since I have already written on the consequences of this point of view twelve years ago, when the left played a critical role in electing George W. Bush, I shall simply refer the reader to that essay. (See: “On Choosing the Lesser Evil.”  Suffice it to say that anybody who argues such a thing is obviously a charlatan or a fool.  I am beginning to think Tony Montero is a bit of both. Hence I have concluded that it is a fool’s errand to expect any clarity to emerge from his reasoning.

Tony Monteiro’s views on foreign policy and collective bargaining with municipal governments are incoherent and border on a kind of ideological hysteria; a condition that has much in common with the religious fanaticism of the right. Indeed it is the same class of phenomenon: one secular one sacred. The professor’s pronouncements about President Obama’s foreign policy amount to little more than silly sloganeering.  But then, this is the guy who wept when the Russian people overthrew the Communist Party.

He is like the stranger in an old Ibo proverb that came to the funeral and cried louder than the bereaved family.  The wise Ibo Elders warned us to “beware” of such people. Tony adopted the same role when he defended the murderous tyrant Mummar Gadaffi against the righteous wrath of the Libyan people; offering this profound heart-felt observation: “At least Gadaffi showed the white man he ain’t no punk!”

To people in Tony’s demented state of mind, objective facts mean little if they don’t support his scatter brained theories about the world.  Hence he can post ridiculous and dangerous comments on Facebook about the President like the following.

his actual stance on the working class, including the auto workers and teachers (an anti-teachers union film was being shown at the convention and of course the convention is taking place in the most anti-union state in the nation) is more viciously anti-union than Reagan’s attack on the air traffic controllers.”

The fact that the auto-worker’s and teachers unions take the opposite position makes no difference to him.  My sister was an organizer for the National Education Association for years before she retired, and I live under the same roof with an International Representative of the United Auto-Workers.  When I read Tony’s statements to them their answer was short and to the point: “This nigger is crazy!”   

If the facts don’t fit his ideological dogma then he just ignores them.  As in other matters Professor Monteiro refuses to consider the political context in which the Democrats must make decisions.  His blanket denunciation of Mayor Rham Emanuel regarding the Chicago teachers strike that commenced this morning is a dramatic case in point.

Like all propagandists, as opposed to scholars, Tony is not interested in the complexities, contradictions and nuances of this labor dispute.  Hence he uses it in an opportunistic rather than a principled manner.  For instance, Chicago has a law that mandates the City balance their budget, and the day Mayor Emanuel took office the School board was facing a 700 million dollar deficit.  Parents anxious about their student’s children education and safety support increasing the school day by 90 minutes, but the teaacher’s union opposes it.

The Mayor tried to make a deal with the teachers union to give them half of the 4% raise they are requesting in exchange for the extended school day. This issue, health care payments, and teacher evaluations are the points on which the negotiations failed.  The Mayor did not want this strike and urged the teachers to remain in the negotiations.

Although I think teachers are getting a raw deal all over the country, and that encroachments on their professional standing and compensation package threatens to destroy a public education system that made America the leader of the world, this is a very complex matter and it will take our finest minds and coolest heads to salvage this vital American institution so that it can continue to attract our best and brightest college grads into the teaching profession.

The public is pissed with municipal workers in general, and teachers in particular, due to the constant attacks on the benefits that they receive, and in the case of teachers they are also angry that they get the summer off, while so many kids are failing.  This attitude is mistaken and unfair, but it is real and no politician can afford to ignore it if they intend to remain in office.  Consider this letter written by a citizen of Chicago in response to an AP story on the strike this morning:

“This is just another staged democrat union stunt, the democrats probably have 50 teams of lawyers, one for each states, just waiting for November, so they file suit in every state, democrat party is nothing but communism, get real people and vote the democrats out of office.”

These kind of crazy attacks are constantly leveled at the Democratic Party from the right, while the Communist and other leftist wags are calling them right wing tools of the plutocrats, neither charge is true.  And now Mitt Romney has weighed in on the dispute with a statement in support of the parents and villifing the union, which further confuses things as he attempts to use the strike against the President.

It is the role of serious intellectuals – especially black intellectuals – to clarify these complex issues for the untutored mob.  Alas, Professor Monteiro and his leftist comrades have failed miserably; they have added to the confusion and clarified nothing!  All that matters to these misguided, narrow minded ideologues is that their “revolutionary theory” be vindicated, even if they have to bend the facts to fit it.

Tony is willing to go down this dead end road even though we have the unimpeachable testimony of former Russian leader Andropov’s official ideologist, who has publicly testified that the refusal to accommodate their ideological predispositions to observable reality was the major cause of the collapse of the Russian Communist Party and the fall of the mighty Soviet Union!  This is a clear example of the old aphorism: “Convince a fool against his will…he remains a fool still.”  And if these anti-Obama Marxist zealots are not damned fools the Gods never blew breath in one.

I pity his students, whose young innocent minds are being corrupted by bullshit like this.  Perhaps Dr. Monteiro has two faces, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: one he shows to his classes and one when he shows his silly ass on Facebook.  In any case, if Professor Monteiro spouts the same bullshit in his classroom – and here I am employing the term in the sense that the eminent Princeton Philosopher, Dr. Harry G. Frank, defines it in his book “Bullshit” – then he should be dismissed from his faculty position by his colleagues. Not because he opposes President Obama, but for intellectual incompetence: Quackery!

I have long considered Tony Monteiro to be a “Sociologist” in name only.  That’s because after many years in the academy he has produced no serious sociological studies.  He appears to be living a life of pretense, whereas he imagines himself to be an important scholar absent a body of work that would justify such a claim.

Among my friends are serious scholars who have done, and are doing, very important consequential work; people like Bill Wilson and Alan Counter at Harvard; Bernie Anderson at Penn, Gerald Horne at the University of Houston, Bernard Bell at Penn State,  et al.  When compared to these scholars Tony looks like a verbose intellectual fraud.

He is also a bust as a “Revolutionary activist.”  At a time when we are faced with the most reactionary foe in our lifetime, people who have pledged to dismantle Obamacare and undo the New Deal, instead of organizing a summer seminar to teach his students how to organize to defeat the reactionaries who will destroy their dreams for the future, our revolutionary professor took his students off for an extended circle jerk called “Philosophy and Black Liberation.”

That’s all well and good at some other time: but not this summer; not this fire eating revolutionary who sits in judgment on the President with all the objectivity of a Catholic priest Judging a Jew during the Spanish Inquisition.  The sad truth is professor Monteiro has nothing to offer in terms of political analysis but confused dogma, which results in the disorientation of the listener and a paralysis of analysis.  This is just the opposite of a serviceable critique for a people in struggle.

Alas, Tony and his Marxist comrades offer no plan of action; yet We are facing an election where the working class stands to lose every gain we have won over the last century. In the Bush economic collapse black Americans lost 67% of all the wealth that we have accumulated since the end of slavery and Hispanic lost 61% of their collective wealth.  My sister lost $500, 000 which she had gained from a lifetime of work, saving and wise investment.  Mitt Romney could be worse than Bush, and black America cannot stand another Republican regime that will destroy the world economy and wipe us out everywhere in the world again.

To dissuade black people from voting to reelect President Obama, thus aiding in a Republican victory, is worse than irresponsibility.   It is an insult to our ancestors – especially the fighters like Harriet Tubman, DuBois, Mary McCloud Bethune, and Paul Robeson – people Tony and his ilk like to identify with.  It is also a betrayal of black people today. In fact it is harder to imagine a worse abomination than for black people who declare themselves the leaders of the black community to persuade Afro-Americans to take action’s that amount to cutting their own throats.

And we may legitimately ask: what kind of black man is this, who is so alienated from his people that he cannot take pride in our first family, or give our visionary humane president a high five?  Who instead smears Barack’s name with vicious lies then has the unmitigated gall to demand that we follow him?  It is a study in delusions of grandeur.

The best thing about Tony Monteiro’s odious ideas is that nobody pays them any mind except a lunatic fringe.  Hence the damage his nihilistic vision can do is limited…and that’s a very good thing!  I am writing about him only because he represents a dangerous nihilistic political tendency on the black left, and it seemed to me that he would make a great poster boy for it; the face of black leftist nihilism.  Ironically, Tony will probably get more play from this essay than he has ever gotten before…but he won’t particularly enjoy his new found celebrity.


Playthell Benjamin
Harlem, New York

September 10, 2012

Pan-Africanism: Reality or Myth?

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by playthell

   Do you know this Man?

 A Note to Pan-African Revolutionaries

One of the things that interest me most is the persistence of certain ideas in Afro-American thought.  They are transmuted and refashioned to suit the particulars of the era, but some fundamental concepts persists none-the-less.   One of these ideas is Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism, which has been called different things at different periods of our history.  One of the fundamental things that distinguish human beings from other animals over whom we rule is the gift of language, learning, and the ability to construct a narrative i.e. tell a story.Human beings are the creatures of stories, they shape our perception of who we are and what our place is in the universe.  There are two kinds of stories: fictional or imaginative stories, and the narratives of professional historians which are based on the scientific method, i.e. verifiable evidence!!

Hence I have a suggestion for all Afro-Americans and others from the black Atlantic diaspora who fancy themselves grand Pan-African theorists, seeking to solve the complex problems of the vast African world:  You should seriously study the history of Pan-African thought and movements!  Then you will discover that the problems you are contemplating and the efforts of Afro-Americans in solving those problems have been a subject of discussion since the 18th century!  You will also discover that many Afro-American Nationalists who are concerned  about Africa’s problems today are more confused than the activists in the 19th century.  I am referring to people like Edward Wilmont Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Martin Delany, Robert Campbell, Henry McNeal Turner, et al.

These men referred to themselves as “Pan-Negro Patriots,” and all of them actually went to Africa and checked the situation out first hand.  Some stayed there for years working to “redeem” Africa!  They were the intellectual and spiritual fathers of Marcus Garvey – which is why Garvey built his movement in New York and not Kingston where blacks were the majority but had no tradition of Black Nationalism.   Afro-American can claim a tradition that goes back to the 18th century!   However it is important to note that Garvey only “talked a good game,” he never actually settled in Africa like the 19th century Black Nationalists.

There is something else that you should know about the Pan-Negro “African Redemptionists:” They were all Christian Ministers except Martin Delany and Robert Campbell, who were men of science – a medical doctor and a chemist.  This is of critical importance, because contemporary Black Nationalists are mostly hostile to the black protestant church – preferring Islam, indigenous African religions or even atheism – yet it is the womb in which black nationalism was conceived and nurtured!

By the way, Delany went to Harvard and Campbell was a Jamaican who actually explored the west coast of Africa in 1859, before Garvey was born!!!!!  They produced the first scientific analysis of the physical environment of the West Coast of Africa from whence our immediate ancestors came.

Two weeks ago I delivered a speech at a distinguished church here in Harlem of the AME Zion denomination.  The title of my speech was “The Heroic Role of the Afro-American preacher in the Pan-African Liberation Struggle.”  It was videotaped and will soon be on Youtube.

The minister of the church, Reverend Deforest Raphael,  is an exemplar of the learned clergy represented by the men I have named here – in fact their Bishop, Alexander Walters, was a founding member of the Pan-African movement at the turn of the 20th century.  He was a co-organizer of the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 along with Dr. Dubois and the Trinidadians Henry Sylvester Williams and Dr. Alcindor – a barrister and medical doctor.

AME Zion Bishop Alexander Walters

A Father of Pan Africanism

Anyone who would like to understand the distinctions between these 19th and early twentieth century Afro-Americans that became African Redemptionist, and those of the second half of the 20th century who are the ideological fathers of contemporary “Pan-Africanists,” can do a quick study by reading my essay “In The Tradition” which is the “Afterword” to “Ready for Revolution.”  the autobiography of Kwame Toure aka Stokely Carmichael,

This is the single most important first-hand account of the Pan-African revolution that I am aware of.   Toure is the best example that we have of the true Pan-African Redemptionist tradition among the black activists in the last half century.  You will also learn some valuable lessons about the distinctions between the 19th and late twentieth century Pan-African revolutionaries in my essay “On the Burden of History,”  which can be read at  For a first-hand account of the most serious effort by new world blacks to contribute directly to the success of the Pan African Revolution read “The Rise and Fall of a Proper Negro” by Leslie Alexander Lacy.

AME Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

A father of the black liberation movement in South Africa

 However if you care to fathom – i.e. get deep – read the works of Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, especially “Classical Black Nationalism” and “On the Wings of Ethiopia.”  Also read “Edward Wilmont Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot,” by Dr. Hollis Lynch, and Martin Delany by Dr. Cyril Griffith.  You should also read Black Zion, which is a collection of letters written by the first Afro-American pioneers to settle in West Africa – the founders of Liberia.  You should also read the essay “Ideology In Black: Africans, Afro-Americans and Afro-West Indians, in Harold Cruses’ masterwork “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.” 

George Padmore’s historic masterpiece “Pan-Africanism or Communism” and CLR James’ “History of Pan-African Revolution” are also must reads in order to understand Pan Africanism as a 20th century political movement.  To these texts must be added “Pan-Africanism” by Colin Legum and “Black Revolutionary,” a biography of George Padmore by Dr. J. R. Hooker.  Of course, I could go on.  However in order to even think about seriously developing a “theoretical approach” addressing the global position of black people, and hasten the modernization process in Africa – which is, after all, the root of Africa’s problems  – one must be familiar with the wisdom these narratives provide.

Otherwise one will end up with mysticism and wishful thinking posing as “theory,” fostering a mythical vision of Africa rather than deal with the bewildering complexity of the real African predicament.  The first thing such serious study will reveal is the folly inherent in the idea that Black Americans can any influence in determining what happens in African politics today.

The fact is that the best thing black Americans can do for Africa is increase our influence on the direction of American foreign policy….specially in the areas of aid and trade!  THIS BEGINS WITH THE RE-ELECTION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA AND RETURNING BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS TO THE DEMOCRATS!!!!!!  All else is folly, much of it dangerously misguided!!!   Failure to address these imperatives – which are both contemporary and ancestral – Afro-American Pan-Africanists will surely end up like “Jack the Bear,” making tracks but getting nowhere!!!!!

Dr. WEB DuBois:

Father of 20th century Pan-African Liberation Movement

Published in 1903: almost 14 years before Garvy Came to the US 
Marcus Mosiah Garvey: Black  Nationalist Leader

A Jamaican visionary who was a late comer to black Nationalism in US


* The Cover Photo is of Alexander Crummell, Anglican Priest, pioneering Black natonalist intellectual, and African Redemptionist. A man whose contibution to the advancement of the movement to reconstruct Africa was so profound that Dr. Dubois wrote an essay on him in his timeless masterpiece, “The Souls of Black Folk,” in which he said he wanted to bow before him when they met!

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 10, 2012

An Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Montero

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on January 28, 2012 by playthell

      Marxist Ideologue and Rabid Obama Hata

Yo Tony!  I was shocked at your response to my question this morning.  All I did was respond candidly to a billboard that you sent me announcing your forth coming conference on the life and works of Dr. DuBois at Temple University next month.  When I looked through the list of invited speakers and saw the name of Mumia Abu Jamal at the top of the list, I confess to being surprised; since he is doing life in prison with no chance of parole. Then I saw some other people on the program who don’t know their rectum from a hole in the ground, or at least that is the impression I get from talking with them.  So what, I wondered, could they know of a man as complex as DuBois?

I began to get a really strange feeling… so I ventured a speculation that perhaps what you are really organizing is a council of mystics and Marxist ideologues, which are the same class of phenomena, and the distinctions make no difference, since Marxism is about as scientific as astrology.   In any case what was clear is that this will not be  a conference where scholars will be free to present a variety of interpretations of the life and work of this great Scholar/Activist.

It seems closer to the “Sociolgical Conventions” Dr. William Julius Wilson attended in Communist Russia – back in the 1970’s when we were both Professors at the University of Massachusetts – where the “sociological papers” presented by Eastern European “Scholars” had to pass review by Communist Party Ideologues!  Bill would tell me with a sense of sadness how the Eastern European Sociologist would tell him in private – in their few unsupervised contacts – how they knew the papers they presented were bullshit but they had no choice!  Since this is the system that you defended to the bitter end, it is not surprising that you have adopted their methods.

My worst suspicions were confirmed when you fairly shouted:”We’er going to be talking about the revolutionary DuBois!”  Considering that Dr William Edward Burghardt Dubois lived nearly a century –  a considerable part of which he spent as “A mystical Ethiopianst” as the great scholar Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses has shown, and spent only a small part of that life as a committed Marxist, with virtually no time as a member of the CPUSA – your comment convinces me that you are far more interested in Propaganda than history!  But if propaganda rather than history is your project, then you will naturally stack the roster with “special pleaders” and Marxist ideologues like you!

Since I know that, as Harold Cruse so aptly pointed out in “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” nothing is duller than a group of Marxist “theoreticians,” reciting hackneyed dogma in styles that are the verbal equivalent of Sominex; blathering on ad nasuem in highly esoteric language that only a hand full of Marxist eggheads understand, I wondered why you did not invite me to add verbal panache and a erudite  counter-narrative to your boring Marxist clap/trap.

But you blurted out “We don’t want any Barack Obama apologist on this program!”  I was shocked; it caught me completely by surprise.  Your hysterical babbling was surreal; it reminded me of a scene from Ishmael Reed’s great absurdist novel “Yellow Back Radio Broke Down,” where a character suddenly  blurts out: “Mash potatoes on my mother fuckin chest!” Your response made just about as much sense!

If you feel so strongly about your position Tony why are you so afraid to have anybody present a counter view? When I was hosting a radio show on WBAI I invited you to present your position on numerous occasions and I have the air check tapes to prove it – yet I was not a Marxist – because I had no fear that I could defend my position….and if I couldn’t?   Well then I would abandon it in the face of new knowledge.

That’s how SERIOUS INTELLECTUALS behave.  You on the other hand are an ideological automaton – the secular equivalent of a religious fanatic – hence you cannot abide a counter narrative.  Like all Communist you wish to suppress or deny any view that does not accord with your Marxist line….motherfucker don’t you know THAT’S WHY THE SOVIET UNION FELL?

You need to hurry up and  and check out the statement by Andropov’s official ideologists as to why the Russian communist party collapsed.  Here is what he said: “WHEN REALITY CONTRADICTED OUR IDEOLOGY WE DISMISSED REALITY!!!!!”  That’s exactly what you are doing in your ideologically induced diatribes against President Obama!

You are an intellectual coward who willfully deceives himself.  Exactly what is yo beef with Barack Obama?”  You appear to be mad that he is not a communist.  Duh….?  Here is a reality check for you Dr. Montero: THERE WILL NEVER BE A COMMUNIST ELECTED TO THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES…AND THERE IS NEVER GOING TO BE A COMMUNIST REVOLUTION IN THIS COUNTRY!!!!!!

Let me ask you a question Dog: Why tha fuck would Americans ever choose a communist dictatorship when POWER IS ALREADY IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!   The problem is that they are too ignorant to use it in their best interests.  They are the manifestation of the fears expressed by Thomas Jefferson “A democracy will not work with an ignorant electorate, because they will elect and return the worst people to power!!!”  I know this observation goes againts your Marxist “theory,” which praises the wisdom of the masses before enslaving them.  Alas old H.L. Mencken’s “Boobus Americanus” is alive and well!

Barack Obama understands the political realities that he must work within…and he is clearly the ONLY FRIEND OF THE WORKING CLASS THAT IS LIKELY TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!!!!!   Your failure to see this means that you will automatically be dismissed as a deluded fool by all THE REAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE WORKING CLASS…LIKE YOUR OLD FRIEND JUNE!!!!!!!

The actual leaders of the working class are the elected leaders of the great unions – although I understand as a doctrinaire communist elections mean nothing to you – and the one’s I’ve talked to view Marxist ideologues like you the same way the wise Ibo elders viewed boisterous intruders at a funeral: “Beware of the stranger who comes to a funeral and cries louder than the owners of the corpse!”

In any case Tony, there is a reason why Barack, who is younger than you – is the first black President and you are still running around spouting meaningless Marxist prattle!!!  Barack understands and works within the limits of political reality; he knows that politics is the art of the possible.  Barack understands what it takes to succeed in real politics, as opposed to political polemics: and you are clueless!!!!!   Just so you know: I wouldn’t take a million fuzzy headed Marxist ideologues like you  for one effective politician Barack Obama!!!

A basic question for the record Tony: if you can’t convince Americans to vote for your COMMUNIST program….how do you propose to get them to wage an armed struggle to achieve it?  It’s sad to see that after all these years, and all your study, you still believe in fairy tales!!!!!   Go ahead and have your little concave of leftist ideologues, where you slap each other on the back and each confirm the other in their foolishness!  But it won’t alter the fact that you black Marxists, like your white tutors, are irrelevant!

Yet I feel compelled to remind you that you are entitled only to  own opinions; not your own facts!  Facts are stubborn things that refuse to be wished away.  Yo, here is a serious fact for you Dog:   IF YOU WANT TO HAVE ANY LASTING INFLUENCE ON THE INTERPRETATION OF DR. DUBOIS’S LIFE AND LEGACY, YOU WILL HAVE TO WRITE A WORK THAT CAN DISLODGE DAVID LEVERING LEWIS’ TWO VOLUME MASTERWORK!!!!  Both volumes of which won the Pulitzer Prize for history…an unprecented event.

To have any chance at such an achievement you will have to stop with the feel good sessions, where all you leftist mythmakers congregate and prattle on ad nauseum, and get yo ass to work!!!!!!  As things stand Professor Lewis’ tomes is the seminal work that ALL SERIOUS SCHOLARS IN THE WORLD CONSULT!!!  You are insignificant as a DuBois scholar, and these kind of leftist talkfests will not advance your standing in the world scholarly community one iota.  In other words, outside of your little circle of leftist ideologues you DON’T COUNT!!!!!

As far as I can tell, you have made no significant contribution to preserving the memory of Dubois and his work!!   What institutions have you built that bear his name? What books have you written?  I on the other hand have founded an Academic Department in his name; it is the first degree granting Black Studies department in the world by the way.  And it’s still going strong after 41 years!!!

Thus I was a founder of the academic discipline in which you now make your living!  We convinced the University Of Mass to purchase Dr. DuBois’s voluminous papers from his wife Shirley and create the DuBois Library.  We gave her a professorship in the department, and we convinced the U-Mass Press to publish multi-volumes of Dr. DuBois’ unpublished papers under the Editorship of Dr. Herbert Aptheker….your tutor!!!!

I personally spoke before the board of Trustees in behalf of an appointment for Dr. Apteker as a Professor in the University, and I co-wrote a book on “The Souls of Black Folk!”  My essay, which is 200 pages and covers 4/5ths of the book, addresses three themes: the historical context in which the book was written, and analysis of the text, and a commentary on “The Doctor’s” intellectual legacy.   My modesty restrains me from repeating some of the accolades that have been heaped upon that essay in intellectual and cultural history.

WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE TONY?  Why are you so full of yourself? Tell me what you have done besides exploit Dr. Dubois’ name and memory to promote your silly communist agenda….which has about as much chance of succeeding in this country as a snowflake’s chances in a pizza oven!!!!  Come on tell me what you have done to preserve the legacy of Dr. Dubois: “I’m all fuckin ears!!!!!!!

As I told you before, you remind me of nothing so much as the Hasidic Jews who endlessly study Torah as they wait for the Messiah to return!!!  The mere fact that you get so frustrated that you rant and rave and hang up the phone, like a petulant child who can’t have his way, is proof of how shallow your argument is!!!!  As near as I can tell your rap against President Obama is about AS DEEP AS A DRY CREEK BED!!!!!!

Over the years that we have been out of touch, you seem to have become a pompous, narrow minded, sophist Tony.   You are wise to avoid me Tony, because I don’t believe your critique of Barack Obama can stand up to the intellectual fire I will light under yo ass!!  That’s why when I spoke in Philly recently defending Barack Obama, I invited you to come and participate…I was right in yo back yard at Broad and Diamond, but you didn’t show.  You say I didn’t tell you the time and place; I think this is the flimsiest of excuses.  I believe i gave you all the instructions, but even so, all you had to do was e-mail me or send me a message on face book.

I took the bolt bus down and was online the whole while – perhaps it is unreasonable for me to expect a well-to-do bourgeois professor like you to know anything about bus travel!…that’s for the working class!  I had even announced that you were coming on Face Book. I was prepared to give you an ass whipping of epic proportions Doc!!!!!!

All the old soldiers were there – even Dr. Eddie Robinson, who is 96 years old and was a member of the communist Party and close comrade of Paul Robeson, Benjamin Davis, William L. Patterson et al before yo mamma was born!!!!!!!!!  The ass whipping I was prepared to give you on that occasion would really have been something to talk about!!!!!  Alas, in spite of your considerable erudition you can’t win cause of the shape you in…and I can’t lose cause of the science I use….I be droppin real science Doc; not that Marxist mumbo jumbo you be rappin !!!!!!

You see Tony, I have no fear of opposing points of view…that’s how it is when you are have never lost a debate in yo life – after nearly half a century on the battle field!  And I have no doubt that I will whip yo ass now just like I would have 40 years ago when you were a RAM Cadre…an armed revolutionary organization that I co-founded with Max Stanford – aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, at 23ard and Diamond in 1962!   I know you remember back then, because you recently reminded me that we first met on the night I gave a speech on African history on Ridge Avenue, and JOHN COLTRANE was in the audience!!!

That’s how I was rolling when you were a college student!!   Now Dr. Monterio, whenever you can pump yo heart and grow a pair of balls big enough to step to me on Barack Obama, just write your critique and I will reply and post them on “Commentaries On The Times” for all the world to see!!!!!  We can duke it out in a two hour special over WBAI FM here in “The Fruit,”  and we can have it out in a live debate if you like; here or in Philly…pick yo poison!!!!!!!

But know this: I think that you anti-Obama leftists  ideologues are as dangerous to the future of black people and the progress of all Americans as the TEA PARTY!!!!!!  While Herman Cain, Michael Steele and Alan West are Uncle Toms on the right…you Dr. Cornel West, and Bob Avakian’s wind-up doll comrade Dix are uncle Toms on the left!…Just like Richard Wright described yhall.  All of you silly niggers hate Obama and yhall will contribute equally to the election of the most reactionary right wing forces of the last century!  I think all of you are TRAITORS TO YO RACE!!!!!!!!

Your treason lies not in the fact that Barack is black; Sugar Cain is blacker than Obama and I would like to tar and feather that nigger!  No!  Don’t attempt to reduce it merely to race – which I don’t even believe except as a socio/political construction.  The science of the human gnome left no doubt about that.  Yet as a sociologist you know that perception is everything in the world of human interaction; hence racial oppression is no easier to bear because it is a sociological perception rather than a biological reality!

Thus your treason lies in helping to elect forces that will set black Americans back more than a half century   There is no question that the surest chance for dramatic progress for the masses of black Americans lies with President Obama and the democrats!  By doing anything to obstruct this you have rejected the ancestral imperative to continue the struggle for our people’s advancement.  NO ONE WOULD HAVE UDERSTOOD THIS BETTER THAN DR. DUBOIS!!!!!  I BELIEVE HE WOULD BE TAKING THE SAME POSITION I AM TAKING!!!!!!!!   If you want to debate that proposition Tony just say when and where.  Since you fancy yourself a Dubois Scholar step to me!!!!!

The reactionary forces in the Grand Obstructionist Party  could wreck this country, take away all of the gains the working class has made in the 20th century, and defer the dreams of their children for a century! But then…why concern yourself with such practical matters Dr. Montiero…after all, like Dr. Cornel West, you are a pampered, tenured, bourgeois academic who will do just fine pontificating on our misery as tens of thousands of government workers are kicked out on the bread lines and the unions of workers – who you pompously claim to speak for, another dangerous leftist fantasy – are destroyed in the public and private sector!

Isn’t it enough that you mis-guided “revolutionaries” helped elect George Bush by your refusal to support Al Gore?  That bone headed move resulted in 9/11 (because they were so fixated on encircling Russia with anti-ballistic missile systems they refused to act on clear intelligence that such an event was in the planning) And the world-wide economic crash – which wiped out the savings of many innocent hard working Americans) and also brought us the “Citizens United Decision”  which surely sounds the death Knell for what vain hopes you might have had of your communist agenda ever succeeding!!!!!!

In fact the Supreme Court has set the stage for a real Plutocracy…although in your fevered ideologically distorted mind you probably believe we already have a Plutocracy.   So go ahead with your leftist sideshow posing as an academic conference….in the grand scheme of things it won’t mean shit!!!!!  I doubt that it will even make a ripple in the academic community, let alone the wider world.

Tis a pity that you have chosen to squander your academic training chasing ideological fantasies rather than doing some useful work, something that can actually help our people understand how to deal with the forces that seek to destroy us, and offer some policy options politicians could convert into legislation…work like Dr. William J. Wilson is doing…serious studies like  “When Work Disappears,” “The Truly Disadvantaged” etc.  Or work like Dr. DuBois did.  An update on “The Philadelphia Negro” for Instance?  Instead you prefer the role of the boisterous dog who stands aside and barks as the caravan moves on!!!!

As far as I can see Tony you are ALL BLOW AND NO SHOW!!!!!!!!!!   You evidently fancy yourself more of a philosopher than a sociologist, so why aren’t you in the Philosophy Department?  I bet they won’t have you because you don’t measure up to their standards with your simple minded Marxist drivel.  Since you are so enamoured of philosophy let me suggest an important text by an eminent Philosopher, Dr. Harry G. Franks of Princeton.  I recently recommended it to Newt Gringrich – who talks about our President almost as bad as you – because it describes the essence of both your arguments succinctly.  The title of Dr. Franks’ book  says it all: “BULLSHIT!!!!!

Let’s be real Tony.  I have absolutely NO RESPECT for your anti-Obama diatribes.   I double dare you to step to me with your half assed bullshit arguments about President Obama; you may get away with that light-weight  prattle with your students and acolytes: but I will whip yo ass like a runaway slave!!!

That anti-Obama bullshit you  are talking may make you a hero to the deluded misfits on the moribund American left, but I see you for exactly what you are: a mediocre academic in a mediocre university; still holding fast to the illusions of your youth!  You need to grow that fuck up already!!!!  Alas, like all true believers – whether Christians, or Muslims, or Hasidic Jews – yours is a faith based analysis, which means that you persist in believing things for which there is no evidence, and you cannot face the hard realities of life without your Marxist religion!!!!!!!!!!

 Yo Tough Tony!!! 

Step to me if you dare!!!!!!

PS: You brought this public flaggelation upon yourself Tony.  I tried to appeal to your pride in private…failing that I am forced to peel yo hide in public!!!!!  I  have a mind to show up and write a critique of the proceedings at your conference…since you invited me to observe!!!!!!!!!!  You should be careful what you ask for…since I am certain that the conference will be rich in pathos and bathos; affording endless opportunities for biting satire and ribald parody.  You should have better sense than to insult your critics….especially if they are as broadly learned and can write as good as me!!!!!!!!

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 28, 2012


On The Burden of History

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left! with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2012 by playthell

        The Great Encounter

  Malcolm, Martin and the Black Freedom Struggle

The publication of Dr. Manning Marable’s new book “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” has sparked yet another debate on the place of Malcolm in the pantheon of black leaders.  As always this soon becomes a conversation on the relative importance of Malcolm’s ideas, leadership style and accomplishments when compared to Dr. Martin Luther King.  Now this debate has gone global through Facebook; particularly the Study Group organized by Rev. Matthew, a Christian minister with a graduate degree in theology from Princeton.

Recently he posted a video of Professor John Hendrik Clarke, an excerpt from the documentary “A Great and Mighty Walk,” discussing Malcolm and Martin, and asked for comments.  I watched the video, in which Clarke gave Dr. King some props, but it struck me as close to damming with faint praise.  He pointed out that since Dr. King “died for what he believed in, and we are still here talking, who are we to criticize him.”  But then, he fairly quickly went on to sing the virtues of Malcolm at the clear expense of Martin.

It seems the fact that Malcolm expoused a Black Nationalist philosophy and was finally  willing to call himself an “African,”  was quite enough for Clarke.  However in Malcolm’s case, this recognition was a dramatic evolution; for the first few years that I knew him he called himself an “Asiatic Black Man.”  Since Dr. Martin Luther King was present at the Independence ceremony when Ghana was born in 1957 – at the invitation of President Kwame Nkrumah – and had known many African students in Atlanta in his youth, unlike Malcolm Martin knew exactly what his relationship was to Africa.

John Hendrik Clarke viewed Africa in much the way that ancient Greeks wrote history: myth and fact combine in the narrative to create a desired reality.  I doubt that there is a black person on earth who had the good fortune to hear Professor Clarke give a lecture on the golden age of African Civilization that did not fairly burst with pride.

Clarke belonged to another age, he was of one heart with the 19th century African Redemptionists like Bishop Alexander Crummel and Edward Wilmot Blyden.  From his comments on Malcolm and Martin alas, it appears that ostentatious declarations of one’s African identity weighs heavier on Professor Clarke’s scale than leading a mass movement that actually transformed a nation and expanded the horizons of black Americans beyond the wildest dreams of his generation.  I see the matter differently!

          Queen Mother Moore

She tutored us all in Radical Politics…including Malcolm X 

I knew John Hendrik Clarke very well…he was introduced to me by Queen Mother Moore in 1962.  He was one of my major mentors – along with Queen Mother and Harold Cruse – I loved him like a father, although he and Cruse couldn’t stand each other!  And like everybody else I was enthralled with his eloquent and passionate lectures on African History – the breadth of his reading was amazing.  But what the Professor is saying in “A Great and Mighty Walk” is sophistry; it sounds profound until you subject it to a rigorous critique based on the historical evidence!

Clarke says that he doesn’t know of anything important that came out of the great March onWashington in 1963…duh?  How about the Omnibus Civil Rights Bill that transformed the South…and the nation?  I grew up in the South under segregation – as did Clarke when things were at their worse – and in my hometown of St. Augustine Florida, where Dr. King walked with the black community on some of the most dangerous marches of his career, that Bill changed black folk’s lives and life chances qualitatively.  Andrew young, who was there, has just produced a film on it.

The St. Augustine struggle was pivotal in the passage of that landmark legislation – see “Let the Trumpet Sound” by Professor Stephen B. Oates, and “Parting the Waters” by Taylor Branch, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his writings on the life and work of Dr. King – and it was the 1964 Civil rights bill that made it possible for the people of my hometown to rise up and overthrow that evil century old de jure racial caste system that made our lives so miserable under the force of law.

The fact is that in the South, where the real life and death struggle of our people was taking place, Malcolm X played no significant role at all!!!!   He was barely known by most southern blacks, and most of those who did know of him thought he was crazy!!!!!!  It was the Christian clergy that led that great transformative mass movement and the black church was its base!

  A Typical Church Meeting, Albany Georgia 1963
 The incubator of the Struggle

Hence Malcolm X, with his foreign religion and talk of taking up guns against the white South, was viewed as some sort of heretical maniac!  For the last couple of years I have been interviewing the survivors of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement and when Malcolm X is mentioned in conjunction with their struggle they stare at me incredulously: like country cows staring at their first steam engine.

I had left town and relocated in Philadelphia, where I was born and spent the first few years of my life, and I was a staunch admirer of Malcolm by the time Dr. King came to St.   Augustine.  Hence in preparation for my interviews I have been reading the materials on the Civil Rights era in the historical archives of the city.  Since St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city, they have excellent archives because history is their business.  Thus one can follow the progress of the Movement on a day to day basis.

Reading accounts of the heroism of my friends and neighbors in 1964, when the Civil rights bill was being debated, I am astonished at their bravery in the face of injury and death!  When I asked them where they found the courage to conduct the night marches – so that people could go to work during the day – they said it was the fact that theMarches formed at either St. Mary’s Baptist Church onWashington St.or St. Pauls’ AME onCentral Avenue– which is nowMartin Luther King   Boulevard!

They told me it was the great preaching and singing that fortified them because they were convinced the “God was on our side.”  On one of the most dangerous night marches where they knew that the local redneck leader, “Hoss” Manucy, was laying in wait with members of the “Ancient City Gun Club -” which we later learned as a result of an investigation by US Marshalls was organized by deputies in Sheriff L. O. Davis’ office – two of my old friends told me “It was when we heard that Jackie Robinson was going to march with us that we decided to do it.  We thought if Jackie Robinson was going to march with us we couldn’t lose!”

To these people Malcolm X was just a crazy loud mouth guy talking tough inNew York!  And the contemptuous things that he was saying about Dr. King – whom many regarded as a modern day Moses bordered on blasphemy!   He had no admirers that I have been able to find inSt. Augustine.

While Malcolm was talking a good fight surrounded by fanatical body guards in northern cities, Dr. King and Jackie Robinson was marching with them in the shadow of death.  While Malcolm was running his mouth about what he would do to the white devils in Harlem, my neighbor’s Reverend Goldie Eubanks and his son Richard shot it out with Klan members and killed a couple of them!!

Then they were put on trial for murder facing the death penalty.  Had it not been for the brilliant and fearless lawyer William Kuntzler, who was sent by The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, Goldie and Richard would have been electrocuted in “Old sparky” which is what we called the electric chair in Florida.

Jackie Robinson, who was a former Calvary Officer in the US Army – where he faced a possible court Marshall because of his militant stand against racism in the military and only the intervention of Heavy-Weight Champion and national hero Joe Louis prevented it – once got tired of Malcolm’s heckling and called his bluff straight up.  When the LA police invaded the Mosque and beat up the “Fruit Of Islam,” badly injuring some of them, Jackie called Malcolm out when he responded by hiring a lawyer and pursuing a legal remedy instead of taking the kind of militant action that he always TALKED ABOUT!

Jackie Leading  on the Front Line  A Dangerous Night March in St. Augustine
A Real Warrior
A Swashbuckling Calvery Officer
Comrades in the Struggle
Martin and Jackie

To Jackie, a fearless soldier in the struggle, Malcolm X was all blow and no go!  Malcolm never said a word in response because he knew that Jackie was right!!!  It was these kinds of instances that began to shake Malcolm’s faith in the philosophy and tactics of the NOI.  His shock over the discovery of Elijah Muhammad’s serial affairs with his secretaries shook his faith, and his remarks about the Kennedy assassination brought matters to a head.  But it was his growing doubts about their tactics, which was to stand on the sidelines and belittle the activists who were putting their lives on the line, which began Malcolm’s alienation from the NOI.

One of the advantages of having lived through the era as an active participant is that I can fill some of the gaps in the Malcolm/ Martin narrative from actual experience. However Malcolm X’s speeches are available on recording and printed transcripts, so what he believed and when he believed it is a matter of public record.

The excellent historian of the movement and Stanford Professor Clayborne Carson – who was a grat admirer of Bob Moses, a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committe, who were considered uncontrollable guerillas by the Civil rights Establishment; which is why they made John Lewis change his speech before delivering it at the Great March when a Catholic Cardinal threatened to walk out – has complied a volume “The Co-In-Tel-Pro papers of Malcolm X,” which examines the FBI files on Malcolm.  Carson, who is the Editor of the Martin Luther King Papers, shows that in his last days Malcolm was desperately reaching out to the Civil rights leadership in the hope of affecting an alliance.  The late great actor/activist Ossie Davis was his emissary.

John Henrik Clarke
A great thinker, but wrong on Malcolm and Martin

 This was confirmed in my interviews with Charles Kenyatta for a 7000 word cover story on Malcolm’s last days for Spin Magazine, written at the height of the last period of Malcolmania when Spike Lee’s movie came out.  Having lived through this period as a gun totin Maoist revolutionary in the Revolutionary Action Movement, and a featured lecturer on African and Afro-American history on “The Listening Post,” which was a pioneering talk radio show on WDAS am– a major black radio station in Philadelphia, produced and hosted by Mr. Joseph H. Rainey III – I had many personal conversations with Malcolm X.

Whenever he came to speak in Philly, Camden New Jersey, or Wilmington Delaware, he would come on the program to hype his appearance because all of these venues were in the broadcast range of the station.  I admired his selfless commitment to the liberation of our people, and at the time I favored his militant stance – which was purely rhetorical – over the “passive resistance activism “of Martin Luther King.

Joseph H. Rainey III Interviewing Jackie Robinson
“The Listening Post” Was also Malcolm’s Favorite Show

 During this period of the 1960’s I even said some of the same kind of foolishness that Professor Clarke is saying on this video – after all he was my mentor at the time. I was always coming up from Philly to visit him at his office in the Harlem YMCA, which was right across the street from the Schomburg Collection – the original public library which is right next to the present center that was designed by my neighbor Max Bond.

However it is time for the militant Marxist and Black Nationalist – and as a “Revolutionary Nationalist” I was both! – to admit that we were wrong and the civil rights movement was right in their tactics!!!  That is something that few of the Sixties “revolutionaries” are willing to admit, although the historical record is indisputable on this question.

I confess that I was not that enthusiastic about tackling Dr Marable’s 600 page tome because of some of the quotes that I have heard from it.  Like the claim that Malcolm X was the most important black man of the twentieth century.  That claim is prime faice nonsense!!!!!  There is no objective measure by which one can demonstrate that Malcolm X was more important than Martin Luther King, and no professional historian weighing the evidence of the two men’s careers would ever make such a statement.

Among historians such extravagant claims in the absence of compelling evidence to support them are routinely dismissed as “special pleading.”   In whose estimate is Marable’s claim regarded as a fact?  Certainly not the people who put their lives on the line in the bloody struggles that transformed the South and this nation!!!

That struggle ended the legal system of apartheid that I grew up under, opened up the professions so that the militant black professorate who now scoff at that movement in proclaiming the virtues of Malcom X could exist, and put a black family in the White House.  On my score card Malcolm’s achievements do not even come close to Martins – no contest!!!

Furthermore, if you compare Malcolm with his counterparts who were engaged in real revolutionary struggles such as Dr. Franz Fanon, Nelson Mandela, Sekou Toure, Kwame Nkrumah, et al he sounds positively naïve…a babe in the woods.  For instance Dr. Fanon, who literally wrote the book on the function of violence in mass transformative movements with revolutionary objectives, said that the establishment of an Islamic state in the twentieth would be “a return to primitive Medievalism” at the same time as Malcolm saw it as something African Americans should aspire to in our struggle to create an advanced revolutionary society.

The truth is that Malcolm X was just beginning to develop an understanding of world politics in general and revolutionary politics in particular.  All one need do to understand how little Malcolm X understood about the implications of his own preachment about “Nationalism” “capitalism” and armed struggle is to read his contemporary Harold Cruse, especially the essay “On the Intellectuals and Force and Violence.”

Dr. Franz Fanon

A Real Revolutionary/Activist Intellectual

Harold Cruse 

A far deeper radical thinker than Malcolm X 

One the critical points Cruse makes in this essay – which is contained in his canonical text, “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” – is that the black people who actually did pick up guns to oppose white violence in the South were neither Muslims nor Black Nationalist.  For instance Robert Williams – whom all the northern nationalist revolutionaries latched onto as their symbol of the quintessential black revolutionary because he resisted the Klan with guns – was an ex-Marine, and President of the Monroe north Carolina branch of the NAACP.

Furthermore, the only organization that took up the responsibility of defending Civil Rights workers in the Deep South from Klan violence was a group of staunch churchmen The Deacons for Justice! Malcolm X was around when these things were happening, but he never joined in these efforts.  Instead, the NOI played off their inactivity by denigrating the goals of the Civil rights movement as misguided.

The Deacons were led by Robert Hicks, a former star football player in high school and an all-black semi-pro league. Hicks was a leader of the NAACP and headed his all black segregated paper mill workers union.  He was active in fighting for voter’s rights as head of the Civic and Voters league.  And of course, he was a deacon in the church.

Hicks was not only a great husband and father to his own children; he was a father figure to all the children in his neighborhood who collectively called him “Dad.”  In other words he was a solid American citizen! In all of this Robert Hicks is characteristic of all the men who actually took up arms against racist white aggression.  Malcolm X only hurled threats at whites from the safe precints of the north, and he had as many body guards around him as the US President when he did it.

The truth is that most of the movement Malcolm X stood on the sidelines up North and denounced the brave struggles of black southerners led by the preachers in the Southern Christian Leadership Council.    And he was very ashamed of the role he had played in his last days.

 Robert and Mable Williams: Real Warriors!
 Where was Malcolm X?
A Movie Reenactment of the Deacon;s Stand
The real thing was even more dramatic 

Hence Marable’s assessment of Malcolm’s importance is embarrassing hyperbole!   Yet even this is not enough for the hero worshipping haigiographers like Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, who has attacked Dr. Marable because he said “Malcolm X was not a historian.”  To anybody that has the slightest understanding as to what the art and science of historical writing is, that was a perfunctory statement that borders on the banal.

Not only was Malcolm not a “historian,” which is someone who composes an original narrative about past events from primary documents, he was not even a good history teacher; which is someone who teaches the texts composed by historians.  In fact, Malcolm’s lack of historical understanding led an entire generation of black nationalists, and radicals of various persuasions, dangerously astray on a critical issue.

It was Malcolm’s thesis about the “House Negro” and the “Field Negro” that led the radicals down the dangerous path of anointing the least educated ghetto elements among us as the natural leaders of the revolution.  This resulted in what I call “the romance of the lumpen” which began with RAM and reached the height of absurdity in the Black Panther Party of Oakland.

Eldridge Cleaver: Minister of Information 

A Lumpen Psuedo-intellectual and BPP Icon 

This was a giant step backward for the radical tradition among Afro-Americans. It was a dramatic retrogression from the black Marxists of earlier decades, who were sober intellectuals and disciplined workers with solid personal values, good work habits and a willingness to study complex theories of politics and economics. They aspired to the highest achievements of mankind under the assumption that nothing was too good for the working class, that these achievements were the heritage of all mankind!

They understood that not only could the Lumpen-Proletariat not lead a revolution; they couldn’t even be organized. They were in fact dangerous to a revolutionary movement because their “street hustler” values predisposes them to petty criminality and thus places them in a position to be arrested and turned into informers against the movement in order to avoid incarceration.  All of these things came to pass in the black radical movement as we recruited these criminal types.

We looked not to previous militants like Paul Robeson, Ben Davis, William L. Patterson, Harry Heywood; people with a wealth of experience in organizing a radical revolutionary movement, seasoned veterans who could have steered us away from self-destructive actions, in favor of people who didn’t have a clue about what is required to make revolutionary movement in an advanced capitalist state…people like Malcolm X.  As the eminent historian Dr. Gerald Horne has pointed out: The rise of Malcolm X was only possible because the FBI had destroyed the real black revolutionaries in the 1950’s, thus creating a vacuum of militant leadership which Malcolm X filled.

It is long past time for the surviving elders of the Black Liberation Movement of the last half of the twentieth century to fess up and admit that we were wrong; not compound our blunder and mislead another generation of black youth’s by trying to make Malcolm X into something more than he was. Chanting the silly mantra that had Malcolm lived he would have had the answers to the present crisis that confronts us.

At the time of his death Malcolm X was a confused and demoralized man desperately looking for a viable program, and was murdered by the thugs he had trained.  The ultimate irony is that he said on the record “If somebody was saying the things I’m saying about Elijah Muhammad and I didn’t personally know that it was true, I’d kill them myself!”  So he died by the rules he lived by.  Thus the claim that “he died for us” is a far more fitting eulogy for Dr. King…one could argue that Malcolm X died from his own folly.

Malcolm After the Gunmen Opened Fire in Audibon Ballroom

Murdered by Assasins he trained: An enduring tragedy

Four Revolutionaries Who Survived

Playthell, John Bracy, Dr. Muhammad Ahmed aka Max Stanford and Askia Muhammad Ture

Note: Between the four men in this picture are founders of the Revolutionary Action Movement, Black Studies  in the University, and the Black arts Movement.  All of us began in the Civil rights Movement, and evolved into radicals as the white resistance stiffened.  We were all discipline activist intellectuals who  read all of the canonical texts on the mordern world revolution.  And we all personally knew Malcolm X, much beter than we knew Dr. King.  And we all shared  Malcolm X’s views over Dr. Kings.  Hence my position in this essay is the result of long and sober reflection.


Below are links to video clips from speeches by Dr. King and Malcolm X.  I have chosen clips where they both speak on the same topic: the importance of self-esteem.  Listen to the difference in how they approach the subject.  While both agree on the importance of self-esteem Malcom’s description of how black folk should control business in the black community, which he saw as a revelation,  was old news to Dr. King, who was from Atlanta; which enjoyed a booming black business community…as did the black communities in Florida where I grew up.  The fact is that Malcom X, and black nationalist in general, have a nihilistic view of the Afro-American experience, whereas the Civil Rights movemet was driven by a heroic optimis!  That;s whay all the great gains for black Americans were produced by the Civil Rights Movement!

Double Click to hear Dr. King

Double Click to hear Malcolm X

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Janurary 17, 2012

Is the Liberal/Left Self Destructive?

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on October 12, 2011 by playthell

Katrina Vanden Hueval: Editor of The Nation

Notes on the Folly of the Left

The protesters  in the nascent movement have been criticized for being too decentralized and lacking a clear list of demands.” writes Ms. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of the influential left/liberal journal of opinion “The Nation” regarding the Wall Street rebels.  She goes on to pronounce: “But they are bearing witness to the corruption of our politics; if they made demands to those in power, it would suggest those in power could do something about it. This contradicts what is, perhaps, their most compelling point: that our institutions and politicians serve the top 1 percent, not the other 99.”

Not content with spewing this bit of spurious prattle – since it is only those in power that can solve our problems – alas Katrina’s analysis goes quickly downhill and descends into pure  foolishness: “The movement doesn’t need a policy or legislative agenda to send its message. The thrust of what it seeks—fueled both by anger and deep principles has moral clarity.”

This would be quite sufficient if we were discussing the mission of a Church or Synagogue, whose raison d’etre is helping their supplicants find “moral clarity.” But the aspirations and goals that she ascribes to the movement can only be achieved through the art of politics – which is the process by which relationships of power are formed.  To conclude otherwise is to retreat into fantasy!

Speaking of the burgeoning movement against criminal avarice of the Plutocracy symbolized by the anti-Wall Street Protests she tells us: “It wants corporate money out of politics. It wants the widening gap of income inequality to be narrowed substantially. And it wants meaningful solutions to the jobless crisis. In short, it wants a system that works for the 99 percent. Already Occupy Wall Street has sparked a conversation about reforms far more substantial than the stunted debate in Washington. Its energy will supercharge the arduous work other organizations have been doing for years, amplifying their actions as well as their agendas.”

Bill Mahr: An insightful, witty, comedian….

…..But no political philosopher!

Apologist for the apolitical confusion of the Wall Street activist appears to be  multiplying like wild rabbits.  The kind of well intentioned albiet confused blather we hear from Ms. Vanden Heuval is repeated ad nauseum among the liberal/left cognoscenti.  It is echoed in the smug too-clever-by-half drivel spouted by Bill Mahr on the Rachel Maddow show recently.  Silly Willy went to great lengths to poo poo the importance of politics, and gave but little indication that he clearly understood who the real enemy is, let alone how to develop a strategy to defeat them.

Indeed, intellectual leaders of the American left actually encourage this kind of misguided and dangerous thinking on the part of celebrity entertainers like Bill Mahr, whom Isometimes think is taken far too seriously – after all, clever and verbose fellow though he is, he remains a clown of renown, not a scholar whose opinions are based on years of serious study!

Ms. Vanden Heuval has no such excuse alas.  As the majority of her commentary on the anti-Wall Street rebels, “Will Occupy Wall Street’s spark reshape our politics”  demonstrates, Ms. Vanden Heuval is a woman of surpassing intelligence. And as Editor of the “Nation” magazine she has rich sources of information readily available to her

Yet these facts beg the question of how she could have concluded the following: “Many, if not most of the protesters are openly wary about the embrace of the progressive establishment.  Rightly so. The movement, unlike the Tea Party, is not based on electoral strategy, and there is a concern about being co-opted.” This kind of flawed thinking led the demonstrators to deny Congressman John Lewis the opportunity to speak in Atlanta, turning away a powerful natural ally.

When we consider that the Tea Party strategy resulted in the election of over eighty Congressman, who succeeded in blocking funding for President Obama’s regulatory regime to check the power of the Wall Street Bankers and stop them from driving the economy over a cliff again – and the American people being soaked for hundreds of billions to bail them out – plus just last night we saw the Grand Obstructionist Party kill the President’s jobs bill, it is fair to ask is the liberal left self-destructive?


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 12, 2011