With an election looming in the capitalist U.S., its very fitting to evoke Malcolm X because he didn't vote. He talked about voting in capitalist elections often though. His 1864 speech "The Ballot or the Bullet" is one of the most clear and definitive critiques of the capitalist system that exists, a full 50+ years after its recording, yet as he concisely articulated during that speech he wasn't "a student of politics, a politician, a democrat, nor republican, nor american, and had sense enough to know it!" Yes, Malcolm, despite his iconic status and his image of being one of the most respected and revered leaders of the African liberation struggle, he didn't vote folks. That's important to say in this current bourgeoisie dominated environment where the narrative is being pushed more than ever that people died for the vote. So, if people don't vote, they are somehow betraying the legacy of those who struggled before us.
As has been restated countless times, no one died for the right to vote and even the actual people who faced death to get the vote will tell you that. People were beat and died for justice and liberation. And while they were suffering, they understood clearly that the vote was just one tactic to achieve that liberation. They never declared that it was the by all end all solution to every social problem that has ever existed as the framers of voting want you to believe today. And, this isn't a piece that's designed to tell people whether to vote or not. That's a personal decision. The point here is we say we love Malcolm, but we refuse to listen to him. He told us in no uncertain terms that voting, without organizing ourselves into an African power base is like planting seeds in the ground and never watering them. He explained to us that voting is only as strong as our ability to build a powerful movement to hold the people we vote in accountable. He said all of this over 50 years ago and the books with his words and the videos of him are all available to confirm his very concrete analysis of voting for all who desire to understand it. Yet, you will look at his picture everyday, but you refuse to listen to what he had to say about it.
Instead, people apparently prefer to continue to play silly bourgeoisie games. I saw a ridiculous meme the other day that said if voting didn't matter, "why are the republicans trying so hard to keep us from doing it?" Great logic for a 5th grader, but think people. And study history. This capitalist system employs agents who shoot down African people for parking in disabled spots, walking through neighborhoods, pulling out our I.D.s, shopping at Walmart, playing with toys, etc. This system prevents us from being able to live as human beings so why wouldn't they sabotage us from voting? Doing so is all a part of their systemic effort to keep us corralled. Its not because if we voted that would give us the power that we need no more than those racist cops believe they had to kill 12 year old Tamir Rice because they really believed he posed an imminent threat to them. Its just how the system of oppression operates. We confuse the methods this system uses to oppress us with the actual tools we should be using to liberate ourselves.
All we have to do is actually listen to what Malcolm said. Its documented for all to see in the books of his speeches like "Malcolm X Speaks, the Last Speeches of Malcolm X, The Final Speeches of Malcolm X", etc. He explained to us repeatedly that we have a responsibility to maintain the dignity of our people. He told us that the democrats and the republicans "are like foxes and wolves." They have different approaches, but "both are dogs. Both members "of the canine family!" His point was we don't preserve our dignity by placing all our eggs in the baskets of the two capitalist political parties. Malcolm advocated us creating our own political party if we want to participate in bourgeoisie politics. And he was clear that the independent party was based on a movement being built that would organize African people to create a vehicle that would provide consistent pressure on this system to represent the interests of our people. And, he of course never stopped there. He went on to explain that we must organize as African people on a worldwide basis. On a Pan-African basis. On a revolutionary basis. And his work and activities that last eleven months of his life provided clear and ill refutable evidence that he believed in revolutionary Pan-Africanism and his speeches over those last few months eliminate any semblance of doubt that could exist regarding that question.
So, if we love Malcolm so much, why aren't we listening to what he had to say about voting? We don't listen because like the Last Poets rapped, we love "everything about Malcolm, but we didn't love him." Or, more aptly put, we love the image of Malcolm, but we aren't politically mature enough to apply his principles to our daily lives. We love to call ourselves the Malcolm X of our office, but like Malcolm said, we would never do the things he would do to bring us our freedom. I remember once when an African police officer actually told me that he was the Malcolm X of his police department! That's an oxymoron folks. If you work for the police you aren't anything about Malcolm, period. You are the antithesis of Malcolm. Sorry, but you don't get to work for the armed security guard agencies of our enemies while at the same time trying to claim one of our honored soldiers as one of your own.
Although we couch this statement in somewhat rhetorical terms, we understand the contradiction fully. The capitalist system has achieved God status at separating truth and justice from material reality. As the current so-called president of this empire makes clear every morning, in this backward society, you can say whatever you want, whenever you want. As long as people believe it, regardless of how insane it actually is, you have validity. So, in this mythical confusion that poses as respected reality, a person can claim the image of Malcolm X while doing everything to go against all that he stood for. In this insanity, a person can claim and believe that simply casting a bourgeoisie vote in a system where the capitalist classes make all the rules and control the entire process is an expression of democracy. In this insane and alternate universe, someone can actually believe that by participating in a rubber stamp exercise (voting) for someone else's superrich agenda once every couple of years, you are actually doing more for justice than people who fight to build revolutionary capacity with our people everyday of their lives. In this system you are actually capable of leading yourself to believe that just by doing what you are told every couple of years (with no results and nothing to back it up), you are in the position to cast judgment on the movements and people who work their fingers off daily to represent the dignity of our people outside of the bourgeoisie political process.
All of that is true in this backward system, but we all know this system can never be the gauge for how we live out any true and worthwhile principles in our lives. Malcolm X told you to get organized as African people and to use the vote as a tool to help you organize our people. He didn't tell you to just participate in the master's system without even the slightest check and balances in place to ensure you could get out of it what you deserve. Again, no one is telling anyone what to do. What we are saying is you don't get to claim Malcolm as if his legacy belongs to you as much as it does us who sincerely work to forward his contribution. You don't even get to claim Martin Luther King who like Malcolm never advocated the type of wholesale prostitution of our ability to vote that is taking place today. So, what we are saying here is we come to bring this ideological struggle to you. If you continue to perpetuate this fraud that is posing as some sort of legitimate push for political power for African people, then we demand that you take those images of Malcolm X down. Replace them with Obama or the bourgeoisie politician of your choice, but you don't get Malcolm. He was no bourgeoisie politician and the more you try to act like he was, the more you disgrace our legacy and make it harder for those of us who are on the ground trying to actually do more than soundbite work.