Ideological Divides (E12 S2)

Ideological Divides (E12 S2)


Black nationalist philosophy was not the only ideology in use in the black liberation struggle. The ideology of non-violent passive resistance as practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and groups like the Congress on Racial Equality or CORE, represented a fundamentally different approach to the black liberation struggle, that was often in conflict with that of US and other black nationalist organizations such as a Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party. Likewise socialist oriented groups as well as the Communist Party offered alternative approaches to black liberation that often clashed with black nationalist organizations. While certain aspects of socialism would seem to be complementary to what was organization defined as “The Seven Principles of Blackness, ” particularly the notion of Ujamaa–a Kiswahili word that means literally “familyhood”–on the surface it would appear that the two ideologies could operate in tandem. In fact, the first Tanzanian head of state, Julius Nyerere, attempted to operationalize the idea of African socialism as state policy by naming his government’s African socialist program “Ujamaa.” Socialism, or Ujamaa, is needed to ensure that the people care for each other’s welfare, which is a core tenant of African-centered frame of thought. The problem however is that both socialism and communism are associated with the very European dogmas African-centeredness sought to distance itself from. Thus a distinction had to be made between collectivism or communism which represented the European model whereas “communalism” was the term Karenga used for the African- centered model. To be communalistic, Karenga stated, is to share willingly, but to be collectivistic is to force to share which is a European concept. Historically, the goals of the communist party and the socialists were inherently in conflict with those of black nationalists like Marcus Garvey. Garvey rejected class unity in favor of racial unity. Class unity between blacks and poor whites would never work, in Garvey’s view, because he viewed racial prejudice as congenital and that it can never be purged from whites. So the central inherent conflict between the two ideologies–communism and black nationalism–was one of class unity vs. racial unity. While Marcus Garvey sought a pan-African approach, a viewpoint which placed blacks in the United States in common cause with blacks throughout the world and on the continent of Africa, the Communists sought brought our international coalition not confined by race or pan-Africanism. Between Black nationalism and civil rights there’s also a fundamental difference and worldview that’s going to frame the ideological divide between folks like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X as well as other black nationalist organizations. The integrationist goals of the civil rights movement and the goals of separatism and self-determination forwarded by black nationalists mix together about as well as oil and water. The civil rights agenda that sought reform, social justice, political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were considered by black nationalist to be counterproductive in that the nation’s governing principles were simply the instruments of government oppression of African Americans and other people of color. The different approaches between the various organizations often brought about open hostilities between sometimes manifesting in the groups ruthlessly undermining one another. The NAACP, for example, cooperated with the FBI in the prosecution of Marcus Garvey that led to his exile from United States. Thurgood Marshall would later cooperate with the FBI and undermining the Nation of Islam. Alex Haley, the author of Roots, was actually hired by the FBI and when he was working as a journalist to help develop negative articles on the Nation of Islam. As we see in the following clip, even when groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee coalesced around the same issue such as the March against Fear– a 220 mile solidarity march from Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi to protest racism often their different ideologies prevented them from working together effectively. . . . I think it was more of a youth movement in all of the organizations asserting themselves far more than it was competition among leaders themselves. It was a clash of ideas–no question about a clash of ideas. If We Are Going to Be Free We Will Have To Suffer for That Freedom. We will have to sacrifice for it. . . . I’m not going to beg the white man for anything I deserve. I’m going to take it! I’m going to take it! . . . Let me say first that this march is nonviolent. It is a nonviolent expression of our determination to be free. This is the principle of the March, and certainly we intend to keep this march nonviolent. REPORTER: Mr. Carmichael, are you as committed to the nonviolent approach as Dr. King is?>No, I am not. REPORTER: Why Aren’t You?>Well, I just don’t see it as a way of life, I never have. And I also realize that no one in this country is asking the white community in the south of the nonviolent, and that, in a sense, is giving them a free license to go ahead and shoot us at will.

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