Malcolm X Birthday Tribute: “The Democrats are Dixiecrats” and “The Ballot or the Bullet” Speech

Malcolm X after 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca.  Source: Wikipedia, “Malcolm X”

On this celebration of what would have been the great US civil rights leader Malcolm X’s  92nd birthday we honor his memory by publishing a transcription of a speech he gave around 1964 which contains his brilliant deconstruction of the Democratic Party’s phony “friends of black workers” charade as well as his famous “the ballot or the bullet” warning to the racist capitalist US government.

Though the majority of the Democratic Party’s top leaders have long since dispensed with the outright white supremacist ideology they espoused at the time Malcolm X gave this speech, they still run most of the US’ major cities: every one of which is a racist hellhole for black and Hispanic workers, prominently featuring a brutally racist police department and judicial system run and defended by the Democrats.  In 2017, many major US cities – where unemployment for black workers runs as high as 60% or more and where the racist cops routinely gun down black workers as if they were dogs – are run by black Democrats.  The end result of the racist US criminal justice system remains largely the same as it was back when all these cities were run by white segregationists.  Black workers are still the last hired and first fired; the jails and prisons are packed with mostly black and brown bodies.  Today, instead of Northern Democrats running the country (as Malcolm X says) “in cahoots with Southern Dixiecrats” they are running the country as a giant “con game” in cahoots with their fellow hatchet-men (and women) of the US capitalist class in the Republican Party.

Malcolm X – brilliant as he was when he was at his best (and in this speech he is at his best) was never won over to revolutionary – that is, revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist – politics.  He was at first a Muslim fundamentalist, and later a black nationalist.  Neither of these ideologies are revolutionary in the 21st century, especially in a modern capitalist society whose working class is composed of workers of all ethnic backgrounds.  Only Marxist revolutionary integrationism can organize the multi-ethnic working class of the United States into an unconquerable, unified revolutionary force necessary to emancipate the working class from the capitalist system which is fundamentally based on the exploitation of the working class.

Malcolm X presented a militant counterpoint to the non-violent method of “struggle” favored by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the pacifist, pro-capitalist wing of the Civil Rights Movement that wound up its career in the lucrative (for them) but politically dead-end of Democratic Party politics.  Today the utter bankruptcy of the idea that by placing “black faces in high places” (in the Mayors’ and Congressional offices and offices of the municipal police forces)  racism would gradually “wither away” under the capitalist system – is fully exposed as the fraud the revolutionary Marxists always said it was.  Millions of black workers have long ago stopped even bothering to look for jobs that no longer exist as the capitalist greedheads have turned formerly thriving industrial cities into jobless ghost towns.

Malcolm X points out how the division of labor between the Northern Democrats and the Southern Dixiecrats prevented the successful promulgation of Civil Rights legislation from being passed until the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the threat that it could turn into an integrated revolutionary movement of the working class forced the bourgeoisie to make concessions to head off the birth of that potential revolutionary movement.  Bourgeois historians tell the lie that the Democrats – as they had done in the 1930s and 40s with Roosevelt’s New Deal – proved they had the interests of the working class and black workers at heart.  In fact the Democrats were merely doing their best to save the capitalist system from itself in both cases, by heading off the development of a revolutionary socialist workers movement by making timely concessions to the workers, thus temporarily defusing the powder keg of working class anger that threatened to bring down the entire US capitalist system.

This is why we say that the Democrats are not the “friends of labor” but the mortal enemies of the working class and the most formidable obstacle to the development of revolutionary consciousness among workers – and particularly black workers – in the USA.   The willingness of the bourgeoisie to absorb and neuter nascent revolutionary movements via last-minute concession-making is one of the keys to the resilience of a capitalist system that should have been overthrown decades ago.  We say :”Dump the Democrats (and of course the Republicans too) and build a workers party to fight for a workers government!  If we want there to be a future for our children and grandchildren free of poverty, racism, sexism, unemployment and war we absolutely MUST overthrow the capitalist system before it staggers into World War Three – a prospect which seems more likely with each passing day.  Quite simply put: “Capitalism must die so that the working class may live”.  And this is why we seek to create the vitally necessary revolutionary Trotskyist vanguard party composed of workers from every ethnic background to fight side-by-side as sisters and brothers against the common enemy: the US capitalist class and its bought-and-paid for Democratic and Republican political water-carriers.  Only a workers party based upon the only model that has successfully overthrown the capitalist system – a Leninist vanguard party – has the capability to overthrow the racist exploitative capitalist system of the US and create an egalitarian socialist workers republic where racism, sexism, poverty, homelessness, unemployment and war will become permanently relegated to the history books.

Workers of the World, Unite!

— IWPCHI

********************************

Note: The audio file that this transcript is made from can be downloaded (or listened to) here:  https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/malcolm-x/the-dixicrats.mp3

Malcolm X speech: “The Democrats are Dixiecrats – it’s the Ballot or the Bullet” (1964/5?)

“22 million black victims of Americanism are waking up; and they’re gaining a new political consciousness… becoming politically mature. And as they become… develop this political maturity they’re able to see the recent trends in these political elections. They see that the whites are so evenly divided that every time they vote the race is so close they have to go back and count the votes all over again… which means that any bloc… any minority that has a bloc of votes that stick together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. [Applause] You’re in a position to determine who’ll go to the White House and who’ll stay in the dog house. [Laughter, applause]. You’re the one who has that power. You can keep [President Lyndon Baines] Johnson in Washington, D.C. or you can send him back to his Texas cotton patch. [Shouts, applause]

“You’re the one who sent Kennedy to Washington; you’re the one who put the present Democratic administration in Washington, D.C.. The whites were evenly divided; it was the fact that you threw 80 per cent of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House.

“When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor. And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? The Democrats have been in Washington, D.C. only because of the Negro vote: they’ve been down there four years; and their… all other legislation they wanted to bring up they’ve brought it up and gotten it out of the way, and now they bring up you! And now they bring up you! [Scattered laughter] You put them first and they put you last! [Laughter, “That’s right!”] ‘Cause you’re a chump! [Laughter, applause] “A political chump! [Voices: “That’s right Malcolm!” “That’s right.”]

“In Washington D.C., in the House of Representatives, there are 257 who are Democrats; only 177 are Republicans. In the Senate there are 67… Democrats; only 33 are Republicans. The party that you’ve backed controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate… and still they can’t keep their promise to you! ‘Cause you’re a chump. [Voices: That’s right! Applause]

“Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two thirds of the government and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election-time and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party you’re not only a chump but you’re a traitor to your race! [Shouts, applause]

“And what kind of alibi do they come up with? They try and “pass the buck” to the Dixiecrats.

“Now, back during the days when you were blind, deaf and dumb – ignorant, politically immature – naturally, you went along with that. But today, as your eyes come open and you develop political maturity, you’re able to see and think for yourself; and you can see that a Dixiecrat is nothing but a Democrat… [Shouts: “Yeah! Light applause] … in disguise. {Applause]

“You look at the structure of the government that controls this country: it’s controlled by sixteen Senatorial committees and twenty Congressional committees. Of the sixteen Senatorial committees that run the government, ten of them are in the hands of southern segregationists. [Voices: “That’s right!”] Of the twenty Congressional committees that run the government, twelve of them are in the hands of southern segregationists! And they gonna tell you and me that the South lost the war! [Laughter, applause]

“You, today, are in the hands of a government of segregationists: racists; white supremacists who belong to the Democratic Party but disguise themselves as Dixiecrats! A Dixiecrat is nothing but a Democrat. Whoever runs the Democrats is also the father of the Dixiecrats! And the father of all of them is sitting in the White House! [Voices: “Right!” Applause]

“I say and I say it again: you got a President who is nothing but a southern segregationist. [Voice: “That’s right!” Applause] From the state of Texas. They’ll lynch you in Texas as quick as they’ll lynch you in Mississippi… [Applause] … only, in Texas, they lynch you with a Texas accent; in Mississippi they lynch you with a Mississippi accent! [Laughter, applause]

“And the first thing the cracker does when he comes in power, he takes all the Negro leaders and invites them for coffee! [Laughter, applause] To show that he’s all right! [Laughter] And those Uncle Toms can’t pass up the coffee! [Laughter… a pause… then applause]

“They come away from the coffee table… telling you and me that ‘this man is all right’. [Laughter] ‘Cause he’s from the South! [Laughter] And ‘since he’s from the South, he can deal with the South’!

“And look at the logic that they’re using: what about [racist Mississippi Senator James] Eastland? He’s from the South! Make him the President! He can… if Johnson is a ‘good man’ ’cause he’s from Texas and being from Texas will enable him to ‘deal with the South’, Eastland can ‘deal with the South’ better than Johnson! [Laughter, applause]

“No-oo, I say you’ve been misled. You been had! You been took! [Laughter, applause]

“I was in Washington a couple weeks ago… while the Senators were filibustering. And I noticed in the back of the Senate a huge map; and on this map it showed the distribution of Negroes in America. And, surprisingly, the same Senators that were involved in the filibuster were from the state where there were the most Negroes. Why were they filibustering the Civil Rights legislation? Because the Civil Rights legislation is supposed to guarantee voting rights to Negroes in those states; and those Senators from those states know that if the Negroes in those states can vote, those Senators are down the drain! [Voices: “Yeah!” Applause] The Representatives of those states go down the drain!

“And in the Constitution of this country it has a stipulation wherein whenever the rights, the voting rights of people in a certain district are violated then the Representative who’s from that particular district – according to the Constitution – is supposed to be expelled from the Congress. [Voice: “That’s right!] Now, if this particular aspect of the Constitution was enforced, why, you wouldn’t have a cracker in Washington, D.C.! [Shouts, applause]

“But what would happen? When you expel the Dixiecrat, you’re expelling the Democrat! When you destroy the power of the Dixiecrat you’re destroying the power of the Democratic Party! [Voice: “Amen!”] So how in the world can the Democratic Party in the South [he probably meant to say “North” – IWPCHI] actually side with you, in sincerity, when all of its power is based in the… in the South? These Northern Democrats are in cahoots with the Southern Democrats! [Applause]

“They’re playing a giant con game: a political con game! You know how it goes: one of ’em comes to you and makes believe he’s for you; and he’s in cahoots with the other one that’s not for you. Why? Because neither one of ’em is for you! But they got to make you to go with one of ’em or the other. So this is a con game! And this is what they’ve been doing with you and me all these years.

“First thing – Johnson got off the plane, when he become President… he asked: ‘Where’s Dickie?’ [Voice: Yeahhh!] You know who ‘Dickie’ is? Dickie… woah! Southern cracker Richard… [Georgia Senator] Richard Russell! [Laughter] Look here! Yeeesssss! Lyndon B. Johnson’s best friend is the one who’s heading the forces that are filibustering Civil Rights legislation! You tell me how in the hell [slaps hand on podium] is he gonna be Johnson’s best friend? [Applause]

“How can Johnson be his friend, and your friend, too? [Voices: “Right!”] Naw, that man is too tricky – especially if his friend is still old Dickie! [Laughter and applause]

“Whenever the Negroes keep the Democrats in power, they’re keeping the Dixiecrats in power. This is true! [Voices: “That’s right!”] A vote for a Democrat is nothing but a vote for a Dixiecrat!

“I know you don’t like me saying that! But I… [Shouts, applause] … I’m not the kind of person who’d come here to say what you like. I’m gonna tell you the truth whether you like it or not! [Shouts, applause]

“Up here in the North you have the same thing. The Democratic Party don’t… don’t do it, doesn’t… they don’t do it that way; they got a thing that they call ‘gerrymandering’. [Laughter, shouts] They… they maneuver you out of power! [Laughter] Even though you can vote they fix it so you voting for nobody. [Laughter] They got you going and coming. In the South they’re outright political wolves; in the North they’re political foxes. [Laughter] A fox and a wolf are both canine; both belong to the dog family. [Laughter, applause] Now… you take your choice: you gonna choose a Northern dog or a Southern dog? [Laughter, applause] Because either dog you choose, I’ll guarantee you, you’ll still be in the dog house! [Laughter, applause]

“This is why I say: “it’s the ballot or the bullet”; it’s liberty or it’s death; it’s freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody. [Applause, shouts]

“America today finds herself in a unique situation. Historically, revolutions are bloody: oh, yes they are. They haven’t ever had a blood-less revolution. [Shouts] Or a “non-violent” revolution. [Voice: “Right!”] That don’t happen even in Hollywood. [Laughter, applause] You don’t have a revolution in which you love your enemy. And you don’t have a revolution in which you’re begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it. Revolutions overturn systems; [Applause] revolutions destroy systems. [Applause] A revolution is bloody…. [long pause, audience is silent] … but America is in a unique position: she’s the only country in history in a position actually to become involved in a blood-less revolution. The Russian Revolution was bloody; Chinese Revolution was bloody; French Revolution was bloody; Cuban Revolution was bloody – and there was nothing more bloody than the American Revolution. [Voices: “That’s right.”] But today, this country can become involved in a revolution that won’t take bloodshed. All she’s got to do is give the black man in this country everything that’s due him. [Voices: “That’s right! Applause] Everything! [Applause]

—- Original transcription by IWPCHI

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