Left wing apologists for Farrakhan

In the mid-1980s Jesse Jackson's candidacy for the presidential nomination led many Trotskyist and Marxist-Leninist parties to support the Democratic Party. This article deals with the support for Jesse Jackson and the apologism for Louis Farrakhan that resulted from it.

Submitted by Mike Harman on March 29, 2018

We do not agree with the Marxist-Leninist perspective of the authors, but reproduce the content due to its historical interest, since the Workers World Party (WWP, and its split, the Party For Socialism and Liberation (PSL)) mentioned are still active in the USA. Melancholic Troglodytes wrote an in-depth history and critique of the Nation of Islam.

Published in the Workers' Advocate Supplement Vol. 2, #1


Jan. 15, 1986


The hypocritical campaign against Louis Farrakhan, continues among the politicians and in the media of the capitalist rulers. They are building up this minister of the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a most dangerous character - as a man to be ostracized and isolated because of his threatening message of race hatred and anti-semitism.

But since when did these same mayors and newspaper editors become so concerned about racist messages? President Reagan's religious advisor, Jerry Falwell, has recently launched a nationwide fund-raising and public relations effort on behalf of white, supremacist slavery in South Africa. And the President himself has given his blessing to white supremacist academies in this country. But there are no comparable cries on the editorial pages that these chieftains of church and state be branded as dangerous racists and driven from public life. After all, these are the type fascistic and racist messages one expects from the top spokesmen of the capitalist class, a class which is racist and bigoted to the core.

No, the hypocritical cries against Farrakhan have nothing to do with opposing racism. On the contrary, the ruling white bourgeoisie has found in Farrakhan a useful prop for their own racist stand. Their media builds him up as a fiery militant and champion of the black people. At the same time, they tear him down as a manipulating race baiter. In this way, the bourgeoisie wants to discredit every sign of militancy among the black people, every serious struggle for black liberation, as an expression of racism inside-out.

The hysteria against Farrakhan demands a two-sided response from the class conscious workers and anti-racist activists. On the one side, to expose the filthy hypocrisy of this hysteria on the part of the white racist capitalist politicians and press for what it is. And, on the other side, to tell the masses the truth about what Farrakhan stands for. To explain that, despite all the attention he is getting these days from the bourgeois media, he is trying to pass off on the black people the same dead-end trap of black capitalism and capitulation to racism that the leaders of the NOI has been selling for the last half century.

The Liquidators Sing Farrakhan's Praise

Nevertheless, in the camp of the liquidators, those reformist would-be "Marxists", the hysteria against Farrakhan has caused a good deal of trauma. Under the conditions of the reactionary offensive and the ebb in the mass struggles, the pro-Soviet, Trotskyite, Maoist, and other opportunist groups have liquidated any pretense of an independent class stand. They are cowering under the skirts of the Democratic Party politicians and the trade union bureaucrats. And, in the black people's movement, they have lined up behind the reformist voices of the black bourgeoisie. Their lack of revolutionary footing has left them at the mercy of every bourgeois breeze. It was not surprising then that when the reformist Jesse Jackson welcomed Farrakhan into his Rainbow Coalition, the liquidators smiled on Farrakhan. And when the anti-Farrakhan hysteria of the capitalists was blowing full force this fall, the reformists were tossed around on this issue like the autumn leaves.

Just as the capitalists and their media machines painted up Farrakhan as the militant black leader of the 80's, a number of these reformist groups chimed in to say the same thing. The opportunist newspaper The Guardian promoted Farrakhan's alleged "anti-racism" and "eloquent appeals for black empowerment". (See the October 9 issue.) The Maoists of the LRS declared that Farrakhan "should be considered a part of the Black united front, insofar as he opposes racism, national oppression and imperialism, and fights for democracy." (Unity, October 25)

What's more, in the guise of criticism of the capitalists' hypocrisy, the reformists went out of their way to cover up for the backward politics of the NOI. Take, for example, the Trotskyist SWP. Since last year's Jesse Jackson campaign they have been prostrating themselves in their efforts to paint up Minister Farrakhan as a noble spokesmen for the black people. These efforts were capped this October with two blaring editorials in newspaper the Militant under the headlines "Racist attack on Farrakhan" and "Provocations against Farrakhan." (October 4 and 25) These editorials loudly declared that the charges of racism and anti-semitism directed against Farrakhan were completely groundless and that they are a frame-up; not only of Farrakhan but of many thousands of Blacks." (October 4 and 25)

Some Liquidators Have Second Thoughts

But Farrakhan's politics are just too blatantly backward, making things miserable for all those reformists who have rushed to apologize for him. The more Farrakhan opens his mouth, the more difficult it becomes to lie and cover up for him. After climbing way out on a limb to cover up for Farrakhan in October, the SWP's Militant was scurrying for a safer footing by the end of November. All of a sudden the Militant's, writers came out as "bold" critics of Farrakhan, even recognizing his "anti-Semitic and reactionary statements." (Editorial, November 22) Similarly, The Guardian began editorializing about Farrakhan's "Mixed, but wrong message." ("Guardian Viewpoint", October 30) Even the Maoist LRS, while lauding Farrakhan, was at the same, time uncomfortable enough to make mild criticisms and confess that they "would surely not want to live under a government headed up by Farrakhan." (Unity, October 25)

Farrakhan's right-wing features are hardly new discoveries. One wonders whether the reformists have really just discovered them, or perhaps they have found that other bourgeois elements that they want to woo are on the anti-Farrakhan campaign of the bourgeois.

The WWP However Goes Down to the Wire with Farrakhan

But there is one group of liquidators, however, that has been totally shameless in its continuing support for Farrakhan. Free of the embarrassment that has stung the other groups, the reformist Workers World Party has unflinchingly carried on with its hosannas for Farrakhan. WWP chieftain Sam Marcy likens the NOI minister to "the voice of the oppressed... sound[ing] like a tocsin, ringing out for freedom."

Below we will examine just how Marcy builds his case for Farrakhan. We think this is worthwhile because it sheds light on the approach of the liquidators to the black liberation struggle. It shows just how far these self-styled "Marxists" will go to help strengthen the hand of the bourgeois and anti-revolutionary trends in the black people's movement.

Capitulation to the Racist Offensive

The reformist scribbler Sam Marcy lauds Farrakhan for allegedly "giving voice to mass anger and protest growing out of the deep and profound exploitation and oppression" of the black people. (All quotes are from Workers World, October 17.) True, like every demagog, Farrakhan spews fiery words against oppression. But since when did Farrakhan or the NOI ever aim their fire against the concrete measures of oppression weighing on the black masses? In fact, anyone who has listened carefully to Farrakhan knows that he agrees with the ongoing segregationist offensive of the capitalist rulers and that he has repeatedly praised the arch-racist policies of the Reagan regime.

In his apology for Farrakhan, Marcy writes about "the reign of political reaction", which he says is most clearly seen in the support [by a section of the white liberals] of the Reaganite offensive against affirmative action and other issues which deeply concern the oppressed masses." Then Marcy very carefully avoids telling the reader where Farrakhan stands on this issue and the other issues facing the masses. He is silent because of the embarrassing fact that, apart from Reagan's hatchetman Clarence Pendleton, Louis Farrakhan is one of the most outspoken black opponents of affirmative action and other measures against discrimination.

Farrakhan gave his typical rap on this question to students at the University of Pittsburgh. "Black brothers and sisters, look," Farrakhan lectured "You can't say to white people, 'if you don't hire me, I'll go get the NAACP and we'll come on down here and picket you. people, because I just graduated from Pitt and I know that I'm more qualified than that white person that's in front of me, and you gave them the job! You're nothing but a racist, that's what you are!' Now just a minute, brothers, you hush your mouth. It is human nature for a people to look out for themselves first. You cannot call a white person a racist because a white person wants to give a job preference to one of their own..." And Farrakhan then goes on to say he would discriminate in the same way. (Pittsburgh Courier, November 30)

This, in fact, is the historic stand of the leaders of the NOI. Don't picket against the racists. Don't protest inequality. Hush your mouth in the face of discrimination. After all, it is only "human nature" for the white capitalists to push you into the worst jobs, the worst housing, and the worst schools.

But Farrakhan's open sympathy for Reagan's segregationist offensive doesn't phase Marcy a bit. He just does his best to cover it up.

Boosting Black Capitalism

Farrakhan's sympathy for Reaganism is linked up to his fundamental program of black capitalism. (See "Louis Farrakhan: Peddler of Black Reaganism", Workers' Advocate, August 5, 1985.) For Farrakhan, the struggle against segregation and discrimination is an evil which undermines black business interests in general, and the profits of the multi-million dollar NOI enterprises in particular. Looking out for the selfish interest of the capitalist handful is what Farrakhan means when he talks about putting one's own interests first.

Of course, it is not only Farrakhan, but also the leaders of the NAACP and other voices of the black bourgeoisie, who are accommodating Reagan's racist offensive. Despite the differences in rhetoric, they share a common class basis in, their treachery; they are looking out for their investments and careers, leaving the millions of oppressed and exploited blacks in the lurch. And in this treachery, the liquidators have taken the side of the black bourgeois -- from Farrakhan, to the NAACP, to the black mayors and politicians - as they sell out the black workers and downtrodden in the face of the capitalists' racist offensive.

WWP takes this support for the black bourgeois to the extent of painting up the efforts of the black capitalists to squeeze money out of the black community in glorious liberation colors. They even hail Farrakhan's economic proposals to "support businesses and banks" that are "under the control of black individuals, instead of the oppressor." (Workers' World, October 17)

Farrakhan on Africa

Hard-pressed to point to any progressive stands taken by Farrakhan on domestic questions, the WWP and other of his apologists try to portray him as a fighter against imperialism and racism internationally. But here too the question must be asked, since when?

Over the last year, the oppressed people Of South Africa have been on the frontlines of the the fight against international imperialism and racism. But Farrakhan will have nothing to do with the fight against apartheid. As the anti-apartheid demonstrations were taking off last year, Farrakhan spelled out the NOI's policy of avoiding such protests "We prefer," Farrakhan explained, "to organize our people in a constructive manner to put pressure on the administration to change the policy toward South Africa." (Detroit News, January 20, 1985) And since that time, Farrakhan has stuck to this "constructive" policy towards the Reagan government's

"constructive engagement" with apartheid slavery.

Palestine and the Middle East

But when all else fails, the WWP and the other Farrakhan apologists point to Farrakhan's denunciations of the crimes of Israeli zionism. True, mixed in with his religious tirades against Jews, Farrakhan will denounce crimes of the Israeli regime against the Palestinian people. But this does not amount to an anti-imperialist stand. This does not even mean that he supports the revolutionary struggle of the working and oppressed Palestinians and other victims of zionist and imperialist aggression.On the contrary. Farrakhan's sympathies lie with the princes of Saudi Arabia, the remnants of feudalism, and other pro-U.S. reactionaries.

If you want to know where Farrakhan stands on Middle East politics, you should look at the July, '85 issue of the NOI's newspaper The Final Call, which covered Farrakhan's last tour of the Middle East. Much of the tour was devoted to paying homage to the feudal lords of the Arab Gulf, to Idi Amin and his family, and to other hangmen of the Arab and African peoples. For religious and other reasons, a number of such reactionaries have their contradictions with Israel. But far from being "anti-imperialist", they are vehemently anti-communist and pro-imperialist, and some have even leased their countries as launching pads for the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force.

The attempts of WWP and the other opportunists to describe Farrakhan's stand as "anti-imperialist" only reflects on their own policy of trying to paint up the bourgeois and even reactionary regimes in the Middle East in liberation colors.


At first, a number of groups such as the SWP attempted to claim that Farrakahn was simply a critic of Israeli zionism and to outright deny that Farrakhan voices anti-Semitic views. But these attempts to cover Farrakhan's tracks and make him more palatable to democratic-minded people grew more difficult as Farrakhan kept up his anti-Jewish sermons.

At a big Madison Square Garden rally on October 7, Farrakhan shouted: "Jesus had a controversy with the Jews. Farrakhan has a controversy with the Jews. Jesus was hated by the Jews. Farrakhan is hated by the Jews. I am your last chance Jews. You can't say 'never again' to God, cause when he puts you in an oven, you are in one indeed!" Such religious-sounding justifications for the nazi exterminators is classic Farrakhan. Anyone who listens to his "Final Call" radio broadcast can hear Farrakhan's long-winded religious harangues against the Jews. These are the same harangues which are used by Christian right-wing zealots and which have been used by reactionary bigots to justify the persecution of the Jews since the Inquisition.

But WWP's Sam Marcy has another apology. He doesn't deny Farrakhan's anti-semitism; he just says it is no big deal. Marcy argues that you shouldn't "make a mountain out of a molehill" out of Farrakhan's anti-semitic remarks. This, he says, only divert[s] attention from the struggle against racism and imperialism." And Marcy concludes: "No organization, no movement, no class, however formidable and determined it may be in the struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression can be completely free of the influence of bourgeois ideology."

Thus, according to this reformist scribbler, Farrakhan's racism against the Jews is only a minor blemish (molehill) on the healthy body of an organization representing the progressive class in its struggle against exploitation and oppression.

However, as we have already seen, it requires a broad stretching of the facts to describe the NOI leaders as fighters against racism and imperialism. And it is simply ludicrous to describe the NOI as being in struggle against capitalist exploitation. For over 50 years the religious ministers at the head of the Nation of Islam have been devoted to black capitalism. As such, they have always preached accommodation to the racism of the ruling white bourgeoisie - from acceptance of the Jim Crow of yesterday, to the Reaganite segregationist offensive today. And, along with this, they have always preached ideas of racial separatism, racial superiority and inferiority, and other backward racist ideas. Indeed, Farrakhan's anti-semitism is just the ideological pus on the surface of an organization that is devoted to black capitalism and living within the racist status quo.

Farrakhan and Malcolm X

The historic clash between the militant fighter for the black people Malcolm X and the NOI leadership is one of the sticky questions facing all those who would apologize for Farrakhan.

Malcolm X became a voice of the black people's revolt of the 1960's precisely because he broke with the backward doctrines of the NOI. He championed the mass struggle and advocated fighting back against the racist oppressors. He called for solidarity with the liberation struggles pounding at imperialism in Asia and Africa. And at the end of his life, he moved away from separatism towards ideas of a common struggle of the black and white exploited and oppressed masses against the capitalist rulers.

Farrakhan Declared: "Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death"

All of these things were, and are still today, anathema to the top ministers of the NOI. Elijah Muhammad branded Malcolm X as a traitor. And indeed he was a traitor to Elijah's backward political doctrines. In the pages of the December '64 issue of Muhammad Speaks, one of Elijah Muhammad's lieutenants by the name of Louis Farrakhan declared: "Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death."

With such statements Farrakhan helped the U.S. government and other reactionaries persecute Malcolm. And indeed, two months after Farrakhan's statement Malcolm was gunned down. Malcolm's assassination had all the ear-marks of a police operation, and the two NOI members who were convicted of Malcolm's murder may have been patsies. But even if that is so, that hardly erases Farrakhan's frenzied hatred of Malcolm and the shame of his wish for Malcolm's death.

Today, Louis Farrakhan is cynically claiming the legacy of Malcolm X. Farrakhan tries to cover up his own dirty role in the NOI's conflict with Malcolm by portraying Malcolm X as an outstanding disciple of Elijah Mohammad just like himself. Amazingly, the liquidators are helping Farrakhan cover his tracks. Sam Marcy takes this farther than the rest. And he adds a theoretical argument for reconciling Malcolm X to Farrakhan, an argument which sheds light on present liquidator thinking.

WWP Glorifies the NOI

Marcy paints the picture that, since its founding in the early 30's, the Black Muslim organization has been "a weapon in the struggle against racist oppression and for the right of self-determination." He uses the fact that at times the Black Muslims have gained a militant image among certain sections of the black community, in order to portray Elijah Mohammad as a glorious champion of the black people. (For example, Marcy devotes some six paragraphs assuring the reader that Elijah Mohammad's racism and his dealings with the American nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell were only minor blemishes which were "purely incidental and totally out of character.")

Then, according to Marcy, the NOI's role was not so positive when the upsurge of the black people's struggle broke out in the 60's. Marcy explains that the "Black movement, especially the youth, soon left [the NOI] far behind.". Why the masses would leave such a marvelous organization is left unanswered, apart from that the NOI "was unable on the basis of its ideological position to give leadership at a time when the masses were... in a direct struggle with the racist capitalist establishment."

It was in these "new favorable objective conditions for the Black struggle to develop," Marcy goes on, "that the well-known split between Elijah Mohammad and Malcolm X took place. The latter was orienting in an anti-imperialist direction free of the theological trappings of Elijah Mohammad."

Finally, Marcy concludes his article with the observation that today is a period of reaction with "an ebb tide in the progressive, civil rights and working class struggle." And the dangers of such a period are given as presumably the clincher for why the movement should embrace Farrakhan today.

Put the pieces of Marcy's ramblings together and you get a picture of the liquidationism that has gripped our present-day would-be Marxists. According to the liquidator mentality, casting aside theological trappings and struggling for.an anti-imperialist orientation were fine for the high-tide of struggle in the 1960's. But now, with the reactionary offensive, things are different. Now those who condemned Malcolm X for his militant struggle are just what's needed for this period of ebb. So, if you follow Marcy's liquidator logic, the black capitalism, narrow nationalism, and religious sectarianism of the NOI - that the masses "left far behind" in the 1960's - are well-suited for the black people's struggle in the 1980's.

The answer of the liquidators to the reactionary offensive is to hand over the anti-racist struggle to the black bourgeois misleaders. That is why they would like to apologize for Farrakhan, and why WWP is so attracted to the advocates of stands which even it admits were proven useless in the anti-racist upsurge of the 1960's.

For Revolutionary Struggle!

The Marxist-Leninists, the revolutionaries, the anti-racist fighters have an opposite answer. This is no time to be painting up the Minister of the NOI as the Malcolm X of our day. On the contrary, this difficult period of the reactionary offensive demands work to find ways to keep alive among the masses the revolutionary spirit that gripped the best fighters of the anti-racist upsurge of the 1960's and early 70's. We must work to spread the lessons of this upsurge. This includes drawing out the irreconcilable gulf between the interests of the black workers and downtrodden and the black bourgeoisie and their spokesmen.

These are burning tasks for the present. Building up the revolutionary spirit and deepening the rupture with the bourgeois sellouts are essential for mounting the resistance to the present racist offensive. And in this way we can prepare for the most successful outcome of the coming resurgence of the black liberation struggle.

Reposted from: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/wa-supplement/2-1.html#article90