THE VICTIMS OF DEMOCRACY: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein

THE VICTIMS OF DEMOCRACY: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution

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Whatever else he may have left behind, Malcolm X left a literary testament in the form of his Autobiography, told to and with Alex Haley. A ""charismatic"" political leader who spoke with unequalled force and was felled by an assassin is too tempting for a psycho-biographer is resist, especially when there is the autobiography to mime. Wolfenstein (UC Berkeley), author of The Revolutionary Personality, brings a vague Marxist psychoanalytic theory to bear on Malcolm to no good purpose (and a deadly dull effect). Operating on both ""objective"" and ""subjective"" levels, Wolfenstein proceeds by situating Malcolm's life experience within a larger social context of ""false consciousness""; that is, the racism displayed by whites and the self-destructive subculture of black hustling are both manifestations of a misdirected reaction to exploitative capitalist economic relations. Malcolm's rise from hustler to prophet of black pride, black power, and pan-Africanism, is then shown to be a liberation from this false consciousness, helped along by the peculiarities of Malcolm's particular life (complete with the requisite analysis of his Oedipal and other early family problems). The major step in Malcolm's escalation came, in Wolfenstein's orthodox psychoanalytic reading, in his ""projection"" onto Elijah Muhammad and his Muslim Nation all sorts of psychological baggage, from repressed father images to alienated sensuality. When he broke with Muhammad--the break a result of Malcolm's superior and secular mind together with problems of class stratification within the black community--he was de-alienated and able to establish control over his personality, forging a new and unique political program. Although it isn't his intention, Wolfenstein's approach forces Malcolm into pre-set categories that don't really explain anything not apparent from a combined reading of Malcolm's Autobiography and some good history books.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Univ. of California Press