Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh Remind Us of the Roots of White Supremacy in the Aftermath of Buffalo Shooting
White supremacy isn't simply about "evil men" but rather a system of class rule that feeds off of violence and dehumanization
On May 15th, a white supremacist named Payton Gendron opened fire on a Tops supermarket in Buffalo’s Black district of Kingsley, killing ten people. The massacre was immediately labeled a hate crime and liberal mainstream corporate media went to work finding easy explanations that would absolve them and their elite handlers of any wrongdoing. Democrats placed blame on the GOP for normalizing racism. GOP-aligned Fox News host Tucker Carlson was given special attention for mainstreaming the “Great Replacement Theory” that filled the pages of Gendron’s manifesto.
Indeed, white supremacy has been the GOP’s organizing principle for more than a half century. The “Great Replacement Theory” is the 21st century version of a historic trend. The Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” successfully mobilized white Americans fearful of the Black movement for social justice into a formidable political bloc. Ronald Reagan’s ascendancy transformed the racist rhetoric within the Republican political establishment into a coded war on “welfare queens” and “crime.” The “Great Replacement Theory” is another iteration of white supremacist ideology which posits that Black Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and non-whites generally are invading the Anglo world in a bid to eradicate whites.
There is no doubt that the influence of far right and white supremacist ideology has played a role in the more than one hundred mass shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past several decades. A society organized to dehumanize and wage war on the masses is ultimately a society at war with itself. However, it is too simplistic to view white supremacy as a purely ideological phenomenon. White supremacy is not merely a set of ideas that, once spread, sets the stage for racist violence. This idealist conception of history strips white supremacy of its roots in the system of U.S. imperialism and simplifies its existence to a matter of moralistic virtue.
Such idealism presents only one solution to white supremacy; the marginalization or eradication of a few bad apples in Tucker Carlson and the GOP. On May 19th, the world will celebrate the birthdays of Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh, two deceased revolutionaries who commented extensively on the roots of white supremacy. Ho Chi Minh was the first president of an independent and socialist Vietnam and arguably the most important force in that country’s struggle for liberation from colonialism. Malcolm X was one of the most important leaders of the Black liberation movement that the United States has ever known, and his influence on the political development of the global struggle for peace and self-determination remains immense.
Though Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh spent much of their lives on different hemispheres, both charted a course for liberation that was influenced by the rising prestige of Black nationalist, anti-colonial, and socialist politics. Both were internationalists who traveled the world learning and seeking solidarity from movements abroad. Ho Chi Minh traveled to New York City and worked as a dish washer while attending United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) meetings held by Marcus Garvey. Shortly before his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X made his third trip to the African continent and paid visits to Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, Algeria, and Tanzania. He would go on to form the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) upon his return, stating in his first public address for the new organization that the success of African nations in uniting against colonialism directly inspired his determination to organize and unite Black people in a global struggle for freedom, peace, and dignity.
Ho Chi Minh wrote several articles on racism and the Black condition in the United States. In his 1924 article on lynching, the Vietnamese revolutionary declared:
It is well known that the black race is the most oppressed and most exploited of the human family. It is well known that the spread of capitalism and the discovery of the New World had the immediate result the rebirth of slavery which was, for centuries, a scourge for the Negroes and a bitter disgrace of mankind. What everyone perhaps does not know, is that after sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching.
Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X believed that racist violence could not be understood outside of the global struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor. Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Revolution inspired Ho Chi Minh to embrace socialism in the liberation of Vietnam from colonialism and imperialism. It was African revolutions which motivated Malcolm X to adopt an internationalist vision for Black liberation in the United States. For each, racism was not about bad apples. The entire system of imperialism was rotten and both sought to uproot it through the positive means of winning the power of the oppressed to control and manage their own societies.
This doesn’t mean that Ho Chi Minh or Malcolm X ignored ideology. Ho Chi Minh struggled intensely with the socialist parties of the Second International, opposing their chauvinistic support of “fatherland” Western governments in the First World War to the detriment of colonized people. Malcolm X outlined the key tenets of what is now called the “Great Replacement Theory” nearly sixty years ago in 1964 when he said,
During recent years there has been much talk about a population explosion. Whenever they are speaking of the population explosion, in my opinion, they are referring to the people primarily in Asia or in Africa— the black, brown, red, and yellow people. It is seen by people of the West that, as soon as the standard of living is raised in Africa and Asia, automatically the people begin to reproduce abundantly. And there has been a great deal of fear engendered by this in the minds of the people of the West, who happen to be, on this earth, a very small minority.
In fact, in most of the thinking and planning of whites in the West today, it’s easy to see that fear in their minds, conscious minds and subconscious minds, that the masses of dark people in the East, who already outnumber them, will continue to increase and multiply and grow until they eventually overrun the people of the West like a human sea, a human tide, a human flood. And the fear of this can be seen in the minds, and in the actions, of most of the people here in the West in practically everything that they do. It governs their political views, it governs their economic views and it governs most of their attitudes toward the present society.
But even here Malcolm X related white fears of replacement not to some unexplainable hatred but to the material reality that white Americans and Westerners were quickly losing their ability to control the destinies of oppressed peoples of the world. Malcolm X’s words have only become more relevant in the current period. The rise of socialist China has precipitated a Cold War response from imperialism that has poured gasoline on the fire of anti-Asian racism and violence. The Black struggle for self-determination has faced a severe backlash from the U.S. mass incarceration state, opening the floodgates of racist reaction. And the fact that Payton Gendron was wearing a white supremacist Black Sun symbol so commonly seen on the uniforms Nazi Azov fighters in Ukraine is no coincidence. White supremacy is a global system of social control that is directed at any person, government, or movement (Russian, Chinese, Black American, Muslim, Arab, etc.) that is perceived to threaten the domination of Euro-American imperialism.
The entire system of U.S. imperialism is thus implicated in racist violence. This includes the Democratic Party, which has for decades been wedded to a neoliberal model of governance reliant upon austerity, state repression, and war. The Republican Party is but the loudest and most ideologically influential political branch of the U.S.’s racist and imperialist system. The more that the U.S. finds itself bogged down in its own contradictions, the stronger the tide of racist reaction becomes. A true fight against white supremacy involves popular organization against the forces that gave it birth: the U.S. military state waging wars fueled by dehumanization, the two-party duopoly enacting policies that deprive oppressed people of their needs, and the economic system of capitalism robbing the earth of public wealth and ecological sustainability to enrich its corporate masters.