“We were the first fascists”: from Garvey to Farrakhan

On August 13, 1920 Marcus Garvey presided at the convention of the United Negro Improvement Association held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There he promulgated the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. Its 54 points comprise the farthest thing from a fascist manifesto.

And yet, as my friend Hugh Murray noted a quarter-century ago, Garvey “admired . . . leading anti-communists, such as Mussolini. Indeed, in 1937 Garvey proudly proclaimed of his Universal Negro Improvement Association, ‘We were the first fascists.’[1]

Here’s the full quote:

We were the first Fascists, when we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism.[2]

He said this in 1937, after Mussolini consolidated his rape of Ethiopia.

While many liberals [Murray continues] are the first to hurl the word “fascist” at those with whom they disagree, they usually ignore the fascism of blacks, even when publicly advocated.[3]

A few years after Hugh wrote those words, King’s College Professor of American and English Literature Paul Gilroy came out with “Black Fascism” (Transition, Indiana UPress, 2000, 70-91), a scholarly monograph on Garvey’s boast, the first instance of Black public advocacy of fascism. I recommend it to students of this overlooked chapter of Black American history.

George Lincoln Rockwell, center

On June 25, 1961 American Nazi Party Commander George Lincoln Rockwell sat in the Uline Arena, Washington, DC (where the Beatles would give their first US concert a few years later). He was there at the invitation of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Elijah Muhammad. Thousands were in attendance. During the collection, Rockwell shouted:

George Lincoln Rockwell gives $20!

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Martin Luther King’s 90th: a friend remembers

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Prince George Motel, Miami, 1960

Hugh Murray, Civil Rights Movement veteran, Scottboro Boys historian, and my fellow Herbert Aptheker research assistant, marked the 90th anniversary of King’s birth today (which was actually last Tuesday) with an email to friends. I share it with his permission:

To All,  HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY.  I certainly do not believe King was a saint; few people are. He is memorable because of the courage he showed in standing up when it was difficult, and in the end, standing up against all the forces of the US government. While he was preaching non-violence, the Feds paid various Blacks to join his movement and use violence to discredit King. I think the Feds even supplied the weapons. One such was a civil rights photographer, and recently it was discovered just what he was doing for the Feds to undermine King. There is a reason that many documents relating to the assassinations of JF Kennedy and ML King are still kept from the public. Trump angered the Deep State when he opened some of the material, but eventually Trump caved and kept some materials secret. About murders in 1963 and 1968!? It is not to protect the reputations of Lee Harvey Oswald or James Earl Ray. It is to protect government agencies. Well, as the Scots say, cheerio! Hugh Murray

In summer of 1960 King and others (including Jackie Robinson, the centenary of whose birth is ten days away) trained about two dozen civil rights activists, including Hugh, in the strategy and tactics of non-violent civil disobedience. The sessions were held in the Prince George Motel in Miami. The photo at the head of this post was taken at one of them. Here’s the other side of the room. Hugh’s on the right:

A month after this session Hugh helped integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter in New Orleans, his home town. Forty years ago he recalled this event and others, including the workshop with King, in “The Struggle for Civil Rights in New Orleans in 1960: Reflections and Recollections.” Here are other pix from long ago:

Future Freedom Rider Jerome Smith, a 21-year-old Hugh T. Murray, Jr., and others integrate Woolworth’s counter during the first New Orleans sit-in. September 9, 1960. Below is the same scene from a different angle. Hugh’s third from the right. The gentleman standing behind them is not waiting for a seat to become available, but rather the reason Hugh took off his glasses. No violence ensued at this protest. Both pix are from NOLA.com

The September 10, 1960 edition of the Biloxi MS Daily Herald links ran “College Students Held in Sit-In in New Orleans” on its first page. After listing Hugh, Smith and several others the reporter notes: “Hugh Murray Sr. attempted to get his son to leave the others but police would not allow him past the barricade.”

It has been my pleasure to provide a platform for my good friend’s papers over the past fifteen years: Hugh Murray: Independent Scholar. His autobiography will be well worth reading. I pray he’ll get around to writing it.


Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist

Going over articles by my friend Hugh Murray, a veteran of the civil rights movementImage result for hugh t. murray, jr (third from the right;  New Orleans lunch counter sit-in, September 9, 1960), I noticed in one of them his elaboration upon an inconvenient (for some) fact of Adolf Hitler’s political trajectory.

Rejected by several journals in the late ’90s, Hugh’s “Affirmative Action and the Nazis: Or: Why Liberals Cannot Understand a Holocaust” at last found a home in 2004.  Here’s the salient passage (lightly edited; my commentary follows):

Turmoil erupted inside Germany.  On New Years 1918-19, the radical Spartacists attempted a coup, but were foiled by soldiers returning from the fronts [of the Great War] who formed into new groups, the Freikorps (free corps). They killed the two Spartacist leaders, Karl Liebknecht and the Jewish Rosa Luxemburg.Karl and Rosa Elsewhere events went in the opposite direction. In the large southern German province of Bavaria a republic was also proclaimed, led by the Jewish journalist Kurt Eisner, then by the Jewish playwright Ernst Toller, and finally by the Jewish Communist Eugen Leviné . Apparently, one of the supporters of this radical Left regime was a young corporal, recently released, who had been gassed in the trenches toward war’s end, Adolf Hitler (far right, seated, with his Bavarian Reserve Infantry comrades).

The television program The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler: [Part] I, The Private Man contains some revealing sequences. [It’s available on YouTube.] I quote from the narration:

With the defeat [of Germany in 1918], revolution broke out across Germany. In Bavaria a revolutionary government was set up. Image result for kurt eisnerThe socialist president Kurt Eisner was shot on the street in [25] February 1919. The people turned out to say farewell. Hitler had returned to his Munich regiment, his only foothold, his only home. He was threatened with demobilization and a return to the hostel. A fellow soldier later remembered that Hitler seemed like a stray dog, searching for a new master. In the funeral procession for the Jewish Socialist Eisner was a detachment from Hitler’s regiment wearing both red armbands and black armbands. The film clip shows a lance corporal marching with the officers—Adolf Hitler. Continue reading “Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist”

Herbert Aptheker: Apothecary for a Red Teenager

In the early 1970s, I was an acolyte of Herbert Aptheker (1915-2003). Known for his writings on African-American history he was also, during the Cold War, a theoretician of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). 

While many of my contemporaries became hooked on pharmaceuticals or alcohol, the apothecary for this teenage rebel was an apologist for the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev. Memories of the five years of my Stalinist sojourn are still a source of shame, even though more than eight times that interval has passed.

In November 1969 an ad in the Communist Party’s Daily World newspaper caught my eye. (Why I was reading that rag as a high school junior is a tale for another time.) Later that week Aptheker was scheduled to lecture on W.E.B. DuBois at the Center for Marxist Education (CME), then located on Manhattan’s West 15th Street, on the same block as my Jesuit military high school. (That building, now a co-op, abuts a 21st-century extension of my pre-Civil War alma mater.)

The evening arrived. Exiting the elevator on the fourth floor I made a right turn into the main room. CPUSA General Secretary Gus Hall, who would welcome me into the Party in less than three years, addressed the group of about 75. Then he introduced Dr. Herbert Aptheker.

I remember nothing of the lecture’s content. (I hadn’t then even heard of Du Bois.) The lecturer’s command of his material, however, and the aplomb with which he delivered it impressed this most impressionable of young minds. (One can hear how he sounded then by listening  to this February 18, 1968 Du Bois lecture.) Conservative in fashion and demeanor, Aptheker, then 54, had a military bearing and matching haircut. Appearing to me to be more learned than any five of my teachers or adult relatives combined, he held me spellbound for over an hour. 

I bought Aptheker’s books and pamphlets by the bushel by heading east from my high school across Union Square and entering the CPUSA’s Jefferson Book Shop on 16th Street, just east of Union Square. I scooped up everything of his I could and made time to absorb every line. While I now recognize Aptheker’s political essays as essentially propaganda, they then modeled for me the finest prose. They made the power of rhetoric a topic for me. For the first time I thought, “I’d like to be a writer!”

As Director of the American Institute for Marxist Studies (AIMS) Aptheker had an office on East 30th Street. Visiting it one day I introduced myself as a member of the Young Workers Liberation League, the latest edition of the Young Communist League. I took advantage of AIMS’s library of Marxism (mostly its Stalinist subdivision). Whenever school was out, I’d make my way to AIMS and get lost in its shelves. Taking a break from reading, I’d catch Aptheker typing with two fingers, the aroma of coffee and hamburger wafting into the reading room outside his office. With trepidation at first, I’d ask him a question. 

Continue reading “Herbert Aptheker: Apothecary for a Red Teenager”