Dead End of Black Politics?
recently i read an article over at Dissident Voice Which proports that black politics suffers from "Head Negro In Charge" Syndrome. That is, black "leaders" tend to be charismatics who leave no viable institutions in their wake escept the NAACP which has avoided Charismatic leadership.
Jesse Jackson, the first post–civil rights HNIC, set this style of politics in motion in his 1984 and 1988 campaigns. He gave a rousing speech at his first convention, and then collected over 1,200 delegates in 1988, as well as 7 million votes (winning the second highest number in the Democratic primary). Yet nothing happened afterward; there was no follow-up to the millions of people who voted for him or helped him organize his campaign.
As early as the mid-1960s, leading civil rights strategists, like Bayard Rustin, were writing about moving from “protest to politics,” incorporating blacks into the Democratic structure without establishing an independent political and economic base. Jackson was merely following a script from the past: black mobilization as incorporated politics, or as pseudo-political mobilization. Jackson’s two campaigns failed to build an independent political apparatus to organize blacks, especially those at the bottom end of the food chain.
Jackson was hampered by another characteristic plaguing African-American politics: black church charismatics who can arouse people but not channel them into the routines of effective political organization needed to build any agenda-driven, grassroots voting machinery. No black charismatic — Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X — has ever left behind an efficient organization. Interestingly, the NAACP, almost a hundred years old, has never been a charismatic-based organization, which may explain, at least in part, its longevity.
While I agree that there is a huge draw to charismatic "leadership' I believe the author is gravely mistaken by comparing the NAACP with the UNIA. The author fails to inform the reader that the founders of the NAACP were in fact white persons. This is extremely important. The NAACP was set up by white people to be the "legitimate" organization for protest for American Blacks. And let us be clear the NAACP was solely interested in American Blacks. the UNIA on the other hand was first and formost founded by Blacks for Blacks and immediately ran into conflict with the established NAACP. In fact the publications of the time pointed out the descrepancy, which seemed to cause WEB Dubois, the then HNIC, much consternation. Furthermore, the UNIA was as indicated in it's name an Internationalist organization. It had adherents and members in more places than the NAACP even dreamed about. What is also very clear is that the UNIA was brought low, with the full cooperation of the NAACP under the leadership of WEB Dubois.
In short what the author fails to point out is that the movements lead by Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, and a lesser extent (mostly due to his untimely death) Martin Luther King Jr. is that they were all black originated movements, with clear black agendas and were international in scope. The UNIA as well as Malcolm X poised a far greater threat to the international order than the NAACP could. In my view this is why these organizations fell by the way-side. What is perhaps the most telling about the strength of the platforms of the UNIA as well as tha OAAU, is how many of their platforms have shown up in the agendas of the surviving organizations.