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Legacies of Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh live on today

Published May 28, 2012 11:03 PM

May 19 was the birthday of two beloved internationalists and revolutionaries.

Ho Chi Minh was born in 1890. He was the founder, in 1941, of the Viet Minh independence movement, which eventually kicked the French out of Vietnam in 1954. He was also the leader of the National Liberation Front that led the fight against the U.S. colonizers who replaced the French.

Ho had traveled extensively in Europe, the United States and Asia, and had assisted movements in those countries, even becoming a founding member of the French Communist Party. Ho Chi Minh did not live to see the liberation and unification of his country once the U.S. military was kicked out in 1975.

Malcolm X was born in Nebraska in 1925. He became one of the great Black leaders in this country, seeing far beyond the fight for civil rights and catapulting that movement onto the international stage. He inspired the militant Black liberation movements of the 1960s.

It was no cosmic feat, nor was it fate, that these two were born on the same date. But the conditions in both countries and the qualities of both made them great revolutionary leaders of their time. Both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh are to be commemorated today because the struggles that they were part of and led are ongoing. They are the struggles of all workers and the oppressed.

Malcolm stated the above very clearly in 1965: “It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against White, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.”

An outspoken opponent of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, Malcolm X asked why it was that Black people were expected to be violent toward the Vietnamese and at the same time, be passive against racist KKK terror in the South.

Ho Chi Minh wrote in a 1924 essay on the conditions of Black people in the United States. He exposed the ruse of so-called democracy in the United States. In the essay he states: “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 as an immediate result the rebirth of slavery, which was, for centuries, a scourge for the Negroes and a bitter disgrace for humanity. What everyone does not perhaps know is that after 65 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.”

Both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh saw the importance of the global class struggle, in whatever terms they placed it. As the fight against oppression becomes more radicalized, because of the increasing reactionary tendencies of the capitalist class and its governments, it is even more important that the movement remember the revolutionary leaders of the past and make the commemorations relevant to today. The struggle has not changed — just the urgency for greater internationalism, due to the voracious capitalist system, which is greatly expanding and thus radicalizing workers the world over.

Reprinted from the Workers World issue of May 24, 2006.