Blogs > Liberty and Power > Malcolm X: "Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Vice..."

Jul 4, 2005 12:36 pm

Malcolm X: "Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Vice..."

How's this for a Fourth of July blog? In December 1964, Malcolm X appeared in a debate at the Oxford University Union to speak in favor of the motion that"extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." (hear audio here)

Of course, Barry Goldwater had first uttered this phrase earlier that year at the Republican National Convention. His speech was written by Karl Hess, a future chair of the Libertarian Party.

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David T. Beito - 7/8/2005

I think you are right but there are limits to how far this distancing will go. A recent issue of the NOI's newspaper that I happened on prominently featured a speech by Elijah Muhammad condemning interracial marriage

Kevin Carson - 7/7/2005


The NOI has pretty much abandoned the crazy ideas of W.D. Fard and Elijah Muhammad, which had about as much to do with historic Islam as Mormonism does with historic Christianity. Farrakhan has quietly distanced himself from them, as well, attempting to move the NOI toward a more orthodox Islamic theology while avoiding any dramatic breach with the past. I think he just wants to let that crazy shit about Dr. Yakoub and Patmos die a quiet death.

David Timothy Beito - 7/6/2005

I rather like Malcolm but his theories about the history of "white devils" in his NOI phase (as illustrated by some of the speeches on the same site) are just plain crazy.

Kenneth R Gregg - 7/6/2005

Yes, a good case can be made either way. Certainly his death, and the manner in which it occurred, hurt the Nation of Islam. And I'm sure the FBI shed no tears about it.
Just a thought.
Just Ken

Roderick T. Long - 7/6/2005

One of my students made a sign saying "X -- The Malcolm" on the model of those "W -- The President" stickers.

David Timothy Beito - 7/6/2005

Leonard Liggio and Murray Rothbard spoke very highly of Malcolm X. They both used to come to hear him speak in New York. When I spoke with Murray around 1990, I said that I thought that Malcolm X had been probably been killed by the Nation of Islam. Murray, by contrast, defended the theory that the FBI did it.

Kenneth R Gregg - 7/4/2005

When I lived in North Long Beach, CA in the '60's, my first jobs were in Compton (by then a largely black enclave in the Los Angeles area with more ties to Watts than to other areas of L.A.).

I used to get the Nation of Islam newsletters and talk to their members (used to get called "white devil" from one side and "n--lover" or just "n---" from the other--was called "honky" from Portuguese kids in San Pedro, but that's another story). There was always a lot more common ground between them and the Goldwater Republicans, many closeted libertarians, but neither could seem to listen to the other.

Gene Freeman, then with me in the California Libertarian Alliance, made some inroads with Black Panthers. Alas, no Grand Alliance. Potential was there, just didn't click.

Too bad. The independent history of black intellectuals and black communities has always had libertarian elements.

Just a thought.
Just Ken