James and Grace Lee Boggs on race, radicalism, and standpoint perspective (1974)

Most rebels, black or white, react to an idea purely in terms of the social position of the person advancing the idea. Usually they will not even consider an idea unless it comes from someone in the most oppressed strata of society. They never stop to consider that any ideas of serious value will have to be highly advanced ideas — they cannot be ideas of the past, because, like it or not, the United States is a highly advanced country, and one in which the contradictions are not material or economic, but within the realm of human choice. ….
How to project an advanced idea in tune with our unique stage of human development is a serious revolutionary problem…. Malcolm X used to chide the masses, because he began with the idea that the masses are not perfect, and that they had to be transformed. He had the courage to attack the Establishment while chiding the masses for their backwardness, their superstitions, their myths and fears. Malcolm realized that the masses would have to repudiate much of what they had accepted as normal and natural, and transform themselves into new people with new values, and with a new vision, of new tasks to be performed, if black people were ever to be free. In fact, Malcolm repudiated his own past as inconsistent with a new life and new values.
But in the years since Malcolm’s death, when we should have been developing a new revolutionary vision, we have wasted our time in so much rhetoric that black and white radicals today make a virtue of irresponsibility and a virtue of vice – so long as it is the vice of an oppressed person. Today anything can be called revolutionary, regardless of how inhumane it is, so long as an oppressed militant is involved. The result is that, despite the spreading militancy and rebellion, we are moving further away from, rather than closer to, the revolutionary goal of building a new society.
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James and Grace Lee Boggs, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974), 191-92.
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