Malcolm X on lesser evilism: “It isn’t a president who can help or hurt; it is the system”

In a November 23, 1964 meeting of the Pan-African magazine Présence Africaine, Malcolm X condemned the still prevalent lesser-evilist politics that insist one must vote for a bourgeois liberal candidate over a bourgeois conservative one.

The US is the world’s imperial hegemon, Malcolm X noted, and voting for one individual does not change that system. “The shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists, knew that the only way people would run toward the fox would be if you showed them a wolf,” he said. “So they created a ghastly alternative.”

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson had just beaten Republican Barry Goldwater in a huge landslide in the 1964 presidential election three weeks before the meeting. In response to a question about the election, the revolutionary Black leader explained:

It isn’t a president who can help or hurt; it is the system. And this system is not only ruling us in America, it is ruling the world. Nowadays, when a man is running for president of the United States, he is not running for president of the United States alone; he has to be acceptable to other areas of the world where American influence rules.

If Johnson had been running all by himself, he would not have been acceptable to anyone. The only thing that made him acceptable to the world was that the shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists, knew that the only way people would run toward the fox would be if you showed them a wolf. So they created a ghastly alternative. And it had the whole world — including people who call themselves Marxists — hoping that Johnson would beat Goldwater.

I have to say this: Those who claim to be enemies of the system were on their hands and knees waiting for Johnson to get elected — because he is supposed to be a man of peace. And at that moment he had troops invading the Congo and South Vietnam! He even has troops in areas where other imperialists have already withdrawn. Peace Corps to Nigeria, mercenaries to the Congo!

(This quote is as it appears in Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, edited by George Breitman.)