REVIEWS: “ROLL CALL” OF THE NEGRO INTELLECTUAL: A Critique of Harold Cruse’s “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”

The “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” gives one the impression that the author takes upon himself the role of the omnipotent and omnipresent impartial spectator who sees all, knows all, and who, like God, comes to judge the intellectuals in their chosen role as the redeemers of the unenlightened negro masses from their persisting damnation. In this “roll call” Cruse finds all the intellectuals (excepting DuBois) wonting and as a result finds them unfit to sit on the right hand side of his throne of unerring truth. From this throne he condemns them all for not fulfilling the historic role of leading the m toward salvation – this same historic role which Marx gives to the immiserised working classes Fanon and Mao Tse Tung to the peasants, and Peter Worsley to the shanty-town dwellers. No other conclusion can be reached with more certainty from statements like:

“With a few perceptive and original thinkers the Negro Movement conceivably could long ago have aided in reversing the backsling of the United States towards the moral negation of its great promise as a new nation of nations. Instead the American Negro has unwittingly been forced to share in many of the corrupted values of the society not enough, to be sure, to cancel ow completely his inherent potential for change.” (Cruse, p. 565)

 One good thing is that Cruse allows them a second chance.

Like Baltzell, Cruse falls prey to elitist biases which conditioned him to see the initiative as always coming from ‘above’. He is thus the very anti-thesis of men like Richard Wright and Eldridge Cleaver, “Soul-Brothers” bred and sustained by ghetto dynamism, and who necessarily view the racial situation from below “upwards”. For example, while Cruse stresses “the period of Jewish dominance in the Communist Party” and “the Jewish Communists (who) were often more arrogant and paternalistic than the Anglo-Saxons, more self-righteous and intellectually supercilious about their Marxist line on America, than any other minority group striving for an ideal standard of radical Americanism”, Richard Wright, in a true sociological style, instead analyzes the roots of negro anti-Jewish tensions:

“To hold an attitude of antagonism or distrust toward Jews was bred in us from child-hood, it was not merely racial prejudice, it was part of our cultural heritage… All of us black people who lived in the neighbourhood hated Jews, not because they exploited us, but because we had been taught at home and in Sunday School that Jews were Christ-Killers. With the Jews thus singled out for us, we made them fair game for ridicule. ”

 Richard Wright tells that as a result they used to shout:

“Bloody Christ-Killers

Never trust a Jew

Bloody Christ-Killers

What won’t a Jew do.”

Cruse must have also been socialised into this anti-Jewish fad, but rather than admitting this, he rationalises his pent-up dislike by the implicit alarm on finding that “the Jews even dominate our Civil Rights organizations”!

 From his aristocratic stance Cruse, the high priest of the Blacks, says that:

“An examination of the pronouncements of the Black Power theorists reveal that they have not advanced one whit in their thinking, beyond the 1919 writers of A. Phillip Randolph’s Messenger magazine. . . They have in fact retrogressed. ”

Cruse thus sees racial conflict as essentially a thinking game, where brain-power rather than gun-powder is the appropriate instrument. He fails to concede that Blacks have advanced not as a result of thinking-induced concessions, nor even of any moral dilemmas on the part of Whites, but through the willingness of Negroes to fight, and die, in their ‘direct action’ approach strategies.