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

In any case, the distinction that he sees between theory and action is rather false, and the grand theorising that he has in mind is again a product of a life of leisure. Furthermore, the Blacks do have a superb theorist in the person of Cleaver whose account of the “Primeval Mitosis” makes this evident; this theorising is the product of enforced leisure behind the bars of San Quentin!

The diatribe against intellectuals for not “bearing the cross” through the slippery paths of Harlem is warranted, he thinks, by their failure to concentrate on relevant goals and for allowing their organisations not only to be dominated by Michel’s “iron law of oligarchy ” but also by a kind of iron law of Jewry. In fact he stresses the irrelevancy of the Jew initiated Communist movement for the Black struggle. Like Fanon ‘s famous plea which begs us to “forget Europe”, Cruse asks us to do likewise. But not quite. While Fanon condemns both European Communism and European Capitalism alike and calls for a totally autonomous Third World, Cruse opts for European Capitalism as the means to achieve ghetto integration and ghetto self-sufficiency. Credit goes to Cruse however, for arguing that “no social movement of a protest kind in Harlem can be successful or have any positive meaning unless it is at one and the same time a political, economic and cultural movements.”

This is supported by the evidence presented in Hamilton’s and Carmichael’s book on “Black Power” which argues that in order to avoid economic sanctions a protest group must have an independent “means of existence“.

While Cruse denounces Blacks for any pathological hatred of Whites since that displays a sign of weakness, he displays the self-same contempt for West Indians and Jews. Not only this, he does not admit that the doctrines of Garvey, or of the Communists, could be functional independently of his own personal idiosyncracies against these doctrinaires. He was zealous in pointing to the weakness and intragroup rivalries amongst the rank of the West Indians and, again and again reiterates Garvey as “the supreme Negro Jamaican Jackass”. He sees the “West Indian Psychology” as something real and regards this as posing problems when West Indians try to operate in the American context. He then attempts to explain their apparent radicalism within the American context.

“West Indians arc essentially conservatives fashioned in the British mould ”

 “The British West Indies offered no fertile ground or local encouragement for open revolutionary activity against British colonial rule.”

“Once in the United States, the West Indian revolutionary had to adopt a philosophy created nor by him, but by European Whites. Like W. A. Domingo, the West Indian rook European Marxism as his ‘very’ own.

Many of these assertions are factually incorrect. His assumption that West Indians are never very revolutionary in the West Indies stems from his “Aristocratic” perspective. By focusing on the intellectuals progress he overlooked the dynamic struggles of West Indian masses to break the shackles imposed by the European mercantilist system. In modern slavery historiography this fact is well known and is given prominent place in the classic Comparative studies of Tannenbaum, Franklin Frazer and Stanley Elkins. They have showed that as a result of the nature of the slavery systems in Iberian areas the slaves under such systems were much more prone to rebellion because of the less dehumanising and non-paralysing conditions there. As regards the British West Indies, the theory would at least imply that West Indians of this type are no more docile than Americans. For every Nat Turner produced by America there has been two Toussaint Le Overtures produced by the West Indies. Cruse mentions the “political apathy of West Indians at home” but the intensity of both the ethnic tensions m Guyana and of the Party Competition in Jamaica negates this nebulous claim. His central argument that the “British West Indies offered no fertile ground or local encouragement for open revolutionary activity against British colonial rule” is refuted to be the best possible index of revolutionary activity -the number of revolutions!