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

Though we cannot accept Cruse’s explanation accounting for the prevalence of West Indian Intellectuals in the American context, nevertheless he deserves credit for raising the very important sociological problem. Why have West Indian Intellectuals been so prominent in the Negro movement on the American continent? The list of names ranges from Garvey, Padmore, McKay, Moore, C.L.R. James to Carmichael. We will proceed to suggest some plausible alternatives to Curse’s hypothesis.

Rather than attributing the reason to the alleged non-revolutionary conditions in the West Indies, a more scientific model would include the following plausible hypotheses.

First, our Transition model should predict the acquisition of a revolutionary stance by any group which moves to a new environment where its expectations are most blatantly frustrated.

Our general Transition model should also include the Vacuum-type theory which suggest that the conditions in America called for Negro organisation but that since native Negro leadership was not as available, the West Indian intellectuals naturally flowed to fill the vacuum. (Note that Cruse unintentionally concedes that West Indian intellectuals are revolutionaries who cannot find outlet for their revolutionary potential in the West Indies. Simple reasoning thus leads one to regard West Indian intellectuals in the United States as a roving band of professional revolutionaries who like Che move by the laws of demand for, and supply of, revolutionaries. Then, as now, the market Mechanism took them to the American continent). Thirdly, so that we do not over stress the purely ideological factor behind West Indian leadership in the United States, out theory must acknowledge the plain truth that on leaving the islands. West Indians necessarily undergo changes I will venture to hypothesise that West Indians are pre-eminently concerned with their image of masculinity, itself a legacy of slavery. In accordance with this self-conceptualization, the West Indian environment provides the facilities for meeting this role-expectation, plenty or sex, plenty or rum. plenty of sports, plenty of talk! But on coming to the United States environment, the West Indian Intellectual found no such role-facilitating conditions. So the West Indian intellectual, actual or potential, moves more in that one area where abundant facilities are available a life of talk! And like the ancient Athenian rhetorician, each man becomes over concerned with impressing onlookers in the wisdom of his rhetoric. Since leadership was scarce, those who could do the most “impressing” could have their masculinity image enhanced in order, at least, to maintain the masculine and social status position they deserted, and also their own personal sell conception. (Note that today the “super-masculine” image is upheld as much by the use of force as by the use of words.) The doctrines of Fanon, etc. as operationalised by the Panthers contribute greatly towards the acceptance of violence as a “legitimate” and effective means to regain one’s “manhood” and one’s self. confidence. Cleaver puts it thus:

“I shall gain my manhood. I shall gain my manhood. or the world will be levelled in my attempt to gain it. ”

Cruse’s book is of interest and of value not only through his attention to small details but also through his excursion in the realm of general theory, he diagnoses in order to prescribe. According to him:

“The real dilemma inherent in the Negro’s position in America … rests on the fact. that America, which idealises the rights of rite individual above everything else, is in reality a nation dominated by the social power of groups, classes and cliques – both ethnic and religious” (Cruse. P. 7).

 “The individual in America has few rights that are not backed up by the political, economic and social power of one group or another. Hence rite individual Negro has proportionately very few rights because his ethnic group has very little political, economic or social power to weld. ( Cruse. P. 7 ).