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

Further, when Cruse writes that “the readiness of most Black Nationalist trends to lean heavily on the African past and the African image is nothing but a convenient cover-up for an inability to come to terms with the complex demands of the American reality” he himself has failed to come to terms with a sociological reality, viz, the functions of myths for social movements. He fails to see the vitalising significance of ideologies and myths, thus he writes:

“The slogan Black Power was conjured up and used in the manner of a rallying cry. In effect it covers up a defect without having to explain either the basic reasons for it or the flaws in the original strategy” (Cruse, P. 544).

 “Myths”, in the sociological sense, are necessary forces in the struggles for social changes, and through their “energizing function” they consolidate and direct the components of a social movement towards common goals, and often define these goals themselves. If there are no myths like “Black Power”, “Student Power”, “Flower Power”, “Red Power”, etc., (to mention only a few of the most recent ones) there can be no sustained revolutionary movement.

Lastly, a criticism can be made against his conception of integration. He decries the integrationist intellectuals. However, logically speaking, Cruse is no less an “integrationist ” to the extent that his proposed reforms will lead. hopefully, to “integration” by allowing the American system to cope with the disruptive conflicts within. Further, his professed an integrationist stance is based on his reasoning that “Integration is leading to cultural negation” (p. 83). But is it, one may ask, the concept of integration per se which has this effect, or is it the type of social and political system in which the idea operates? His incorrect deductive reasoning claims that:

“This deracination (of Harlem) happens to coincide with the Northern Negroes highest gains in integration. Integration is thus leading to cultural negation” (Cruse, P. 85).

Here he fails to see that mere coincidence or correlations, says nothing about the causation process. Further, the “deracination of culture” that Cruse has in mind is the Bourgeois culture of the theatre and not the folk culture of the Negro populace which was forcefully torn away from them by the imperatives of a Capitalist slavery system. We can also point to the Iberian slavery cultures in the West Indies where a higher level of “integration” coincide with a greater amount of, and tolerance for, African cultural forms now known as “African survivals”.

Despite the repetitive nature of the book and other weaknesses in its format, plus its pedantic nature, we are forced to give the author due credit for recognising both the overt and covert inconsistencies in the ideologies of the Black movement, and that we need a firm historical grasp of our past (especially of our past leaders”), in order to cope with the present. He is also the anti-formalist analyst of the “modem” Machiavellian tradition who follows the dictum of Ostrogorski that a social scientist must study social “forces” rather than mere “forms”, tills accounts for Cruse’s scepticism and lack of faith in the “Great American Dream” and the “Democratic American Constitution”. (Here he differs from other critics of American society, like Miller, who still believes and have faith in the “Great American Dream”).

Unfortunately, Cruse advocates ghetto Socialism not as an absolute moral principle of social organisation, but only as a last resort, as the only practical means to ghetto rehabilitation. Again and again his own local particularism cuts across the internationalist ideal of Socialism. He claims that:

“Every Pan-Africanist trend of the twentieth century, including Garvey had its roots in the nineteenth century American Negro trends. The radical elements in these nineteenth century trends were not -Marxian, but native American, in essence. “(Cruse, P. I 29).

This self-same reactive negro nationalism would not allow him to see, and admit, as docs Lou Goldbert that:

“Jewish support for certain organisations such as the NAACP was invaluable Jewish predominance in the important communications media (such as T. V.) of the 1950’s and the onslaught of Social Science research directed against racism by Jewish scholars provided a framework within which a whole generation of North American Society s leadership has been educated and influenced, It is difficult to see how the present movement for black liberation would have been possible if it had not been for the impact of Jews on the orientation of cultural and educational institutions and the general support which the black movement received from Jews in its earlier periods.”

No narrowness of outlook should blind us to the fact that the Jews, the American Negroes and the West Indian Negroes all share a common experience of degradation and suffering. Though, admittedly the suffering of the Jews is now largely a thing of the past; and though there have always been conflicts and intra-group rivalries between the three groups, Cruse has not demonstrated in this well written book why we should not strive to restore the dignity and harmonious relationship of all men, in all places, and at all times.