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Socialism Today 134 - December/January 2009-10

Noir fiction… & Michael X

JUST A couple of points on the reviews in Socialism Today No.132. On the article on noir novels, it is interesting the way the books often meshed with the films – not always in ways the authors would have liked.

Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice was made into a film starring John Garfield, a left wing political activist. Although he testified before HUAC (the McCarthyite vehicle at congress) that he was not a Communist Party member, he refused to name names and has written about how he was deserted by many of those who chose to save their own careers at the expense of others. Again, although Micky Spillane was somewhat to the right of Genghis Khan, his Kiss Me Deadly noir novel was turned into the brilliant noir film by Robert Aldrich, influencing many from radical film maker Alex Cox’s Repo Man through to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

On the article on John Lennon, there is a small but significant mistake – probably a typo. Lennon supported and financed not Malcolm X but Michael X. Michael X was a small time gangster, who acted as a bully boy for the notorious rack rent landlord Rachman. He was the champion of black capitalism: the Black House was the culmination of this, being financed by millionaire Nigel Samuel.

Many white liberals flocked to his support, and he became for a while the epitome of liberal chic. His organisation RAAS was also financed by people such as Sammy Davis Jr (who also funded the Black Panthers in the US). Michael also preached racial segregation, being imprisoned at one point for calling for the shooting of any black man seen with a white woman.

Following a series of bizarre episodes, the Black House burned down and Michael X went to the West Indies with, amongst others, Gayle Benson, the daughter of a Tory MP and the ex-girl friend of Hakim Jamal, an American Black Power activist who was eventually bumped off by De Mau Mau, an organisation of Black ex-GIs in America. Jamal was also a lover of Diana Athill, a big wig in the publishing company Andre Deutsch, and it was through her that more funding and support came to RAAS and Michael X. After Benson’s body was found in a shallow grave on Michael X’s property together with another of his group, Michael X was sentenced to death. Despite a world wide campaign against this, involving people such as Lennon, Angela Davis and many others, he was eventually hanged.

In the vacuum created by the absence of a lead on racism and discrimination from the main workers’ organisations, many black workers turned to Michael X for an answer. Yet he never had the mass base of Malcolm X or the Panthers; black capitalism was a blind alley for black workers, and his main financial support came, not from the pennies and pounds of black workers – which was the main funding for the Black Panthers – but from the pockets of vastly rich whites.

Tony Aitman



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