NOI demographics

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Feb 27 06:03:25 MST 1996


Clarence Lusane's report on the MMM on Washington was basically positive,
wasn't it? I think he and the Howard University researchers got closer to
the truth through their questionnaires than Adolph Reed who tended to
focus exclusively on what was being heard from the podium.

I am by surprised by the assertion that the NOI is middle-class. I guess
the organization has evolved from what it was in the 1960s when it had
the reputation of drawing the underclass of the black community.

We should, however, avoid the temptation to adopt Michael Mann's Weberian
use of class that he put forward in his analysis of Nazi party
membership. I probably asked the wrong question myself when I challenged
Doug on the class composition of the NOI.

The real question has to do with the dynamics of a particular class in
history. In Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, the middle-class felt
squeezed by both the big bourgeoisie and the working-class. This was a
time of complete economic collapse. The shopkeepers and farmers were
desperate and actually sought revolutionary change even if they couldn't
articulate a program.

Hitler's "anticapitalist" program wooed the middle-class but, in the
final analysis, served the interests of the big bourgeoisie.

Returning to the NOI, the evidence is not of a fascist movement composed
of desperate shopkeepers. It is a political/religious formation that
seeks more than anything to build up a base for small-scale black
capitalism. It would have more in common with Booker T. Washington than
Hitler's brown-shirts, wouldn't it?


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