Muhammad Ali: Not for Pig Consumption
Twin banes of white supremacy.

During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred, and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their deaths, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names, to a certain extent, for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes. Lenin – The State and Revolution

Muhammad Ali, in the prime of his life, was a despised man as far as the United States was concerned. He aroused the ire of the white supremacist system when he dared to convert to the Nation of Islam, joining officially in 1964 and changing his name from Cassius Clay to that by which he was known for the majority of his life. He had been attending Nation of Islam meetings for much longer, beginning in 1961, and was frequently in the company of Malcolm X. When he officially changed his name, only a few commentators honored his right to do so, the overwhelming majority continued to call him by his dead slave name. In the mid 1960s, joining the Nation of Islam was, fundamentally, a revolutionary, anti-American act. Of course, the organization was rife with issues from the start, being founded by a traveling rug salesman of dubious background who began propagating a bizarre theology that claimed that the Earth was trillions of years old, that Europeans were literally descended from the products of a science experiment gone wrong, and that Africans were the true founders of civilizations in China, Japan, and the Americas. Of course, this type of thing objectively isn’t any more bizarre than some of the things that the Mormons believe. Elijah Muhammad was also eventually outed as a hypocrite, having children and sexual liaisons with several of his secretaries, a direct contradiction to the standards of conduct for NoI members. Issues and all, this organization was, to the broad masses of black people in cities such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, one that gave them a sense of cultural pride and helped give voice to and express the deepest feelings that come from centuries of oppression and exploitation. The Nation of Islam acquired its prestige mainly through the presence of the revolutionary and ever so brilliantly blunt Malcolm X, who inspired millions of black people, including the soon to be founders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (who worked as a security detail for widow Betty Shabazz when she visited San Francisco), to take militant action and work actively against and struggle against the United States, first at home and, as the US imperialist project in Southeast Asia heated up, abroad as well. Millions of black people realized that the enemy was at home, not abroad. One of these millions was Ali.
Ali and Malcolm among the people

“You headin’ for jail. You headin’ straight for jail.” I turn and an old white woman is standing behind me, waving a miniature American flag. “You goin’ straight to jail. You ain’t no champ no more. You ain’t never gonna be champ no more. You get down on your knees and beg forgiveness from God!” she shouts in a raspy tone…”My son’s in Viet Nam, and you no better’n he is. He’s there fightin’ and you here safe. I hope you rot in jail. I hope they throw away the key.” – Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

Muhammad Ali was called to put his black body and soul on the line in the pig war in Vietnam in 1967 (having filed conscientious status the previous year), and on April 28th of that year, refused 3 times to step forward when his name was called at the induction center. He was warned that he was committing a felony punishable by a harsh prison sentence and fine, yet still refused to go. That day saw him stripped of his title and banned from the ring. Death threats poured in, and the ire that had been simmering exploded into full blown rage. He refused to fight in the war not because he was selfishly afraid of death, but because, in his own words,

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people or some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality, and rape and kill my mother and father. Why would I want to—shoot them for what? I got to go shoot them, those little poor little black people, little babies and children, women; how can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

This was not a selfish act, it was an anti-imperialist act. Ali united with the people of Vietnam in their heroic struggle for national liberation, reunification of their country, and the expulsion of the American imperialists and their corrupt South Vietnamese running dogs from the country. He went further, expressing his intention to go to prison for his refusal to kill those who were waging a righteous struggle. To this day, he has great prestige and standing among the people of Vietnam. He appealed the pigs’ decisions and struggled for his right to make his living and eventually won in 1971, and continued to put forth anti-imperialist positions and popularize them with his celebrity and his prestige among the masses of black people. He visited Palestinian refugee camps and pledged support to the liberation struggle against the Zionists. He visited several countries in Africa, claiming them as his true home and denouncing and cursing the United States. All in all, Ali told the US to go fuck itself in various ways. He was the people, not the pig. His stand inspired thousands of others to stay right here in the US and struggle from within all throughout the 1960s. He didn’t go to the pig war, and he didn’t flee to Canada like the wealthy petty-bourgeois LSD and peyote mushroom crowd did out of selfishness. Not wanting to fight in a war doesn’t necessarily mean anti-imperialism or correct politics, this was confirmed by the New York Draft Riots of 1863.
The devout Muslim and servant of the people

When Ali died Friday, the bourgeois media, politicians, and other such hacks spun into overdrive, claiming him for the USA. Donald Trump claimed him, Chris Hayes and his ilk started yammering about how Ali “transcended race”, whatever the hell that means, and warlord Obama, the man who kills Ali’s brothers and sisters in faith the world over, praised him. This is par for the course, but this recuperation, frankly, isn’t working, at least not in the minds of the masses of people of the whole world. The Vietnamese still love him. Unlike Martin Luther King, who was in life despised and relentlessly psychologically tortured by the FBI, but played by the LBJ era White House as a sort of “lesser evil” compared to people like Malcolm X and Huey Newton, Ali was a brash, bold, resolutely and firmly anti-American figure. He wasn’t a Baptist pastor, didn’t have a college degree, never mind a PhD, and was willing to go to jail for telling America to fuck itself and hoping the Vietcong won the war. He wasn’t a man of peace, he beat people up for a living. He didn’t transcend race, he went to Africa and claimed it as his own and threw in his lot with the struggling black and brown masses of the whole world. He wasn’t a “good American”, he spent several years as a member of an organization that wished for the demise of America. He insulted and demeaned America’s allies and embraced and was warmly received by its enemies. Ali didn’t eat pigs in life, and pigs won’t eat him in death. That’s how he would have wanted it. He wrote this poem for his brothers dead in the 1971 Attica Prison uprising, and this is how he is best remembered.

Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees

Better than of heart attack
Or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being Black

Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know

Better than the bloody stain
On some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pane

Better calling death to come
Than to die another dumb
Muted victim in the slum

Better than of this prison rot
If there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot

Better far my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Lest it cool with ancient age

Better vowing for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie


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