Here is a June 12, 1963 debate between Malcolm X, Wyatt Tee Walker, Allan Morrison, and James Farmer on the best tactics to get full equality for African Americans in the United States. These 4 men were exemplary leaders who came to the human rights struggles of the black community from very different perspectives. Malcolm X at that time was an American Muslim minister for the Nation of Islam and promoted black empowerment and self sufficiency from the wider white society. Wyatt Tee Walker was chief of staff for Martin Luther King, Jr., a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was involved in formulating tactics in several of the civil rights protests in the South in the early 1960s. Allan Morrison was the editor of Ebony magazine, an important publication that promoted civil rights and the contributions of black artists. James Farmer was the co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and he organized the 1961 Freedom Rides as well as other civil rights campaigns.
During the debate, these 4 leaders discussed issues that every social justice movement deals with: whether to pursue pragmatic reforms or political revolution; the tensions between compromise versus ideological purity; whether one should pursue incremental victories within the system or pursue radical change outside the system.
After 1963, all of these men faced great changes in their thinking. Malcolm X had a falling out with the Nation of Islam and apologized for his anti-white statements after taking a trip to Mecca and seeing whites treat him without racism. Though Malcolm X never accepted the nonviolence philosophy of the Southern civil rights movement, he grew to respect them and saw the need for building coalitions in support of the wider fight for human rights. .At the end of this video, James Farmer and Wyatt Tee Walker reflected on the debate in 1993 and both said that they adopted Malcolm’s ideas on empowerment, the need to lift black self-eseem and the insight that political equality is linked with economic justice.
Any social justice movement that claims to be fighting for democracy will have its debates between the reformers within the system and the radicals outside the system. Though they are often arguing amongst themselves on tactics, social change is not possible without both reformers and radicals.