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Thu Jul 9, 2015, 08:57 AM

The Evolution of Dr. King *Socialist Progressives Group Post*

By the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr was an avowed socialist.
by Lee Sustar ~ 1.19.15 (Lee Sustar is the labor editor for Socialist Worker, where this first appeared)

Virtually every Democratic Party politician, black or white, claims the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Conveniently forgotten is the fact that in the final years of his life, before his assassination in 1968, King broke with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War and the administration’s failure to enforce civil rights legislation in the South. That’s something no Democrats of national stature have been willing to do today.

While the reforms advocated by King for most of his life were mild compared to the demands of the more radical black nationalists, they were nevertheless condemned by the same Democrats who have since tried to turn King into a heroic icon and a symbol of black accommodation to the system.

In order to understand King’s eventual shift to the left, it’s necessary to look at the class struggles that underpinned the civil rights movement and the nature of King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) ...

Much more here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/01/martin-luther-king-socialist/

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Reply The Evolution of Dr. King *Socialist Progressives Group Post* (Original post)
TBF Jul 2015 OP
Starry Messenger Jul 2015 #1
TBF Jul 2015 #2
Starry Messenger Jul 2015 #3

Response to TBF (Original post)

Thu Jul 9, 2015, 09:24 AM

1. I don't think the reforms he called for were mild.

They were quite brave and are still controversial. The south started putting up the CSA flag again in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #1)

Thu Jul 9, 2015, 10:43 AM

2. Mild only in comparison to some of the more

revolutionary socialist groups such as the Black Panthers - definitely. There's a good (and very long) article here that you may have already read - http://www.marxist.com/black-struggle-and-socialist-revolution.htm


This is my favorite quote from the article:

Malcolm X explained, “You cannot have capitalism without racism.” In other words, racial discrimination is a product and component part of capitalism, without which it could not exist. Therefore, the only way to lay the basis for ending racism and discrimination is by ending capitalism.

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Response to TBF (Reply #2)

Thu Jul 9, 2015, 11:06 AM

3. There's an excellent book by Henry Winston

Strategy for a Black Agenda https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/winston/1973/strategy-black-agenda.pdf

I recommend it to a lot of people, it is a little dated since it was written before 1980. He has good chapters on the role of the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King. Winston talks about the role of the working class, but also the necessity to fight for civil rights reform against racism, and the need to have wide mass coalitions to fight against reaction. It not only helps to eliminate social evils that exist because of capitalism and racism, but it trains a multi-class, multi-race force for other struggles.



Another ironic contradiction in the role of many of the new radicals emerged at the end of the Civil Rights Decade: As they lost sight of the historic significance of that period, and more and more heaped abuse on it and its preeminent leader, they became the inadvertent helpmates of the ruling class, whose conscious aim it was and is to distort the meaning of that period to the masses.

It should not be forgotten that for many long decades the ruling class hid the true history of Reconstruction from the people of this country. Now, at a time when the Black liberation movement has forced at least the beginnings of attention to the Reconstruction era, it would indeed be strange if the rhetoric of the pseudo-revolutionaries helped the monopolists conceal the true meaning, the heroism and achievements of the Civil Rights Decade. This must not be allowed to happen.

It is important to understand the meaning of this period, and the vital leadership role in it of Martin Luther King, who came to an awareness of the revolutionary relationship between the fight for rights, for security, for peace and the liberation struggle. Despite their "revolutionary" rhetoric, this is something the pseudo-radicals have failed to comprehend. In rejecting this central meaning of the civil rights struggle, these radicals caricatured the Marxist principles they so often proclaimed.

As Lenin persistently emphasized, the fight for democracy is at the heart of the class struggle. He continually warned against the ideas of those who ignored the connection between the struggle for democracy, national liberation and socialism. In "A Caricature of Marxism," he wrote:

All democracy consists in the proclamation and realization of rights which under capitalism are realizable only to a very small degree and only relatively. But without the proclamation of these rights, without a struggle to introduce them now, immediately, without training the masses in the spirit of this struggle, socialism is impossible, (Collected Work, Vol. 23, p, 74.)
<snip>

According to Stokely Carmichael, "The major mistake made by the exponents of the coalition theory is that they advocate alliances with groups which have never had as their central goal the necessity for the total revamping of society. At bottom, these groups accept the American system and want only—if at all—to make peripheral, marginal reforms in it. Such reforms are inadequate to rid society of racism." (Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton, Black Power, The Politics of Liberation in America, Random House, New York, 1967, pp. 60-61.)

Carmichael is vague about what he means by the "total revamping of society." The only way that can be accomplished is by establishing socialism, which he opposes.


A wise man once said to me that there is no real reason to wait to fix things under capitalism that would also need to be fixed under socialism. Even if socialism were to arise tomorrow, we would still have to enact laws and reforms to affirmatively bring equality to many people who suffer under the present system. It's a process that resonated with me, since it also is a trade-union process.

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