restoring socialist visionary radical martin luther king


(by Anthony Freda)

A good Martin Luther King Day to you all.

On a different thread this week, a number of us had been speaking about the cravenly sanitized, ‘officially sanctioned’ (even ‘sanctified’ version of Dr. King as the ‘good reformist Negro’ that most of us grew up knowing, as opposed to the real MLK.  Oh, yes: we were to love and respect his ‘I have a dream’ speech, but oh, no, not his Riverside Church speech, ‘Beyond Viet Nam: a time to break silence’.  He, of course, spoke of the ways the war had not only stopped the civil rights movement from moving forward, but also the ways in which it moved it backward, and mirrored the struggles of the poor and disenfranchised in this country, both black and white, as he admitted that he couldn’t speak of the moral courage of nonviolent resistance while the poor were so disproportionately being killed by the largest purveyor of violence in the world: the US of A.  Oh, how he feared for America’s moral soul, and how well he expressed the righteous truth of what he saw!

We weren’t encouraged to see him as having such an active third eye, the chakra (energy center) related to the intuitive, the all-seeing stepping out of time and place into The Whole; the gateway to the Mystical and Prophetic…  And yet, that was key to not only who the man was, but key to not only how he saw the immorality of this nation in his time, but the tragedy he saw unfolding in the future, were militarism, racism, and poverty left unchecked.  Yes, Dr. King: you would look at this nation now and cry that we collectively failed to heed your words.

In his last message to the world the day before he was murdered in Memphis, he even prophesied his own death the day before it: “Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”.

Nor were we to understand how truly revolutionary the man really was, even as he called for ‘a True Revolution of Values’, and a total restructuring of society.  But I digress.

In another one of those moments of blessed synchronicity, author Paul Street published ‘Remembering the Officially Deleted Dr. King: Trumpet of Conscience’, in which he partially reconstructs five interviews that he did with CBC back in November and December of 1967 that were made into a book he found last summer, ‘The Trumpet of Conscience’.  It’s worth reading all of it, but I’ll snag a few bits for you.  Also of interest is this piece he wrote and published at Black Agenda Report in 2007, The Pale Reflection: Barack Obama, MLK and the Meaning of the Black Revolution’’, which he amplifies in the second half of his ‘Officially Deleted’ post.

Street quotes King in the first talk as having rued the fact that while fractional positive changes had been made for Negroes in the south, none of it translated into better conditions for those in the ghettoes in the north.

‘Worse than merely limited, the gains won by black Americans during what King considered the “first phase” of their freedom struggle (1955-1965) were dangerous in that they “brought whites a sense of completion” – a preposterous impression that the so-called “Negro problem” had been solved and that there was therefore no more basis or justification for further black activism. “When Negroes assertively moved on to ascend to the second rung of the ladder,” King noted, “a firm resistance from the white community developed….In some quarters it was a courteous rejection, in others it was a stinging white backlash. In all quarters unmistakably it was outright resistance’.

When asked about the race riots of 1966 and 1967, King didn’t make any apologies for their violence, but put the onus on “the white power structure…still seeking to keep the walls of segregation and inequality intact” for the disturbances. He believed that the leading cause of the riots was in the reactionary posture of “the white society, unprepared and unwilling to accept radical structural change,” which led to the chaos by telling blacks (whose expectations for substantive change had been aroused) “that they must expect to remain permanently unequal and permanently poor”.

And again he blamed in part the ‘Imperialist murderous war in Viet Nam, and “the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school. We watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit,” adding that he “could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor”.

Would he see the all-volunteer army as all too often acting as a de facto jobs program for the poor now?

In the ‘The White Man Does Not Obey the Law’ talk, he explained more of what he meant, all noteworthy, including, “…he (the white man) violates laws on equal employment and education and the provision of public services. The slums are a handiwork of a vicious system of the white society.”

He’d remarked that to a great degree, any violence and destruction was directed toward the buildings and property of the white power structure, not at people, and said: “Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround with rights and respect, it has no personal being”.

Agree or disagtee, those in the Occupy movement who were in favor of ‘diversity of tactics’ seemed to echo that sentiment, didn’t they?

In ‘The roots are in the system’ talk, Street argues that given that MLK studied Marx when he was young, and believes that ‘the system’ he meant was capitalism as he spoke against the corporate state, agreeing with the New Left Radicals:

“only by structural change can current evils be eliminated, because the roots are in the system rather in man or faulty operations” (p.40). King advocated an emergency national program providing either decent-paying jobs for all or a guaranteed national income “at levels that sustain life in decent circumstances.” He also called tor “demolition of slums and rebuilding by the population that lives in them”

Quoting MLK again: “If humanism is locked outside the system, Negroes will have revealed its inner core of despotism and a far grater struggle for liberation will unfold. The United States is substantially challenged to demonstrate that it can abolish not only the evils of racism but the scourge of poverty and the horrors of war.”

I’d like to quote these paragraphs from Street on the transcript of “They Must Organize a Revolution… Against the Privileged Minority of the Earth”:

‘No careful listener to King’s CBC talks could have missed the radicalism of his vision and tactics. “The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both White and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society,” King said in his fourth lecture. “They must organize a revolution against that injustice,” he added.

Such a revolution would require “more then a statement to the larger society,” more than “street marches” King proclaimed. “There must,” he added, “be a force that interrupts [that society’s] functioning at some key point.” That force would use “mass civil disobedience” to “transmute the deep rage of the ghetto into a constructive and creative force” by “dislocate[ing] the functioning of a society.”

“The storm is rising against the privileged minority of the earth,” King added for good measure. “The storm will not abate until [there is a] just distribution of the fruits of the earth…” (p. 17). As this reference to the entire earth suggested, the “massive, active, nonviolent resistance to the evils of the modern system” (p. 48) that King advocated was “international in scope,” reflecting the fact that “the poor countries are poor primarily because [rich Western nations] have exploited them through political or economic colonialism. Americans in particular must help their nation repent of her modern economic imperialism” (p. 62).

In the Trumpet of Conscience you read a democratic socialist mass-disobedience world revolution advocate who the guardians of national memory don’t want you know about when they honor the official, doctrinally imposed memory of King.’

But again, he had also called for a ‘true revolution of values’ the day before he was assassinated.  Parenthetically, both and have posts up about the King family’s civil wrongful death suit and trial alleging that the US government conspired to execute him, if you’d care to read about it.  They won the lawsuit.  I was unaware of the trial, sadly, and I’m sure most of the world was as well.

In the same speech, he quoted the great poet Langston Hughes, ‘that black bard of Harlem’:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Yes, let us take heart in the hope that humanity really is on the cusp of the Revolution of values and higher consciousness deemed crucial by King, and foretold by the Maya and other global Indigenous.  Toward that end, love all those you can, make community with others, even those you don’t particularly care for.  Love and truth are our most worthy weapons in the revolution that we know will be coming sooner or later.  There is a better world possible, and we need to help build it with grace and positive intentions toward justice for all.

 (cross-posted at

19 responses to “restoring socialist visionary radical martin luther king

  1. As opposed to actual BS (Bush Shadow; NOT Martin’s “pale reflection”) DESPOTUS 0bama, I for one endorse Dr. King’s call for ‘grater struggle for liberation’ and to such ends, say; MLK, WAY! (BHO, NO.)! I now go to let my bell of freedom ring.

  2. Very appropriate read, I soak in the reminders of my deep feelings about Dr King today. Thanks for a substantial piece for contemplation and reflection, always needed, which is what this anniversary usually stirs me to indulge in.

  3. oh, bruce; what a wonderful addition! let freedom ring, indeed. damn, i was in love forever with mary travers… since i was ten, i believe. thank you, and yes, street’s piece outraged by obomba was well done. but didn’t his election prove that this is a post-racial society? gads.

  4. welcome, nonquixote, and let me apologize for not including the blue bit i just added in edit concerning his prophesying his own death. that was one of the things about him that can almost make me believe in god. :)

    and thank you for reading and contemplating, as well.

  5. for posterity, a few new links:
    Is This Any Way to Remember MLK?
    Racism is alive and well in America. So why is the new voting rights act so weak?

    Obama to meet Pope Francis at Vatican
    Julian Pecquet – 01/21/14 07:54 AM EST
    Discussions will center on “fighting poverty and growing inequality,” the White House said.

    Norman Pollack’s ‘Systemic Foundations of American Capitalism’ essentially boils down to these observations:

    “Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his class-inspired Poor People’s Campaign would seem now faintly anachronistic (although deeply courageous and necessary for his time), so far down the road has America traveled since in both the domestic if silent exploitation of all working people—evidenced by unemployment, wage stagnation, household debt, mortgage foreclosures—and a foreign policy of belligerence,, market penetration, and, yes, imperialism in its many guises, now including the blanket surveillance of the globe.” (and inequality needing to be THE touchstone is all societal criticism)
    “My point, simply, is that inequality permeates the social system, taking multiple forms, themselves integrated, because the essential capital-accumulation process requires invidious distinctions, actualized in terms of power arrangements, across the board. Savaging the social safety net, cushioning the profits of JPMorgan Chase, targeted assassination in Yemen, a resurgence ofracism, anti-immigrant feeling, gender discrimination in all its phases, a half-trillion dollar military budget in the next go-around, all of these form constituents—along with much else—in the systemic organization of inequality.”

    Brian Trautman’s ‘The Martin Luther King, Jr. You May Not Know:More than a Civil Rights Leader’

    “Perhaps they (most folks) even know a thing or two about his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Birmingham Campaign. This knowledge by and large derives from compulsory education and mainstream media. It is significantly less likely, however, that very many Americans know much at all, if anything, about King’s radical and controversial activities related to the issues of poverty and militarism, particularly the latter. The reasons underlying the public’s lack of awareness on King’s work in these areas is a subject for another time.

    King highlighted three primary forms of violence, oppression and injustice in American society and across the world: poverty, racism and militarism. He referred to these as the “triple evils,” and considered them to be interrelated problems, existing in a vicious and intractable cycle, and standing as formidable barriers to achieving the Beloved Community, a brotherly society built upon and nurtured by love, nonviolence, peace and justice. King posited that when we resisted any one evil, we in turn weakened all evils, but that a measurable and lasting impact would require us to address all three concurrently.”

  6. “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” And I had never before known that it was epitomized by MLK’s “Beloved Community”, which says It ALL. Thank you.

  7. a couple other potions i liked from his riverside church speech were:

    “As Arnold Toynbee says :
    “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

    As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

    Once to every man and nation
    Comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth and falsehood,
    For the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
    Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever
    Twixt that darkness and that light.
    Though the cause of evil prosper,
    Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold,
    And upon the throne be wrong:
    Yet that scaffold sways the future,
    And behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow
    Keeping watch above his own.”

    the metaphor stretches quite widely, of course, past boundaries of individual faiths, beliefs, tra la la. his quotes on forgiveness are hard for me, i’ll admit, but worth…contemplating and attempting when we can.

    but yes, he was all about the love, and about truth, both of which we need more now than even in his day. i read some quotes of a talk he gave to the mennonites that showed that again, and i did like this page about mlk and buddhism, too. our nation has already ceded its moral and spiritual soul, so spiritual awakening will be the key, imo.

    so often i remember buffy’s line: love junkies want to change the world, it quickly stays the same… :)

    can we get to the mountaintop? we sure do hope so…

  8. Tavis Smiley, part one The Vietnam speech (sponsored by Wal-Mart) just aired, short interviews with some of the people who were with Martin. Part 2 on Wednesday.

    Having a cuppa tea, Bill Gates on Charlie Rose talking about why there are poor people and the progress they are making. Bill, “Oxfam,” numbers make the rich look bad and don’t really reflect reality, redistribution not really get the world moving to a better place.”

    Nighters. Beautiful Dreams

  9. Well, since This IS the promised land (if it would justly live up to Its PROMISES), I’m for a reunion of the tribes from each respective “Love City” into the Beloved Community We DESERVE;

  10. ha! gates on rose sounds like there could be a great rush transcript in there, unless one wouldn’t be able to *improve* on what he said, of course. i looked, and it’s not on youtube yet, nor on rose’s site. i’d seen a headline at the guardian announcing ‘this is what makes bill and melinda gates crazy’ (or close, went back later to check it out, and i couldn’t find it, even with a general search. rats; it may have been fun.

    i yam trying to discover some goodies from davos, though. :)

  11. my goodness, bruce; i’m sure i’ve never heard that song before, and not even the album title is familiar. i’ll need to check it out, how many decades later? thank you. i guess this was supposed to be a promised land, not just the one promised by abraham to his sons…or something. but to springstein, mmm-hmmm. (with clarence)

  12. Even our Irish sisters still believe in We PEOPLE and our Land’s PROMISE and powerfully remind US of our heritage Opposing TYRANTS

    (and from our brothers there as well, comes savage-beast soothing song via the caressing breezes of Shannon)

    The trustworthy tribes are truly world-wide.

  13. my stars, clare daly was righteous! pitch perfect, and hoo, did she nail the truth!
    what a contrast: i’ve been working on a post about davos, and the oligopoly’s promise to ‘reshape the world’, lol. (again? still?) can i export the video to my.fdl if an opportunity arises?

    yes, soothing song of shannon breezes, indeed. thank you, dear.

  14. jbade’s already got it at firebaggers’; but not the soothing Gary counterpoint.

  15. > but to springstein, mmm-hmmm. (with clarence)

    For the record (and the CD), I never did play with Springsteen.

  16. lol, uncle. when i read your comment in email, i wondered wth? now i get it. thought you may have meant that you didn’t mmm-hmmm care for da boss, or something more scatalogical, of course.

  17. I meant I never played guitar with his band.

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