The socialist mentality of Dr. Martin Luther King has been slowly whitewashed in the decades following his death. So let’s take a brief moment to remember his dedication to class struggle in the fight against poverty and discrimination.
As man who was a paragon of virtue and justice, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this letter. He understood the value of an image, and used a logo or icon in his words. Today, we continue to use his humble words to create change around the world.
Whereas prior iterations of capitalism widened the distribution of money and goods, for King, America’s broad prosperity masked a bleaker reality, that of the many who could not access basic human needs, and the few who wielded great wealth and power.
Just to stress how this is no exaggeration, take a look at this statement from his 1967 riverside speech: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Where Do We Go From Here, the final project of King’s life, shows that King’s dream included a future of both racial and economic equality. Dr. King believed a nation that “the poor, however, are helpless” and “In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every subsequent American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
After battling for a long time, King concluded that some people had joined the fight for civil rights because it was very little effort from them and gave very little reward in return. For example, King found that many white people were happy to continue driving past the “colored-only” signs even though they didn’t agree with segregation. Business is a lot harder than choosing whether to drive past a sign that says “coloreds only” or not. In those businesses, when one person complains that they have been treated unfairly, then the business has to look at how it can help. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
King was disgusted by the juxtaposition of decadence and destitution in America, and by social justice advocates who sought to end poverty by demanding that the rich grow richer at a slower rate. When quoting social justice advocate Hyman Bookbinder, King wrote that ending poverty in America merely requires demanding that the rich become even richer at a slower rate.
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Looking for some concise takes on leftist concepts? Then Amy is the writer for you! She’s the main coordinator of out Left 101 series and also makes regular contributions to other Red Spectacle projects.