Date: Thu, 16 Jan 97 19:53:24 CST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peoples Weekly World)
Subject: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Organization: Scott Marshall
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—‘We must get on the side of revolution’
By Tim Wheeler, People's Weekly World, 18 January 1997
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Riverside Church speech in New York City denouncing the Vietnam War. He delivered it on April 4, 1967.
The speech was a powerful blow against Cold War anti- Communism, a poison that still seeps in the body-politic as evidenced in an op ed piece in the Dec. 18 New York Times by Denton L. Watson, a former spokesperson for the NAACP. Watson, defending Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall against charges that he was an FBI informant, opined that the FBI was right to spy on the civil rights movement to keep out the Communists. Watson described Communists as a "fifth column," lingo drawn directly from the lexicon of late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Watson surely knows that under cover of combating Communists, the FBI was conducting a vicious COINTELPRO dirty tricks campaign against Dr. King. At root, the FBI's aim was to destroy the civil rights movement and short of that, to drive a wedge between the greatest democratic movements of that era - the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Part of that covert operation was slapping a gag rule on Black leaders. They were not to speak out on foreign policy controversies on pain of being branded "disloyal."
King knew, respected, and worked with Communists including members of the Communist Party USA. He was an admirer of Ben Davis, a fellow native of Atlanta who was elected "the first Communist Councilman from Harlem." He certainly admired William L. Patterson, a Communist leader nicknamed "Mr. Civil Rights."
Patterson was the founder and leader of the Civil Rights Congress who together with Paul Robeson filed the famous "We Charge Genocide" petition with the United Nations in 1951. That petition cited the U.S. government for crimes against humanity and bolstered it with the record of thousands of lynchings of Black men as well as presenting data on the inflated infant mortality rates and death rates inflicted on the African American people by systematic segregation and discrimination.
When King spoke in New York City on Feb. 23, 1968 at the hundredth anniversary of W.E.B. Du Bois' birth, he strongly defended Du Bois' decision to join the Communist Party USA.
King's attitude toward the Party is well-documented in "Parting the Waters," the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Taylor Branch. "Although King largely rejected Communist doctrine," Branch writes, "he never wavered in support of the victims of McCarthyism or in his sympathy with Communist advocacy for the oppressed. He also gave the American Communists enormous credit for their record on the race issue."
King would not be intimidated. He told the crowd at Riverside Church that evening, "I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama, where I began my pastorate, leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight ... I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
Black, Brown and white GIs were being sent to die in Vietnam in the name of freedoms denied them at home, King charged. He spoke of vets who challenged his doctrine of non- violence. "But they asked ... what about Vietnam? ... I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government."
King demolished the anti-Communist lies used to justify the Vietnam War. "For nine years," he charged, "we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence ... we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam."
The people of Vietnam, he continued, "watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops ... So far, we may have killed a million of them, mostly children."
He described Vietnam's Communist leaders, including Ho Chi Minh, as patriots who organized the resistance to French and Japanese colonialism only to be betrayed by the U.S. who sabotaged the Geneva Agreement of 1954. King called on every person of conscience to protest the war.
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on social uplift is approaching spiritual death," said Dr. King.
"These are revolutionary times." All over the world, he said, the people are revolting against
"old systems of exploitation and oppression ... The shirtless and the barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. We in the West must support these revolutions ... It is a sad fact that because of ... a morbid fear of Communism the Western nations ... have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. 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."
Exactly one year after delivering that speech, King was assassinated in Memphis while leading a solidarity movement with striking sanitation workers. King, like Malcolm X and President John F. Kennedy, was despised by Hoover and there is ample grounds to believe these leaders were all murdered with the connivance of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Dr. King was not a Communist but he was a revolutionary. The Riverside speech is a critique of the exploitive, profit- greedy, warlike character of the existing social system and a call to replace it with one based on peace and equality. The speech was a clarion call for unity and a rejection of all that divides and diverts from that "barefoot revolution," racism and anti-communism first of all.
Peoples Weekly World
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