Need Debunking: MLK was a "racial-marxist"

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Hi! This tweet alleges that MLK was a so called "racial-marxist" who opposed meritocracy. He also included a clip from a broader MLK speech to support his allegations:


The clip which was quoted from, in the context of the tweet, was meant to imply that MLK supported redistributing economic wealth and power along explicitly race-based lines, presumably disproportionately to blacks over whites. At least this is my best interpretation as this is most likely an attempt at using an out of context statement to stir up vague red-scare esque fears. One simple way to check these allegations and insinuations is to ask:
  1. What issues was King referring to?
  2. How is he proposing to “redistribute” economic power?
  3. Who is he “redistributing” economic power from/to?
  4. What are the billions of dollars going to be spent on?
I can't seem to find the video or transcript of the specific speech that was clipped from, so I was hoping you guys can help.
 
Specific quote:
External Quote:
MLK began to openly speak this out as he transitioned to phase 2 of the civil rights movement (1968):
"We are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions [of dollars] and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power."
Without inflammatory language, I believe the idea that systemic discrimination has unfairly withheld wealth from black people is commonly held across the left, and the idea that there should be government programs to let that segment of the population catch up. These ideas can be held without questioning capitalism as a whole. Without the premise that African-Americans have been unfairly disadvantaged in the past, the demand to give them more economic power can be made to seem unreasonable, especially if someone believes post-slavery America was a perfect meritocracy.

The Burnetts weren’t the only Black Americans for whom the promise of the GI Bill turned out to be an illusion. Though the bill helped white Americans prosper and accumulate wealth in the postwar years, it didn’t deliver on that promise for veterans of color. In fact, the wide disparity in the bill’s implementation ended up helping drive growing gaps in wealth, education and civil rights between white and Black Americans.

While the GI Bill’s language did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million Black veterans who had bravely served their country during World War II, in segregated ranks.

When lawmakers began drafting the GI Bill in 1944, some Southern Democrats feared that returning Black veterans would use public sympathy for veterans to advocate against Jim Crow laws. To make sure the GI Bill largely benefited white people, the southern Democrats drew on tactics they had previously used to ensure that the New Deal helped as few Black people as possible.

[...]

The original GI Bill ended in July 1956. By that time, nearly 8 million World War II veterans had received education or training, and 4.3 million home loans worth $33 billion had been handed out. But most Black veterans had been left behind. As employment, college attendance and wealth surged for whites, disparities with their Black counterparts not only continued but widened. There was, writes Katznelson, “no greater instrument for widening an already huge racial gap in postwar America than the GI Bill.”

Today, a stark wealth gap between Black and white Americans persists. The median income for white households in 2019 was $76,057, according to the U.S. Census. For Black households, it was $46,073.
 
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Instead, it was 1968, five years after his “I Have a Dream” speech, and now the issue was joblessness and economic deprivation. King was publicizing a new mass mobilization led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a drive known as the Poor People’s Campaign.

[..]

Isserman cites a 1965 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, in which Dr. King said, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”


The Poor People’s Campaign was conceived to create the political pressure required to enact the types of economic changes that Dr. King and his advisors believed were necessary. “It didn’t cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters,” King said during a February 1968 trip to Mississippi, “…but now we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power.” The same month, he announced to reporters demands for a $30 billion annual investment in antipoverty measures, a government commitment to full employment, enactment of a guaranteed income and funding for the construction of 500,000 affordable housing units per year.
 
1. What issues was King referring to?
poverty in the US
2. How is he proposing to “redistribute” economic power?
a $30 billion annual investment in antipoverty measures, a government commitment to full employment, enactment of a guaranteed income and funding for the construction of 500,000 affordable housing units per year.
3. Who is he “redistributing” economic power from/to?
from US taxpayers to poor Americans
4. What are the billions of dollars going to be spent on?
a $30 billion annual investment in antipoverty measures, a government commitment to full employment, enactment of a guaranteed income and funding for the construction of 500,000 affordable housing units per year.
 
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Poor People’s Campaign
Wikipedia has an extensive article on the Poor People's Campaign. From the introduction:
The Poor People's Campaign, or Poor People's March on Washington, was a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. It was organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King's assassination in April 1968. [...]

The Poor People's Campaign was motivated by a desire for economic justice: the idea that all people should have what they need to live. King and the SCLC shifted their focus to these issues after observing that gains in civil rights had not improved the material conditions of life for many African Americans. The Poor People's Campaign was a multiracial effort—including African Americans, European Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans—aimed at alleviating poverty regardless of race.

[...]

By 1968, the War on Poverty seemed like a failure, neglected by a Johnson administration (and Congress) that wanted to focus on the Vietnam War and increasingly saw anti-poverty programs as primarily helping African Americans. The Poor People's Campaign sought to address poverty through income and housing. The campaign would help the poor by dramatizing their needs, uniting all races under the commonality of hardship and presenting a plan to start to a solution. Under the "economic bill of rights," the Poor People's Campaign asked for the federal government to prioritize helping the poor with a $30 billion anti-poverty package that included, among other demands, a commitment to full employment, a guaranteed annual income measure and more low-income housing.
 
According to socialist/communist/Marxist* website Jacobin

External Quote:
Martin Luther King Jr had a rich relationship with socialist politics: he sympathized with but ultimately rejected Marxism, and he settled on a Christian socialism that viewed the struggle against racism and class oppression as fundamentally intertwined.
* Jacobin is actually openly leftist. I am not using it as pejorative.

I vaguely recall he might have moved even from socialism later in life, but I am not sure on that. If I find a source, I will post it, but for now, he was definitely a socialist. "Racial Marxist" seems like a made up term (especially given the source) but perhaps someone well informed can chime in on that.
 
According to socialist/communist/Marxist* website Jacobin
Jakobin about themselves:
External Article: https://jacobin.com/about
Jacobin is a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.

I'm not sure that it's appropriate to label them communist or Marxist.

Your article is interesting. Here are some MLK quotes from it:
https://jacobin.com/2023/04/martin-...sm-class-racial-justice-civil-rights-movement
External Quote:
Our irrational, obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking.
External Quote:
In short, I read Marx as I read all of the influential historical thinkers — from a dialectical point of view, combining a partial yes and a partial no. Insofar as Marx posited a metaphysical materialism, an ethical relativism, and a strangulating totalitarianism, I responded with an unambiguous no; but insofar as he pointed to weaknesses of traditional capitalism, contributed to the growth of a definite self-consciousness in the masses, and challenged the social conscience of the Christian churches, I responded with a definite yes.
Based on this, it'd be wrong to call MLK a Marxist, unless it'd be qualified as "economic Marxist". It's definitely wrong to call him a "racial-Marxist", as that would imply that the African-Americans are supposed to represent the oppressed class in Marx's class system, and MLK never intended that.
 
I'm not sure that it's appropriate to label them communist or Marxist.
Depends on the author there. Some are socialist, some Marxist, and so on.

Example
External Quote:
Marxism Doesn’t Equal “Wokeness.” But If You Oppose Oppression, You Should Be a Marxist.
 
Not really sure why you're marking disagree @Mendel but ok. The founder literally claims it has a Marxist grounding.

Wikipedia
External Quote:
In 2014, Sunkara said that the aim of the magazine was to create a publication which combined resolutely socialist politics with the accessibility of titles such as The Nation and The New Republic.[5] He has also contrasted it to publications associated with small leftist groups, such as the International Socialist Organization's Socialist Worker and International Socialist Review which were oriented towards party members and other revolutionary socialists, seeking a broader audience than those works while still anchoring the magazine in a Marxist perspective.
Vox
External Quote:
Jacobin has six full-time employees (including Sunkara and Meyer), and has lined up a number of high-profile contributors like famed Slovenian Marxist Slavoj Zizek and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The latest issue features an interview with British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) once emailed a Jacobin piece on poverty to every single member of Congress.

...

”It is unapologetic about its interests in political economy and Marxism; it’s completely in-your-face in its style and tone; it has this name, Jacobin, that just seems designed to push people’s buttons,” Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin, a longtime leftist writer who signed on early and is now a contributing editor at Jacobin, says.

...

In this, the magazine takes after a movement known as Analytical Marxism (also known as “No-Bullshit Marxism”) that rose to prominence in the 1980s and tried to turn Marxist theory into a set of social scientific theories that can be rigorously tested.
Interview with the founder [translated]
External Quote:
Jacobin Magazine is now, for the entire space of the critical left, Marxism and anti-capitalism, a point of reference in the English language.
 
Not really sure why you're marking disagree @Mendel but ok.
I've not given a long answer because I think the question of how to label a magazine is a digression which does not advance the topic.
20240116_220659.jpg

The magazine labels itself as socialist. The founder says its audience is "the entire space of the critical left". If you choose the labels "communist" or "Marxist", your description is incomplete; similar to labeling an Indian restaurant as "vegetarian" because they serve tofu dishes (but also meat).

And, for the record, "social democrats" are not socialists.
 
I've not given a long answer because I think the question of how to label a magazine is a digression which does not advance the topic.
View attachment 65364
The magazine labels itself as socialist.
Well, first off, that diagram is wrong, if you follow Marx's definitions. But that's off topic.

The founder says its audience is "the entire space of the critical left". If you choose the labels "communist" or "Marxist", your description is incomplete; similar to labeling an Indian restaurant as "vegetarian" because they serve tofu dishes (but also meat).

And, for the record, "social democrats" are not socialists.

You mean like I wrote?

socialist/communist/Marxist
openly leftist
Depends on the author there. Some are socialist, some Marxist, and so on.

If you're going to try to be pedantic, at least be pedantic about things that were actually said instead of misquoting others. I made it very clear there's a spectrum of leftists there.

And, for the record, "social democrats" are not socialists.
Nobody said they were?

I provided a source that answered OP's questions and you took us off topic with inaccurate pedantry.
 
You mean like I wrote?
Yes.

"socialist/communist/Marxist" designates the smallest intersection in my Venn diagram:
View attachment 65364
But by your own take, the authorship encompasses the biggest circle, making Jacobin a socialist publication—in line with their self-description.

It's by a similar reasoning that calling MLK "marxist" is false, even though MLK admits sharing some ideas with Marx.
 
Yes.

"socialist/communist/Marxist" designates the smallest intersection in my Venn diagram:
View attachment 65364
But by your own take, the authorship encompasses the biggest circle, making Jacobin a socialist publication—in line with their self-description.

It's by a similar reasoning that calling MLK "marxist" is false, even though MLK admits sharing some ideas with Marx.

Using "/" in a list does not mean "intersection of". @FatPhil 's example is great, but we can go even simpler. Do you yell at forms that give a Yes or No option in the form Y/N? Do you think that means Yes AND No? I am absolutely baffled by that take. Like I requested before, please be a pedant only when you understand punctuation marks and semantic meaning. I will spell it out for you again: it means the website has people who identify as any or more of the 3. I even made that clear in my second post.

It's by a similar reasoning that calling MLK "marxist" is false
That is what I said in the first place! You have got to be trolling at this point. I posted the answer to OP's question and you have continuously derailed the thread.
 
@TheNZThrower,
Do we really need to "debunk" what LABELS someone uses about another?
I think in the case where a label is used disingenuously and incorrectly, especially as part of disinformation like the tweet, it is useful to do so. MLK was not a "racial-Marxist" (whatever that means) which helps to shut down the rest of the misinformation. It's another piece in a long list of evidence that the twitter user is just posting BS.
 
Hi! Does anyone have the original full speech from which the MLK clip was taken from?
If it really was given in Mississippi in February 1968, that may not exist.

https://www.crmvet.org/docs/ppcdocs.htm
has the "Statement Announcing Poor People's Campaign, Martin Luther King. December 4, 1967", and it doesn't have these demands.
"Draft: To the President, Congress, and Supreme Court of the United States, Unsigned, assumed to be Dr. King and perhaps others associated with SCLC. February 6, 1968" comes closer:
SmartSelect_20240119-110738_Samsung Notes.jpg

SmartSelect_20240119-111751_Samsung Notes.jpg

SmartSelect_20240119-110825_Samsung Notes.jpg
 
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