On MLK Day, Struggle for a New World wishes to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. The Dr. King we commemorate today is not the sanitized King taught in bourgeois history books and celebrated by liberals as a man who wanted nothing more than nonviolence and integration. The King we commemorate is the militant struggler for the rights of the Afro-American people and all oppressed peoples, the fighter for justice for all of the oppressed and exploited.
Although he started his career as a civil rights leader as a heroic but ordinary representative of the Afro-American petty bourgeoisie within the Black Belt and pursued tactics and aims in consistency with this background, as the Afro-American masses moved from a nonviolent struggle for integration to a militant struggle for Black power, King advanced with them. In consistency with his pacifist beliefs, he opposed US imperialism’s bloody and genocidal war in Vietnam and condemned the US empire as “the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.” He denounced the ills of poverty at home and at the time of his death he was organizing a countrywide Poor People’s Campaign. Indeed, King was assassinated while he was in Memphis showing solidarity with an illegal strike of mostly Afro-American sanitation workers. He denounced the ills of capitalism and posed a growing threat to the stability of the US state. He even denounced the time US imperialism swindled the Afro-American people out of their 40 acres and a mule in the aftermath of the Civil War while giving out free, stolen land to white settlers in the West. And so, for all of this, he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, by a conspiracy of the US state.
Dr. King was assassinated for two reasons. The first was to rid the US state of a dangerous enemy, and the second was to get him out of the way so he could be transformed into the sanitized memory he is today, the peaceful sycophant brought out whenever necessary to attack those strugglers who continue in his footsteps. To quote Vladimir Lenin,
“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.” (The State and the Revolution, chapter 1).
This is the sort of treatment Dr. King has received and the sort of King that is celebrated in death in tweets from the FBI, the very same organization that in life tried to hound him into committing suicide and probably shot him. That is also the King whose memory we reject.
After Dr. King’s assassination, the Afro-American people rose up rebellion. Ghettoes across the US burned with the rage and the fury of the masses who sought revenge for his murder. They found their vengeance and are still finding it as they continue Dr. King’s struggle for Black freedom and freedom and justice for all oppressed peoples. It is to that struggle that we, on MLK day, commit to and the legacy we continue.