Was the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. a Communist?

The late, great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.was one of the most significant political and spiritual figures of the 20th century. His inspirational leadership, oratory, and profession of non-violence may very well have saved this nation from an all out race war at a time when violence was being fomented by such figures as Malcolm X and radical communists. I support the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday because it has become a day of reflection and pride for African-Americans.

While King himself was not a communist, he did business with communists and was influenced by them. This delicate subject, made more so given the martyrdom and subsequent lionization of King, should nevertheless be broached as a means of providing insight into some of the darker forces that worked their way into what was essentially a pro American, conservative, Christian civil rights movement.

King surrounded himself with communists from the beginning of his career. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957 and led by King, had Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as Vice President who was at the same time president of the Southern Conference Education Fund, an identified communist front according to the Legislative Committee on un-American Activities, Louisiana (Report April 13, 1964 pp. 31-38). The field director of SCEF was Carl Braden, a known communist agitator who was also involved in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which counted Lee Harvey Oswald, the communist assassin of President Kennedy as a member. King maintained regular correspondence with Carl Braden. Bayard Rustin, a known communist, was also on the board of SCLC.

Dr. King addressed the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., 1957, previously known as the Commonwealth College until the House Committee on un-American Activities sited it as a communist front (April 27, 1949). HCAA found that Commonwealth was using religion as a way to infiltrate the African-American community by, among other techniques, comparing New Testament texts to those of Karl Marx. King knew many communists associated with the Highlander school.

King hired communist official Hunter Pitts O’Dell, 1960, at the SCLC. The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported (Oct. 26, 1962) “A Communist has infiltrated the top administrative post in the Rev. Martin Luther King’s SCLC. He is Jack H. O’Dell, acting executive director of conference activities in the southeastern states including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.” Dr. King fired O’Dell when this became public but subsequently rehired him to head the SCLC New York office.

King was often praised by communists and promoted by fellow travelers. Communist official Benjamin J. Davis, in the Worker (Nov. 10, 1963) described King as “a brilliant and practical leader who articulates the philosophy of the Negro people, for direct non-violent mass action.” The Worker described King as “The foremost advocate of the solution of social problems through nonviolent methods of mass action.”

King himself expresses a communist outlook in his book “Stride Toward Freedom” when he stated, “in spite of the shortcomings of his analysis, Marx had raised some basic questions. I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, and my reading of Marx made me even more conscious of this gulf. Although modern American capitalism has greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. Moreover, Marx had revealed the danger of the profit motive as the sole basis of an economic system”

King, unfortunately, didn’t understand that it was Capitalism and freedom that was responsible for the successes the African-American community already had achieved in his day and the key to future success. By “better distribution of wealth” King meant state control over the economy. His contempt for “the profit motive” was unfortunate given that African-Americans should’ve been encouraged by their leaders to seek fair profit to the best of their ability. King’s leftist ideas contributed to an opening of the floodgates to such radicals as Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, the Black Panthers, as well as the burning and looting of African-American neighborhoods, the institutionalizing of poverty perpetrating welfare, the destruction of the family, drugs, violence, racism, and crime.

In “Stride Toward Freedom” Dr. King states that “In short, I read Marx as I read all of the influential historical thinkers ­ from a dialectical point of view, combining a partial yea and a partial noMy readings of Marx convinced me that truth is found neither in Marxism nor in traditional capitalism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically capitalism failed to see truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterpriseThe Kingdom of G-d is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.”

King, like Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, had “a dialectical point of view.” The goal of the dialectic is authoritarianism. A nation, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, cannot be half free and half slave. By advocating socialism, King chose an imperious stand toward his own people in contrast to a stand for genuine freedom, self-rule, self-sufficiency, private ownership, and the accumulation of capital. King did not advocate the American system of free market capitalism. Instead, he stood for a system that has stunted the growth of African-Americans as well as the rest of us.

While Martin Luther King Day should be one of reflection and appreciation for what has been accomplished, and a reckoning of what still needs to be done, it should also be a day of understanding, in terms clear of emotionally driven rhetoric, where the civil rights movement went wrong. A major key to this understanding, I would contend, is the destructive effects that communist ideas and outright infiltration has had on the African-American community. Communists tried to use African-Americans as cannon fodder by stoking hatred and racial division. A predominantly white left-wing establishment promoted Black communists in order to preserve an informal system of oppression.

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