In April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an eloquent and stirring denunciation of the Vietnam War and US militarism. The speech titled “Beyond Vietnam” is relevant to today’s war in Ukraine. In the speech at Riverside Church, King talked about how the US had supported France in trying to re-colonize Vietnam. He noted, “Before the end of the war we were meeting 80% of the French war costs.” When France began to despair in the war, “We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war.” King went on to recall that after the French finally left Vietnam, the United States prevented implementation of the Geneva Accord which would have allowed Ho Chi Minh to unite the divided country. Instead, the US supported its preferred South Vietnamese dictator. The U.S. has played a similar role in blocking compromise solutions and international agreements to the Ukraine conflict.
Martin Luther King Jr
“We are here, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said co-executive director of The People’s Forum, Claudia De La Cruz, to a crowd of hundreds gathered in Times Square, in front of the US Army Recruiting Station, on January 14. “We are here to reclaim his legacy and say: no to war.” The organizers and workers mobilized to demand an end to NATO and a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The rally and march was organized by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, a US anti-war organization, and the People’s Forum. Activists raised slogans to demand a peaceful resolution of the war through negotiations rather than continued US weapons funding. Banners read “Money for our needs/Not the war machine” and “No to NATO/Yes to peace”.
In an effort to "create an economy of full employment for all regardless of race, gender, or religion," 10 leading U.S. economic advocacy groups on Monday launched a new campaign calling for a federally subsidized jobs program targeting communities plagued by high unemployment. The Full Employment for All campaign is timed to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and the 60th anniversary year of King's "I Have a Dream Speech." Just as King's indictments of U.S. capitalism and militarism are often overlooked, omitted, or overshadowed by his civil rights work, the full name and purpose of the August 1963 demonstration—the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—have been eclipsed by the iconic speech he delivered there. A year before his April 1968 assassination—which happened while he was supporting striking Black Memphis sanitation workers—King wrote that "we must create full employment or we must create incomes."
In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Clearing the FOG brought back an interview from ten years ago with Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic and Human Rights Campaign and Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute. The program is centered on Dr. King's speech before the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967, "Where Do We Go From Here?" The guests, along with co-host Kevin Zeese discuss the current economic challenges and efforts to bring transformation at the local and national levels. That conversation is relevant today as we continue to face multiple crises, including climate chaos, the pandemic and a global war. King's warning that it is the system that must be changed reminds us of the important task at hand.
“You are done. There is only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.” That’s the shocking ending to the infamous letter Civil Rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received in 1964 essentially urging him to commit suicide. The letter and accompanying package containing blackmail were sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as King quickly caught on. While the full, unredacted letter was finally published by the New York Times in 2014, the audio recordings of an extensive FBI wiretapping operation targeting King have been sealed until 2027. With just a few years left before they come to light, director Sam Pollard did a deep dive into the FBI’s surveillance of MLK under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover in his documentary “MLK / FBI,” released by IFC Films earlier this month.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. so correctly reminded us, the U.S. is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Since WWII, the US has initiated more than 60 military interventions in foreign countries. The US/NATO proxy war in Ukraine, whose origins reside in the 2014 US-backed-fascist led coup that replaced the elected Ukrainian government, brings the US in direct confrontation with a major nuclear power as does the U.S. provocation against China over Taiwan.
Rev. William Barber, an indisputable champion of the poor and a consistent voice demanding an end to poverty, may have made a serious moral and ethical error that effectively placed him outside of the “Kingian” framework that informed Dr. King’s work especially during the last year of his life. In an attempt to make a point about the flawed priorities of the duopoly, Dr. Barber wrote in an email to the “movement family” on Saturday, April 30, 2022 that, “despite the political gridlock on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats have acted swiftly to approve historic military aid to Ukraine. In the face of such a moral imperative, it would be anathema for either party to ask, “How are we going to pay for it?”
On April 4, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most significant speeches of his career. In “Beyond Vietnam - Time to Break Silence ” King declared his unequivocal opposition to the war in Vietnam. His very public break with Lyndon Johnson was greeted with derision, including from his own allies, who believed that the president was an ally who should not be attacked. The NAACP board passed a resolution calling King’s statement a “serious tactical mistake” that would neither “serve the cause of civil rights nor of peace.” The media joined in the condemnation, with the New York Times characterizing his comments as “facile” and “slander.” Even Black newspapers such as The Pittsburgh Courier judged his remarks to be “tragically misleading.”
This is the first installment of the series, "Reclaiming History from the Revisionists". In this episode we take a closer look at an often suppressed aspect of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many throughout mainstream US society do they best, year after year, to suppress the revolutionary and radical aspects of MLK. They don't want youth to know why the United States government vilified and targeted this man. The do this, in part, to prevent others from following in the enormous footsteps of this social justice giant. We must do our part to expose this often untaught history to as many as we can, especially the youth. A brighter and better future depend on it.
It was appropriate today, as we mark the national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, to re-read ‘A Time to Break the Silence,’ his most powerful speech, given on April 4, 1967, just a year before his tragic murder in Memphis. It is a speech that stands the test of time; much of it is as relevant today as it was in 1967, when war was raging in Vietnam. I would urge people to read or listen (link above) to that profound and prophetic speech in its entirety. He said, “There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.” With climate catastrophe and nuclear madness moving at a rapid rate towards a potential apocalypse for all humanity, King’s words resonate with, as he said, “the fierce urgency of now.”
We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day not only to commemorate King’s historic role in overcoming racism and other injustice, but because his work and vision remain relevant. Today’s persistent racism in policing, health care, housing, and elsewhere, and attacks on voting rights — particularly for Black Americans — show that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not just about the past or the South. King got arrested in Alabama. He marched in Chicago. He spoke truth to power in Washington. He worked with countless activists and ordinary people to take action that transformed the Jim Crow South and impacted this whole country. But his outlook went well beyond our borders. Martin Luther King was an internationalist.
In 2004, journalist Ron Susskind quoted a Bush White House advisor, reportedly Karl Rove, as boasting, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” He dismissed Susskind’s assumption that public policy must be rooted in “the reality-based community.” “We’re history’s actors,” the advisor told him, “…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Sixteen years later, the American wars and war crimes launched by the Bush administration have only spread chaos and violence far and wide, and this historic conjunction of criminality and failure has predictably undermined America’s international power and authority.
“You are done. There is only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.” That’s the shocking ending to the infamous letter Civil Rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received in 1964 essentially urging him to commit suicide. The letter and accompanying package containing blackmail were sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as King quickly caught on. While the full, unredacted letter was finally published by the New York Times in 2014, the audio recordings of an extensive FBI wiretapping operation targeting King have been sealed until 2027.
In a posthumously published essay, Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out that the “black revolution” had gone beyond the “rights of Negroes.” The struggle, he said, is “forcing America to face all of its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.” But it had not started out that way. Over the course of a decade, the black struggle opened up a deeper interrogation of U.S. society, and King’s politics traversed the same course.