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Common Dreams - February 2, 2020

"Still, the so-called "liberal left" imagination is more concerned with anti-communism in the form of Russiagate than with the concerns of Black life. The United States' capitalist empire has no room for King's real legacy, as its treatment of Bernie Sanders makes clear. Sanders' economic agenda most closely resembles King's class politics by the end of his life."

King believed humanity could achieve a "higher synthesis" that rose above the social relations of capitalism and communism.

"Black self-determination was seen by the ruling class as a great communist conspiracy."

The annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is politically meaningless because it is defined by the very power structure that assassinated both his physical life and his radical legacy. To this day, King is remembered by most Americans as the "I Have a Dream" figure who sought peaceful coexistence with a racist power structure also known as the United States government. This narrative has not only benefited the ruling class and the privileges of white Americans but also the Black misleadership class which utilizes King's sanitized legacy as a cover of legitimacy for their political service to the bourgeoisie. It should come as no surprise, then, that the historical moment from which King's work arose has also been distorted by the U.S. ruling class. While publications such as Teen Vogue and public intellectuals like Cornel West have brought attention to King's anti-war and anti-capitalist history, fewer have analyzed the importance of socialism in shaping the trajectory of King's politics.

King did not identify as a socialist in Marxian terms. By the end of his life, King was criticizing the triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism. However, he didn't see the communist movement led by the Soviet Union as the answer to Black America's ills. Instead, King retained a moral and spiritual commitment to equality. He believed humanity could achieve a "higher synthesis" that rose above the social relations of capitalism and communism. The police occupation of poor Black communities at home and the U.S. military occupation of Vietnam abroad compelled King to demand an end to U.S. militarism and to organize the Poor People's Campaign for economic justice.

"The Black misleadership class utilizes King's sanitized legacy as a cover of legitimacy for their political service to the bourgeoisie."

While King didn't embrace communism, his politics were profoundly influenced by the struggle for socialism, domestically and abroad. Most bourgeois historians of the so-called "Civil Rights" era leave out the pesky fact that a war between socialism and capitalism was occurring simultaneously with the Black struggle against Jim Crow white supremacy in the U.S. mainland. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Ghana to celebrate the African nation's independence from Britain in 1957 and met with its openly socialist leader, Kwame Nkrumah. National liberation movements throughout Africa and the Third World were receiving aid from the Soviet Union and China to win independence. On the opposite side, the U.S. was engaged in an all-out war on the socialists wherever they resided. This war began with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1918 and included the use of a two nuclear bombs during World War II, the murder of millions in a military invasion of Korea , and the open threat to drop another nuclear bomb on China for its assistance to socialist resistance on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. ruling class was extremely concerned that the Black struggle to overturn Jim Crow in the U.S. mainland would seek alliances with the socialist, largely non-white movement abroad. This led King and the rest of the Black movement to become targets in the U.S. government's anti-communist crusade. Black self-determination was seen by the ruling class as a great communist conspiracy that threatened to bring the socialist politics of the Soviet Union to the U.S.' doorstep. Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Claudia Jones, and several other Black intellectuals and organizers were blacklisted as agents of Moscow  and terrorized by the state for their refusal to align with the predations of American capitalism. ...
Read full commentary at Common Dreams