|Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. arrives in Memphis Tennessee in April 1968|
What motivated the KGB to work to destroy Reverend King?
Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence came out against the war, but also to double down on his rejection of revolutionary violence in the United States, stating that, "[a]s I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems." KGB wanted violence to erupt in the United States and viewed the civil rights leader as an obstacle.
Reverend King in his 1958 book Stride to Freedom summed up his views on Marxism and rejected it for the following reasons:
The Challenge of Marxism
During the Christmas holidays of 1949 I decided to spend my spare time reading Karl Marx to try to understand the appeal of communism for many people. For the first time I carefully scrutinized Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. I also read some interpretive works on the thinking of Marx and Lenin. In reading such Communist writings I drew certain conclusions that have remained with me to this day.
First I rejected their materialistic interpretation of history. Communism, avowedly secularistic and materialistic, has no place for God.4 This I could never accept, for as a Christian I believe that there is a creative personal power in this universe who is the ground and essence of all reality—a power that cannot be explained in materialistic terms. History is ultimately guided by spirit, not matter.
Second, I strongly disagreed with communism’s ethical relativism. Since for the Communist there is no divine government, no absolute moral order, there are no fixed, immutable principles; consequently almost anything—force, violence, murder, lying—is a justifiable means to the “millennial” end.5 This type of relativism was abhorrent to me. Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is preexistent in the mean.
Third, I opposed communism’s political totalitarianism. In communism the individual ends up in subjection to the state. True, the Marxist would argue that the state is an “interim” reality which is to be eliminated when the classless society emerges; but the state is the end while it lasts, and man only a means to that end. And if any man’s so-called rights or liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside. His liberties of expression, his freedom to vote, his freedom to listen to what news he likes or to choose his books are all restricted. Man becomes hardly more, in communism, than a depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a radical in the sense that he was going to the root of things, and seeking solutions informed by his Christian faith. Reverend King was a Christian Democrat who sought to narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor with a politics focused on the person because "he is a child of God."This deprecation of individual freedom was objectionable to me. I am convinced now, as I was then, that man is an end because he is a child of God. Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself.
In 1967, King offered a strategic approach to confront communism by promoting democracy and pursuing just policies that alleviate evils in the world. He recognized that communism flourishes in environments of injustice and out of the havoc of war. It is important to recall that the first communist regime, the Soviet Union, emerged out of World War I, the war to make the world safe for democracy. MLK believed that changing policy and playing to America's foundational strengths would be "our greatest defense against communism."
"America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. 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. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood. This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. [applause] War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy [applause], realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops."Taylor Branch, in the third book of his trilogy on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, At Canaan's Edge wrote about the Reverend's views on the militant call to armed struggle in the streets of the United States in January of 1968.
“Riots just don’t pay off,” said King. He pronounced them an objective failure beyond morals or faith. “For if we say that power is the ability to effect change, or the ability to achieve purpose,” he said, “then it is not powerful to engage in an act that does not do that–no matter how loud you are, and no matter how much you burn.” Likewise, he exhorted the staff to combat the “romantic illusion” of guerrilla warfare in the style of Che Guevara. No “black” version of the Cuban revolution could succeed without widespread political sympathy, he asserted, and only a handful of the black minority itself favored insurrection. King extolled the discipline of civil disobedience instead, which he defined not as a right but a personal homage to untapped democratic energy. The staff must “bring to bear all of the power of nonviolence on the economic problem,” he urged, even though nothing in the Constitution promised a roof or a meal. “I say all of these things because I want us to know the hardness of the task,” King concluded, breaking off with his most basic plea: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.”Reverend King remained true to his non-violent convictions, rejected communism, and took unpopular positions to do so. These are the reasons why the KGB wanted him out of the way. This should not be surprising. What is surprising is that the FBI also wanted him out of the way.
|Soviet KGB engaged in campaigns against Martin Luther King Jr.|
This is what is now known about Russian efforts to marginalize and neutralize Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1992 a high ranking Russian intelligence officer defected to the United Kingdom and brought with him notes and transcripts compiled over the previous thirty years as he moved entire foreign intelligence archives to a new headquarters just outside of Moscow.
The Russian intelligence officer’s name was Vasili Mitrokhin and the information he gathered became known as The Mitrokhin Archive.
In the book The Sword and the The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin published in 1999 details were obtained from The Mitrokhin Archive on Soviet efforts to replace Martin Luther King Jr. with a “more radical and malleable leader” such as Stokeley Carmichael to provoke a race war in the United States.
Pages 237 and 238 of The Sword and the Shield excerpted below detail elements of the campaign waged by Soviet intelligence and the active measures arrayed against the civil rights leader:
“In August 1967 the Centre approved an operational plan by the deputy head of Service A, Yuri Modin, former controller of the Magnificent Five, to discredit King and his chief lieutenants by placing articles in the African press, which could then be reprinted in American newspapers, portraying King as an “Uncle Tom” who was secretly receiving government subsidies to tame the civil rights movement and prevent it threatening the Johnson administration. While leading freedom marches under the admiring glare of worldwide television, King was allegedly in close touch with the President. 83 The same operational plan also contained a series of active measures designed to discredit US policy “on the negro.” The Centre authorized Modin:University of Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew, who coauthored The Sword and the Shield with Vasili Mitrokhin was interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS on September 28, 1999 about the book and towards the end of the interview discussed how the Soviets celebrated when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray. Other Soviet archives documented efforts by the Soviet Union to stimulate and activate the Black Panthers in their struggle against the United States government.
Service A sought to exploit the violent images of the long, hot summers which began in August 1965 which race riots in Watts, the black Los Angeles ghetto, which resulted in thirty-six deaths, left 1,0332 injured and caused damage estimated at over 40 million dollars. The Centre seems to have hoped that as violence intensified King would be swept aside by black radicals such as Stokely Carmichael, who told a meeting of Third World revolutionaries in Cuba in the summer of 1967, “We have a common enemy. Our struggle is to overthrow this system . . . We are moving into open guerilla warfare in the United States.” Traveling on to North Vietnam, Carmichael declared in Hanoi, “We are not reformists…We are revolutionaries. We want to change the American system.”85
- To organize, through the use of KGB residency resources in the US, the publication and distribution of brochures, pamphlets, leaflets and appeals denouncing the policy of the Johnson administration on the Negro question and exposing the brutal terrorist methods being used by the government to suppress the Negro rights movement.
- To arrange, via available agent resources, for leading figures in the legal profession to make public statements discrediting the policy of the Johnson administration on the Negro question.
- To forge and distribute through illegal channels a document showing that the John Birch Society, in conjunction with the Minuteman organization, is developing a plan for the physical elimination of leading figures in the Negro movement in the US. 84
King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 was quickly followed by the violence and rioting which the KGB had earlier blamed King for trying to prevent. Within a week riots erupted in over a hundred cities, forty-six people had been killed, 3,500 injured and 20,000 arrested. To “Deke” DeLoach, it seemed that, “The nation was teetering on the brink of anarchy.”86 Henceforth, instead of dismissing King as an Uncle Tom, Service A portrayed him as a martyr of the black liberation movement and spread conspiracy theories alleging that his murder had been planned by white racists with the connivance of the authorities. 87
Fifty years later and the Russians are still seeking to stoke racial divisions in the United States in order to provoke and promote violence. Half a century ago, they viewed Martin Luther King Jr., as an obstacle and celebrated in Moscow when the civil rights leader was assassinated.