|Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Annual Service of Tribute 2020|
Today, over social media the debates and exchanges with different sides attempting to claim him as their own. Yet, when he died on April 4, 1968 he was being targeted by all sides. Today, as in 1968, the words communist and socialist get thrown around a lot.
Many know of the FBI wiretapping Martin Luther King Jr., monitoring of the Civil Rights Movement, and active measures against the civil rights leader but fewer know of the campaign waged against him by Soviet intelligence, also known as the KGB. The reality is that he challenged both systems.
Many are aware of Reverend King's radical criticisms of Capitalism, but how many remember his radical criticisms of Communism? Radical is defined here as going to the roots. Below are some of the key statements made by Reverend King on communism over the decade he was most politically active.
"You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth." - Martin Luther King Jr. Paul's Letter to American Christians (1956)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is pre-existent in the mean." - Martin Luther King Jr. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"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. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Stride to Freedom (1958)
"Listen to Lenin as he says 'Lying, deceit, violence, concealing and withholding the truth are all justifiable means to bring about the end of the classless society.' This is the great weakness and tragedy of communism and any other system that argues that the end justifies the means, for in a real sense, the end is pre-existent in the means; the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process. In the long run of history, immoral means cannot bring about moral ends. Destructive means cannot bring about constructive goals." - Martin Luther King Jr. Address to Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa (1962)
|Cornell College (1962)|
“If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.” - MLK Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)
"This is the faith I commend to you Christians here in Berlin. A living, active, massive faith that affirms the victory of Jesus Christ over the world, whether it be an Eastern world or a Western world." - Martin Luther King Jr. East or West – God’s Children (1964)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam (1967)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam (1967)
"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." - Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam (1967)
"As 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."- Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (1967)
|Martin Luther King Jr. (1967)|
Mohandas Gandhi, who greatly influenced King, also spoke of social responsibility and trusteeship. He also warned that the state was a "soulless machine" that did not look out for the poor. Gandhi, a self-described socialist, was not an enthusiastic proponent of an expanded social-welfare state. Reverend King spoke of social democracy with an emphasis on democracy, but he also spoke of the need to shift "from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society."
The critique made by both King and Gandhi of a "thing-oriented" society or the state as a "soulless machine" looks to the person or the individual not an economic mechanism or economic class. The focus is on the human person and polices that recognize and respect the uniqueness of each human being and their dignity.
The Konrad Adeneur Foundation in their publication Christian Democracy: Principles and Policy Making offers a vision of this made reality in what is known as the social market economy. This is a departure from a strict market economy, focused on individuals as economic units and one that is arrived at through a process of reforms, not revolution.
This was a challenge to the existing order of the United States, but one that rejected communism, and that was rooted in the Christian tradition. Perhaps, this is what scared so many powerful people.
Why do you think both the FBI and the KGB targeted Martin Luther King Jr.? Please leave a comment below.