[Vision2020] MLK Was a Democratic Socialist

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 21 10:54:07 PST 2019

Hail to the Vision!

For those who do not take the DNews, below is my MLK Day column.  It is the
longer version that also appeared in the Sandpoint Reader and Pocatello's
Idaho State Journal.

Read mys articles on the Third Way between Capitalism and Communism at

May MLK's Dream be fulfilled, nfg

*Martin Luther King Was A Democratic Socialist*

*Economic justice would require a land where*

* men will not take necessities to give luxuries to the few.*

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

            Many conservatives today, in contrast to 60 years ago, are
proud to call Martin Luther King one of their own. Some claim that he was a
Republican, but there is no evidence for this. His father was registered as
such and publicly endorsed Richard Nixon for president. However, his son
courted any politician that would support his battle for civil rights.

It was, after all, Southern Democrat Lyndon Johnson who used his consummate
political skills to pass the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965
and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Barry Goldwater was Johnson’s Republican
opponent in the 1964 election, and he voted, believing that there were
“essential differences between men,” against the Civil Rights Act.

Whereas the Democratic Party has done suffice penance for a century of
thwarting black civil rights, the Republican Party has betrayed Lincoln’s
legacy that lived on until the 1970s. Goldwater’s vote against black
rights, Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” and ploys such as the senior Bush’s
Willy Horton ads set the stage for a race-baiting party that has denied
voting rights and elected a president who declared that the white
nationalists and Nazis at Charlottesville were “good people.”

In a 2006 essay “Martin Luther King’s Conservative Legacy,” Carolyn Garris
of the conservative Heritage Foundation writes that although King’s “core
beliefs, such as the power and necessity of faith-based association and
self-government based on absolute truth and moral law, are profoundly
conservative.” Holding essentially the same views, left-wing evangelicals
such as Jim Wallis belies this claim.

Garris is obviously wrong in stating that “King’s primary aim was not to
change laws, but to change people,” because he worked valiantly to repeal
laws that violated any

peoples’ rights, be they Hispanic, Native, or Black.

Joining many conservatives, Garris focuses on King’s emphasis on character
and not color, but ignores the plain fact that King fought to overturn
legislation that discriminated against people of color. Both liberals and
conservatives admire people of good character, but many conservatives today
do not think that the president should necessarily be among them.

Taking their lead from Jesus’ command that the rich should give everything
away, the first Christians “held all things in common and sold property and
possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44-45). This was not a
temporary arrangement, because at the end of the Second Century, Church
Father Tertullian reported that “all things are common among us but our

In 1524, German peasants, after learning about this economic communism from
Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, rose up in revolt against
the nobles. Luther led a brutal campaign against them, and Anabaptists all
over Europe were persecuted by orthodox authorities. Today, Anabaptist
Hutterites in Montana still follow the Bible’s injunction to hold all
things in common.

 At the turn of the 20th Century, American theologian Walter Raushenbusch
introduced the Social Gospel, and many of those who joined the movement
were avowed socialists. King described his theology as the Black Social
Gospel, and he, like Rauschenbusch and his colleagues, were embraced by
left-leaning labor unions. Were it not for the unions, King believed that
“capitalist power would trample” the rights of America’s workers.

Many in the more conservative union coalition AFL-CIO held their distance
from King, because they were convinced that he was a Communist. King,
however, made it very clear that he was not a Communist. He condemned the
Soviet Union and China for their violence, their rejection of democracy,
and their intolerance of religious belief.

We now know from recently released letters he wrote to his wife that King
held socialist beliefs already in seminary. He admitted that he “was more
socialistic in my economic theory than capitalist,” and he declared that
American “capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and
continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor.” The young King
followed Jesus in believing in a “radical redistribution of wealth.”

Like the Labor Party in Britain, but unlike the Social Democrats in Western
Europe, King believed in the nationalization of industry, but I believe
that he would have come to agree with the Labor Party’s concession that
this was a mistake. .

University of Washington professor Michael Honey concludes that King “hoped
to created a ‘third way’ between capitalism and communism that combined
economic justice with individual initiative and democratic rights.”

Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy and religion at the University of
Idaho for 31 years. Read his articles on the Third Way between Capitalism
and Communism at webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/ThirdWay.htm. Email him at
ngier006 at gmail.com.


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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