Franz J.T. Lee, February, 2005
We love Gandhi ... we love Martin Luther King ... but the Truth we love more
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is again in the international news headlines, also here in Venezuela. But, who was King really, what was his political, social philosophy all about?
For those in the USA, in Venezuela and elsewhere, who know very little about Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), about his life and political struggles ... in the 60s, during the epoch of anti-imperialist demonstrations against the War in Vietnam and against social discrimination, against racism and apartheid in the USA and on a global scale ... critically, we will summarize here some biographical data concerning King and his liberatory political endeavors.
Addressing the North American peoples, apart from mentioning or quoting Trotsky or Mao, President Hugo Chavez Frias always refers to Martin Luther King and his heroic struggle in the 60s to gain civil liberties for all Americans.
Certainly, King has his rightful place in the historical freedom struggles of America, and we honor him for all his humanist, peace-loving contributions towards a happy future for humanity.
Of course, as Christian minister, he tried to stop the North American homo homini lupus, with human warmth, with benevolent prayers, even by genuflecting in front of the Yankee lords, overlords and warlords.
He did his utmost best, and we did not expect him to have done less.
However, the fact that he did not and could not study profoundly and scientifically global political economy, revolutionary philosophy, permanent world revolution, class consciousness, class struggles, capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, does not mean that we must do likewise, must commit the same fatal errors, and hence become blinded with pacifist, reformist daily actions and become blind-folded with idealist, ossified world views and absolute truths.
In the case of King, once more, concrete, capitalist, historical reality has confirmed that the noble, humane, political experiment of Gandhism simply has no revolutionary future in modern globalization, not in Venezuela, not in India, not even in the USA itself.
King was born in Atlanta, Georgia. and his parents were: Alberta Williams King and Martin Luther King, Sr., by profession a minister. At the age of fifteen he enrolled at Morehouse College, where he graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. Later studying at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, he became acquainted with Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy; there he acquired the bachelor's degree in Divinity, in 1951. At Boston University, he studied Systematic Theology, and received his Ph.D. in 1955.
Since 1955, his real political struggle against Apartheid segregation in the USA began with the famous Montgomery bus boycott, when King and other ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), that organized civil rights protests throughout the South.
When he was attacked the US State did not defend him, on the contrary, in spite of his Gandhist nonviolent protests, King received numerous violent threats from rightist, radical, terrorist groups. In fact, his very home was once bombed. In 1960, when the international radical student movements were born, King himself participated in non-violent peaceful student "sit-in" demonstrations. In October, 1960 he was arrested and sentenced to prison. After nationwide protests, eventually the presidential candidate John F. Kennedy intervened, and King was released from prison.
On August 28, 1963, a huge "March on Washington D.C. for Jobs and Freedom" was organized, and at the Lincoln Memorial, King gave his famous “I have a dream” televised speech; 250,000 black and white American supporters accompanied him.
King continued to participate in nonviolent protests. Later King, Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and other civil rights leaders organized the huge March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It took place on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial. At this march, King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. More than 250,000 blacks and whites gathered while the speech was televised.
The establishment began to take note of his charismatic leadership, and tried to stop him by means of international fame, hence, In 1963, he became Time magazine’s Man of the Year and in 1964 he was crowned with the Noble Peace Prize. Surely, these were not exactly working class "honors" for revolutionary praxis and emancipatory theory.
However, at the same time the US government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that at least on paper recognized the civil rights of the African-American peoples; this did not stop many of them, who became impatient with King's methods of non-violent resistance, and who violently were rioting in Watts and Harlem soon thereafter.
After the Selma, Alabama march, where King tried to stop US violence with kneeling down and with prayers, another popular star, his very opposite, Malcolm X and the "Black Power" movement appeared on the revolutionary horizon, and the urban "blacks" began to favor Black nationalism instead of King's Gandhist pacifism. This tendency we will deal with in a separate commentary.
King's noble, passive dream was ending, just like his teacher Gandhi, he did not understand what Georges Sorel has stated categorically concerning global violence generated by the capitalist, imperialist system: We did not invent violence or "terrorism"; by State and social order, we are born into violence, we live in violence, and we will perish in violence, unless in global self-defense, by all means necessary, we eradicate the complete violent world order, with militant revolutionary praxis and theory-
On April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, King addressed a meeting of striking city sanitation workers, and thus gave his last speech: “I’ve been to the mountain top.”
On the next day, while looking out at American terrorist reality for the last time, from the balcony of his motel, he was shot dead. On June 8, 1968, some James Earl Ray was arrested in London, England, and soon thereafter was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. Therewith the Gandhist passive resistance experiment ended in the "Great Society."
Brief Reflections on King's religious, social philosophy
Studying the political events in the USA in the 60s, the speeches and writings of King, Venezuela will note that we find ourselves today in a similar situation like the outcasts, the African-Americans, not only of the past century, but more so of today. Together with other "Third World" pariahs living in the United States, with the "Latinos," they are mercilessly exploited, dominated, discriminated, and as cannon fodder are being massacred in Bush's world wars.
According to King, in political nonviolent self-defense, that we also experienced here in Caracas on April 11, 2002, and thereafter, there exists a dynamic element that he called "soul force"; Wilhelm Reich would call it orgone, life energy.
For all of us, here in Venezuela, King has generated certain revolutionary questions:
How do we, as peace-loving peoples, characterize the revolutionary choice between Yankee invasion and terrorism and Bolivarian, democratic nonviolence in our struggle for freedom, for emancipation?
What did Gandhi and King predict where social violent resistance will lead to?
Looking back, across the last decades, looking at the present world situation, and at the Orwellian coming fascist future, were they reliable forecasters?
Furthermore, can Gandhism function in a class society, like the USA, without freedom of speech and freedom of the press?
Can it work here within the local, national and international context of Mind and Thought Control, of the war of ideas, of disinformation campaigns?
In his social philosophy, King adopted the religious, suffering essence of Gandhi's " Satyagraha ," especially the following:
"In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one's opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For what appears to be truth to one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one's own self. Satyagraha and its off-shoots, non-cooperation and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering."
In fact, toppling the US tyrant with revolutionary force is totally forbidden by the social philosophy of Gandhi and King. We have to convert the Bush clique, by means of dialogues, reconciliation, peace talks and prayers:
" The movement of nonviolent non-cooperation has nothing in common with the historical struggles for freedom in the West. It is not based on brute force or hatred. It does not aim at destroying the tyrant. It is a movement of self-purification. It therefore seeks to convert the tyrant...."
This King called "soul force", the "power of nonviolence". Surely, Bolivarian Citizen Power can learn much from Gandhism, especially that what we should not do, not think in revolutionary struggles against violent, terrorist global fascism.
We in Venezuela, in Latin America, we love Gandhi, we love Martin Luther King, but the Truth we love much more.