by: Reverend Andrew Wilkes on May 28th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
On the forty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Wilkes offered these remarks at a workshop sponsored by New York DSA. They have been adapted for publication.
For Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, racial justice and economic justice are inseparable. The conventional narrative is that King became radical after the 1966 Chicago campaign that addressed fair housing, equal employment opportunities, and restrictive covenants. Alternatively, some claim his radicalism originated with his Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War in 1967. But the historical record says otherwise. In July 1952, King wrote to his sweetheart, Coretta Scott. In that letter, the twenty-three year old, reflecting on Edward Bellamy’s socialist classic Looking Backward, which Coretta had given him, says “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in economic theory than capitalistic. . . . [Bellamy] says that today capitalism has outlived its usefulness, it has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” What this means is that three years before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, for virtually his entire public career, King had a specific commitment to democratic socialism.