[sixties-l] Did Dr. King make the movement, or did the movement make him?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/14/01

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Vin Suprynowicz" <Vin_Suprynowicz@lvrj.com>
    Sent: Friday, January 12, 2001 8:17 PM
    Subject: Jan. 15 column -- Martin Luther King
         THE LIBERTARIAN, By Vin Suprynowicz
         Did Dr. King make the movement, or did the movement make him?
         Let someone point out that the economic views of Martin Luther King Jr.
    were controversial in his time and would remain so today -- that he favored
    redistribution over capitalism -- and a general caterwauling can be
    expected, dismissing such comments as those of the diehard racist right.
       But the Institute for Public Accuracy, with offices in Washington and San
    Francisco, is no one's idea of a right-wing bastion. Yet it was a recent
    news release from the Institute, headlined "The Real Martin Luther King,"
    that quoted the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder with Dr. King of the
    Southern Christian Leadership Conference, objecting that the Rev. King is
    too often remembered today as "some little dreamer."
       Instead, "We need to remember his views on capitalism and militarism and
    the responsibility of both the public and private sector to make up for
    their sins: to have affirmative action," the Rev. Lowery observes. "Some
    right wingers are using his statement on 'content of character' to claim he
    would have opposed it. We need to remember his vision for the Poor People's
    Campaign, where we talked about everyone having an income and full
       People should remember that the Rev. King "called the United States 'the
    greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,' saying it was  'on the
    wrong side of a world revolution,' " writes Sam Husseini of the IPA in that
    same news release. "In his 'Where Do We Go from Here?' speech he criticized
    the nature of capitalism, arguing that, 'We must come to see an edifice
    which produces beggars needs restructuring.' "
       The World Book Encyclopedia's essay on Dr. King is anything but
    mean-spirited. The middle-of-the-road reference book is common in American
    school libraries. But the World Book agrees that a year before his death,
    after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act,
    "King became more critical of American society than ever before. He
    believed poverty was as great an evil as racism. He said that true social
    justice would require a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.
    Thus, King began to plan a Poor People's Campaign. ... The campaign would
    demand a federal guaranteed annual income for poor people. ..."
       After 1966, younger leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
    Committee began to use the slogan "Black Power" and to urge a more
    aggressive response to police violence against civil rights marchers. The
    Rev. King stuck to his commitment to nonviolence, but, "Many people thought
    the religious, nonviolent emphasis of the civil rights movement was
    changing," the encyclopedia records. "Disputes among civil rights groups
    ... suggested that King no longer spoke for the whole movement."
       The Rev. King -- whose birthday is recalled today -- was a great orator
    and leader. It was Dr. King the tactician who drew racist white Alabama
    cops out in the open in 1965, where their bloody gassing and clubbing of
    peaceful voting rights protest marchers on the road from Selma to
    Montgomery could be broadcast nationwide, into the living rooms of a
    shocked nation.
       A man who persevered in the face of rock-throwing, beatings, arrest and
    even the fire-bombing of his own home, there can be no doubt either of the
    Rev. King's personal courage, or his giant role in the success of the
    American civil rights movement, from the day Rosa Parks refused to move to
    the back of the bus in 1955, to the marches in Selma and Chicago a decade
       But as with all great men, the question does arise: Was it the accident
    of Dr. King's presence (as new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church)
    that helped turn the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott into a national movement?
    Or was a lucky coincidence that the first spark of the revolution happened
    to occur at that time and place, presenting the opportunity for the young
    Rev. King to display his leadership skills as well as the rhetorical gifts
    that would make him -- and his movement -- instantly popular with that
    brand-new phenomenon, the nationwide television audience.
       Nor does it take anything away from the Rev. King's accomplishments -- or
    soften in any way the needless tragedy of his death -- to point out that,
    from Alexander the Great to Admiral Lord Nelson to Mohandas Gandhi to John
    Kennedy, great men cut down in their prime do have one advantage over those
    who have the misfortune to live beyond their hour of greatness.
       Under other circumstances, would JFK have been remembered as a mediocre
    showboat elected by fraud and unable to enact much legislation or extract
    himself from the mire of Vietnam? How many of the great captains who died
    young would otherwise have become sad or laughable figures in later life,
    out of step with their times and tiresomely trying to recapture a greatness
    long gone?
       Would the Rev. King have changed, recognized the pitfalls of socialism
    and the value of black entrepreneurship, and helped to lead the nation in
    brave new directions in the '70s and '80s? Or would his calls for massive
    government income redistribution and a "guaranteed income" for members of
    officially recognized "victim" classes have rendered him increasingly
    irrelevant, like that other proponent of proletarian revolution, Fidel
    Castro -- more and more an artifact and curiosity as the years sped by?
       Thanks to an assassin's bullet, Dr. King never had a chance to meet that
    challenge. And so he remains frozen in time -- forever the Nobel Peace
    Prize winner of 1964, the stirring 34-year-old orator who stood at the
    Lincoln Memorial in the summer of 1963 and told the world: "I have a dream,
    that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will
    not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their
    Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
    Review-Journal, and editor of Financial Privacy Report (952-895-8757.) His
    book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement,
    1993-1998," is available by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site
    Vin Suprynowicz,   vin@lvrj.com
    "When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved,
    as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are right." -- Eugene V.
    Debs (1855-1926)

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