Martin Luther King a Communist?

Recently someone asked in Quora why history has hidden the fact that Martin Luther King Jr was a communist.

He wasn’t.


From 1900 through 1965, almost the only ‘White’ people willing to speak out, mobilize, and demonstrate against the viciously racist Jim Crow segregation of those days were American socialists, anarchists, a few of the farthest-left labor leaders, and communists. Some of those people were members of organized parties either for a long time or a short while, some never joined any group.

Obviously the core of the Civil Rights movement was Black folks, in particular some of the bravest Black clergymen. It is striking to watch old newsreels and see how *few* White allies they had.

These days, most people forget how profoundly and overtly racist this nation was, in those days. People forget how violent the racist forces were, and how many ‘White’ folks used to utter the vilest slurs against all Black or Brown people. And Jews. And Asians. And so on.

I had some elderly relatives like that, now all deceased, as well as some classmates of the same racist bent who are probably still alive today. If I recall correctly, they were all opposed to the Civil Rights Movement and they all hated Dr King and the NAACP. I recall arguing with them about the topic at the time, but who knows what I actually said?

If you read the documented history of the OPPOSITION TO the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) back then (i.e., speeches, editorials, letters to the editors, and comments to reporters) you find powerful racists like J Edgar Hoover of the FBI, the KKK, the White Citizen’s Councils, Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, and many White clergymen, along with State, local and Federal mayors, governors, sheriffs, police, senators and congressmen. They often attacked MLK and the CRM as being communist.

Despite a number of Supreme Court decisions and Congressional legislation that banned official segregation, those racists were pretty successful in their propaganda attacks on Martin Luther King, the NAACP, and the activists defying Jim Crow in both the South and the North. Right before King was assassinated by a vicious racist in 1968, he had a 75% disapproval rating in a Harris poll.

While King worked closely with a lot of Black, White and Brown activists, a good fraction of them sympathetic to the CP and/or the Soviet Union at one time or another in their lives, to my knowledge MLK never joined either the CPUSA nor the SPUSA nor any of the other competing, left wing groups that existed back then.

On this matter (but obviously not on everything), those White, Black, and Brown American communists, anarchists and socialists were definitely on the correct side of history!

MLKing was grateful for their help back then, and we today should be grateful that those socialists, anarchists, and communists — and the Civil Rights Movement itself — helped change this country for the better.

EDIT: I realized that I had left out the anarchists, such as the Wobblies (IWW).

EDIT: I should acknowledge that I also joined some left-wing organizations starting when I was 17, but not any of the ones listed above. I’m glad I did. I think we were on the right side of history in opposing the American war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as well as American interventions in Central America and South African apartheid, and the hegemony of the American ruling class over workers everywhere, even though we were definitely wrong on a number of things.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Racists are not big on logic and facts. Their world is a list of insults filled with anger/hatred. Most of them are so stupid and ignorant they don’t even know what those insults mean. Ask them to tell you what a socialist or communist means and the only answer you usually get back is “Commies want to take away everything we have so we have nothing.”

    Working-class racists are such fools they have no idea that wealthy cutthroat capitalists have already taken away most of what they have through credit card debt and bank loans. If they can’t make the payments, the cutthroat capitalists that have most of the wealth will come and take what little they have away from them.

    Working-class racists are so stupid, once they lose everything and are homeless, without health care, and living on the street or in a relative or friend’s garage or basement, they will still blame the communists and socialists for what is happening to them because the cutthroat capitalists that took everything they had way from them own the media sources the idiots listen to that is telling them what to think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very successfully brainwashed against their own interests, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The programming and/or brainwashing started soon after Republican President Telfon Don Ronald Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine. Soon After that, Rush Limbaugh went from one radio station to many and the right-wing fascist, lying, misinformation conspiracy theory supporting media machine grew, and grew and grew to culminate with Fox News and the MAGA mob that attacked the capital on January 6, because they want Traitor Trump to become a rancid leader for the rest of his putrid life.

        When Congress attempted to legislate the Fairness Doctrine into law during the first Bush presidency, that Bush vetoed the bill when it landed on his desk after it won in both houses of Congress, killing honesty and balanced reporting in the U.S. media.

        Since Reagan, the GOP survives on endless lies. Democrats lie, too, but not even close to most Republicans.


  2. Until I went to work in the peace movement in early 1967, I had never met anyone who identified as a Marxist or as a Communist. When I got to New York they were all over. My own connections were mostly with the pacifist left, but I attended the big coalition meetings of the National Mobilization, and a lot of the people who made up the coalition were Marxists of one sort or another. There were lots of flavors of Marxists. Some were members of the Communist Party, some were members of the Socialist Workers Party, some were members of the Socialist Party, some weren’t necessarily affiliated with any party but were just sort of independent Marxists. Most socialists were at least influenced by Marx, even if they were part of the “non-Communist left”. I had never read any Marx, except for the Communist Manifesto. I still wouldn’t say that I’m much of a student of Marx, but I’ve read enough to find it interesting. It’s crazy that such an influential thinker is excluded from most US schools and colleges.


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