First Published: World Revolution Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer 1968
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Afro-Americans know that the murder of Martin Luther King is another insult and an attack on Black people. All over the nation they moved not as “peaceful protesters”–but as fighting MEN in fury. By this fury they say NO to the put-on that the U.S. is a democracy.
Black people are saying NO to King’s nonviolence. Black people know that the most violent system of oppression in the world is U.S. imperialism. And they understand that the only way to win liberation from U.S. imperialism is –TO DESTROY IT.
Hundreds of thousands rose up as one in defense of their liberation. Within hours of the shooting, the U.S. was hit from the inside by these Black workers. Washington, D.C., where violence against the whole world is planned, was tied up by thousands of militant Afro-Americans. Lynchem Johnson called for tanks and machine guns to save the White House. Scared stiff by Black rebellion, he and his buddies were afraid to travel out.
Indeed, revolution is not only in Vietnam! Flames of revolt are burning right here! These huge and heroic actions by Black people prove that Black liberation is not a flash in the pan, but is on the upsurge! Black liberation action is proving that King’s false ideas of non-violence–“turn the other cheek”–were buried with him.
But the government wants us to dig up nonviolence again. They like us when we beg, but not when we rise up. So the whole system is working night and day to use King in death even more than in life. They are pleading with the people to pay tribute to King–by not fighting. Meanwhile, frightened to death by Black uprisings, the U.S. rulers are using even more massive terror to hold down the Black people.
The U.S. was all shook up after the death of King–even more than after Kennedy was shot.
Obviously, racism is the U.S. bosses’ most profitable business. They are more frightened over Black liberation than by the murder of a President.
Hundreds of demonstrations and memorials have been staged by the government and their yes-men in the neighborhoods. They aim to make King a saint so they can handcuff his ideas of Don’ Fight, Surrender on to the Black people. It will never work!
Afro-Americans have been fighting to free themselves from slavery ever since the body-snatching bosses brought them to this country. The U.S. profit system was built on their blood and bones. The famous Black scholar W.E.B. DuBois has shown that 60 million Africans were murdered in the slave trade. Countless numbers of Black people have been lynched, burned by mobs. And never forget the children who die in infancy, or are crippled by disease.
More recent crimes committed against the Afro-American people include: the assassination of Medgar Evers; police murder of Bobby Hutton; bombing children in a Birmingham church; the assassination of Malcolm X, whose ideas on self-defense showed the true road for the Black people; and the murder of a 16-year-old youngster in Memphis in the demonstration led by King.
Martin Luther King has shown personal courage and brought many Black people into the civil rights movement. His early leadership put many people up against the system. They learned more about what the government is really like.
People led by King began to realize that, “integration” was not going to change the system. It would not bring a full and free life to the Black working people. So the movement shifted from “civil rights” to Black Liberation.
King refused to take this step forward. He stayed with the Kennedys, Johnsons, and Rockefellers. He became their chief fireman–whenever a militant Black struggle flared up he was rushed to the spot to water it down.
King’s rich backers would love us to keep begging for civil rights instead of organizing for Black Liberation–because true liberation would blast their profits. Just look at New York, with the best civil rights laws in the country and some of the lowest-paid Black labor!
When the center of struggle moved north, King moved with it. When the Black people of Chicago wanted better housing right in their own community, King took over their leadership. Instead of fighting for these just demands of the working-class Black people, he steered them into Cicero, a suburb of Chicago. He led unarmed Black people into this all-white community.
This was a demonstration for open housing. But that was not the demand of the majority of the Black people, but only of the few middle-class Black people who could afford to buy a house there. King has always represented the better-off Black middle class’. He hitched Black workers to this false wagon!
King invited violence against Black demonstrators. Violence was indeed committed against them, and the people were unprepared to fight back. His false idea was to make the ruling class feel guilty! Our idea is to break them down!
We agree that people should stand up and confront the ruling class. But confrontations must be organized and every situation must be carefully sized up. Too often a confrontation is planned on the wrong issues–such as Blacks moving into white reactionary neighborhoods, where very few could pay the rent anyhow. When a confrontation seems likely to hurt the working people instead of the ruling class, we are opposed to it.
In Chicago, King put Black workers against white workers instead of directing his fire against political boss Daley and his Uncle Toms. Some white workers could have been split away from the ruling class and won over to struggle for neighborhood housing and other class demands. But King only heated the whites up for the “protection of their homes”–in an area where most Black workers couldn’t afford to live or don’t even want to.
King was a tough opponent for the activists in the Black Liberation movement. He went where the struggles were at, and got involved – even if only for a few days. As he traveled around playing fireman, cooling us down, he warned his rich backers about the possible growing strength of the Black workers. They handed him money for fake organizing to hold back this potential revolutionary power. King organized a “non-violent” march of poor people on Washington. Next he moved into Memphis.
The sanitation workers in Memphis are a serious danger to big bosses and the bosses’ government. If the Memphis workers win their fight and organize a strong militant union, they could show the way for the whole South. A militant union drive would shake up all workers –Black and white. More confrontations would come. And, wherever Black and white workers are in the same factory or industry, this would help along the tough process of finding allies for a stronger struggle against the ruling class.
It was here in Memphis that King was shot down! Why? Martin Luther King was useful to the government. He was disarming the Black people. However, many white people are diehard racists. They saw him only as a “rabble-rouser.” The government and its agents could hot explain clearly to all white people exactly what King’s usefulness really was. If they did explain this they would also expose him to the Black people–and he would be out of business.
So, racism backfired. Many whites simply wanted King dead. When LBJ tells his friends that King’s death was a tremendous loss, he is telling the truth for once–it was a great loss– to them. The government, press, radio-T.V., and many “spokesmen” will break their backs to praise King and his philosophy. They will tell us–in spite of the fact that he met violent death–that we must carry out his program of non-violence. They will tell us that they will pass another civil rights bill in his honor* Afro-American people have seen civil rights bills passed before. Conditions get worse!
They will tell us that King was our true leader. We say that the people’s leaders are still rising out of our struggles. Of the leaders who have gone before, highest honor goes to Malcolm, who called for the self-defense that Black people really need.
The U.S. ruling class will kill many more Black people as we continue to fight for liberation. Many of our real heroes have fallen. Be fore liberation, many more will fall. But it is a crime to let the ruling, class–the same people who shoot us down–tell us who our leaders are. When all those newspapers and T.V. speakers tell us that King is our man, you know something must be wrong.
Afro-Americans: We must choose our leaders ourselves! These leaders will be Brothers and Sisters whose actions show that they aim to go all the way to Black liberation by destruction of the racist system of U.S. imperialism. These leaders will be Brothers and Sisters whose words and actions show that they not only aim to go all the way but that they know how to do it–that they know how to organize and plan for a winning fight.
In the course of our struggles our own leaders will rise up from the heart of the people. We will build unbreakable organizations that fight to win, and know how to come back strong after temporary knockdowns. Through such organizations we will take on the enemy in planned struggles, for as long as necessary, until we defeat him. The faint hearts and big mouths who are afraid to get to work and organize for the long pull will drop out–but the people will rally and win.
Immediate struggles can center around the following demands:
1. No more drafting of our Black youth. Our fight is here.
2. Organized resistance to police brutality.
3. Our right to defend ourselves by any means necessary.
4. Effective community control over the schools.
5. Tear down the slums. Low-rent, spacious housing for all. No more rent increases.
6. Defeat drug addiction by taking the profit out of drugs. Drugs are pushed on the Black community to ruin our people.
7. Full employment–not just handouts from the welfare or the phony anti-poverty programs. We want good jobs now!
Oppressed people all over the world are moving to crush our common enemy from all sides in a giant united effort. Many of the strongest forces, which have rocked U.S. imperialists the hardest, use the working-class teachings of revolutionary socialism to help them make the best fighting plans. These teachings helped the small nation of Vietnam to grind down the whole U.S. army. These teachings inspired the success of the immense Chinese revolution, whose leaders, especially Mao Tse-tung, have written the outstanding books on people’s liberation.
We have the fighting spirit. We have the heroes. Now we need the clear thinking, organizing, and clear planning which have led other liberation struggles to victory; Militancy plus deep study of revolutionary theory–these together with organization will bring us through to liberation and full freedom.