20 October 2010

Martin Luther King

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8a

Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

This part of our series on African Revolutionary Writers is called “African Classicism”, meaning that portion of the theoretical load that Africa has contributed, and born. The “Beyond Vietnam” speech (download linked below) of the late Rev Martin Luther King Junior, is just such a classic.

Nowadays it has become commonplace to refer to “international solidarity” as if it is both a narrow idea, and also a universal one. But this concept that we have received and then stripped of its particularity, does actually have a tremendous and specific history whose meaning is not fully conveyed by the mere formula-phrase, “international solidarity”.

The anti-Imperialist struggle and the democratic struggle can and should be one. It is not a matter of charity of the rich to the poor. It is also not solely a matter of good-hearted and exceptional individuals, but there have indeed been such individuals, and there will be again. Martin Luther King was such a man.

What Martin Luther King describes, and justifies, is: “why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate - leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”

In other words, MLK at the meeting of the “Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam” in April, 1967, was preaching the intrinsic, organic unity of the struggle of the common people everywhere. It is not an artificial altruism but it is a unity of purpose, in concerted action against the single enemy: monopoly capitalist Imperialism; and it involves personalities, and actual events, and places.

Further than his literal message, there is also the extraordinary power and style of MLK’s oration. Lenin spoke of “insurrection as an art”. It is an art that goes beyond the military, and encompasses all of our activities. Therefore when reading such a piece, one should regard it as a source of learning of the art of advocacy, which is part of the art of leadership, essential to the art of insurrection.

Exactly one year after making this speech, King was gunned down by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee, where he gone to show solidarity for workers who were on strike there.

Picture: Rev. Martin Luther King, Junior, at the White House, Washington DC, USA

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:


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