Martin Luther King, Jr., on Communism

Cross-posted at the Left Coast Rebel

As I continue to plug along with my undergrad studies (have I told everyone here?), consumed by work and schoolwork, once in a while I come across something amazing. For example, my entire weekend has been dominated by a 10-page paper on Martin Luther King Jr., particularly his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" essay that he literally wrote from the not-so-comfy confines of a Birmingham jail cell. Look it up.

I wasn't particularly excited to write about diving into the topic, nevertheless the choices were bleak - "Letter" or Barack Obama's post-nomination speech. I loathe Obama in every sense of the word so opted for MLK. To compare Obama to MLK? Oh the humanity...

Good: research has led me all across academia and I have found some extremely interesting things. For example, I read a 20-page essay by a professor that just happens to be an expert on MLK and Alexis de Tocqueville as well. I mean, she was quoting Tocqueville. My jaw dropped and hit the floor.

Bad: Liberal perspective on MLK abounds, most of it is simply boring to me. Good thing I have the liberty to choose my sources.

Interesting: Martin Luther King Jr.'s opinion of communism. In 1958 MLK published Stride Toward Freedom in which he gave his thoughts on everything from Gandhi to Hitler; from communism to... Nietzsche and a lot in between.

I found that MLK was squishy on Marx (in essence he thought Marx brought up necessary discussion on the problems with capitalism) but what interested me the most (of course) was his take on communism.


Second, I strongly disagreed with communism’s ethical relativism. Since for the Communist there is no divine government, no absolute moral order, there are no fixed, immutable principles; consequently almost anything-force, violence, murder, lying-is a justifiable means to the “millennial” end. This type of relativism was abhorrent to me. Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is preexistent in the mean.

Third, I opposed communism’s political totalitarianism. In communism the individual
ends up in subjection to the state. True, the Marxist would argue that the state is an “interim” reality which is to be eliminated when the classless society emerges; but the state i s the end while it lasts, and man only a means to that end.

And if any man’s so-called rights or liberties stand in the way of that end, they are
simply swept aside. His liberties of expression, his freedom to vote, his freedom to listen to what news he likes or to choose his books are all restricted. Man becomes hardly more, in communism, than a depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state. This deprecation of individual freedom was objectionable to me. I am convinced now, as I was then, that man is an end because he is a child of God.

Man is
not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself.

I simply love the quote at the end:

---Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself.

Doesn't progressivism, in its very essence do just that -- treat man as a means to the state's ends?

What say you, progressive statists and academic collectivists?

Image via Wikipedia.


  1. MLK was a great American and like so many great American things the left falsly attempts to usurp them through superficial means.

  2. "Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man." Great quote as well. Maybe I'll have to take another look at MLK myself?

  3. Proof and DD: I hear you guys, I was really surprised to read such a scathing indictement of communism from MLK. Then again, maybe it's just that we are just used to how morally bankrupt and bat you-know-what crazy the left is today?

  4. "..if any man’s so-called rights or liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside."
    As in "Patriot act"?
    I wonder what he would say about "Affirmative action" in regard to "..not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." (Marxist solution to the shortcomings of capitalism?) Not to mention 0bama telling us what MLK would say...

  5. The quote surprises me too, and it is worth marking.

    However, "the state is made for man" can easily be interpreted as what Professor... I mean Lecturer Obama called "positive rights." Quite literally, positive rights are "what your country can do for you." Obama views most of the Constitutional restrictions on government and specified powers as NEGATIVE rights or, "things government cannot do for (to) you."

    A negative right to life is to not be executed without a fair trial. A positive right to life means free health care.

    A negative right to liberty means there are things government cannot prevent you from doing. A positive right to liberty means there are things government will enable you to do.

    A negative right to property is that government cannot take property for public use without due process of law and only with adequate compensation. A positive right to property is FHA loans, public housing, social security, etc.

    I don't think Dr. King's view of rights differs substantially from Zero's. King was one of those Christian ministers who believed that a Christian's duty to the impoverished extended to the state (but he wore a gold Rolex Day-Date while he lamented the plight of the poor).

    Now if you want to read a rousing speech on liberty from a man who understands freedom, read 'What the Black Man Wants,' by Frederick Douglass.

  6. "... Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself."

    Somehow I think Ayn Rand would agree.


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