by Sean P. McKelvey
On this particular day (Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to be exact) I feel that focusing, not only on his vision of racial equality to be prudent; but, especially given the newfound support for socialist leaning economic policy (the successful, thus far anyway, candidacies of Bernie Sanders and even Elizabeth Warren , to some extent): attention must be paid to King’s own ideals and words on economic equality and socialism, as well.
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic…[Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness.” (Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952) This is just one of many of the great man’s anti-capitalist quotes, and leanings. King knew that there could be no reasonable expectation of any kind of equality without economic equality. Further, he also understood that said, economic equality could never and would never be ushered in by a capitalist system that profits obscenely off of inequality.
Of course we all revere and deeply respect his work and accomplishments, in regards to racial equality, in our country. I feel, though; his push for income equality and economic justice was just as important and goes very unsung and unnoticed, largely due to the vilification of socialism, or really, anything that challenges the capitalist status quo, driven by unbridled greed, income inequality, and higher and higher profit, at whatever cost, no matter how great or grave, said cost is. I also fear his untimely end had just as much to do with his unpopular with the ruling elite, opinions (and willingness to proclaim them publicly and loudly) on economic justice and equality, as it did with his ideals and words on racial equality. I can’t be certain, of this; but stranger things have certainly happened in the sordid history of our country, is really all I’m saying.
Today is a day for all Americans to reflect on the legacy King left us, and we would be very remiss, as a society to continue to ignore the big part socialism and being very critical of the inequalities of capitalism, King left us as actually a fairly large part, of his wonderful legacy. He knew, and wasn’t afraid to say, that our capitalist system was and still is one of the largest creators and sources of absolute societal inequality; at a time when it was incredibly dangerous to not only hold these views, but a possible literal target on your back to share these views publicly. And, this man, didn’t care and shared what he knew to be a fundamental truth, in regard to true equality, anyway. That is real courage, and is one of the reasons I celebrate today.
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.” (Speech to SCLC Board March 30, 1967) Please take some time to truly consider and think about what this great American hero had to say about the largest source of modern inequality, capitalism has become, on this day.