The late Rev. King had a mix of philosophy, both orthodox (classical liberal, which we would cal conservative) and especially in later years, dabbling in socialism. Socialism is what you get when you have a theology based on service without a very definite God to serve.
RE: dabbling in socialism
So, the answer to the question in the title :
MARTIN LUTHER KING, CONSERVATIVE?,
is NO. He was in fact, a FISCAL liberal.
What about his SOCIAL policies? Would he be for abortion and gay marriage? Being socialist, would he be for tax payer funding of Planned Parenthood and Sandra Fluke’s demands?
Definitely a mix, but certainly NOT a Conservative. Those who say so are cherry picking quotes.
Dr. King was not promoting abortion or gay marriage in the 1960’s and when Jesse Jackson moved in on his mantle of leadership in the 70’s, he didn’t push those ideas either.
King was inspired by liberal theologian Paul Tillich and surrounded by left-wing Communist characters during the late 50’s and 60’s from Harry Belafonte to Hunter Pitts (Jack) O’Dell, Bayard Rustin and so on.
King’s biggest problem (and he knew it) was the sexual misconduct. One biography speaks of three women he has long term relationships with other than his wife and its been published and reported numerous times that MLK frequented prostitutes including two of them at a time..
Dr. King was ashamed of what he did, but didn’t find a way out before he died in 1968 and became a symbol of greatness and a hero in the eyes of many people.
MLK claimed to be working for liberty. and notwithstanding the egregious racial bigotry of his time, he should have completely rejected the murderous tyranny of Marxism and communism as an unacceptable palliative in ANY context.
I wish to make it clear that I think that Martin Luther King was a man of enormous courage, charisma, and intellect that profoundly altered the course of American history and made it a better country in so far has its promise of justice for all is concerned.
This does not mean however that his legacy to the Civil Rights movement has been one of unalloyed good. I believe much of his bequeathment resulted in an over reliance on big government statist solutions to problems within the black community that require individual initiatives to correct. Martin Luther Kings frequent references to this nations founding documents are well known. His reflections on Communism are much less well known and undoubtedly contributed to his general philosophy. We owe it to ourselves to examine the effects of this legacy and contextualize it so has to solve the problems facing the black community today.
While King himself was not a communist, he did business with communists and was influenced by them. This delicate subject, made more so given the martyrdom and subsequent lionization of King, should nevertheless be broached as a means of providing insight into some of the darker forces that worked their way into what was essentially a pro American, conservative, Christian civil rights movement.
King surrounded himself with communists from the beginning of his career. His closest advisor Stanley Levison was a Communist. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957 and led by King, had Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as Vice President who was at the same time president of the Southern Conference Education Fund, an identified communist front according to the Legislative Committee on un-American Activities, Louisiana (Report April 13, 1964 pp. 31-38).
The field director of SCEF was Carl Braden, a known communist agitator who was also involved in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which counted Lee Harvey Oswald, the communist assassin of President Kennedy as a member. King maintained regular correspondence with Carl Braden. Bayard Rustin, a known communist, was also on the board of SCLC.
Dr. King addressed the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., 1957, previously known as the Commonwealth College until the House Committee on un-American Activities sited it as a communist front (April 27, 1949). HCAA found that Commonwealth was using religion as a way to infiltrate the African-American community by, among other techniques, comparing New Testament texts to those of Karl Marx. King knew many communists associated with the Highlander school.
King hired communist official Hunter Pitts ODell, 1960, at the SCLC. The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported (Oct. 26, 1962) A Communist has infiltrated the top administrative post in the Rev. Martin Luther Kings SCLC. He is Jack H. ODell, acting executive director of conference activities in the southeastern states including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Dr. King fired ODell when this became public but subsequently rehired him to head the SCLC New York office.
King himself expresses a Marxist outlook in his book Stride Toward Freedom when he stated, in spite of the shortcomings of his analysis, Marx had raised some basic questions. I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, and my reading of Marx made me even more conscious of this gulf. Although modern American capitalism has greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. Moreover, Marx had revealed the danger of the profit motive as the sole basis of an economic system
King, unfortunately, didnt understand that it was Capitalism and freedom that was responsible for the successes the African-American community already had achieved in his day and the key to future success. By better distribution of wealth King meant state control over the economy. His contempt for the profit motive was unfortunate given that African-Americans shouldve been encouraged by their leaders to seek fair profit to the best of their ability. Kings leftist ideas contributed to an opening of the floodgates to such radicals as Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, the Black Panthers, as well as the burning and looting of African-American neighborhoods, the institutionalizing of poverty perpetrating welfare, the destruction of the family, drugs, violence, racism, and crime.
In Stride Toward Freedom Dr. King states In short, I read Marx as I read all of the influential historical thinkers from a dialectical point of view, combining a partial yea and a partial no. My readings of Marx convinced me that truth is found neither in Marxism nor in traditional capitalism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically capitalism failed to see truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterprise. The Kingdom of God is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.
King, like Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, had a dialectical point of view. The goal of the dialectic is authoritarianism. A nation, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, cannot be half free and half slave. By advocating socialism, King chose an imperious stand toward his own people in contrast to a stand for genuine freedom, self-rule, self-sufficiency, private ownership, and the accumulation of capital. King did not advocate the American system of free market capitalism. Instead, he stood for a system that has stunted the growth of African-Americans as well as the rest of us.
All Marxists believe in Hegelian Dialectics. This is a belief that progress is achieved through conflict between opposing viewpoints. Any ideological assertion (thesis) will create its own opposite (antithesis). Progress is achieved when a conclusion (synthesis) is reached which espouses aspects of both the thesis and antithesis.
For example, Hitler had a dialectical point of view. He rejected Marxist class warfare, but embraced the basic socialist idea of the insignificance of the individual compared to the collective state.
This belief in dialectical progress is why liberals pit the rich against the poor, old against young, black against white, men against women, gay against straight, ad nauseam.
This issue is somewhat clouded by what Dr. King wrote in his 1957 book Stride toward Freedom: the Montgomery story, in which he wrote the following devastating critique of the sort of communism practiced in the Communist super state of the Union of Soviet Socialist republics.
During the Christmas holidays of 1949 I decided to spend my spare time reading Karl Marx to try to understand the appeal of communism for many people. For the first time I carefully scrutinized *Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. I also read some interpretive works on the thinking of Marx and Lenin. In reading such Communist writings I drew certain conclusions that have remained with me as convictions to this day.
First, I rejected their materialistic interpretation of history. Communism, avowedly secularist and materialistic, has no place for God. This I could never accept, for as a Christian, I believe that there is a creative personal power in the universe who is the ground and essence of all reality-a power that cannot be explained in materialistic terms. History is ultimately guided by spirit, not matter.
Second, I strongly disagreed with communisms 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 pre-existent in the means.
Third, I opposed communisms political totalitarianism. In communism, the individual ends up in subjection to the state. True, the Marxists would argue that the state is an interim reality which is to be eliminated when the classless society emerges; but the state is the end while it lasts, and man is only a means to that end. And if mans so-called rights and liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside. His liberties of expression, his freedom to vote, and 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 means to the end of the state; but always as an end within himself.
Martin Luther King Jr., *Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story* (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), 92-93
Dont forget that the above was written in 1957, a period in which the oppressions of the Soviet Union are painfully evident, evidenced by the brutal repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. At the time Stride toward Freedom was written, domestic attitudes toward communism could not have been more hostile. Toward the end of Dr. Martin Luther Kings life, the counterculture revolution of the sixties and the leftist tinted civil rights movement made favorable considerations of communism generally more palatable.
While Martin Luther King Day should be one of reflection and appreciation for what has been accomplished, and a reckoning of what still needs to be done, it should also be a day of understanding, in terms clear of emotionally driven rhetoric, where the civil rights movement went wrong. A major key to this understanding, I would contend, is the destructive effects that communist ideas and outright infiltration has had on the African-American community. Communists tried to use African-Americans as cannon fodder by stoking hatred and racial division. A predominantly white left-wing establishment promoted Black communists in order to preserve an informal system of oppression.
The fact is that he WAS a socialist and that goes to the heart of what went wrong with the civil rights establishment after the legal battles against codified discrimination were won.
I am a black man who has been getting calluses on my dome from butting heads with those in my community who refuse to relinquish big government statist solutions for the problems plaguing the black community in favor of free market solutions that are far more appropriate today. These forces frequently cite Dr. King and use his exhortations to government to lead the way. They specifically cite his socialist outlook as justification for their continuance. The two parent black family was destroyed by LBJs welfare state. That was the worst cultural calamity to EVER befall the black community in the US, and the most destructive force in its cultural life notwithstanding the imposition of Jim Crow law via the Supreme Courts Plessy v Fergueson decision. MLK was a leading proponent for expanding the welfare state, whose baleful effects were just beginning to be seen in the black community.
MLK was a man of enormous charisma and courage and certainly a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement. There is much about him that I admire. An assessment of his life could creditably yield the adjective of great. Despite that, he does not deserve to be the ONLY American with his own holiday named after him. That honor should be reserved for only one person in American history, the greatest of all Americans, George Washington. More so than any other SINGLE figure in our history, he was the indispensable man. Without his courage, acumen, honor, and integrity, the US would simply not exist, and if it did, it probably would have been as a monarchy and certainly not as a constitutional republic.
MLKs birthday holiday was a sop to PC and a reflection of the DemocRAT Congress that voted it. The depth of MLKs association with the most anti-freedom ideology (Communism) of our time will prove to very embarrassing when it is fully revealed. Additionally, MLKs legacy to the modern day civil rights movement is a socialist bequeathment that of looking to big government solutions for many of the behavioral problems in todays black community. MLK continues to cast a long shadow over most of the modern day civil rights establishment and black politicians who largely reject free market, educationally based solutions to the unique problems plaguing the black community.