As we celebrate his birthday, it is easy to forget that Rev. Martin Luther King was a democratic socialist.
In 1964, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian “democratic socialism.” He often talked about the need to confront “class issues,” which he described as “the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.”
In 1966, King confided to his staff:
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
Debbie Medina has lived her entire life south of Grand Street in the Southside of Williamsburg, a historically Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn. The office of Southside United HFDC — better known as Los Sures — where Medina has worked as a housing organizer for 30 years, is on South Fifth, eight blocks away. When she walks down Driggs Avenue, Debbie can point at the buildings and recite their histories. “This neighborhood has always had some nasty landlords,” she says.
Debbie Medina (center) with the city council’s Antonio Reynoso (D) (right).
With the exception of Kshama Sawant, Bernie Sanders is the only socialist relevant to the American political landscape. He succeeded where his comrades failed by following a set of rules vastly different from the rules most self-proclaimed radicals adhere to.
Sanders has been and continues to be too busy fighting for working people as a mayor, Congressman, Senator, and now major party presidential candidate to do much reflecting on his decades of political experience. Like Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Sanders is a fighter and a hands-on leader, not a writer or a theoretician. As such, he has never spelled out the essentials of his political method just as he has never written a white paper expounding the Sanders doctrine that governs his foreign policy decision-making.
However, unwritten rules are often the most important rules both in politics and in everyday life. Continue reading →
The news from the Soviet Union is breathtaking. Events which no one would have predicted 10 years ago are now occurring at lightning speed.
Glasnost; perestroika; free speech; open parliamentary debate televised before millions of viewers; the beginning of organized political opposition to the Communist Party; mass strikes and demonstrations by workers and ethnic minorities; serious publications dealing honestly with the nation’s sordid history which had been covered up for decades by official lies. Continue reading →