“The roots of economic injustice are in the system rather than in men or faulty operations.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
The “Stone of Hope” monument crafted by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was to be unveiled sometime in September. It is a 30-foot tall statue of Martin Luther King in the National Mall in Washington D.C. built at the cost $120 million dollars, the main attraction of a four-acre memorial. Hurricane Irene forced the organizers to postpone the grand ceremony. The monument and memorial is a cynical attempt to neuter the radical message of King at a time of global economic crisis, social and political upheavals around the world.
Promoters of the memorial include former aides to Dr. King like Andrew Young and other well-heeled black leaders, the King Center in Atlanta. Among the sponsors are several corporate Wall Street criminals: JP Morgan, Rupert Murdoch’s Direct TV, Exxon, Target, Wal-Mart and Verizon. The latter is actively attempting to cut the benefits and wages of 45,000 Verizon workers, who recently went on a strike to defend their benefits and jobs, as Verizon profited 20 billion dollars and paid no taxes in the past year.
The Dream is Now a Nightmare…
In a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times Cornel West wrote: “The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.” (8/26/2011)
President Barack Obama is a slated speaker at the memorial ceremony. Obama has sought to cover his corporate, right-wing policies, in the rhetoric and imagery of Dr. King starting with the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primary. As West points out far from implementing Dr. King’s “dream,” President Obama and his big business backers are presiding over an the American nightmare.
A more in-depth critique of the Democrats and the Obama administration’s policies can be found in several current and past articles in this website. Obama’s “achievements” include the extension of the War on Terror to Africa and internationally, the debt ceiling “agreement” which has produced a 2.1-trillion dollar federal austerity package that bludgeons working people and the poor, a deepening economic recession that extends unemployment, home foreclosure and abject poverty. The dream however is alive for Wall Street and big business. They got bailed out to the tunes of trillions and are still making immense profits
How do we commemorate Dr. King?
Needless to say King himself had a very different understanding of these issues as compared to Obama’s cuddling of the bankrupt capitalist system. In his final SCLC speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” King said:
“And I say to you today that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam and twenty billion to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions to put God’s children on their own two feet night here…And one day, we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.”
The real spirit and message of Martin Luther King, who did not hesitate to launch mass demonstrations, labor struggles and civil disobedience in the struggle for civil rights and worker’s rights can be found much more in the mass movements against we saw rising in Tunisia and Egypt, in the struggle in Wisconsin, the strike of the Verizon workers, the historic Georgia State prisoners strike, and the efforts of Fed-Ex ground workers in Brockton to get union rights.
Dr. King’s advocacy of mobilizing and collective action of working people and the poor called into question the evils of war, racism, poverty, militarism and mindless consumerism and pointed to an indictment of the capitalist system itself. These lessons are necessary more than ever today. Instead of turning Martin Luther King into a harmless icon, we must organize and build a mass, fighting, uncompromising movement in every city that puts people before profits and challenges the dictatorship of Wall Street and capitalism.
The time is also now to build a political alternative to the two-party political system that serves the interests of millionaires and Wall Street. We must run independent working class candidates in every city and state opposing layoffs, budget cuts, poverty, attacks on workers’ rights, ending racial and class oppression and imperialist wars.
These campaigns would be an important step toward building a party of working people that would organize daily in our communities, schools and workplaces around demands for national healthcare, jobs for all at a living wage, workers’ rights, and to end the rule of Wall Street and big business. The only fitting monument to Dr. King is to work to revive the ideas of social struggle, solidarity and democratic socialism in the US and internationally.