Martin Luther King Jr.

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What were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s views on Marxism?

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Though there are superficial similarities between Marxism and the liberation theology espoused by Martin Luther King Jr., in actual fact they were fundamentally at odds in key respects. Indeed, on the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik insurrection, King took the opportunity to denounce communism—the end-point of Marxism—in no uncertain terms.

King gave three reasons why he rejected Marxism:

Firstly, he rejected its materialist interpretation of history. Marxists argue that history is to be understood in terms of class struggle and the material conditions from which it arises. As a man of God, King was unable to accept this. He understood that a purely materialistic interpretation of history left no place for God. Furthermore, historical materialism gave a one-dimensional portrait of man as either a producer or exploiter of capital, a portrait that completely ignored his spiritual dimension.

Secondly, King objected to Marxism's ethical relativism. Marxists have always held that morality is the expression of the dominant class's values in any given society. That being the case, there are no fixed, immutable moral values that hold good for all people at all times. As a Christian, and someone who therefore believes in the universality of divine law, King cannot subscribe to such a notion.

Finally, King rejects Marxism on the grounds of its totalitarian tendencies. Though not all Marxists would agree, King argues that, in Marxism, the individual is subordinated to the state. As King puts it, man under Marxism becomes hardly more than a "depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state." To King, this is an affront to human dignity.

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