Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks Against the Vietnam War
The spring offensive in the war against repression continues. Today's program is a discussion of the issues that brought together the coalition of the National Welfare Rights Organization the people's coalition for peace and justice and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Listen.
As Martin Luther King speaks and testifying before the Senate last December I said the bombs in Vietnam explode at home.
The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures.
We will lose in our decay and that is no need to change a word of that process.
Rather it needs underlining the war against your own people warring against another nation is the ultimate in political and social bankruptcy.
We begin with Jose way of his national program director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And then the gentleman we have committed we have asked spring offensive I want us repression to have with us today. Three distinguished gentlemen represent three of the very viral what is ation that is this war against repression. Chris I'd like to present to you Dr. Joe edge while the National Welfare Rights Organization that supervised amended the first great victory of the spring offensive privateer like to say something concerning the victory to begin with and having mostly just invited.
Well Nevada was the first state to conduct a major attack on poor people since the welfare rights movement got started five years ago on a nationwide basis that cut 3000 people off welfare and another 4000 people had their grants caught in a totally lawless and brutal manner with with gross violation of people's rights for no reasons really simply that they didn't want so many people on welfare. Nationally. Rights Organization responded by announcing a counter attack. This victory was achieved by the unified efforts of Dr. Abernathy came in and participated in demonstrations several staff of Southern Christian Leadership Conference helped us in organizing Dave Dell and Jane Fonda members of the Daschle Student Association. The number of people from women's liberation came in and supported the struggle. It was an example of how to combine forces against repression. People from NC will movements in the various minority movements in the country. Got to get us to turn around a major attack on poor people here at home.
Thank you Dr. Weiss. One of the other organizations that I have been really and supportive as possible for the spring offensive the Walgett suppression. People coalition for peace and justice somehow represent the peoples coalition for peace and justice. I'm free and I believe going to show the Chicago way. He would you like to say something about a coalition or a people's coalition of peace and justice.
Yes well first of all I would say that I and a lot of other people got great satisfaction and really a big thrill out of being involved in the action and I think that the Nevada action represented a significant step forward in terms of the organic coming together of different strands of forces and people who are fighting for human rights in both places and I think that the whole way that that was carried out gave me at least a sense of new strength and new unity and I think that was felt by other people there as well. It's so silly you know to try to oppose the government's foreign policy and not realize that it's the same government with the same attitudes toward human beings the same racist attitudes amongst other things.
That is determining what happens in the United States. I think it's particularly significant as we go into the second phase of the spring offensive.
Now I think it's particularly significant that in the middle the middle of that kind of a situation with greater intensity and the emergency really on the war greater leverage the greatest leverage we've ever had in terms of stopping it that people are not saying well let's forget about race let's forget about poverty let's forget about unemployment but they're going into Washington this coming week and the week after they go on you know Washington uniting those two. Struggles just one other thought on that I remember back in 1966 when Martin Luther King was beginning to. Place greater emphasis on attacking the war and I was involved in some discussions with him about. What he was going to do and where and how. And there are a lot of pressures from people who said well don't confuse people you're already out in front on civil rights and if you introduced the war people won't be able to accept a second second subject a second issue. And I know he was brought under a lot of financial pressure by people who felt that he better not speak up on this unpopular subject as well. But as we all know he did.
And when I spring offensive began the week of April 4th it was commemorating not only his assassination on April 4th 1968 when he came to the aid of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis but also it was commemorating April 4th 1967 when he made a major statement against the war at Riverside Church which had reverberations around the world really. I hope we're going to carry through the same kind of nonviolent militancy the same kind of nonviolent civil disobedience. Can't same kind of nonviolent strength which as C.L. see and Dr. King at their best exemplified.
Thank you. Well this year I got a name that I have the greatest admiration for the alcoholic who is the executive secretary of the Vietnam Vets Against the War.
Well first of all I think it's important to note that the one unique thing about Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Is that we have never been able to separate the peace movement and the civil rights movement because we are in fact a microcosm of the society we have to deal with the civil rights movement in this country as well as dealing with the war of genocide 10000 miles away. Last year we had to generate all of our forces to assist in getting a black veteran buried in a National Cemetery in Florida that I've been involved with welfare cases because disabled Vietnam veterans do not get the benefits that they should have. And the structure of the welfare laws in the state of New York particularly discriminate against Vietnam veterans. But it's important to note that while there is a 13 percent unemployment rate among Vietnam veterans nationally the rate among nonwhite Vietnam veterans run somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 percent. So we are poor. We are black we are Puerto Rican we're Chicano. We are all things. And when we go to Washington as a part of the spring offensive we don't go there asking just to end the war that's taking place 10000 miles away. We're going to have to generate our forces to an immediate end to that war but also an immediate end to the war of repression and poverty in this country. O ization is going to generate all of it separates George reordering the social and economic priorities of this country and bringing about we consider ourselves to be the agents the true agents of social change we are working very hard on every level we're in labor we're in schools we're in the welfare lines we're in the unemployment lines. We're going to be working very hard and defeating all of the injustices we've had to come to grips with the park receives hypocrisy of having been called up by this government. With that classic statement Uncle Sam wants you. And then having to face the fact that upon using us we're turned back into this society ignored hidden totally alienated from the society because of the dichotomies that we were faced with in many instances many people never really did take a look at the civil rights movement.
Many of our members that is because many of them were white working class and had been brainwashed and conditioned for a long long time after coming to grips with the dichotomies the inherent racism in the war policy in Vietnam they've had to come to grips with what is going on around the corner from them next door to them and indeed they are really really really committed to making this spring offensive a unification of the Civil Rights Party and anti-war movement.
Would you like to comment.
One of the things Al Hubbard said struck an interesting connection in my mind. One of the things that got the Welfare Rights Movement most actively interested in connecting up with the anti-war movement is the fact that the sons of welfare recipients are being asked to go and fight this war and that brought up a lot of kind of paradoxes in the sense that when you when a kid is growing up a baby needs clothing needs food needs shelter. This government says there's no money we can't afford it we can't we can't give you money for the basic necessities for a welfare family when you get to be 18 they're ready to put a gun in your hand a uniform three square meals and go off and fight and maybe get killed in somebodies in somebody else as well. Then we come back in the sea the same the same people that went on and fought that war comes back and then there's no job for them and there's nothing for that they they say there's no constructive place in the society for them. And this is really certainly one of the things that has really activated a lot of our people toward us a hostility a direct felt hostility toward the war. We have we also see in this country another insidious thing to my way of thinking. They are talking about welfare reform in Washington and all you hear all the talk centers and also in the state capitals in New York and California Reagan and Rockefeller putting big programs to try to force welfare mothers to go to work. Nixon is talking about in mills Congress and Mills talking about forcing recipients off welfare to go to work. And to me the insanity of that is the fact that here you have the first one out of four of every black and Puerto Rican and Chicano G.I. that comes back cannot find a job.
What we think this country has to be about is taking the emphasis off war and destruction and death and sustaining life providing jobs for people providing ways of getting decent wages providing some meaningful work rebuilding the housing in the ghettos and those in the slums building some hospitals and schools and parks and some facilities in providing. And also providing for the people who are unable to work the aged disabled the blind mothers with dependent children people who can't very act actively get out into the regular job market. Providing those people with an with an adequate basic level of income and what this movement is about and I think what's happening in the spring offensive is we are raising up the issue of the right to live that everybody's got a right to live whether it's a child in North or South Vietnam or like a Laos or whether it's whether it's a person in Mississippi or New York or a Chicano or an Indian on the reservation. People have a right to live. And we're trying to struggle in Washington and across this nation to end the emphasis on death and to raise up our guarantee adequate income as one of the basic as one of the basic things to sustain the right to live. And we are saying we are going to oppose anything that does not make a commitment to adequate income and we want Congressman unless there is going to be a bill and it doesn't have to necessarily be aal a bill which says Sixty five hundred now but it's got to be a bill that makes a commitment a definite commitment by a specific date to adequate income not a black caucus in the Congress with the support of many other congressman has introduced a sixty five hundred dollar bill. And that means sixty five hundred dollars a year for a family of four. And what we also say by the way that means for everybody everybody in the society has a right to get up to that level. And for all of those people who work but who have substandard wages we'd like to see them supplemented. We'd like to see they would get under this proposal supplementation which not only would bring them to 65 hundred if they had a family of four but their wages they would exempt the portion of their wages and they would get an income beyond that of 75 85 90 500 depending on what their income was so that we're talking and there's a lot of misunderstanding among many working people who say well I don't make $65000 and I'm against this time. Think what we're talking about is boosting them up to a level even higher than that so that if their wages don't pay an adequate amount they get a higher amount. We also think that anybody who earns less than sixty five hundred dollars a year should not be paying any taxes and that the taxes should be borne by the corporations and by the people who make and fifteen and twenty and twenty five and thirty thousand and two hundred thousand dollars a year and that that what we have and what we have had is too much of people who work and don't and make inadequate wages being hostile toward welfare recipients and thinking that welfare cheaters as they say are denying them something when the real problem is the people who are ripping it off on the grand scale. The corporations who I might say met most of whom are profiting from this war and that's where the real power is coming from to sustain this war effort is the fact that there are major profits to be made by many of the big businesses in this country from the war effort. And the fact is if the people get together in sufficient numbers on April 24th. And not just on April 24th we have to have ongoing organization an ongoing struggle around all these kind of issues to wage a political fights of various kinds to turn around the priorities of this country and to turn around the values of this country to start putting an emphasis on life rather than death which they have.
What would you say.
You know it's awfully hard when you're living through a period of history really to grasp its significance. And I just happened because I was studying I had a fellowship a scholarship to study in England. I had to spend quite a bit of time traveling in and out of Germany during the Nazi period. And it's another story but you know I had some contacts with the anti-Nazi underground I had some sense to observe in a limited way perhaps but observe what was going on there. And it literally is true that the Germans did not realize the intensity of the period of fascism that they were going through because they could go through most of them their ordinary lives and their daily lives and they complained about Hitler Yes you know they said we don't like his methods he's too extreme or something. The same kind of complaints you get today about Nixon or Laird that he's not really telling us the truth. A lot of people did that but they didn't realize there was a period in history where they really had to somehow put it all together and assert their rights for other values. And I think that we're in that kind of we're in that kind of a period now in the whole idea of the spring offensive is that we're not just going down there to be dissenters and saying we don't like the way things are going on but we're going down there to assert the power of the people to take history and turn it around and to turn it in in another direction. We're going to be implementing the peace treaty for instance which was signed between representatives originally between representatives. Student groups and American women's groups and their representatives of similar groups in Vietnam were going to say that actually this is the time when people have to push the government aside and make peace way back in 1956 I think it was President Eisenhower said something to the effect that the time may come when the governments of the world will have to stand aside and let the people make peace. And I don't know maybe he said that because he thought the time would never come or wouldn't come while he was president anyway. But I think the time has come. And I'd like to state it a little more positively than Eisenhower did that is it's not just time for the governments to step aside but it's time for the peoples to push the governments aside and then. Really what this what this spring offensive is is all about I think we're going to be down there saying we're not going to be good Germans we're not going to be good Ariens we're not going to be good Americans in that sense in that phony sense of just saying My country right or wrong whatever happens. We're deeply distressed about what's going on in the country. And this time we're going beyond the heads of government as people we're getting ourselves together with our strength and we're going to actually not only lobby but there's going to be attempts to nonviolently disrupt business as usual when that business as usual is welfare payments one quarter. Of decent standard of living by the government's own statistics when that business as usual is bringing a few troops back home and intensifying the the air combat intensifying the the genocide from the US like this business about Cali if I just say one more word about that.
Has a man who was trained to do something went over and did on the ground just a tiny percentage of what every bombing plane that goes over Vietnam does. And I'm glad that there's a wave of sympathy for him as an individual. But there's two different ways of approaching that and Agnew says. Well they all were enemies. He supports Kelly because he thinks what Kelly did was right. We support Cally because we think that he was caught. In a contradiction not of his own making carrying out a governmental policy. And that if anybody should be indicted it should be the AG news the next and the Westmoreland and and the Abrams.
That's the kind of mood the kind of spirit that we're going I don't mean by that that we're there to get revenge. I wouldn't be I wouldn't bother to punish President Nixon. All we want to do is to take his power away from them this power to kill its power to destroy his power to keep people on inadequate levels of income we want to restrict return the power to the people and the only way that'll ever happen is not by asking the government to give it back to us but by the people learning how to work together struggle together assert their will together and in this case demand both the things that George has been talking about. Decent living and also demand withdrawal not just of troops but withdrawal of airplanes with withdrawal of of sea power. Withdrawal of all American attempts to interfere in the freedom and democracy of the people over there.
I'm going to respond briefly to your comments on Cali. The position that we combat veterans of Vietnam which comprise the largest percentage of our membership that exceeds 11000 now. The position that we've taken and I think it's the only position that can be taken is that we recognize the obligation on the part of every individual to refrain from committing war crimes. We also recognize a callee is guilty of not having met that obligation. And we are not taking the position that Cali should be excused for what he did. We are saying that Cali should not be convicted alone.
We are saying there is a larger responsibility the larger responsibility resides in those individuals who have provided this country through the policy that they are utilizing both official and de facto in the waging of the war genocide in Indo-China.
When we go to Washington tomorrow we'll be going in with upwards of 5000 veterans will be going there not. To stand around a demonstration to listen to ourselves talk. We will be there for the express purpose of stopping the business of the Congress as usual.
If they are not relating to 16 specific demands that we are taking to Washington which covered the immediate ending of the war not the withdrawal of the US troops. And that must be clearly understood the ending of the war we can withdraw every American troop. Vietnam is an automated battlefield they have senses in the jungle that feed back information to computer banks at night be headquarters that indicate the passage by the people around the most through the jungle. Now there is no differentiation made between whether they are combatants or noncombatants because there is absolutely no visual contact and an air strike can be called in artillery can be called it and these people are still being killed whether we move a ground troop or not. So we must talk about pulling out technology. We must talk about pulling out our economic support of the two key chem regime. Beyond that we have to deal with it by proxies and we go to Arlington National Cemetery at 10 o'clock tomorrow for a memorial service one of the things that we are going to point out is the first American combat death in Vietnam was a black man.
And not many people in this country have paid much attention to that. But he was a black man that was killed phrase in Vietnam and it's a black man that's coming back now to the highest unemployment rate. It's the black man that's coming back now to a family that was on welfare when you left and is on welfare when he returns will be pointing it out will be into every office of the Congress every congressman and woman every senator will have a contingent of Vietnam veterans in the office from the time the office opens the time it closes for the entire length of our stay which is five days. If they decide to leave their office to answer a quorum call or something they will be accompanied by Vietnam veterans and I rather doubt that they will answer many quorum calls. I think in the Congress they use a label called filibustering. Wow willing gaijin filibustering willing gauge and maintaining a steady dialogue with these congressmen until such time as we can impress upon them the idea that they must address themselves realistically to the immediate ending of the war and the media that reordering of social.
And economic priorities in this country. Can I add one thing it's very important for your animation thing you said before I go.
I want to urge the members of the welfare rights organizations across the country to link up with the local coalition of peace NSCLC and other organizations in their town to come in on the 24th and the plan to stay for the struggle in Washington. We will be lobbying and the we expect that the welfare legislation the mill's Nixon bill that we are trying to defeat because of its repressive character will be brought out will be up on the floor around that time and on the week of the twenty six we'd like to have active lobbying against that bill. And I'd like to ask Alan the Viet-Nam veterans who come in on the who are coming in tomorrow that they'll be going in when they go into those congressman that you'll be our vanguard to be demanding that people vote against that repressive kind of legislation.
We certainly will be watching for that.
This is something that we had a recent war crimes investigation. Call the Winter Soldier Investigation and we dealt with the war crimes that are being committed in Indochina.
But we also dealt with the war crimes that are being committed here in this country against all of the non-whites.
Evan Haney who testified on our third world panel our racism panel and also with I believe the 11th Calvary panel of a division he was in China.
At the end of his testimony he said when we made treaties long ago he's an Oklahoman Indian.
He said it was for as long as the grass shall grow and as long as the water shall flow in a way we're going now.
One of these days the grass isn't going to grow and the waters are going to flow.
I think everybody's got to keep that in mind.
We're clearly getting to the end of the line if we don't do something decisive unified decisive action now sustained action commitment on the part of every individual in this country that we will not return to business as usual that we will stay out we will stay in the streets we will make our bodies available until such time as this country is turned back to the people. I think we had better do that and I think we better commit ourselves to do personal sacrifice. Until that is attained.
Get involved yourself keep informed the news media won't really tell us what's happening. Try to talk to people who are taking part in the war against repression to feed the family assistance plan. Get in touch with the National Welfare Rights Organization in your community. Talk with the women who will have their welfare grants cut if they choose to take care of their children instead of working for below poverty wages. Next week the whole program will be about this repressive act and ways that you can help defeat it.
Every week this station makes it possible for ACLC to bring you Martin Luther King speaks and testifying before the Senate last December I said.
The bombs in Vietnam explode in home security we profess to seek in foreign adventures.
We will lose in our decay and that is no need to change a word of that prophecy.
Rather it needs underlining the war against your own people warring against another nation is the ultimate in political and social bankruptcy.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968), President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) spoke against the Vietnam War in 1967. A Baptist minister and prominent civil rights leader, King led a number of demonstrations including the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963 where he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1957, he co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that advocated non-violent civil disobedience to protest for civil rights. Before his untimely death, he worked to end poverty and to end the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on Aril 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. This program was produces by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as part of their "Martin Luther King Speaks" weekly series. The program is about lobbying efforts against proposed welfare legislation that brought together the National Welfare Rights Organization, the Peoples Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It includes short excerpts of King speaking at the beginning and end of the program.
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- APA: Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks Against the Vietnam War. Boston, MA: WYSO, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_27-pr7mp4w42p