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Martin Luther King Jr Was an Anarchist

Martin Luther King Jr Was an Anarchist
Alabama state troopers attacking peaceful Selma marchers

Welcome back to Anarchist Hot Takes, the weekly newsletter from Everyday Anarchism!

Martin Luther King Jr was an anarchist. That’s really all I have to say.

The principled, nonviolent, religious tradition of anarchism was popularized by Leo Tolstoy, drawing on the works of Henry David Thoreau. Mohandas Gandhi adopted the philosophy of Tolstoy. Via Bayard Rustin, King adopted the philosophy of Gandhi. All of it goes back to Thoreau, who Emma Goldman called “the greatest American anarchist.” Now that title belongs to King.

Anarchists believe in the direct struggle against capital. They take to the streets, organizing in effective but nonhierarchical ways. Their protests, peaceful or not, take place whether or not they are “legal.” They demonstrate their convictions by their actions. They are quite willing to provoke state violence, in order to show people the violence inherent in the system.

Anarchists don’t allow national boundaries to dictate their activism. They believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. They oppose imperialism, even if their own country is engaging in the acts of imperialism. They ignore calls to organize along national or racial boundaries, seeking instead to eliminate the forces that created those boundaries.

Anarchists aren’t looking for integration into the burning house that is American society. They want to put the fire out. The goal of anarchists isn’t “inclusive” CEOs and “diverse” Senate majorites; it’s not to put a different group of people in power and a different group of people behind bars. The goal of anarchism is an end to the supremacist society that creates corporations, CEOs, poverty, and prisons and all the justifications for them.

Martin Luther King Jr was an anarchist. Maybe you are too.