"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" - The Roots
(Thanks to big bad wolf for pointing this clip out to me -- what a great performance.)
So tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is typically shortened to the March on Washington. I like the official name because it highlights the economic aspects of the civil rights struggle, and the leftward vision of those behind the March -- Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin and their great ally and benefactor, Walter Reuther, the then president of the United Auto Workers and the most powerful and visionary American labor leader of the era. I am pleased to see that Reuther's role in the March seems to be getting more attention this year than it normally garners. All Things Considered had two stories related to the labor movement's role in the March this evening -- one from the perspective of three Detroit natives who attended the March and one detailing the historical relationship between the civil rights and labor movements.
The attempts to co-opt King's vision and to try and make him something other than a man of the left -- and the March as anything other than a left-liberal event -- despite how much this irritates the right wing brethren -- are ahistorical and a false narrative. MLK was not some libertarian, but rather a social democrat, one closely allied with Reuther, the greatest American social democrat of his day. Alas, they both left us far too soon. One hopes that their broader vision of not only equality and opportunity, but also economic dignity and security, will experience a rebirth in the years to come.
Update: Harold Meyerson has an outstanding column about the motivations for the March and the emphasis on economic justice that lay at its heart. It is well worth reading. He stresses that the event going on today that is most evocative of the March is the one-day strike being engaged in by fast food workers in 35 cities. (It is always worth remembering as well that Martin Luther King Jr.'s final act was in support of striking sanitation workers. King viewed the freedom to organize as an indispensable aspect of achieving freedom and justice.)