Continuing King’s dreams

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered this week for his selfless contributions to the African American freedom struggle, antiwar and democratic struggles. His words touched many movements, and his ability to move hundreds of thousands of people into struggle was what won victories and effected democratic change.

Best known as a fighter for civil rights and against racism, King also worked for labor rights, economic justice, and peace, interconnecting all these issues with working people’s self-interest.

In “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,” King said: “There is another thing closely related to racism that I would like to mention as another challenge … poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. They are ill-housed, they are ill-nourished, they are shabbily clad. I have seen it in Latin America; I have seen it in Africa; I have seen this poverty in Asia.”

As our country spends billions of dollars on weapons of mass destruction, wars for oil, and fattening the corporate greedy, we must remember King’s ideals. How can it be that people in the United States and around the world go hungry, face disease, poverty and violence when the resources to end suffering exist? All of us can choose to follow King’s legacy and become “drum majors for justice.” We have to. We have no choice.

Everything King stood and fought for is being systematically attacked and rolled back by the ultra-right Bush administration and its corporate agenda. Working to defeat the Bush administration this November, we must keep in mind King’s unwavering commitment to mass struggle and coalition-building, voter registration and education.

To honor King’s memory, we must ensure that the depth of his multi-faceted struggle is not forgotten. As Wall Street tries year after year to capitalize on his words and image, it is the job of the people to make sure the revolutionary and democratic essence of what King did and stood for are not brushed aside.

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Millions disenfranchised

“Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed …”

So states our country’s Declaration of Independence. Yet among this nation’s “governed” are millions of members of America’s working class – immigrant workers – who find themselves frozen out of this nation’s voting process.

While President Bush’s “Employer Choice” immigration proposal makes it easier for corporations to readily access a low-wage labor supply, it leaves in place – indeed shores up – a gross aberration of democracy: While members of America’s capitalist class operate freely in the electoral arena, a huge portion of the working class, which could potentially oppose their anti-people policies, is barred from participation.

The immigrant workers who harvest our crops, pour the concrete for our buildings, put roofs on our homes and care for our sick and elderly have no say in where their tax monies go.

For members of the multi-millionaire capitalist class who jet set around the globe, the heaviest lifting they might have to do in a day involves lifting a pen to move their factories overseas, yet they have the uncontested right to vote on where the taxes of their disenfranchised workers are spent.

Last fall, buses from the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride criss-crossed our country mobilizing thousands of immigrants of every nationality and their supporters honoring the legacy of the civil rights Freedom Riders, who fought for the voting rights of African Americans in the 1960s.

The straightforward program the IWFR took to Washington called for a path to citizenship and voting rights, as well as family unification and equal rights in the workplace, for America’s immigrant workers. The program of the IWFR was supported by labor, religious, civil rights, and community organizations. This is the immigration reform program needed to redress the travesty of democracy that is this nation’s immigration policies.