Posts tagged Poor People's Campaign
"A New and Unsettling Force": The Leadership of the Poor

The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.

The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.

Rev. Dr. King wrote these words for a series of lectures he gave in December of 1967. The passage is one of the clearest statements of how he saw America’s political and economic situation at that time; as well as the vision and strategy behind his call for a Poor People’s Campaign. Looking closely at it can help us understand that vision and strategy, especially the idea that the poor — as a united social force — can and must lead the rest of our society.

That idea is more true today than ever. The current technological revolution is transforming every part of the economy all over the world. Because of our “cruelly unjust” class-based society, this revolution is bringing more poverty and violence instead of shared wealth. The poor are feeling the effects first: they’re becoming totally unnecessary, from the perspective of those who own and control the economy. This puts them in position to lead the “middle class” to political independence and clarity, as they face the trauma and fear of downward mobility.

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