Why “The Dream” Is a Dead End

August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


This piece originally appeared as part of the special Revolution issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," which is available online at revcom.us.


People say: “If we could actually realize what Martin Luther King put forward in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, then Black people would finally see a new day, America would be a much better place and it could play a much different and better role in the world. So, our efforts should be focused on making that ‘Dream’ a reality.”

2011, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Guards march prisoners back from working in the fields.
Photo: AP

Martin Luther King made many sacrifices—and indeed made the ultimate sacrifice—in seeking to bring about what he put forward in his “I Have a Dream” speech. But, as indicated by that very speech, the outlook of Martin Luther King was precisely one of seeking to make America “live up to its promise,” when that “promise” has always involved, as one of its most essential elements, first the outright enslavement, and then the continuing oppression of Black people in other horrific forms. King’s “dream” can never be realized, for the masses of Black people, under this system—a system which is founded on, and depends on, subjugating Black people and denying them even basic equality. And the fact is that, whatever King’s intent, the realization of this “dream” could, at most, apply only to a small percentage of Black people, and would in reality come at the expense of the masses of Black people—and millions, even billions, of other people, here and around the world, who will continue to be preyed upon and to suffer horribly as a result of the workings of this capitalist-imperialist system and its systematic exploitation and merciless oppression, all enforced by its organized machinery of mass murder and destruction.

Consistent with his outlook, King’s program was straight-up one of reform, directly and explicitly in opposition to revolution, when in fact only revolution, aiming for a communist world as its ultimate goal—and not reform, which leaves this system in effect—can finally end the long nightmare of the oppression of Black people, and all other relations of oppression and exploitation, here and throughout the world. The fact, and the great irony, that, while he sought only to reform this system, King was nevertheless cut down, is itself yet another indictment of this system and its towering crimes and yet another indication of why it cannot in fact be reformed but must be swept aside and abolished through revolution.


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