Full Citation

  • Title Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report on the position of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Communist Party, USA on U.S. policy toward Vietnam
  • Classification Level Secret
  • Imprint [United States: Federal Bureau Of Investigation, 1965]
  • Declassified Date August 29, 2001
  • Sanitization Unsanitized
  • Completeness Complete
  • Collection Declassified Document Reference System
  • Pages 5
  • Language English
  • Document Type Memo
  • Source Library Federal Bureau of Investigation
iI\Ii hD nI xiFEn DKI,ART\iL'I ' JUSTICE FEDERAL BU REAU ()F INVESTI;IGVFT()_N In Reply, Please Refer to WkSHINGTON, D.C. 20535 File Nho. July 7, 1965 1. THE POSITION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, ON VIETNAM King Declares Himself Concerning Vietnam Martin Luther King, Jr., declared in a speech on July 1, 1965, that he and his aides would study the use of t1ec rallies" and so-called teach-ins to bring pressure to bear in foreign policy matters. Speaking at Petersburg, Virginia, King reportedly said that he "was not going to sit by and see war escalated without saying anything about it," and he called for a negotiated settlement, demanding that we tIf"even negotiate with the Vietcong." As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the main civil rights organizations in this country, King's announced intention to inject himself and his organization into foreign policy issues was significant for several reasons. Communist Influence on King Relative to Vietnam Of primary significance in connection with King's announcement is the fact that several of his advisors with communist backgrounds are known to have been in favor of having King inject himself into the peace movement in opposition to our foreign policy on Vietnam. On May 13, 1965, Stanley Levison, Clarence Jones, and Cordy Vivian, advisors to King, met in New York City. They discussed the situation in Vietnam and the civil rights movement. Concerning Vietnam, Levison, a long-time communist whose secret membership in the Communist Party, USA, has been established as recently as July, 1963, told Jones and Vivian that if King would join with other clergymen in urging peace it would constitute a powerful influence because King had received the Nobel Peace Prize. Levison pointed out that King's stature could thus be exploited in that it would serve as a means of urging others to join the movement for peace. It is to be noted that King confers with Levison, Jones,jand Vivian frequently, and, in fact, on that particular GROUP? 1 Excluded from automatic E.O.O do,ngrading and declassification THE POSITION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, ON VIETNAM occasion subsequently joined them at the meeting. Vivian was a member of the Communist Party in 1947, and Jones held a position of leadership during the mid-1950's in the Labor Youth League, an organization which has been designated as subversive pursuant to Executive Order 10450. It should also be noted that another individual with a communist background who has been close to King wrote a speech which King's wife, Coretta, made at an "Emergency Rally on Vietnam" at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 8, 1965. The speech was written by Bayard Rustin and was given by Coretta King in place of her husband at the Rally, the purpose of which was to ask President Johnson to stop the bombing, seek a cease fire, and press for negotiations in connection with the situation in Vietnam. Rustin, who also spoke at the Rally, was, during the early 19402s, a member of the Young Communist League, an organization which has been designated as subversive pursuant to Executive Order 10450. The Party Line Concerning Vietnam The determination of King's advisors with communist backgrounds to have him inject himself into the peace movement surrounding the Vietnam situation at this time is another significant factor bearing on his announced intention to do so. The announcement comes at a time when the Communist Party, USA, has placed the Vietnam situation foremost among issues about which to center communist action in this country. Beginning in the Fall of 1964, the Party began issuing instructions to rank-and-file members to concentrate on the Vietnam issue. Since that time, the Party has issued a virtual avalanche of directives to all Party districts containing instructions on activities to be followed to achieve the Party's objectives in regard to Vietnam. Condemning the "military aggression" of the United States against North Vietnam, Party Headquarters instructed district leaders to organize activities in trade unions, youth groups, religious organizations, peace groups, and the like. It instructed that steps be taken to cooperate in regard to activities of these groups involving 5icftr lines, peace walks, student assemblies, and demonstrations aimed at protesting this Nation's foreign policy position on Vietnam. -2- W"~ UU ueOMiY THE POSITION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, ON VIETNAM Illustrating the increased tempo of communist activity in this regard is the fact that an analysis made of communist propaganda media during the six-month period beginning January 1, 1965, reveals that the "peace-in-Vietnam" theme was the predominant issue exploited. Implementing the Party Line Communists, their supporters, and their sympathizers have responded to the Party's campaign and the Party instructions on a broad scale. Typical was the communist exploitation of the student uprising which took place on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, California, this past school year. Seizing the opportunity presented on that occasion, Herbert Aptheker, a leading national functionary of the Communist Party, appeared and spoke at a demonstration involving some 1,300 students in February, 1965. Encouraging the students to demonstrate in protest against the United States foreign policy on Vietnam, Aptheker declared that the war in Vietnam was the fault of the United States and a direct result of our intervention there. Similarly, communists and individuals with communist backgrounds have exploited opportunities of a like nature in connection with the widespread demonstrations which have occurred in the country this past year. One of the best examples of the Party's tactics in this regard involves the communist- inspired W. E. B. DuBois Clubs of America. At a national conference of that organization held in Chicago, Illinois, during the last three days of May, 1965, plans for mass protests against the policy of the United States in Vietnam, ties with international front groups, and cooperation with other organizations to protest United States policy were the principal topics of dis- cussion. Civil Rights Group Follows Party Line In this connection, it is noteworthy that an announcement was made concerning the plans of the Student Non- .Vioinf'Coordinating Committee to dramatize opposition to -3- cm U LOM THE POSITION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, ON VIETNAM United States policy in Vietnam. It was stated that this organization, which is one of the more militant civil rights groups, would attempt to recruit 2,000 people this summer for the purpose of surrounding the White House in a sit-down in September. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee is a prime target for communist infiltration since it has made it clear that it will accept support for its endeavors from anyone, including communists. This announcement of the plans of the Student Non- Violent Coordinating Committee is of particular interest because it constitutes the injection of a civil rights group into foreign policy protests, something the communists are most desirous of achieving to further their own objectives. It can be clearly seen from the communist directives that the key to communist action on the central issue of Vietnam today is infiltration of all groups in our society through which the communists might in any way work to create opposition to our foreign policy. Since the civil rights movement embraces widespread groups and supporters constituting a major force on the national scene, the Communist Party sees in it a ready-made vehicle to organize widespread protests in line with its program of opposition to foreign policy if the Party's campaign is carefully executed. King's Influence Potential for Party Exploitation In this regard, Martin Luther King's emergence on the scene with the announced intention of participating in protests against our foreign policy in Vietnam cannot be lightly dismissed or underestimated. Whether it constitutes a witting or unwitting move on his part in relation to serving communist objectives, it holds out the prospect of additional support being engendered among civil rights groups for protest demonstrations against our current policy in Vietnam, and in turqholds out the prospect of additional opportunities for communist exploitation of the situation. -- R4U-- -4- W"~ isj LOWRAY THE POSITION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, ON VIETNAM 1/ As to King's witting or unwitting role in this matter, ' it is most interesting to note that the heads of two other principal civil rights organizations in the country today have taken a position contrary to King's by opposing a merger of the issues of civil rights and Vietnam. James Farmer, head of the Congress of Racial Equality, told that organization's convention at Durham, North Carolina, on July 5, 1965, that their organization should stay out of the peace movement and concentrate on civil rights. Roy Wilkins, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is reported as having commented concerning King's involvement in the Vietnam situation to the effect that his, Wilkins', organization was too busily engaged in civil rights matters to have any time left for becoming involved in the Vietnam crisis. 4, -5- CMLI UU Rmmy