A Revolution of Values

Fifth is a series of  ten posts on MLK.

A Revolution of Values

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism.”[1]

King was perhaps the last American leader that could calmly and openly discuss revolution in a way that was convincing to millions of Americans and millions more around the world.

How did he do that? What was the meaning of the revolution King proposed?

King envisioned a revolution of values — of spirit and soul — but also a freedom revolution that would destroy the institutionalized structures of oppression.  This revolution took shape in current social movements but was also deeply rooted in the American past. King embraced the revolution in revolutionary strategy: nonviolent force could now replace violence because it was morally and strategically superior. His revolutionary vision took aim at economic exploitation and empire because those power structures stunted every other struggle and were the most intractable obstacles to creating a better world.

Non-violence led King to discover that the revolution was in the minds of the people. He wrote,

“As long as the mind is enslaved the body can never be free.”[2]

Hearts and minds became the King’s battlefield and so he advocated a revolution of values that would create a “people-oriented” rather than a “thing-oriented” world.[3]

[I]n order to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values….When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”[4]

King assumed that changes in consciousness, in values, in culture were the real revolution and the most important kind of political change. This view has the decisive strategic advantage of making the struggle for social transformation possible here and now — not in some imaginary future when a “revolutionary situation” occurs or when “objective conditions” permits.

Since King made the people — our ideas, participation, activism, consciousness, and courage — the primary strategic consideration, he found that all the raw materials and resources necessary for revolution already exist.  Even if unrealized and unfulfilled.

“Our challenge,” King said, “is to organize the power we already have in our midst.”[5]

Word. If there ever was one.


Next: King’s Revolution is the American Revolution


[1] Where Do We Go From Here?, 623

[2] Where Do We Go From Here? 582

[3] Where Do We Go From Here? 623

[4] A Time to Break Silence, 240

[5] A Testament of Hope, 319


About Richard Moser

Richard Moser has over 40 years experience as an organizer and activist in the labor, student, peace, and community movements. Moser is the author of "New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam Era," and co-editor with Van Gosse of "The World the Sixties Made: Politics and Culture in Recent America." Moser lives in Colorado.
This entry was posted in American Culture, Martin Luther King, Movement Culture, Strategy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Revolution of Values

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Rich, I’m really enjoying the series — all of them. The essays also have the look of a book in progress. The blog is picking up good reactions too. fyi only shares from the blog will show up on the metrics here.


    • Richard Moser says:

      Thanks much. Well i consider the blog an alternative to another print book. Print publishing has gotten terribly slow and publishers are generally uninterested in strategy or organizing. So I kind of view it as a book 1000 words at a time.

      So do you mean reactions from other sites? I still have not had the time to figure out the technical end of things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • VanessaVaile says:

        When someone shares directly from the page, you see that. Others are less visible. Likewise, it’s not always that clear how the visitors got there — and in my own opinion, obsessing over it is probably not the best use of limited time.

        In particular, I was thinking about having sent the link to Jesse Turner, a K12 activist and blogger (who is also an adjunct, teaching ed a UConn) because I thought he’d like it — and he does. http://childrenaremorethantestscores.blogspot.com/

        So did James Miller who does an online radio show, “The War Report on Public Education.”


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