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The Assassinations of Malcolm X and MLK

John Simkin

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I have always been puzzled by LBJ's decision to advocate the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Is it possible he was blackmailed into this action? I argue this for the following reasons:

LBJ long record of public hostility to civil rights. His first speech in the Senate was an attack on Harry Truman’s proposed civil rights legislation that would have given black Americans protection against lynching and discrimination in employment. It would also have made it easier for them to vote. In the speech Johnson argued that Truman’s proposals were a call “for depriving one minority (white people living in the Deep South) of its rights in order to extend rights to other minorities”. (1)

Liberals in the Senate became angry with Johnson in 1957 over Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Bill. They first of all complained about the weakness of the original bill. Then they turned on Johnson when he assigned the bill to the Judiciary Committee. This was under the chairmanship of James Eastland, the most extreme racist in the Senate. As one historian pointed out, this resulted in the bill “being buried” by Eastland. (2) Joseph Rauh commented that it was now abundantly clear that Johnson was “running the Democratic party for the benefit of the Southern conservative viewpoint.” (3) This is why the civil rights activists were so upset when LBJ was selected as JFK's running mate.

The fact that LBJ was a racist is not only shown by his political record. It is also supported by information from his friends who claim he was a nasty racist in private (apparently he called his black servants “niggers” in front of people).

I have argued in the past that LBJ was being blackmailed by a liberal in JFK’s government who knew who was responsible for his assassination in 1963. This helps to explain why Richard Russell changed his mind on the subject.

When the bill was first introduced Russell told the Senate: "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states." Russell organized 18 Southern Democratic senators in filibustering this bill. With the help of conservatives in the Republican Party he would have had no difficulty in blocking the bill.

Although in public LBJ and Russell were in great conflict over the civil rights bill, this is not reflected in the recently released taped telephone conversations between the two men. In fact, they appear to be the best of friends and the issue is never raised.

On the 15th June, 1964, Russell privately told Mike Mansfield and Hubert Humphrey, the two leading supporters of the Civil Rights Act, that he would bring an end to the filibuster that was blocking the vote on the bill. This resulted in a vote being taken and it was passed by 73 votes to 27.

Why did Russell do this? Had he been converted to the issue of civil rights? No. One answer is that both Johnson and Russell were being blackmailed into passing this legislation.

When LBJ signed the 1965 Civil Rights Act he made a prophecy that he was “signing away the south for 50 years”. This proved accurate. In fact, the Democrats have never recovered the vote of the white racists in the Deep South. This is the electorate that now gives its support to the Republican Party. A new alliance has therefore taken place between the white racists, right-wing conservatives and Christian fundamentalists.

Was that the long-term objective of the conspiracy? After all, the realignment has resulted in the liberals in America losing political power.

Until yesterday I had not come across anyone who agrees with the idea that LBJ was blackmailed into passing the Civil Rights Act. However, last night I was reading Deborah Davis’ book, ‘Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post’. (4) The book is about the role the Washington Post played in Operation Mockingbird and does not cover the assassination of JFK.

Davis appears to be well informed about these events. Although she rarely reveals her sources. Davis worked for Ramparts when it became a target of Operation Mockingbird. At the end of 1966 Desmond FitzGerald, head of the Directorate for Plans, was informed that Ramparts, a left-wing publication, had discovered that the CIA had been secretly funding the National Student Association. FitzGerald ordered Edgar Applewhite to organize a campaign against the magazine. Applewhite later told Evan Thomas for his book, The Very Best Men: "I had all sorts of dirty tricks to hurt their circulation and financing. The people running Ramparts were vulnerable to blackmail. We had awful things in mind, some of which we carried off." (5)

This dirty tricks campaign failed to stop Ramparts publishing this story in February, 1967. As well as reporting CIA funding of the National Student Association it exposed the whole system of anti-communist front organizations in Europe, Asia, and South America was essentially blown.

In her book Davis briefly covers LBJ’s reasons for advocating the 1965 Civil Rights Act. She believes the pressure (she does not use the word blackmail) came from the CIA and the FBI. Davis argues that the CIA main preoccupation was to prevent the spread of communism. The CIA (and the FBI) were aware that “dangerous kinds of radicals” were playing an important role in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.

According to Davis “Communists were working in American to try to create chaos, a belief that Katharine shared not only with the president, but with the directors of the FBI and the CIA, army intelligence and navy intelligence, all of whom a few years later blamed the Soviets for the rise of Black Power” (6)

The Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC) could not compromise over the Vietnam War. However, it could undermine the work being done by communists working via the Civil Rights movement. In doing so, the MICC (as reflected in the Suite 8F Group) switched its support from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. The alliance between the Northern liberals and Southern racists had been destroyed. The 1965 Civil Rights Act made no difference at all to the MICC’s financial objectives.

I think this also helps to explain the assassinations of Malcolm X (7) and Martin Luther King (8). You need to look very closely at the political direction they were taking at the time they were murdered.

In the early 1960s. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King offered two very different approaches to the civil rights issue. This resulted in a divided movement. This would have given great pleasure to those opposed to racial equality. However, in March, 1964, Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his return, he began to change his views on the subject. In the weeks preceding his murder, he rejected his former separatist beliefs and advocated world brotherhood. Malcolm now blamed racism on Western culture and urged African Americans to join with sympathetic whites to bring it to an end. If Malcolm X had lived he had the potential to unite those who wished to change American society.

After the passing of the 1965 Civil Rights Act Martin Luther King became increasingly involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He also got involved in trade union struggles. J. Edgar Hoover was now convinced that King was a communist agent.

In March 1968, James Lawson asked King to visit Memphis, Tennessee, to support of a strike by the city's sanitation workers. On 3rd April, King made his famous I've Been to the Mountaintop speech. The following day, King was killed by a sniper's bullet while standing on the balcony of the motel where he was staying.

After the death of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy the left fragmented. The Military Industrial Congressional Complex was back in full control. Today, with George Bush in the White House, the MICC must feel it is invincible. After all, who would have thought it would have survived the fall of communism in the late 1980s? It did so by creating another threat. The fear of international terrorism.


1. Lyndon Johnson, speech in the Senate, 9th March, 1949

2. Robert Dallek, Lone Star Rising (1991) page 498

3. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson’s Boy (1968) page 436

4. Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post (1979)

5. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA (1995) page 330

6. Deborah Davis (pages 237-238)

7. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmalcolmX.htm

8. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAkingML.htm

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