Interview with Michael Harrington

What about people he read, and how that affected him?


Well, one of the things that when I discussed ideas with him, ah, he was very familiar with contemporary theologians. He was, he had read ah, ah, people like Paul Tillich or Karl Barth or Reinhold Niebuhr. As the result of this and to me as an American socialist, this was very important. The idea of socialism to him was not a foreign idea because all of those theologians and I would say most of the significant Protestant theologians of the 20th century, or many of them, were socialists. Tillich had explicitly written books on socialism. So had Neibuhr. I don't know if Barth was that explicit about it but he certainly was a socialist. And therefore when I talked to Dr. King about politics and ideas, because he had this rather sophisticated, in a sense, European background, my socialism, my generalizing our common immediate program and putting the name socialist on it, didn't bother him at all. My feeling when I talked to him about it was that it would have been criminal if I had asked him to identify himself as a socialist. I really thought, thought that he had problems enough without adding that one. But I certainly felt that he not only agreed with my immediate program but that he agreed with my concept that what is needed is a new utterly democratic society committed to freedom that goes beyond the capitalist welfare state.