Interview with Michael Harrington

In conversations, especially in the last couple of years, do you remember talking about concepts such as redistribution of income?


In conversations with Dr. King, ah, in the last years of his life, ah, we always talked about the fact that to abolish poverty, to abolish economic racism, would require changing of the structures of American society. That it meant that you had to have a different kind of occupational structure, that you could not have Blacks concentrated, ah, among the unemployed, the, ah, the low paid, the uninteresting jobs. The jobs without any responsibility. That you had to really change that in a radical way; that you had to change the income structure of American society. You had to redistribute wealth, and now that came out as a demand for more progressive taxation. That is to say, ah, things that we would talk about in private, ah, where we could talk in a sense, ah, what? Much more candidly, much more openly about the, the need for really basic democratization of investment decisions, and much more democratic allocation of income and wealth. And of work. Things like that we would about privately. Then when you go public, then you immediately have to think how do you phrase this message? And Dr. King had a genius for this. How do you phrase this message so that you don't betray the message but you put in terms which are understandable and accessible to people on the street? But certainly um, or that he wouldn't use radical phraseology in many cases for that reason, and I quite agree with that. And indeed in my own book "The Other America" I did not mention the word socialism once for precisely that reason. But I always knew that Dr. King through our conversations had what I would consider in the good sense of the word a scalding democratic radical view of what was required in American society.