While promoting his new book “The Sword and the Shield : The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB” on the Charlie Rose show on September 28, 1999, the eminent Cold War historian Christopher Andrew said of the KGB that:
“they really hated J. Edgar Hoover, but the man they hated above all others was Martin Luther King. And the reason they hated him above all others is that their plan for the United States – they were really looking forward to it – was that the ‘long, and hot summers’ of the mid and late 1960’s would lead to race war in the United States. And the reason they hated Martin Luther King like they hated no other American, was that they feared he might put an end to the long, hot summers. So, when he dies in 1968, it’s a terrible thing to say – but it was a great day for the people at KGB Headquarters.”
Professor Andrew’s televised comments on Dr. King came just 12 days after the end of the so-called campaign of terror known as the “Russian apartment bombings” which was a decisive moment that catapulted former KGB agent and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Presidency of Russia.
Not even Professor Andrew could have realized at that time how KGB active measures would live on and remain much the same under Putin as they had in the time of the Cold War.
In the wake of 2020’s racial tensions which seem to have been exacerbated by Russia’s online information warfare activities on both the political far left and far right; it is time for us to awake to Dr. King’s “Dream” and the power it has to unite rather than divide us as a society in the face of Russian disinformation and active measures.
A perspective on the Russian ignition of a race war in the United States in the Cold War period such as may have targeted Dr. King with disinformation or active measures fits closely with ideas that have already been developed on the blog. These are the cases of the Manson Family and The Jimmy Hoffa disappearance and their potential links to the inflammation of communist-inspired racial tensions.
Specifically, the Manson Family sought to inflame a race war with their murders in 1968 – the same year MLK Jr. was killed. At one time, MLK Jr. had referred to Jimmy Hoffa as “a dedicated friend” as well.
Further, the idea of my oft-discussed idea of Orson Welles as a Russian agent of influence in service to the Kremlin also corresponds to this concept. Alongside the Communist Party publication, “The Daily Worker” for example, Welles had been responsible for agitating racial tensions regarding the Isaac Woodard case in the late 1940’s, which the FBI then sought to tamp down.
In his script for “’Sirhan Sirhan’ or ‘RFK Must Die’” – a planned sequel to the film “Executive Action” , it was implied that the CIA had not only been responsible for the death of the Kennedys (JFK and RFK), but for the assassination of MLK Jr. as well. The US agents are analogized to Nazis and the Black citizens to Jews.
Note that Welles’ co-writer Donald Freed had previously been collaborator on “Executive Action” with KGB asset Mark Lane and the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The Mitrokhin archive suggests that the development of the theme of a CIA-linked assassination of JFK in the script was therefore linked directly to a KGB disinformation campaign.
It seems that Orson Welles’ repeated association with similar stories implicating the US for plausibly Russian activities as “false flags” in the media context may serve as evidence of his role in active measures campaigns intended to inflame – rather than resolve political tensions on behalf of Russian intelligence services.
Of course, even replete with ‘Third Man’ references, it is conspiratorial still to suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald was some kind of Russian agent (the Russians would certainly like us to think otherwise), he did travel extensively in the USSR, had a Russian wife, and allegedly had close connections to the DGI (Cuban intelligence which was largely a KGB proxy). All of these raise common sense questions about why Russia may be sensitive about the prospect of Lee Harvey Oswald being explored as a Russian asset.
The Mitrokhin Archive reveals how the KGB had directed active measures against MLK Jr. in 1967 by discrediting him as an “Uncle Tom”. It also reveals the KGB hand in inciting the Watts Riots of 1965.
It doesn’t seem to be widely explored if the KGB or DGI had a hand in cultivating James Earl Ray, the assassin of MLK Jr., but it might be common sense to look for connections to anti-fascist, Black radical, or conversely white nationalist groups which could trace back to the hand of a foreign intelligence service (as we might do with online disinformation today).
It is worth noting that much like the NKVD sponsored assassin of Leon Trotsky or the famed Russian spy Rudolf Abel – that both Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray secured shady visas in Toronto, which has been associated with “passport mill” activities that support (Russian?) espionage. It was also of interest to contemporary intelligence agencies that’ Communist agents’ had gotten close to MLK Jr. (Note the Detroit:Toronto proximity in potential context of the Hoffa matter.)
Is it strange that the Rev. Jesse Jackson accuses J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI of the crime of the assassination in retrospect, as he alleged in the foreword of James Earl Ray’s book? To me it is more suspicious that figures like Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) had close relationships with Communists in Cuba and Vietnam in 1967 , and the Soviets hoped figures like that would replace King (and this is before he was assassinated). The apparently close relationship between Jackson and Carmichael, and Jackson’s apology for the convicted assassin may seem suspect.
Recalling MLK Jr. on this day reminds us that we have a long way to go to heal as a country, and perhaps some of these scars will never heal. But it also reminds us that the only thing that our enemy fears is our unity and so they will seek to divide us.
We must be bigger than that, and live up to the dream of Dr. King.
In retrospect of the growing explosiveness of racial issues in the past years, and looking towards the navigation of the turbulent seas that still clearly lie ahead, I am thankful to have new leadership that is likely to attempt to unify rather than intentionally divide America, and is aware of the role of the Kremlin in stoking racial tensions.
If we remain aware of these taboo issues and focus on uniting rather than dividing ourselves, we may live up to Dr. King’s Dream yet, and also defeat our illiberal and irrational foes in the process.
More people should be aware of Dr. King’s status as persona non grata to the KGB for his defense of equality, peace, and democratic principles.