Something for you to read while Obama accepts the nomination tonight
By John Perazzo:
Is Barack Obama a socialist? Many observers, from points all along the ideological spectrum, have been exceedingly reticent to describe him as such, as though there were insufficient evidence to make the case for a charge so impolite. In February, for instance, a Business Week headline stated bluntly that “it’s dumb to call Obama a socialist.” Four months later, the Associated Press published an article depicting the president merely as “a pragmatist within the Democratic Party mainstream,” and suggesting that “the persistent claim that Obama is a socialist lacks credence.” In July, a New York Times op-ed piece by film director Milos Forman said that Obama is “not even close” to being a socialist. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post casts Obama as no more radical than “a moderate Republican of the early 1990s.” Republican strategist Karl Rove cautions, “If you say he’s a socialist, [his supporters] go to defend him.” Leftist commentator Alan Colmes impugns those who “mischaracterize what Obama is doing as socialism, when there’s no government takeover” of the private sector. And Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly—noting that he has seen “no evidence that the president wants to seize private property, which is what communists do”—concludes that Obama “is not a socialist, he’s not a communist, he’s a social-justice anti-capitalist.”
But a careful look at Barack Obama’s life story, his actions, his closest alliances, his long-term objectives, and his words, shows that he has long been, quite demonstrably, a genuine socialist. The early groundwork for Obama’s socialist worldview was laid during his teen years, when he was mentored by the writer/poet Frank Marshall Davis, a longtime member of the Communist Party and the subject of a 601-page FBI file. The co-founder of a Communist-controlled newspaper that consistently echoed the Soviet party line, Davis had previously been involved with the American Peace Mobilization, described by Congress as not only “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized in this country,” but also “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States.” When Obama in 1979 headed off to Occidental College in California, Davis cautioned him not to “start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh–.”
In his memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama recounts that he chose his friends “carefully” at Occidental, so as “to avoid being mistaken for a sellout.” Among those friends were all manner of radicals, including “the more politically active black students,” “the Chicanos,” “the Marxist Professors and the structural feminists.” Further, Obama writes that he and his similarly “alienated” college friends regularly discussed such topics as “neocolonialism, Franz Fanon [the socialist revolutionary], Eurocentrism, and patriarchy.” David Remnick’s highly sympathetic biography of Obama—The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama—confirms that the future president and many of his closest friends at Occidental were unquestionably socialists.
John C. Drew, an Occidental College graduate who knew Obama personally in the early 1980s, reports that the young Obama of that period was “already an ardent socialist Marxist revolutionary”; was highly “passionate” about “Marxist theory”; embraced an “uncompromising, Marxist socialist ideology”; harbored a “sincere commitment to Marxist revolutionary thought”; and was, in the final analysis, a “pure Marxist socialist” who “sincerely believed a Marxist socialist revolution was coming to turn everything around and to create a new, fairer and more just world.”
It was at that point, in the early Eighties, that something profoundly important happened to Barack Obama. He was drawn into the powerful orbit of a strand of socialism that had resolved, as the revolutionary communist Van Jones would later put it, “to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” American socialists of that period, pained by the recent ascendancy of a conservative and popular presidential administration (Reagan), understood that no anti-capitalist revolution was going to take place in the United States anytime soon, and that, for the foreseeable future, no one was going to impose socialism on the populace “from above.” Consequently, many socialists in the U.S. put on a new face and pursued a new approach. As Stanley Kurtz, author of Radical-in-Chief, explains, the aim now was “to get a kind of de facto public control over the economy from below”—through the work of community organizers dedicated to gradually infiltrating every conceivable American institution: schools and universities, churches, labor unions, the banking industry, the media, and a major political party. Toward that end, the renowned socialist Michael Harrington established the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to serve as a force that would work within the existing American political system—specifically, within the Democratic Party. Figuring that a move too far or too quick to the left would alienate moderate Democrats, the DSA sought to push the party leftward in a slow and gradual manner, on the theory that, over time, ever-increasing numbers of Democrats would become comfortable with socialism and would espouse it as their preferred ideology.
In Radical-in-Chief, Kurtz points out that this incrementalism became the modus operandi of the “democratic socialists” who embraced the ideals of Karl Marx but were convinced that a “peaceful” and gradual path represented “the only route to socialism that makes sense in America’s thoroughly democratic context.” They believed that “government ownership of the means of production”—the standard definition of socialism—could best be achieved by way of protracted evolution, not sudden revolution. Kurtz explains that socialists, far from agreeing unanimously on tactics and strategies, have always engaged in “never-ending factional disputes” about whether they ought to “eschew capitalist-tainted politics and foment revolution,” or instead “dive into America’s electoral system and try to turn its political currents” toward “a piecemeal transition to a socialist world.” At this point in his life, the twenty-something Obama made a calculated decision to embrace the DSA’s gradualist approach—under the deceptive banners of “liberalism,” “progressivism,” and “social justice.” By no means, however, did this approach represent a rejection of Marx and his socialist doctrines. Kurtz notes that Marx himself, who “expected to see capitalism overthrown by a violent socialist revolution,” was nonetheless “willing to compromise his long-term goals in pursuit of short-term gains, particularly when he thought this democratic maneuvering would position the communist movement for more radical breakthroughs in the future”; that Marx himself “recognized that not only his enemies, but even potential followers could be put off by his most radical plans”; and that, “depending on context, Marx [himself] withheld the full truth of who he was and what he hoped to achieve.”
This strategy of settling for incrementalism rather than sudden, sweeping revolution was displayed with vivid clarity during the healthcare debates of 2009-10. Obama was already on record as having stated emphatically, in a 2003 speech at an AFL-CIO event: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care plan”—i.e., a government-run system. But by 2007, with the White House clearly within his reach, Obama began to make allowances for the increasingly evident fact that a single-payer plan was not politically palatable to a large enough number of American voters. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately,” he said in May 2007. “There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out, or 15 years out, or 20 years out.” He made similar references to a “transition step” and “a transitional system” on other occasions during the campaign. In the summer of 2008, Obama declared that “if I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system,” but acknowledged that from a practical standpoint, such a result could only come about “over time.” Obamacare, then, was deliberately designed to be a stepping stone toward total government control of healthcare—a mere way station along the road toward the “radical ends” that the president ultimately sought to achieve.
In the early Eighties, Obama transferred from Occidental College to Columbia University in New York. During his time in the Big Apple, he attended at least two Socialist Scholars Conferences, DSA-sponsored events that quickly grew into the largest annual gatherings of socialists in all of North America. It is particularly noteworthy that Obama attended the 1983 Socialist Scholars Conference, which was promoted as a celebration to “honor” the 100th anniversary of Karl Marx’s death.
In June 1985, a 24-year-old Obama moved to Chicago and took a community-organizing job with the Developing Communities Project, funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Viewing capitalism as a system steeped in injustice, CCHD states that “the causes of poverty are understood to be an aspect of ‘social sin’ rooted in our social and economic structures and institutions.” To address the problems allegedly spawned by capitalism, CCHD promotes transformative institutional change in the form of “alternative economic structures” that will “broaden the sharing of economic power.” The Catholic magazine Crisis observes that “the way the CCHD educates others about transformative change and empowerment” is very much “in line with the socialist and Marxist ideals so prevalent in community organizing.”
And what, exactly, is “community organizing”? Dr. Thomas Sowell, the eminent Hoover Institution Fellow, offers this concise explanation:
“For ‘community organizers’ … racial resentments are a stock in trade…. What does a community organizer do? What he does not do is organize a community. What he organizes are the resentments and paranoia within a community, directing those feelings against other communities, from whom either benefits or revenge are to be gotten, using whatever rhetoric or tactics will accomplish that purpose.”
To be sure, the 2012 Obama campaign’s incessant emphasis on identity politics—seeking to divide the American people along lines of race, ethnicity, class, and gender—bears all the corrosive hallmarks of precisely the mindset that Dr. Sowell describes. Stanley Kurtz provides additional vital insights into the striking parallels that exist between the world of community organizing and the DSA’s gradualist approach toward socialism:
“Community organizing is a largely socialist profession. Particularly at the highest levels, America’s community organizers have adopted a deliberately stealthy posture—hiding their socialism behind a ‘populist’ front. These organizers strive to push America toward socialism in unobtrusive, incremental steps, calling themselves ‘pragmatic problem-solvers’ all the while.”
It is highly significant that three of Obama’s mentors in Chicago were trained at the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded by the famed godfather of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, who advocated mankind’s “advance from the jungle of laissez-faire capitalism to a world worthy of the name of human civilization … [to] a future where the means of production will be owned by all of the people instead of just a comparative handful.” In the Alinsky model, “organizing” is a euphemism for “revolution”—where the ultimate objective is the systematic acquisition of power by a purportedly oppressed segment of the population, and the radical transformation of America’s social and economic structure. The goal is to foment enough public discontent and moral confusion to spark the social upheaval that Marx and Engels predicted. But Alinsky’s brand of revolution was not characterized by dramatic, sweeping, overnight transformations of social institutions. As author Richard Poe explains, “Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.” Promoting a strategy that was wholly consistent with the DSA approach discussed above, Alinsky advised radical organizers and their disciples to quietly, unobtrusively gain influence within the decision-making ranks of these institutions, and to then introduce changes from those platforms.
Obama himself went on to teach workshops on the Alinsky method for several years. In 1990, eighteen years after Alinsky’s death, an essay penned by Obama was reprinted as a chapter in a book titled After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois. And in 1998, Obama attended a performance of the play The Love Song of Saul Alinsky at the Terrapin Theater in Chicago. Following that performance, Obama took the stage and participated in a panel discussion about the show, along with several other socialists and communists such as Quentin Young and Heather Booth.
As a young community organizer, Obama had close connections to the Midwest Academy, a radical training ground for activists of his political ilk. Probably the most influential community-organizing-related entity in America at that time, the Midwest Academy worked closely with the DSA and synthesized Saul Alinsky’s organizing techniques with the practical considerations of electoral politics. Emphasizing “class consciousness” and “movement history,” the Academy’s training programs exposed students to the efforts and achievements of veteran activists from earlier decades. Recurring “socialism sessions,” taught by Heather Booth, encompassed everything from Marx and Engels through Michael Harrington’s democratic socialism and the factional struggles of the Students for a Democratic Society, a radical organization that aspired to remake America’s government in a Marxist image. Knowing that many Americans would be unreceptive to straightforward, hard-left advocacy, the Midwest Academy in its formative years was careful not to explicitly articulate its socialist ideals in its organizing and training activities. The group’s inner circle was wholly committed to building a socialist mass movement, but stealthily rather than overtly. As Midwest Academy trainer Steve Max and the prominent socialist Harry Boyte agreed in a private correspondence: “Every social proposal that we make must be [deceptively] couched in terms of how it will strengthen capitalism.” This strategy of hiding its own socialist agendas below the proverbial radar, earned the Academy the designation “crypto-socialist organization” from Stanley Kurtz.
“Nearly every thread of Obama’s career runs directly or indirectly through the Midwest Academy,” says Kurtz, and, as such, it represents “the hidden key to Barack Obama’s political career.” The author elaborates:
“Obama’s organizing mentors had ties to [the Midwest Academy]; Obama’s early funding was indirectly controlled by it; evidence strongly suggests that Obama himself received training there; both Barack and Michelle Obama ran a project called ‘Public Allies’ that was effectively an extension of the Midwest Academy; Obama’s first run for public office was sponsored by Academy veteran Alice Palmer; and Obama worked closely at two foundations for years with yet another veteran organizer from the Midwest Academy, Ken Rolling. Perhaps more important, Barack Obama’s approach to politics is clearly inspired by that of the Midwest Academy.”
Obama’s next major encounter with socialism took place within the sanctuary of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, pastored by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Best known for his undiluted contempt for the United States and its traditions, Wright has long been a proud prophet of black liberation theology, a movement that seeks to foment Marxist revolutionary fervor founded on racial solidarity, as opposed to the traditional Marxist emphasis on class solidarity.
According to black liberation theology, the New Testament gospels can be properly understood only as calls for racial activism and revolution aimed at overturning the existing, white-dominated, capitalist order, and installing, in its stead, a socialist utopia wherein blacks will unseat their white “oppressors” and become liberated from their deprivations—material and spiritual alike.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Obama spent fully 20 years attending Wright’s church, which openly promoted a “10-point vision” calling for “economic parity” and warning that “God … is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!” Impugning capitalism as a system whose inequities force “Third World people” to “live in grinding poverty,” Wright derides the United States as the “land of the greed and home of the slave.” For good measure, he has praised the socialist magazine Monthly Review for its “no-nonsense Marxism,” congratulating that publication for “dispel[ling] all the negative images we have been programmed to conjure up with just the mention of that word ‘socialism’ or ‘Marxism.’”
This same Jeremiah Wright served as a mentor to Barack Obama for two decades. So great was Obama’s regard for Wright, that Obama selected him not only to perform his wedding to Michelle Robinson in 1992, but also to baptize his two daughters later on. Perhaps Obama’s most significant show of support for Wright’s ministry was his donation of some $27,500 to Trinity Church during 2005-06. Another report indicates that from 2005-07, Obama gave a total of $53,770 to Trinity. People simply do not give such large sums of money to causes in which they do not thoroughly believe. Thus there is no reason in the world to suspect that Obama rejected any part of Wright’s message at any time between 1988 and early 2008. He disavowed Wright only when the latter’s bilious radicalism threatened to become a political liability to Obama’s ambition for the White House.
In the early to mid-1990s, Obama, now in his early thirties, worked with the (now defunct) community organization ACORN and its voter-mobilization arm, Project Vote. Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern explains that ACORN, professing a dedication to “the poor and powerless,” in fact promoted “a 1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor.” ACORN, Stern elaborates, organized people “to push for ever more government control of the economy” and to pursue “the ultra-Left’s familiar anti-capitalist redistributionism.” In 2010, former ACORN insider Anita MonCrief confirmed the organization’s unmistakably socialist orientation:
“As an ACORN insider my indoctrination as a socialist was a slow but steady progression from radical liberalism to embracing the stealth socialist methods that had made ACORN a powerful force in American electoral politics…. Inside ACORN offices across the country, young, idealistic liberals were being ingrained with the Saul Alinsky style of Organizing. Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals was never mentioned by name, but Alinsky’s tactics were used on employees and ACORN members. ACORN’s strategy of stealth socialism was aimed at gaining power through duplicity and somewhat assimilating into society…. I once asked Marcel Reid, former ACORN national board member and President of DC ACORN, how it was possible for ACORN to push its agenda and she replied, ‘We never use the word Socialism.’ ACORN’s appeal was to simply implement a Socialist agenda without ever saying the word.”
Smitten with Obama’s political and ideological makeup, ACORN in the early 1990s invited him to help train its staff in the tactics of community organizing. In 1995, Obama was one of a team of attorneys who sued, on ACORN’s behalf, for the implementation of a “Motor Voter” law in Illinois. Jim Edgar, the state’s Republican governor, opposed the law because he believed, quite correctly, that it could potentially breed widespread voter fraud. In a 2007 interview with ACORN representatives, then-presidential candidate Obama said enthusiastically: “You know you’ve got a friend in me. And I definitely welcome ACORN’s input…. Since I have been in the United States Senate I’ve been always a partner with ACORN as well…. I’ve been fighting with ACORN, alongside ACORN, on issues you care about my entire career.” Also during Obama’s presidential run, his campaign gave more than $800,000 to the ACORN front group Citizens’ Services, Inc., to fund voter-registration efforts. Obama’s relationship with ACORN remained rock-solid right up until the organization’s dissolution amid immense scandal (involving voter fraud, among other matters) in 2010.
It was in the mid-1990s that Obama first decided to try his hand at electoral politics, setting his sights initially on a state senate seat in Illinois. Remarkably, Obama launched his political career in the home of two well-connected Chicagoans, longtime activists who would help the fledgling politician make important contacts and enlarge his public profile. These two allies were the infamous Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, lifelong Marxists who in the 1960s and ’70s had been revolutionary leaders of the Weather Underground Organization, a domestic terror group (described by Ayers as “an American Red Army”) that aspired to transform the U.S., by means of violence and even mass murder, into a Communist country. In 1974 Ayers and Dohrn co-authored a book that openly advocated “revolutionary war” as “the only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism”; called for “a revolutionary communist party … to lead the struggle [to] seize power and build the new society”; and lauded socialism as the key to “the eradication of the social system based on profit.” Now, they were the key figures ushering Barack Obama into a political career.
Obama’s ties to Ayers and Dohrn were extensive and long-lasting. In 1995, Ayers appointed Obama as the first chairman of his newly created “school reform organization,” the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, whose stated educational objective was to “teach against oppression” as embodied in “America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.” From 1999-2002, Obama served alongside Ayers on the board of the Joyce Foundation, which funded a host of left-wing groups and causes. The enduring nature of Obama’s friendly relationship with Ayers and Dohrn was evidenced by the fact that he attended a July Fourth barbecue at the couple’s home in 2005, even as the former terrorists continued to hold America—and capitalism—in utmost contempt.
Another key supporter of Obama’s 1996 entry into politics was Democratic state senator Alice Palmer of Illinois, who, as she prepared to run for Congress, hand-picked Obama as the person she hoped would fill her newly vacated state-senate seat. Toward that end, Palmer introduced Obama to party elders and donors as her preferred successor, and helped him gather the signatures required for getting his name placed on the ballot. Palmer’s background is highly noteworthy: A veteran of the Midwest Academy, she consistently supported the Soviet Union and spoke out against the United States during the Cold War. In the 1980s she served as an official of the U.S. Peace Council, which the FBI identified as a Communist front group. In 1986 she attended the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and expressed a high regard for the USSR’s system of “central planning.” And she applauded the Soviets for “carrying out a policy to resolve the inequalities between nationalities, inequalities that they say were inherited from capitalist and czarist rule.”
During his state senate campaign in 1996, the 35-year-old Obama actively sought the endorsement of the so-called New Party, a socialist political coalition whose objective was to promote the election of left-wing public officials—most often Democrats. The New Party’s short-term goal was to gradually, incrementally move the Democratic Party leftward, thereby setting the stage for the eventual rise of a new socialist third party. As Stanley Kurtz puts it, the New Party “is best understood as an attempt to build a mass-based political front for a largely socialist party leadership.” New Party co-founder Joel Rogers once penned a piece in the Marxist journal New Left Review,wherein he made it clear that the organization was a socialist enterprise at its core. Not only was Obama successful in obtaining the New Party’s endorsement, but he also used a number of New Party volunteers as campaign workers, and by 1996 Obama himself had become a New Party member.
Yet another important Obama ally in 1996 was Carl Davidson, a major player in the Chicago branch of the New Party. Davidson is a lifelong Marxist who in the 1960s served as a national secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society. In 1969 Davidson helped launch the Venceremos Brigades, which covertly transported hundreds of young Americans to Cuba to help harvest sugar cane and learn guerrilla warfare techniques from the communist government of Fidel Castro. In 1988 Davidson founded Networking for Democracy, a program that encouraged American high-school students to engage in “mass action” aimed at “tearing down the old structures of race and class privilege” in the United States “and around the world.” And in 1992 Davidson became a leader of the newly formed Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, an outgrowth of the Communist Party USA.
Obama’s commitment to the redistribution of wealth—an unmistakable hallmark of socialism—is deep, longstanding, and well-documented. He articulated that commitment with particular clarity during a guest appearance on Chicago’s WBEZ public radio in 2001, when he was a 40-year-old Illinois state senator. In that radio interview, Obama lauded the ability of community organizations “to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.” He lamented, however, that the Supreme Court had “never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society”; that the Court had not been able to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution,” a document that unfortunately “doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf”; and that he himself was “not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts,” even though he found it easy to “come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts.”
When Obama ran for president in 2008, he formed a Black Advisory Council that included Professor Cornel West—a longtime member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a former supporter of the now-defunct New Party, and an avid admirer of Jeremiah Wright. Identifying himself as a “progressive socialist,” West contends that “Marxist thought is an indispensable tradition for freedom fighters.” Viewing capitalism as the root cause of America’s “unbridled grasp at power, wealth and status,” West warns: “Free-market fundamentalism trivializes the concern for public interest. It puts fear and insecurity in the hearts of anxiety-ridden workers. It also makes money-driven, poll-obsessed elected officials deferential to corporate goals of profit—often at the cost of the common good.” When Obama appeared with Professor West at a Harlem, New York campaign fundraiser, West introduced him as “my brother and my companion and comrade.” Obama, in response, called West “a genius, a public intellectual, a preacher, [and] an oracle.”
Obama’s socialist orientation is further manifest in a number of his political appointments as President. For example:
- Obama named Van Jones, a longtime revolutionary communist who famously declared that “we [are] gonna change the whole [economic] system,” as his “green jobs czar” in 2009;
- he appointed Carol Browner, a former “commissioner” of the Socialist International, as his “environment czar”;
- he appointed John Holdren, who not only views capitalism as a system that is inherently destructive of the environment, but strongly favors the redistribution of wealth, both within the U.S. and across international borders, as his “science czar”;
- he named Hilda Solis, a former officer of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (the socialist wing of the House of Representatives), as his labor secretary;
- and he chose Anita Dunn, a woman who has cited Mao Zedong as one of her “favorite political philosophers,” to serve as White House communications director.
Also worth mentioning are Obama’s two closest political advisors. Valerie Jarrett, the daughter-in-law of a journalist with ties to the Communist Party, was largely responsible for persuading the communist Van Jones, whom she admired tremendously, to join the Obama Administration in 2009. And David Axelrod, the chief architect of Obama’s political campaigns, was mentored, as a young man, by the lifelong communist David Canter. Axelrod’s other mentor, Don Rose, was a member of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, an organization replete with communists and Sixties radicals. Rose also belonged to the Alliance to End Repression—a suspected Communist Party front—and he did some press work for the Students for a Democratic Society.
Read the rest at Front Page
Dreams from My Real Father: Director Joel Gilbert at National Press Club, Washington DC: