Barack Obama and the untold story of American Socialism
[Below is a talk given by Stanley Kurtz at the Wednesday Morning Club on January 5, 2011.]
David Horowitz: It’s been 20 years with the Center trying to tell conservatives that these people are not liberals, that they are leftists and if their dreams are fulfilled they will destroy the United States, and very, very dangerous people. And while conservatives have given me support and given our Center support, they never quite got into their system what I think is the appropriate view of our opponents in these battles. Conservatives, as you’ve probably heard me say, are far too decent and civilized. They give people the benefit of the doubt. They think of them as having good intentions and being mistaken about this or that.
And I see my mission as a former radical, as teaching conservatives some bad manners. But until the last year or so it really hasn’t taken and I can’t take credit for this. I think Barack Obama is the teacher of conservatives. Of course, it’s very important when a moment like this occurs that the information be out there so people can understand what’s happening to them. And I, almost 20 years ago, after Peter Collier and I wrote a book called Destructive Generation, we met with Jeremiah Denton. You may remember he was the POW in the Hanoi Hilton who telegraphed with his eyelids in Morse code “torture,” which is how we knew our troops were being tortured. And he read our book Destructive Generation and he said to us, if I had known about Congressman Ron Dellums what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so nice to him. That’s what he said. And Ron Dellums is an American traitor, a Berkley leftist who had murder in his heart for this country, yet the Democrats allowed him to become first the Chair of the Subcommittee on Military Installations worldwide, and then the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, total access to our intelligence secrets.
And that’s why I felt in the mid-‘80s that we were going to lose the Cold War. Fortunately, Marx was such a crackpot economist that the Soviet Union collapsed before they could defeat us. But I understood how infiltrated our government was and our institutions were by leftists. And I have therefore been frustrated over 20 years in trying to alert conservatives to how bad this situation is.
Now, low and behold–in this era of this great awakening comes our speaker today, Stanley Kurtz, who has written an indispensable book called Radical-in-Chief, which shows in great detail, and precisely because Stanley was not a leftist, and therefore, it’s like the discovery of a new world kind of. I mean, he has got to pinch himself every time he comes across something and then it drives him further, and it’s also incredibly well documented. If I had to do a book on Barack Obama, I mean, I would jump right to the conclusion from some of the early data that Stanley produces.
But what Stanley has shown is that Barack Obama not only does he come from the left that I came out of, the radical America-despising left, but the worst part of it. He had a 20-year relationship with a leftist whom I despised when I thought of myself as a Marxist revolutionary, which is Billy Ayers–despised him because he was so shallow and destructive. But this was–as Stanley has shown and Stanley alone has shown. There’s a large literature now on Obama. Leftist books like David Remnick’s book, David Remnick being the Editor-in-Chief of The New Yorker, who did write quite a good book called Lenin’s Tomb, but his book on Barack Obama is, as most of these books are, a cover up, or an attempt to just discount, which is the same thing, whatever evidence they came across. And other books, which are written by conservatives, are written without having done the enormous amount of research that Stanley did over, I guess, it’s a two-year period.
He went into the libraries like the Wisconsin Historical Society or the Tamiment Library you’ve probably never heard of. The Tamiment Library is run by Communists. I mean, old fashioned Stalinist Communists. But these are the archives where leftists feel confident I guess of depositing their papers in these libraries because they were run by other Marxist radicals. And what Stanley has shown is just what I said, that Barack Obama was raised as a leftist and starting right out of college was part of the Marxist Socialist, what I call Neocommunist left, the people that continued the battles that Peter Collier and I abandoned when we realized that this was a destructive enterprise.
So I am both privileged and pleased to be able to bring you Stanley Kurtz to talk about his book.
Stanley Kurtz: Thank you so much, David, for those very kind words. I am laboring under a bit of a disadvantage today in that I’m addressing the Wednesday morning group on Thursday morning. That kind of shoots my credibility from the beginning. But I want you to believe me when I say that I am not speaking as a conservative, but as a post-partisan pragmatist.
Radical-in-Chief - Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. That is the title of the book, and as David said, it literally does argue that Barack Obama is a Socialist. Now, I actually didn’t want to find out that Barack Obama was a Socialist. I was afraid to find out that Barack Obama was a Socialist, because frankly, among respectable conservatives, this is not a safe argument to make. And during the 2008 presidential campaign, I was not shy about calling Barack Obama a radical. Actually, it was the research I did in 2008 that helped inject the Bill Ayers and the ACORN issues into the campaign. So it’s not as though I wasn’t willing to energetically criticize Barack Obama, to reveal all sorts of nasty things about his past that he didn’t want to have come out. But Socialist, I thought that was a bridge too far.
And how do you even explain what Socialism is? I mean, people argue about the definition. As I eventually discovered, Socialists themselves argue about what Socialism is. If you define Socialism classically as the complete nationalization of the means of production, Barack Obama as a candidate in 2008 wasn’t proposing anything like that. And for that reason, the whole idea that Obama was a Socialist was scoffed at by the left, of course, by the liberals, by the mainstream media. The problem is, as I began this archival research just trying to fill out the research that I did during the 2008 campaign, I kept running into evidence of real Socialism, people who thought of themselves as Socialists, Marxists, hardcore. And a variety of Socialism and Socialists that I hadn’t known about that I think you could still call it hardcore, but it was a revised form of Socialism that took over the movement after the 1960s and that most Americans know absolutely nothing about.
I started overturning the rocks and finding underneath them a kind of unknown history of Socialism since the 1960s in the United States. And I was amazed by all this. And at first, as I say, I didn’t really even want to follow the trail. But here I was having accepted a contract and an advance to write a book about Barack Obama’s past, and low and behold, I kept running into Socialism everywhere.
So I plunged in. I educated myself in–as best I could in what Socialism in the post-‘60s era was. And I began to fill out the picture on my own with this original research. But I’ll say even here at the outset that this is a continual problem for me and for almost everyone who grapples with the book in some way. There are a lot of conservatives even now who really aren’t comfortable with an argument that says Barack Obama is a Socialist. It sounds like Joe McCarthy, it sounds like the John Birch Society, it sounds like you are some kind of crazy nut. That’s on the one side. And of course, not only conservatives, but everyone on the left treats the book and the argument that way whenever they get a chance to.
And then, on the other hand, there’s David’s group. That’s why I’m here. And when I was down at the Breakers talking about this, the questions were, what is this Socialism thing you’re talking about? Come on, Mr. Kurtz. The gap in reactions that I get is really amazing. And people who read the book and who like it and who agree with it often describe this barrier that they pass through. And they say, you know, we avoided this whole Socialism issue. But this book is interesting. This book is not crazy. This book is not fire-breathing in some irrational way. It makes sense and you’re telling us something new here.
What I would stress about the book, therefore, is the subtitle, Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. There is an untold story here. Even knowledgeable ex-leftists don’t have full awareness of the Socialism I discuss in this book because it comes from a group of community organizers who represented one particular faction within contemporary American Socialism and they were secretive. They were secretive even with other Socialists. And fortunately, they made the mistake of putting a lot of their early records in a public archive. I managed to get into that archive.
So I’m telling something new in this book even to many people who are knowledgeable about the left, and of course, to people who don’t know much about the left or who only have in their mind Joe McCarthy or the John Birch Society. They are also quite surprised. So I would ask that people approach the book with an open mind, even if you are already convinced that Barack Obama is a Socialist and you think you’re going to get all your ideas confirmed. Well, you are going to get all your ideas confirmed, but it’s going to happen in a way that you might not quite have expected.
All right. So let me begin where I begin in the book, and that’s with the story of a series of Socialist scholars conferences that Barack Obama attended when he lived in New York City between the years 1983 and 1985. Now, when I was doing research, I started turning up a sign-up sheet with Barack Obama’s name on it for one of these conferences. And in his own book he had given a quick hint of the fact that he might have been at these conferences. But as his usual modus operandi, he doesn’t give you quite enough detail to figure out exactly what conference he’s talking about. A lot of my work was piecing all of that together.
And when I finally reconstructed what had gone on at these Socialist conferences that Barack Obama attended, I truly was amazed because what I saw was a kind of map of Barack Obama’s entire subsequent political career. It was at this Socialist conferences in New York in the mid-‘80s that Barack Obama encountered the groups, the strategies, and the mentors who would guide him throughout his entire political career. Now, what do I mean? Well, for one thing, these Socialist conferences touted community organizing as the key to the future for American Socialism.
And this gets back to what I mentioned at the beginning, the classic definition of Socialism as full government control of the means of production, full nationalization of the economy. Now, in the mid-‘80s, American Socialists realized that that plan was just not going to fly. They had waited for 10 or 15 years for there to be a literal violent Socialist revolution, and it never came. And what was worse from the Socialist point of view, Ronald Reagan was now President of the United States, and a very popular one at that. So it didn’t seem as though you were going to get anywhere by advocating nationalization.
So here is where another strategy took hold. It’s not as though community organizing or local organizing had never been considered by Socialists, but it became newly important in the 1980s when Socialists decided, hey, we’re going to get control of the economy not be formal nationalization from above, but through a kind of de facto public ownership from below. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, let’s take the example of the notorious community organization, ACORN. What did ACORN do? ACORN actually gained a kind of control over the banking industry in the United States. They would flood into the lobbies of banks or they would besiege the home of an officer of a bank, and basically intimidate the bank into giving them a pot of money to give loans on behalf of the bank to customers with risky credit histories, the kind of customer who would never have gotten a loan under ordinary circumstances. And of course, this was the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis that ironically brought Barack Obama into the presidency.
In addition to talking about Obama, I actually give a lot of detail on how ACORN and community organization is linked to the roots of the subprime crisis. Because as I was poring through the archives looking for Obama’s hidden relationship with ACORN, low and behold, I was finding all of this material about ACORN’s work with the Clinton Administration behind the scenes in pushing subprime lending. So what we’re really talking about here, again, is an example of how you can have a de facto nationalization from below. And this is the strategy that entranced American Socialists in the mid-‘80s.
This is the strategy that brought Barack Obama into community organizing. And one of the things I do in the book almost in the manner of a detective story is go into this dramatic moment Obama describes in Dreams From My Father, his memoir, about how he became a community organizer and how he learned what community organizing was. And I show that when you follow out the detail of it, it had to be at these Socialist conferences that he came upon this transfiguration.
So he ran into organizations, like ACORN and Project Vote, at these Socialist conferences. They were considered the future of Socialism. And there was another theme at these conferences and that was that rainbow coalitions led by minority political leaders, particularly African Americans, were the key to the future of Socialism in the United States. And the model of all of this was Mayor Harold Washington of Chicago. In fact, at the very first Socialist conference that Obama attended, the one that brought him into community organizing, that conference was held at almost exactly the moment when Harold Washington’s first electoral triumph in Chicago took place. And of course, we know from Dreams From My Father, that Mayor Harold Washington was Obama’s idol. In fact, Jeremiah Wright was deeply involved in Harold Washington’s various electoral campaigns and that’s part of what drew Obama to write.
Harold Washington was also the model for American Socialists. Now, that might sound strange because Harold Washington didn’t stand up and say, hey, I’m a Socialist, guys. So why should Socialists care about Harold Washington? Well, there are an awful lot of Socialist community organizers in Chicago. And those Socialist community organizers were really the key to Harold Washington’s success. They helped to bring in enough of a percentage of the white vote, which was necessary for Harold Washington even though he had a huge percentage of the black vote to tip him into a victory. And it was the Socialist leaders of these various community organizations who partnered with Harold Washington. And Harold Washington worked openly with the Socialists of Chicago and that was very unusual.
The Democratic Socialists of America, which was the group we’re talking about, was not used to being able to work out in the open with politicians. But here, Harold Washington, who was very left-leaning himself–you could maybe call him a fellow traveler of these Democratic Socialists–Harold Washington himself was willing to work openly with these Socialists. So the Socialist world was thrilled by this and at these conferences that Obama attended this was considered the model, and it was linked to the community organizing theme.
So the idea is this - you create a kind of quasi-Populist anti-business movement of the left stirred up by these community organizations. Some of them are led by African Americans and some of those community organizing leaders, especially African Americans, emerge and become politicians themselves and they lead this large coalition, which is energized by these community groups on behalf of an economic, anti-business Populist movement, which in fact is controlled by Socialists from behind. The idea is you don’t actually say, hey, we’re Socialists. We have a movement for Socialism here. No. You call yourself Populist, you call yourself Communitarian, or you use Alinskyite terms like, let’s democratize power. But when you look at what’s really going on, it comes down to Socialism and the Socialists who ran these organizations knew it.
So Obama has been following a version of this strategy really through his entire political career, as I argue in the book. And this is exactly the strategy, the life plan, in effect that these Socialist conferences laid down for Obama.
And here’s another connection, and this turns out to be the thing that first drew me into the whole Socialism theme, as I told you, against my own desires. Reverend Wright. It turns out that at these Socialist conferences in the mid-‘80s, there had been a newly formed alliance struck between the Democratic Socialists of America, which was the organization putting on these conferences, and black liberation theology, which is the theology that is adhered to by Reverend Wright. The founder of black liberation theology, James Cone, spoke at one of these conferences, one where we know from a sign-up sheet that Obama attended. And a prominent follower of James Cone also spoke at these conferences talking all about black liberation theology.
Now, this really amazed me. I looked down at the sheet and I saw the name of James Cone and I knew that James Cone was Jeremiah Wright’s mentor. In fact, Jeremiah Wright defended himself to Sean Hannity in 2008 by saying, I’m not some kind of extremist, because James Cone is my mentor and James Cone teaches at very prominent American universities. Well, having been at those universities, I immediately became alarmed when I heard that James Cone taught at those universities, because I knew that the divinity schools at those universities were actually the most extremist and leftist places around. And that’s actually one of the things that drew me into this research.
At any rate, it became clear to me when I saw the programs for these conferences that Obama almost certainly would have known about black liberation theology well before he moved to Chicago and met Reverend Wright. In fact, the same black liberation theologians who were presenting at these Socialist conferences after the ‘84 conference decamped down to Cuba and had meetings that were essentially arranged by Cuban intelligence, which was controlled by the KGB at that time. Reverend Wright was one of the contact men. This was all condemned in The Wall Street Journal. The way the Journal talked about it at the time was that these black preachers were being exploited by Cuban intelligence.
But I found that Journal article in the files of the black theology project. They knew that they had been accused of having the wool pulled over their eyes by Cuban and Soviet intelligence, and yet two years later Reverend Wright led another delegation of the black theology project to Cuba where they praised Fidel Castro and the Cuban system. So it was obvious that rather than being manipulated they were very intentionally supportive and there is more evidence you can find in the book for how supportive Reverend Wright and the other members of the black theology project were of the Cuban system as an alternative to the United States.
And so, it became obvious to me that when Obama met Reverend Wright - and again, there is more evidence for all this in the book - they would have immediately made these connections and realized they were part of this whole circle of cooperation between black liberation theology and American Socialism. And that in particular is when I knew I simply had to follow the clues and I couldn’t ignore them anymore.
All right. Now, let’s move to Chicago, because that’s exactly what Barack Obama did. And a lot of what I say in the book covers a remarkable community organizer training institute in Chicago that very few people have heard of. It’s called the Midwest Academy. The Midwest Academy - remember that name. I hope someday that will become a famous name and phrase. If it does, the moment everyone knows what the Midwest Academy is, is the moment that Barack Obama is in some serious trouble.
And the Midwest Academy folks, maybe they’re kicking themselves right now - I hope they are - for putting their files on record. And when I finally dug up these files, I truly was amazed because what we really had here was a living, breathing, Socialist front group as if it had been taken from the 1930s and transported into the ‘80s and the ‘90s and beyond in the United States.
The Midwest Academy was run by community organizers who were not only Socialist. They were really some of the most prominent and influential Socialists in the United States in the post-‘60s era. And they really were the originators in many ways of the theories that were touted at those Socialist conferences in New York. In many ways, the theories of community organizing and Socialism that were touted in those conferences in New York were really talking about these organizers in Chicago from the Midwest Academy. It was a direct connection.
And who by coincidence did Obama end up working with after he left those conferences in New York but the community organizers in Chicago who really were the leaders and creators or contemporary Socialist strategy. Now, the most important element of their strategy was keep quiet, don’t talk about your Socialism. I’ve really already gone over this a bit, but I want to emphasize how important stealth was to the leaders of the Midwest Academy. They believe that you should not tell the people you are organizing about your Socialism. Just use it for your own private strategic purposes. Instead, as I said earlier, call yourself a Populist, call yourself a Communitarian, use Alinskyite language and say that you’re democratizing power. But when you read their memos to each other and their letters, it’s Marx, it’s Lenin, it’s Mao, the whole deal.
So I was going through the files of Midwest Academy and I started hitting on names that I was familiar with from my earlier research, names like Alice Palmer. Alice Palmer was the Illinois State Senator whom Barack Obama replaced. She anointed Obama as her successor at that infamous party at the home of Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn. And I was amazed when I found that Alice Palmer had been a high official in the Midwest Academy network and that she had worked directly with another fellow named Ken Rawling. Ken Rawling is the fellow who during the campaign of 2008 that tried to keep me out of the files, the archives of the Bill Ayers Foundation. And Ken Rawling worked running that foundation with Bill Ayers and Barack Obama for years and years, and in other ways had been in charge of the funding of Barack Obama and the training of Barack Obama.
So Alice Palmer, the woman who selected Obama as her political successor, may have known him directly. But at a minimum, she had access to years of knowledge from her partner, Ken Rawling, about who Obama was and what he believed. And the book spins out the connections even further. I’m just giving you a taste of the fact that the people who trained Obama, who funded Obama and who sponsored Obama’s political career right through the Illinois State Senate to the U.S. Senate, and frankly they’re working with him today in ways I can talk about, if we have time, these people were all the Socialists–the stealth Socialist leaders of the Midwest Academy who very deliberately decided that you don’t talk about your Socialism out loud.
Now, I’m sure all of you have heard about a little something called the Public Option. The Public Option. Well, in a way, the Public Option was first created by the Midwest Academy. This was back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but the issue was not healthcare. The issue at that time was energy. And this was a kind of first major run through of the fundamental strategy of the Midwest Academy. The idea was to create a coalition, which again, you would call Populist, but which was led by Socialists. And they had a very specific coalition. It was called the Citizen Labor Energy Coalition, and they fought all sorts of battles in Congress and at the grassroots over energy issues.
And one of their core ideas was let’s have a U.S. government energy corporation to “compete” with private energy companies. Now, of course, the whole idea of competition in that context is utter nonsense, because a government energy corporation has the power of regulation, it has the power of taxation. It’s not going to compete with these private companies. It’s going to drive them out of business. And the leaders of the Midwest Academy who were running the Citizen Labor Energy Coalition understood all of this perfectly well. In fact, they had a theory about it. They drew on a French Marxist theorist named Andre Gorz. And he had an idea of what he called non-reformist reforms.
Non-reformist reforms. Now, what does that mean? It means that you propose a reform to the capitalist system, which you advertise as just a little bit of a tweak to the system. It’s going to make things a little more fair, a little more efficient. But you know in your own mind that you planned that to undermine capitalism and to put the country on an irreversible path towards Socialism, a kind of stealth Socialism. And by the way, one of the things you can see in the files of the Midwest Academy is how they entertained each other. When one of the leaders of the Midwest Academy, one of the few open Socialists–his name was Steve Max, a very important figure in the history of American Socialism– was going away to New York for a while, and so they gave a little party for him. And they all started singing songs. And they made up a song to the tune of The Internationale, - the Communist anthem, The Internationale - but they put new words to it. And the words were basically saying, I’m sorry, I can’t sing The Internationale and I probably wouldn’t even if I could, but the song is basically saying, let’s all fight for anti-capitalist structural reform. They sang songs to each other about Andre Gorz’s theory of non-reformist reforms.
This is important actually to the argument of the book because, as I’ll say in a moment as I’m saying now, Barack and Michelle Obama were very, very closely tied to the Midwest Academy. And you really had to trust someone if you were going to bring them into the inner circle of the Midwest Academy. They were very secretive and you can see why, because they sing songs to each other about Marx’s theory. You can’t just bring anyone into that context.
So the whole idea of the healthcare Public Option, which by the way was pushed by people who are alumni of the Midwest Academy–they weren’t the only people to back the healthcare public option, but they are certainly some of them–really has this direct descent from Midwest Academy theory, which comes straight out of Gorz’s and Marx’s theory. And there were other elements of the Midwest Academy’s strategic approach that we can see. Oh, and by the way, it’s true that Obama traded away the Public Option. But if you look at the Healthcare Reform Bill as actually passed, it really is just a slightly slower motion version of the non-reformist reform. That is, it’s designed not to work, if you know what I mean. It’s designed to drive people out of private insurance and into the government insurance. It’s just going to take a little longer than the Public Option would have done to do that.
Now, Midwest Academy’s strategy as played out with the Citizen Labor Energy Coalition and its successor organizations, was to downplay foreign policy - too divisive, to downplay social issues - too divisive, and to focus on issues of economic Populism instead. The idea was that the left had been split by the ‘60s. You had these culturally leftist people of the ‘60s who tended to be more sympathetic to the Socialist revolution abroad, then you had your classic Reagan Democrat type of economic Populists. And what the Midwest Academy people wanted to do was to unite those two halves. And so, the way they wanted to do that was by downplaying these other issues, even though they themselves, the leaders of the Midwest Academy, were completely leftist across the board on all issues. But they were very cagey. They really believed in incrementalism, they believed in stealth, they believed in setting your priorities.
And a lot of times when I’ve concluded that Barack Obama is a Socialist, and people on the left, of course, laugh at that and say, what are you talking about? He sent more troops into Afghanistan. What are you talking about? He’s not supporting same sex marriage. You’re out of your mind. Well, this is absolutely par for the course of the Midwest Academy. One of the most important leaders of the Midwest Academy is named Heather Booth. She was a prominent Socialist feminist in her early days. She wrote training materials for the Midwest Academy all about Socialist feminism. Abortion was a core issue of hers. She couldn’t have cared about any other issue more, and yet she subordinated the abortion issue intentionally, so that she could build a coalition around this economic populism. So you’ll see in the book where I show all sorts of links between the strategies used by President Obama and the strategies of the Midwest Academy.
Let me talk quickly about UNO of Chicago. There are a lot of new things in the book. And there is no way to cover them all, but I’ll just give you a sense of something else that’s in the book. It’s a group called UNO of Chicago. Now, probably not a single one of you has ever heard of UNO of Chicago, United Neighborhood Organizations of Chicago. Nobody knows about this group, and yet it was absolutely central to Barack Obama’s experience of community organizing. And nobody knows about it.
What was UNO of Chicago? It was a predominantly Hispanic organization, not exclusively, but predominantly, and it favored tactics that were very much like ACORN - super confrontational tactics. It had a blatantly anti-American ideology to the point where there were many Mexicans in Chicago who were very patriotic–they had served in the armed forces. They thought the Hispanics in UNO of Chicago were crazy anti-American radical nutcakes. And yet, Obama was deeply tied to this group and to the people who ran this group. And I go into the detail. I’ll just give you one little detail because it’s a nice one. UNO of Chicago–by the way, there were many illegal immigrants in UNO of Chicago, and yet they were constantly running these confrontational tactics demanding government money be spent.
So one of the things they got was a school to be made. And they didn’t just want the school. They wanted it to be called Ninos Heroes I think Heroes might be the original pronunciation. Ninos Heroes, which means “heroic children.“ It’s the name for these children who stood up to the United States during the Mexican War. It’s considered a mark of anti-United States Mexican patriotism. So they insisted on calling the school Ninos Heroes, and like I said, the patriotic Mexicans who were living in Chicago inundated the school board demanding that this outrage not take place. And yet, the school board capitulated because certain Hispanic members of the school board were targeted by UNO of Chicago. They came to their house, they scared them to death, they scared their children, and they gave up.
So that’s another example of a kind of a group. And I go into all sorts of stories about it.
I had a forum, a debate, with a fellow named Harry Boyte during the 2008 campaign. Harry Boyte is a prominent theoristic community organizer, and at my think tank I had a debate with this fellow. At the time, I didn’t know who Boyte was. And he presented the sweetest, most marvelous picture of community organizing using communitarian themes. It’s all about bringing communities together, making people care about other people. And someone challenged him and said, but aren’t you super leftist on economic policy? Well, no, not really. I mean, even the American Enterprise Institute talks about community responsibility for this and that.
So one of the things that really shocked me when I was at the Tamiment Library, which David mentioned, was I got out one of the programs for these Socialist conferences Obama attended and there was Harry Boyte’s name on the Socialist conference thing. So already I was like, what? Harry Boyte, that guy who was talking about communitarianism? And then, I’m looking through all of these documents from DSA and I see, “Candidate for the governing board of the Democratic Socialists of America, Harry Boyte.“ Unbelievable. So that was another thing that started me on the trail of Socialism.
Then, I got to the Midwest Academy documents in Chicago. Who was the main theorist of stealth Socialism, who himself, he would never have used these words. But he was attacked by Socialists. He was attacked by other Socialists for being too stealthy about Socialism, because the Socialists had battles among themselves. Some of the Socialists said, oh, no, Socialism can win. Let’s go out there and run an election campaign openly on Socialism. And Harry Boyte was the guy who was always saying, no, no, no, no, you don’t want to do it that way. That’s going to backfire.
Harry Boyte turns out to be the main theorist of stealth Socialism for the Midwest Academy. So this is a guy I knew and debated. I had no conception where he was coming from. He had been running his game on me. And in a way, if I hadn’t known him, I wouldn’t have discovered what he was really all about, at least in those extraordinary times.
David Horowitz: Steve Max, whom Stanley mentioned, his father was the Managing Editor of the Communist Party paper, The Daily Worker, when I was young. And there was a big debate at the founding of SDS as to whether Communists should be included, whether the movement should be open to Communists because this was an era right after the Stalin era and this was supposed to be a new left that was being created. And the person that they fought over–and this is why Irving Howe, who is a famous anti-Communist Socialist, attacked Tom Hayden and the founders of SDS—was Stevie Max. So your conservative critics who say they are Communist are exactly right.
Heather Booth. Peter Collier and I when we had written Destructive Generation, we were on a radio show with Heather Booth, who was then running the Harold Washington campaign. She was later on the staff of Senator Metzenbaum. And Peter and I–of course, we were baiting her –we know exactly where she’s coming from–she was very smooth, just completely ignored us, never responded to anything that we said and just was doing propaganda for the Harold Washington campaign. And Gus Newport, whom you mentioned, is another member of the Communist Party. But Heather Booth’s husband, Paul Booth, is a high official in the SEIU, which is the public sector Marxist union that works with ACORN and Obama. And of course, Andy Stern, who is the head of it, is an old SDS, went through the Midwest Academy.
So Chicago has contributed to us the Weathermen, the Midwest Academy, and Barack Obama. Thank you.
When I was a kid and my parents were members of the Communist Party, this was in the heyday of Stalin, of course, the Communist Party slogan was, “Peace, Jobs, and Democracy.“ The new left broke with this tradition by saying–we said, we’re revolutionaries up against the wall. And that’s the best thing about the new left actually, that you knew where we were going. These people have just reverted to the old Communist popular front. That’s basically who they are. They are no different and they’re now in the White House.
Stanley Kurtz: That’s right, David. They thought of it that way. One of the things I found in the Midwest Academy archives were explicit statements by the leaders saying, this–we really need to bring back the popular front, the strategy of the Communist popular front. And on the one hand, Steve Max would have said, oh, I’m not a Communist. I am a Democratic Socialist. And Heather Booth would have said the same.
But one of the things I turn up and talk about in the book is a talk, a private talk, that Heather Booth gave to this closed conference of Socialist feminists in 1975. And in that talk she says, “we have to go slowly, we have to go gradually” - all of these Midwest Academy compromise type things. But then, she says, yes, of course, eventually there will have to be a violent revolution and the entire ruling class of the country will have to be wiped out. So that’s one of the areas where you say, these people, even who are calling themselves Democratic Socialists, there might be something even a little bit undemocratic, shall we say, going on when you’re talking about wiping out the ruling class.
Unidentified Audience Member: My question has to do with Henry Wallace. He was the Vice President of FDR who they had to dump in 1944 because he was too much of a Stalinist. And in ‘48, of course, he ran as a “progressive,” really the American Communist Party, for President against Harry Truman.
In his campaign was George McGovern. I think one of the things that I’d like to be better known in the country is, one, at what level was George McGovern in the Henry Wallace campaign? Then, of course, McGovern became a congressman, a senator, et cetera, et cetera. And then, the rewrite of the rules of the Democratic Party.
So my question is, I think that Henry Wallace is an underappreciated figure in the osmotic intrusion of progressivism and new leftism into the Democratic Party, et cetera. Is he an underappreciated figure or am I overestimating the role he played in post-World War II, post ‘30s leftist development in America?
Stanley Kurtz: I think Henry Wallace was important, maybe in a slightly different way than what you are anticipating, at least insofar as he comes up in the book. One of the things that pushed the new left open revolutionaries into this strategy of stealthily working within the Democratic Party were a very influential group of ex-Communists who came into these Democratic Socialist groups. And they saw the Henry Wallace phenomenon as a disaster. They saw the Henry Wallace phenomenon as splitting off the left from the Democratic Party and they believe that that’s what led to the destruction of Communists and Socialists in the ‘50s because the Democrats themselves became angry that the left had split off in this way. So they used the Henry Wallace example to say to these open revolutionaries, no, don’t go openly to the left. Work within the Democratic Party. Don’t make the Henry Wallace mistake.
People did start working within the Democratic Party. They didn’t move to the left and again, people don’t understand that. It was the prestige of these ex-Communists saying to these young kids who thought they were following Lenin and Marx and all of that. And the ex-Communists would say, no, not only did we make a mistake with Henry Wallace, but if you carefully read your Marx and your Lenin, you’ll see that even they favored working within the American Democratic process. And that’s what started to bring the left into more conventional politics.
Unidentified Audience Member: My question is about the 2012 election and how the kind of information you’re providing us is going to play out in that. I know David has played a huge role in supplying people like Glen Beck and the others. There is no question Fox News people, talk radio people, are the ones who have made it–made ACORN a word known around the country. Glen Beck seems to be right at the front of it. And he is doing an incredible job of educating Americans about all of this. But I have some concern that Obama might be successful in marginalizing him. And if you could just kind of address those concerns about the presidential election.
Stanley Kurtz: Well, sure. I mean, I think there is still this constant barrier that people have to pass through. I think there are Republicans who know about my information, there are Republicans who don’t even yet know about the information. There are some who probably are nervous about bringing it up. It’s a gradual process. Just the other day there was–in addition to all the wonderful things that NewsReal Blog and FrontPage Mag have done, there was something at the American Spectator by Jeffrey Lord, a former Reaganite, talking all about Radical-in-Chief and that kind of thing gives the promise that this could break into the open.
I think that if the information in the book breaks into the open, it will be serious problem for Obama. It’s really hard to have a politically winning debate for the other side to talk about how much did these Socialist conferences really matter to Obama. You don’t even want a debate on that. But while there’s a lot of interest in keeping all that quiet, there is also the fear. And again, I had it myself. I didn’t want to go into the Socialism issue on the part of conservatives –most people who have actually read the book come to say, yeah, this is documented, it’s not written in a crazy way, it makes sense. But there’s a real barrier in getting people to open it up and take it seriously.
So I think there is another element here, and that is the Dinesh D’Souza problem, because Newt Gingrich touted an article that was on the cover of Forbes giving a digest of the argument of Dinesh D’Souza’s recent anti-Obama book. And the press has to cover what politicians say, particularly someone who might run for the nomination. So instantly, from being totally ignored, everyone in the mainstream media, every liberal with blogging software, as someone said, started attacking both Gingrich and D’Souza. I happen to think, and again, you know my bias, but I happen to think that if Gingrich had mentioned my book instead of D’Souza’s, that would have come out a lot better for him.
D’Souza has put himself at odds with conservatives because he put out a book a couple years ago recommending an alliance between moderate Muslims and American conservatives. So no one defended D’Souza and Gingrich was embarrassed because everyone attacked him. And that gave a danger sign. Hey, if you as a politician get yourself behind a book, you could be left hanging out to dry. And that all happened just before my book came out. Now, I happen to think my book, being more well documented , would not suffer that fate. But it’s a scare example for politicians. I think gradually we’re making progress, but it’s going to take time.
Unidentified Audience Member: There’s a gap for me between what your book has told us and other sources of Obama’s background. The thing I can’t quite get a handle on is how did this relatively obscure Chicago politician suddenly become thrust forward into the general Democratic Party and wind up as the candidate? What was the engine that pushed him from Chicago to Washington, D.C.?
Stanley Kurtz: I think charisma had a huge amount to do with it. Personal charisma, and I think, a story, which is I think–were it not for the fact that he is so politically radical, it could potentially be a wonderfully inspiring story to have the first African American President of the United States. And I think that his personal charisma combined with the enthralling nature of that story helped to rocket him to prominence. Of course, it was his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. And what he did in that speech, it really was sort of classic Midwest Academy, talking about there is no red America and there is no blue America, there’s just the United States of America. Alot of communitarian themes as well.
If you look back at his past, he sounded like he was a trans-racial Martin Luther King person. No one has ever been more in favor of racial preference and set aside type programs than Barack Obama in his past. And another thing I go into in the book is a pattern that Obama himself went through, and I explain it, but almost every community organizer goes through. They present themselves as post-partisan, as pragmatists. They present themselves as beyond ordinary politics. And then, they very intentionally use polarization as a strategy. So this whole trajectory is just an enlarged version of the community organizer trajectory and he was able to work it brilliantly.
Unidentified Audience Member: What I still don’t get is the Democratic Party is a large group of people and he had people who were in competition with him. How did he–who were those that pushed you forward to the front and dropped everybody else behind with the exception maybe of Hillary Clinton?
Stanley Kurtz: One answer is my nephew. My nephew, who loves Jon Stewart, he’s young, he does all the things that the Obama fans do, this generation of young kids who were inspired in the way that I say. But I think I sense something else behind your question, and I think it’s the larger issue is isn’t there a wing of the Democratic Party–it’s not just Obama–that is not so far from these radical ideas? And I think that’s absolutely true. And when I did my research I ran into all sorts of things. I don’t like to go public with things unless I have them really documented and all of that. But it does go beyond Obama. And even the Midwest Academy achieved a fair amount of influence at its height such that all the Democratic candidates had to come and speak for it. They themselves probably didn’t know, most of them, that it was a Socialist controlled group.
But there was a name for this actually. They called the strategy at these Socialist conferences the party within a party strategy. They had a conception of literally developing a party within a party. And Obama himself belonged to something. And this is something I brought up during the campaign and the Obama campaign attacked me and called me nasty names. He belonged to something called the New Party, which was a party jointly run by ACORN and the Democratic Socialists of America. And it’s mimicked now by the Working Family Party in New York, one of the few states that allows you to co-endorse instead of having your own separate line. That almost embodies the party within a party strategy, that you had a leftist third party which operated by co-endorsing select Democrats who were super far to the left.
So, yes, I think you raise implicitly the larger question of what’s going on with the Democrats. And I do think there is a party within a party.
Unidentified Audience Member: I would like to know why and how the–Barack Obama’s papers at Columbia when he was there, how they got sealed, how did that all come about, and what you know about that.
Stanley Kurtz: Well, everyone’s college records are private. They’re just naturally private. Now, candidates often say, oh, please, release my records to the public. But everyone’s records are protected, so no one can go back to your records or my records or whatever. And during the campaign, in fact, Obama not only did not release his public records, but he told all sorts of friends that he had, don’t talk to the press. And two of them, his Pakistani friends who knew him at Occidental, even tell the story about reporters–most reporters ignored it, but some were banging on their door. Maybe that was the Fox News guy, I don’t know. But they had to hide from even opening their door. But the interesting thing is that a lot of the people who didn’t speak in 2008 spoke to Obama’s sympathetic biographer, David Remnick, after the campaign and Remnick explained a lot of amazing things that Obama–effectively, Remnick says Obama was a Socialist at Occidental College and he did go to meetings of the Democratic Socialist Alliance. It’s just that every time Remnick dribbles out some seemingly damning bit of information, he does something to try to cancel out its significance. So he says, yeah, he was Socialist, but he wasn’t that doctrinaire, and this and that.
Well, it turns out that John Drew, a fellow who is here right now, had a remarkable debate with Obama back when he was at Occidental, and through his account, which I find extremely credible, says, oh, he was very doctrinaire and very knowledgeable. So one of the things I do in the book is go through the belated revelations in the Remnick book and show how they are very damning and that the ways in which Remnick tries to neutralize them are not convincing. But the records, college records, are sealed by law. Only Obama could say everybody look at my records, and he doesn’t seem inclined to do that.
Unidentified Audience Member: On reflecting on your well informed and thoughtful response, Wallace was kicked out. He didn’t just split. He wasn’t just a schismatic. He was kicked out and replaced with an anti-Communist, Harry Truman. That was a very deliberate move by the Democratic Party at that time. Then, Wallace in ‘48, by running against Truman and taking so many votes from the left, if he had prevailed, meaning taken enough votes to cause Harry Truman to lose to Dewey, the lesson to the Democrats would have been don’t do that again. So certainly, I think you are quite correct. But it’s not just don’t leave, but the threat to the Democratic Party, don’t push one of us out again. So I’d ask you to revisit this Henry Wallace thing. And as I said, as a minimum McGovern and God knows who else, I think it needs to be written–researched.
Stanley Kurtz: Fascinating. Thank you.
David Horowitz: Let me just put in my two cents on what happened. The Communists formed the Progressive Party in ‘48 because of the Cold War, the Marshall Plan, which they opposed, NATO. So when Harry Truman issued the Truman doctrine that the United States was not going to allow free peoples to be subverted or conquered, since the Communist Party was under the control of Moscow, they took the decision to break with the Democratic Party and to break the popular front, which had been formed in the Roosevelt era. My mother, she was a registered Democrat. That’s what she did. But not in 1948. This continued through the Cold War. And of course, the new left, we attacked the Kennedys and the liberals. I mean, that was the good thing about the new left, it self–isolated itself.
But in 1968, of course, Hayden organized a riot at the Democratic Convention over the Vietnam War. But when Hubert Humphrey was defeated, then McGovern, who comes from the Wallace campaign and had these politics, he becomes the candidate and the left en masse actually marches into the Democratic Party. They change the rules of McGovern, they change the rules of the party and they had all these caucuses based, of course, on race and identity and so forth. And they really took control of the Democratic Congressional Party at that time. I mean, I gave you this example. How could they let Ron Dellums be the Chair of the Armed Services Committee?
The other big thing is what happened in the Kennedy family. When people lead disreputable careers or do bad things, they want to get their moral cred back and the way to do it is you become a champion of the oppressed and join the left. I had this encounter–I forget her name, but it’s in Radical Son, with a woman who was the congressional liaison for the ACLU or whatever, a very prominent feminist. And I said to her–this was in the early ‘80s, I said how come Teddy Kennedy is the biggest woman abuser in the country. How come you don’t go after him? And she said, oh, he’s down for the agenda. We will never go after him.
And Ted Kennedy, right after he killed that woman at Chappaquiddick, the first speech he gave was an anti-Vietnam speech which was far left, whereas his brothers were much more conservative–Bobby was a Joe McCarthy staffer and Jack was what later would have been called a Reagan Democrat. Then, right then Kennedy engineered Watergate. We had Chris Matthews at the Weekend. I mean, what a transformation in that guy. He gave a great speech at our Weekend. But Chris Matthews wrote a really good book called, Nixon and Kennedy. And the entire Watergate was engineered by Teddy Kennedy. And something like eight of the 12 special prosecutors were from the Kennedy entourage. And it was to defeat the United States in the Vietnam War. That’s what Watergate was about.
When Nixon resigned, the Watergate class came in that had Communists like Bella Abzug. That’s when the left–John Kerry, they all came in ‘74. The first thing they did in January was to cut off aid to Cambodia and Vietnam, and that’s when the massacres–the governments fell within four months. So the Democratic Party has been in this transformation to a leftist party for 30 or 40 years. That’s how to answer the question of how Barack Obama got in there. The Progressive Caucus, so this was a Marxist Caucus in the party, where there’s 160 members of the congressional–of the House, that’s the vast majority.
Nancy Pelosi gave a speech on the floor to honor her personal hero, Harry Bridges, who was a member of the Central Committee of the American Communist Party and a Soviet Agent. So that’s how bad it is, and that’s why when I met with Jeremiah then, I said, oh, my God, this country is in trouble and for 20-odd years that’s what the Center has been doing is trying to educate people. And then we, by putting up Discover the Networks and things we’ve done, we’ve allowed people who are now beginning to realize that access to the networks and the dots and the agendas.
And these people are professional liars. To be on the left, you have to be a liar. You are always for peace, justice, of course, because you know if you tell people what you are for, at best they’re not going to listen to you, at worst they could get really angry. I had this experience–I will close with this. Cardinal Menzenti was a hero because he refused–he was the Cardinal in Budapest. And when the Russians and the Communists took over the country, instead of leaving the country, he stayed in the American Embassy and led–he was the symbol of the anti-Communist struggle.
And when I had my second thoughts and started to speak on the conservative circuit, one of the first invitations was to the Cardinal Menzenti Foundation in St. Louis where I was introduced by my host as a former civil rights worker and peace activist. In truth, I was a bloody Marxist revolutionary. And that applies to all these people. And if you read Stanley’s book, I mean, Jan Schakowsky, they’re all part of this Midwest Academy out there and they know who they are and they know each other and they understand the dangers, the third rail of foreign policy and things like that.
So anyway, that’s the lesson for today.