Search Blog Posts

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Barack Obama Learned from the Communist Party

July 8, 2008

By Andrew Walden

American voters must make up their minds about what Barack Obama really believes in, if anything. His recent rhetorical concessions to the center further muddy the waters. So we must look to his past teachers and associates for help in understanding the inner Obama.

In his first series of national campaign commercials since securing the delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential campaign, Barack Obama struggles to re-introduce himself.
Images focus on the story of lessons learned from his grandparents and his mother, described in his book Dreams from my Father as "a girl from Kansas.... dab-smack, landlocked center of the country," in towns "too small to warrant boldface on a roadmap."  Speaking in Independence, Missouri, Obama tells his audience: "patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy."  

First Mentor

But there is another story to be told about loyalties and about Obama's education.  A story told by Gerald Horne, contributing editor of Political Affairs, a magazine published by the Communist Party, USA.  Speaking March 28, 2007 at the dedication of the Communist Party, USA archive at New York University Tamiment Library, Horne traces the downward spiral of fortune for Communists in the latter half of the twentieth century.  But in the closing paragraphs of his speech, Horne suddenly becomes hopeful, pointing to the arrival of what Obama might describe as "the ones we have been waiting for."

" Hawaii was an African-American poet and journalist by the name of Frank Marshall Davis, who was certainly in the orbit of the CP (Communist Party) -- if not a member -- and who was born in Kansas and spent a good deal of his adult life in Chicago, before decamping to Honolulu in 1948 at the suggestion of his good friend (and Communist Party member) Paul Robeson. Eventually, he befriended another family -- a Euro-American family -- that had migrated to Honolulu from Kansas and a young woman from this family eventually had a child with a young student from Kenya East Africa who goes by the name of Barack Obama, who retracing the steps of Davis eventually decamped to Chicago. In his best selling memoir ‘Dreams of my Father', the author speaks warmly of an older black poet, he identifies simply as "Frank" as being a decisive influence in helping him to find his present identity as an African-American...."

In Hawai`i, most people are ‘hapa' (mixed) and the few blacks are ‘popolo' (Hawaiian word for a type of black berry).  The poisonous attitudes fostered in the Jim Crow era simply have no context.  Instead of taking the opportunity to convey a message of racial hope from the land of hapa, Obama teaches lessons about being black learned from a Communist.  Handed a golden opportunity to define himself as an individual, he instead defines himself as part of a group.  

Communists' interest in African-Americans stemmed from their presumption that blacks oppressed by the Democrats' Jim Crow segregation were more likely to serve Soviet interests.
Star-Bulletin file photo
This collection of materials was identified as
communist propaganda by a customs official, during
a December 1956 Senate subcommittee hearing here.

Just one year after arriving, Davis spearheaded Communist efforts to take over the Honolulu branch of the NAACP.  A 1949 letter sent by Honolulu NAACP Chair Edward Berman to NAACP acting National Secretary Roy Wilkins describes Davis' work:

"I (Berman) was at one of the election meetings at which one Frank Marshall Davis, formerly of Chicago (and formerly editor of the Chicago Communist paper, the Star) suddenly appeared on the scene to propagandize the membership about our ‘racial problems' in Hawaii.  He had jut sneaked in here on a boat, and presto, was an ‘expert' on racial problems in Hawaii.  Comrade Davis was supported by others who had recently ‘sneaked' into the organization with the avowed intent and purpose of converting it into a front for the Stalinist line....

...Already, scores of Negro members were frightened away from these meetings because of the influx of this element.  Only by a reorganization with a policy that will check this infiltration, can we hope to get former members back into a local NAACP branch.  We are going to have to have that authority over here-otherwise you'll have a branch exclusively composed of yelping Stalinists and their dupes-characters who are more concerned about the speedy assassination of Tito (Yugoslav communist dictator who had just broken with the USSR) than they are about the advancement of the colored people of these United States."  

The anthology Black Moods (pgs xviii-xxxvii) and Davis' posthumous memoir Living the Blues: Memoirs of a black poet and journalist portray Davis as a Communist Party member working with top leaders of the Party.  One of Davis' poems is titled, "To the Red Army".  Its concluding stanzas read:

Smash on, victory-eating Red warriors!
Show the marveling multitudes
Americans, British, all your allied brothers
How strong you are
How great you are

How your young tree of new unity
Planted twenty-five years ago
Bears today the golden fruit of victory!
Drive on, oh mighty people's juggernaut!

Hear in your winning ears
Shadow songs of your departed comrades
Telling you, "Be avengers and kill our killers
And when you have struck the last foe to the ground
Then drop their fascist dreams below hell!"

Family Ties

Obama's grandparents, Stanley Armour Dunham and his wife Madelyn are another piece of the puzzle.  Key details come from interviews in The Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times

Done bouncing around Kansas, California and Texas in the years after World War Two, Stanley and Madelyn in 1955 picked up and relocated 2,000 miles from Texas to Seattle.  The next year they relocated to Mercer Island specifically so their daughter, Obama's future mother, Stanley Ann Dunham could attend Mercer Island high school. 

One year earlier, Mercer Island schools had distinguished themselves in a way which might have caused others to avoid them.  The Chicago Tribune explains,

"In 1955, the chairman of the Mercer Island school board, John Stenhouse, testified before the House Un-American Activities Subcommittee that he had been a member of the Communist Party."

After intense debate, Stenhouse decided not to resign from the school board according to an April 11, 1955 account in Time Magazine

Stenhouse was not the only leftist connected to the school.  The Seattle Times explains:

One respite (from Americans Stanley Ann Dunham looked down on) was found in a wing of Mercer Island High called "anarchy alley." Jim Wichterman taught a wide-open philosophy course that included Karl Marx. Next door, Val Foubert taught a rigorous dose of literature, including Margaret Mead's writings on homosexuality.

Those classes prompted what Wichterman, now 80 and retired in Ellensburg, called "mothers' marches" of parents outraged at the curriculum.

Dunham thrived in the environment, Wichterman said.

"As much as a high-school student can, she'd question anything: What's so good about democracy? What's so good about capitalism? What's wrong with communism? What's good about communism?" Wichterman said.  "She had what I call an inquiring mind."

She also showed her politics, wearing a campaign button for Adlai Stevenson. And despite flirting with atheism, she went to services at East Shore Unitarian church, a left-leaning congregation in Bellevue.

The Chicago Tribune mentions a description of the Dunham's chosen church as "The Little Red Church on the Hill".  According to its own website, East Shore Unitarian Church got that name because of, "Well-publicized debates and forums on such controversial subjects as the admission of ‘Red China' to the United Nations...."  The fact that Mercer Island's John Stenhouse, according to his 2000 obituary, once served as church president might also have contributed to the "red" label....Read more @Source:  Archived-Articles: What Barack Obama learned from the Communist Party