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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama-file 18 Will Obama Be the Communist Party's "People's President"?

Obama-file 17 here

Far from being dead as most Americans imagine, the Communist Party USA remains an important political player.

While only a few thousand strong the CPUSA's influence in labour unions, the peace movement, black and Latino mass organisations and the Democratic Party gives the communists a significant say in US politics.

The CPUSA is strong in several large cities, including Chicago, where it has influenced city and state politics for decades.

In 1983, the party and its Marxist allies from Democratic Socialists of America, was a driving force behind the election a very sympathetic Chicago mayor, the late Harold Washington.

In 1992 the CPUSA and DSA helped elect another sympathiser, Carol Moseley Braun to the US Senate.

For several years the CPUSA and DSA have backed another Chicago rising star-Barack Obama.

The CPUSA learned a lot from Harold washington's successes. Indeed the Harold Washington campaign appears to be almost blueprint for Barack Obama's spectacular presidential campaign.

The CPUSA has high hopes for Barack Obama.

The Party still calls their protege, Harold Washington-the "peoples mayor".

Now the CPUSA wants to make Barack Obama, the "people's president".

Joel Wendland, managing editor of the CPUSA's theoretical journal outlines Harold Washington's successful campaign and its significance for Barack Obama and America's future in the the latest Political Affairs

The 1980s opened with a huge transformation in American political and social life unseen since the Great Depression...The New Deal was decimated. Reagan and his successors shifted national resources to military spending and war, weakened federal oversight of consumer goods and worker protections, eliminated and stripped education, housing, health care, affirmative action and welfare programs...

But in this wave of Reagan reaction and corporate greed, there stood an island of hope, a city with a new idea for fighting back. At the helm of that city was a people’s mayor named Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago... In Chicago in the run-up to the 1983 election, the coalition Washington helped bring together included the labor movement infuriated over the loss of jobs and plant closings, reformers tired of corrupt and racially divisive machine politics, and growing African American and Latino communities struggling for civil rights and a voice in city government. One former 7th ward coordinator for Washington’s 1987 campaign said, “I loved the Washington days; it was magical.”

Throughout this early period of his political life, Washington worked hard to breakdown racial barriers for young African American political hopefuls in the city government using coalition politics, shrewd political maneuvering, and mobilizing new participants in the process. Mostly, however, Washington confronted hostility in Chicago’s Democratic machine toward any challenge to the “way things are done.”

In 1964, Washington won election to the Illinois state house of representatives where he served until 1976... Elected to the state senate in 1976, he turned in 1977, following the death of Mayor Richard J. Daley, to a failed attempt to win the Democratic nomination for Chicago mayor. In 1981, Washington won election to the US House of Representatives from Chicago’s predominantly African American 1st district.

Along the way, Washington was an advocate for the labor movement, the peace movement, and a variety of people’s causes. Long-time Chicago peace and labor activist Beatrice Lumpkin, recalled a rainy afternoon in the early 1970s at which a few hundred Chicago residents gathered at a rally sponsored by the Chicago Peace Council to protest the war in Vietnam. Lumpkin recalled, “Harold spoke strongly against the war. He was one of the more progressive legislators. I was very impressed that he spoke in the rain and grateful to him for coming and giving our rally greater impact.”

Beatrice Lumpkin was a leader of the Chicago Communist Party. The Chicago Peace Council, like its parent body the US Peace Council was a front for the CPUSA.

Washington’s relationship to the labor movement went back a long way. When plant closings in northern Illinois, Indiana, and southern Wisconsin pounded the Chicago region economically in the late 1970s and early 1980s with no relief in sight, Washington could be counted on to be part of the struggle to save jobs and provide relief...

The 1980 closure of Wisconsin Steel located in Chicago’s east side was the final straw for many disaffected workers...

Retired African American steel workers Frank Lumpkin, who had also campaigned for Harold Washington in his earlier state and federal campaigns, along with other laid off workers and angry retirees, formed the “Save our Jobs” committee.

They organized public protests, demanding relief for workers in the form of the benefits that Harvester, the billion dollar operation that owned Wisconsin Steel, refused to pay after the mill closed. and the organization of resources to keep the mills opened. The committee circulated a petition, gathering some 4,000 steelworkers’ signatures, and delivered it to the Illinois state legislature and to members of Congress, including Rep. Harold Washington.

Frank Lumpkin was of course Bea Lumkin's husband. He was also a leader of the Illinois Communist Party.

By the middle of 1981, the struggle to re-open Wisconsin Steel, win back benefits and to re-gain lost jobs, shifted as Ronald Reagan took power. It seemed clear that Reagan would simply defund the federal Economic Development Administration, which held the Wisconsin Steel plant, and force its closure.

In the end, the struggle was partially victorious, retirees were paid partial benefits, but the plant never re-opened. According to Beatrice Lumpkin in Always Bring a Crowd, the biography of Frank Lumpkin, Washington won the support of Chicago’s steelworkers with his strong support for their struggle. Washington’s determination to speak up on this issue enabled him to win labor’s endorsement in the campaign for mayor even as the party machine set up obstacles to that labor endorsement

Having been soundly defeated in the 1977 mayoral primaries, Washington made his 1983 candidacy for mayor contingent on the success of registering 100,000 new Black voters and raising a certain amount of funds before an official campaign would be put together. But he refused to confine his appeal to African Americans. In the summer before the 1983 primary, he said, “As a practical politician, I would seek to build a coalition of Black and white campaign workers throughout the city. The issue would not be anti-race, but anti-greed and anti-corruption.” After the 1983 victory, Washington stated:

In our ethnic and racial diversity, we are all brothers and sisters in a quest for greatness. Our creativity and energy are unequalled by any city anywhere in the world. We will not rest until the renewal of our city is done. ...[W]e are going to do some great deeds here together.

Washington felt that white voters who initially resisted his candidacy could be won over if a dominant theme of his campaign and his administration of the city was to eliminate corrupt forces that also hurt the city’s white residents as much as its people of color.

Chicago journalist Ron Dorfman, who edited the recently published photographic essay of Washington’s career, Harold!: Photographs from the Harold Washington Years, said...“Harold brought together different factions in the Black community together.” Uniting labor progressives, nationalists, and traditional civil rights people in the African American community, Dorfman suggested, was a key element of Washington’s candidacy, and “there really wasn’t anybody else who could pull that part of the coalition together.”

Within three months or so, organizations like Operation PUSH, welfare rights organizations, African American churches, and labor unions helped register over 200,000 new African American voters in the city. Public figures like Stevie Wonder, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., African American elected officials state representatives Carol Mosley Braun and Danny Davis, and US Rep. Gus Savage appeared at many public events to promote the voter registration drive.

Danny Davis is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. He and Obama were endorsed by DSA in 1996. Gus Savage was close to the Communist Party.

African American educator and activist and Chicago resident Dee Miles... said, initially there was concern about whether or not Washington’s candidacy would take hold in the African American community. But when it did, “the support for Washington in the African American community grew quickly. Literally you could feel it, you could cut it with a knife it was so thick.”

Myles, who worked in the 1983 campaign as a precinct worker and in the 1987 campaign as a ward coordinator in the independent political committee in the 7th ward, described the campaign of 1983 as a real people’s movement. She remembered people riding on the bus to work in south Chicago wearing their blue Washington for Chicago buttons. After his election, a city ban on public musicians was lifted, and there just seemed to be more music in the city, Myles said. “It was really a period of engagement that was quite astonishing.”

Dee Myles, is a Chicago based member of the National Board and National Committee of the CPUSA. She is also head of the CPUSA's Education Commission.

Washington knew he couldn’t rely on the Democratic Party to either win mayoral elections or to govern with his reform program. “It was understood that if stability was going to be produced, and progress and building support was going to be maintained from election to election, an independent operation was needed so that he wouldn’t have to depend on the regular Democratic Party machine,” said Myles...

Indeed, after his victory in the 1983 primary, the Democratic machine appeared to be aloof to his candidacy and even proposed running Mayor Jane Byrne, whom Washington had defeated in the primary, as a write-in candidate...

Washington appealed to independent voters from a large cross-section of the city’s electorate: a broad coalition of Democrats, independent-minded Democrats, others on the left, and still others who held no specific ideological viewpoint but were alienated form the process by corruption in or the ineffectiveness of city government. To succeed at this unorthodox approach to politics, Washington encouraged the formation of independent political organizations to boost his campaign and to promote his program.

One of the most important elements of the Washington campaign was the drive for interracial, inter-ethnic unity. Washington found in racial diversity a source of strength. In his first inaugural speech, he said: “We are a multiethnic, multiracial, multilanguage city and that is a source of stability and strength.”

While all observers of those events seem to agree that the unique unity of Latino and African American voters helped send Washington to City Hall, it is also true that a growing number of whites who came to see his program and accomplishments as beneficial to all Chicagoans. According to former Chicago Alderman and Washington supporter Dick Simpson, though Washington never received more than 20 percent of the white vote, it was clear that had he lived, Washington’s share of that vote would have grown.

Washington’s Republican opponents, and even some within the Democratic machine, successfully promoted fears among white city residents that handing power to an African American would cause the city to fall apart or promote “retribution against whites,” Simpson noted. Washington “did diffuse that sentiment. There was no longer fear of African Americans in positions of power by the time his regime ended,” Simpson recalled. “He was successful in diffusing that racial animosity, but not successful enough by 1987 to win over a majority of white ethnic voters.” Still, the trend favored an anti-racist majority in the city.

Dick Simpson was, in the late '70s a close associate of the Marxists who went on to form Democratic Socialists of America.

Here again, the labor movement played a key role. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists pressed the Chicago Federation of Labor to endorse Washington during the general election battle.

The Coalition of Black trade Unionists is heavily influenced by the Communist Party.

Latino community leader and garment workers union organizer Rudy Lozano was among several organizers within the growing Latino community who helped forge support among Latinos and put together a strong base of support both for Washington’s candidacy and in the battle to win Washington’s reform platform in the city council. Lozano, who had also been a key figure in the “Save Our Jobs” campaign, was based in the 22nd ward and led the formation of that ward’s independent political organization.

A battle over redistricting had begun. Machine politicians fought redistricting in order to block Washington’s reform platform. They had succeeded in the past of forcing Mayor Jane Byrne, who had also run as a reform candidate, to back off ethics reform by keeping control of the city council and brow-beating her into submission. But Washington and his supporters, armed with the independent political forces and a broad multiracial coalition as the tool for winning popular support, took their stand.

The organization that Lozano and his allies put together in the 22nd Ward was an unrivaled model of grassroots organizing. Get-out-the-vote campaigns mobilized huge sections of the population who had not participated before behind Washington’s reform program. Some people close to Lozano also suspect that his assassination in June 1983 was directly linked to his efforts on Washington’s behalf.

Rudy Lozano was a probable member of the CPUSA. His son Pepe Lozano is now a leader of the Chicago Young Communist League and is a strong advocate of mobilising the Latino vote for Barack Obama.

April 2008 will mark the 25th anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as mayor of Chicago. In honor of the anniversary, the Harold Washington Commemorative Year was established to celebrate his life and work by holding dozens of public events around the city, church services, music programs, and university symposia as well as the publication of the book Harold!: Photographs of the Washington Years. The Commemorative Year is headed by numerous prominent Chicago elected officials as well as many of the people who actually fought by Washington’s side all those years ago.

Some of Washington’s accomplishments are tangible and remain part of the political life of Chicago to this day. With the people behind him, organized and willing to fight, Washington won many of the battles in the city council...

Washington’s affirmative action policies were another key change he brought to city government. “He opened city hall to not only African Americans but also Latinos, women, gays, Asians – everybody that had been locked out,” said Simpson. Leadership and management positions in the city government included more women and people of color. “It is now just a part of the city fabric,” said Dorfman. “Absent Harold, it wouldn’t have happened. Harold did it and it stuck.”

Another unquantifiable part of Washington’s legacy is his enduring influence on national politics. Just about everyone interviewed for this story eventually came around to talking about another emerging Chicagoan – Barack Obama. Perhaps it is no accident that he too talks in broad, hopeful terms about change, reform, and empowering the people to reclaim democracy.

Indeed, is it mere chance that Obama’s main campaign image is a rising sun over a flag and the words “Obama for America”? Those blue buttons that dotted Chicago’s landscape in those exciting days of 1982 and 1983 showed rays of the sun like hope rising above the words “Washington for Chicago.”

Perhaps Washington’s very greatest legacy is the insurgent challenge to politics as usual Obama represents on a national stage. Perhaps “the peoples’ mayor” will inspire the making of “the peoples’ president

The same organisations that backed Harold Washington-the Communist Party and Democratic Socialists of America are now backing Obama.

They were successful with Harold Washington, so it is no surprise they are using the same tactics with Barack Obama.

Will they succeed in making Barack Obama, the "people's president".

Obama-file 19 here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facts would be nice when someone states such strong rhetoric as this with out them it's just opinion and rumors which this is and it hurts everybody .

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing, everything is "rhetoric" to liberals if it isn't about vilifying America and its way of life.

I think the article is well composed and presents plenty of facts (those things in italics.. yea.. those are quotes.. ) The only thing I would have done differently is present the quotes a bit clearer as to who is making them and where the information came from.

You know as a libertarian that any time you face the left you have to have a giant book of facts down to every last detail, whereas they can simply make things up and use "hope" and "change" and everyone bows to them as their masters. Hypocrites.

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The organizations mentioned herein have indeed succeeded. Mr. Obama now has the Dem Nomination in hand and the Left Organization to make the presidency.
The US electorate has no idea of the backing Mr. Obama has.
G.. Help Us.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Carl Davidson said...

This article is silly, especially to anyone who knows anything about Chicago politics and its left wing.

I've been involved in this scene for decades, and know it as well as anyone, even though I recently moved back to my home town.

Take out the spin words about how 'significant' the CPUSA is as a player, and there's not really anything here.

Actually, to my mind, it would be nice if it were true, and the left did have the clout this piece suggests. But alas, we don't come close. Maybe someday.

The pictures do reveal a truth, though. The CPUSA in Chicago, less than 100 in a city with half-a-million voters in the last election, are largely in that age bracket, save for a few youngsters in Pepe's group. DSA is in worse shape; when it calls a meeting, less than a dozen show up. It does have a nice mailing list that allows in to a a dinner once a year.

These groups are far outnumbered by the far left groups, maybe 10-to-1, which means they aren't very big either. Once problem, though--almost all of them militantly opposed Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama and every other Democrat, and still do.

Frank Lumpkin is a very nice guy, and has a terrific record sticking up for the steelworkers, both now and when there were a lot more on them. But he hardly controls his own alderman, let alone any bigger fish.

I'm often touted as Obama's 'Marxist Mentor,' which is also a joke. Obama is a decent liberal out of the Alinksky tradition of community organizers. Everyone knows there's nothing Marxist about Alinsky. I'm simply an acquaintance of Obama, meeting him three times for a few minutes over 15 years. If he even remembers my name, it's as the guy who bugged him, as state senator, to spend more money on afterschool programs. But you'd never know it from the breathless 'exposes' on the right wing of the net.

Chicago does have some tough, independent liberals, going back a long time, as well as a strong Black nationalist and civil rights movement. That's funny part about this piece. It's so intent on its imaginary players, that it completely misses the real players.
Harold Washington's movement, for instance, was launched by Black nationalists and independent Black Deocrats, hardly 'connected' to the socialist left. Obama really does have mentors, but certainly not me or an old CP Black poet who he knew as a kid. Its to very tough, accomplished, influential and smart Black liberal women, Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice.

But you don't have a clue here. Your 'exposer' is so determined to chase Marxist bogey men, that he throws sand in your eyes about what's really happening.

I'm trying to get people to vote for Obama, but certainly not because he's a socialist.

Obama is a 'high road' industrial policy capitalist and multipolar globalist--just read his Cooper Union speech a while back. Clinton is a garden-variety corporate liberal capitalist, which got her on the board of Walmart for years. And McCain is a US hegemonist and an unreconstructed neoliberal capitalist--'state all evil, market all good'--that kind that says 'We're in business to make money, not steel, so we'll gut these plants and speculate in oil futures, and the workers and towns be damned.' In other words, the ones who 'cut taxes' by putting everything on the China Visa card and got us into this mess.

Actually, truth be told, Obama's brand of capitalism is best for productive businesses, as opposed to speculators, and does least harm to the working class. That doesn't mean we can't press him to be better at it, as in promoting and building infrastructure for new green businesses and green jobs for youth. All those solar panels and wave and wind turbines have to be built somewhere by someone.

But my work with 'Progressives for Obama' ( ) is completely independent of his campaign. We want it that way, mainly so we can criticize him. And we don't care if he 'distances' himself from us, either, because it's really not about us. We don't ever actually endorse him or his platform. We simply say he's the 'best option,' and that we'll have to continue our movements no matter who is in the White House.

In any case, a major change is taking place in our country. we're hopeful, especially about a chance to end the horrible war in Iraq, but the future is still open, not under anyone's thumb.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because its "Change" doesn't mean its good.

If we don't pay attention we will "change" our way into communism :)

1:53 PM  
Blogger Spitfire said...

Here we are again with the "gosh and gollies" routine from this crowd. Gee, Carl, why don't you talk a little about your background? It would give some context to this presentation of the nearly defunct organization that throws a dinner once a year... Make sure you mention your recent relationships with Bill Ayers and Mike Klonsky.

The truth will set you free...

7:28 PM  
Blogger Carl Davidson said...

Bill and Mike and I have been friends since the SDS days of the 1960s--although Mike and I bitterly opposed the Weatherunderground nonsense back then when it counted. All that is well known to those who care about such things. What's silly is the notion that any of us shape the politics of Barack Obama. Nor are we members of DSA, the outfit throwing the dinner in question. Obama has real mentors close to him in plain sight, some tough liberal African American women, but you ignore them just to make a spurious 'connection' with something you can pin the label 'Marxist' one. Pitiful

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama will CHANGE USA into USSA

6:15 PM  

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