Trevor Loudon's New Zeal blog has moved to

redirecting you there now

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama File 76 Leon Despres Dies-Obama's Socialist "Trailblazer" Moves On To Subvert Heaven?

Obama file 75 here

Chicago political icon and former city Alderman Leon Despres died recently at the age of 101.

Though not widely known outside Illinois Despres created a political movement, begun in Chicago's affluent Hyde Park enclave, that propelled Barack Obama to the US presidency.

From leftist blog, Daily Kos

Barack Obama recognized this trailblazer whose contributions to Hyde Park's politics set the stage for our president's own ascent.

In a statement Wednesday, President Obama said, "Through two decades on the Chicago City Council and a long lifetime of activism, Leon Despres was an indomitable champion for justice and reform. With an incisive mind, rapier wit and unstinting courage, he waged legendary battles against the corruption and discrimination that blighted our city, and he lived every one of his 101 years with purpose and meaning. I have been blessed by his wise counsel and inspired by his example."

According to the Chicago Tribune;

Despres and his South Side neighborhood, which he represented in the City Council from 1955 to 1975, were long the city's liberal conscience, and both were part of President Barack Obama's original political base.

"Michelle and I were saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a towering giant in Chicago history, Leon M. Despres," Obama said in a statement. "With an incisive mind, rapier wit and unstinting courage, he waged legendary battles against the corruption and discrimination that blighted our city."

StoneCipher Report put it another way;

He (Despres)strongly supported Obama, seeing him bringing "a breadth of integrity not in that office in a long time." He also said, "[Obama] is a good man, highly intelligent, but not an elitist. And I see him staying that way."

And a key for the former Alderman was watching the rise of this young community organizer, then state Senator in the same neighborhood that Despres once represented and still knew so well – with Obama being supported and then elected by the same core mixed group of progressives who had emerged in the ‘50s (and solidified through the ‘60s and ‘70s) supporting his independent Democratic candidacy.

Leon Despres was a key figure in the movement that nurtured Obama's career. Despres helped found a coalition that united the Chicago left against the mighty Daley machine. It put Chicago's first black mayor Harold Washington into power. It boosted Jesse Jackson's presidential ambitions and it elected the US's first black female Senator Carol Moseley Braun. It gave the far left a say in the running of Chicago and it gave the US its first black president.

Who was Leon Despres?

Born in 1908 Leon Mathis Despres moved as an infant to Chicago's Hyde Park area and lived there almost his entire life. Despres studied law at the University of Chicago, gaining his degree in 1929 and linking up with the radical father of US "community organizing" Saul Alinsky

According to the Chicago Tribune centenarian Despres gave a speech on Alinsky at their old Alma Mater early this year which revealed much about both men

But palling around with street toughs convinced Alinsky that social problems had to be tackled head-on, not by gathering statistics, said Leon Despres , a former 5th Ward alderman, and a classmate of Alinsky’s at U. of C.

He and Alinsky went to a shooting range to prepare for the revolution that seemed inevitable as the Great Depression appeared to be the end of capitalism.

But socialism and the revolution never came, and Alinsky afterward became intolerant of ideology...

Alinsky went on to radicalise much of South Chicago before his death in 1972. Eleven years later, a young Barack Obama moved to the same area to cut his political teeth with Alinsky trained people and organizations.

After a brief fling with the Democrats Despres joined the Hyde Park branch of the Socialist Party USA in 1933-remaining a member until 1937.

Despres was a union lawyer by 1937 and became heavily involved in supporting strikers at Republic Steel in Chicago through the Lawyers Constitutional Rights Committee. The strike ended in tragedy when 14 strikers were killed and many wounded in a hail of police bullets.

According to the Illinois Labor History Society

Len (Leon) was among the lawyers who took depositions from the many witnesses to the carnage inflicted by the Chicago police at the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre at Republic Steel. Later, Len helped the La Follett Congressional Investigating Committee to gather information used in its scathing criticism of the police conduct on the field that day.

The Communist Party USA orchestrated the ill-fated strike, working through the party dominated Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Lee Pressman, the CIO lawyer played a major role. It was later revealed that Pressman was a secret communist and Soviet spy-part of the Ware ring, founded in the US Department of Agriculture.

Despres's colleague on the Lawyers Constitutional Rights Committee, John Abt was also a secret communist and Ware ring member.

From 1931 to 1935 despres also worked with another Communist Party front , the Chicago Civil liberties Committee, but left because of the "Stalinism" of its leaders.

Almost certainly this was a signal, that like many on the US left at the time Despres was breaking with Stalinism to embrace the rival Trotsyist movement.

According to this biography of Despres's wife Marian;

In 1937, a fellow lawyer asked Leon Despres to deliver a suitcase of clothing to Leon Trotsky, the exiled Bolshevik living in Mexico. The Despreses
traveled south and met not only Trotsky but his ally, artist Diego Rivera. Mrs. Despres sat for a portrait with Rivera while her husband escorted Rivera's
wife, the artist Frida Kahlo, to a movie.

Trotsky at the time was under very tight security, rightly fearing Stalin despatched assassins. Despres must have been highly trusted by the Trotskyites to get anywhere near their leader.

Leon Despres's wife Marian also played her part in blazing trails for Obama.

From 1946 to 1951 she was an assistant psychology professor at Roosevelt University, where she urged a young student named Harold Washington to run for the student council presidency, which he won. As mayor of Chicago, Washington often said that Despres had launched his political career.

Harold Washington went on to serve Illinois in the US Congress and the Communist Party in a variety of front organizations.

Obama openly credits the election of Harold Washington in 1983 as the reason he first moved to Chicago. Obama even applied for a job with Washington's administration.

Back in Hyde Park, Despres was busily building the coalition of communists, socialists, leftist Democrats, unionists and black radicals that would first change Chicago and then the US.

In 1955 Despres was elected Chicago City Council as an independent Alderman from Hyde Park. Despres, who served until 1975 was a left wing maverick, usually the sole dissenter against Mayor Daley's invincible "machine".

Despres never abandoned the left and by the late 1950s was back in the Socialist Party orbit.

In 1958 Chicago leftists Party established an annual dinner in honor of Socialist icon Eugene Debs.

The Dinner began as the Debs Day Dinner in 1958 under the auspices of the old Socialist Party of America.

In 1969, the Dinner became the Thomas - Debs Dinner in honor of Norman Thomas. It became an awards dinner in 1971. In 1973, the newly formed Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) took over the Dinner's sponsorship. In 1983, DSOC and the New American Movement merged to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). DSA has sponsored the Dinner since then.

DSA leader Hichael Harrington's name was added to the event's title after his death in 1989.

Leon Despres reportedly MCed the first Debs Dinner in 1958 and was on the podium again in 1962. In 1975 Despres was the honoree;

In 1976 Leon Despres was the Debs Dinner MC, introducing Michael Harrington and Dolores Huerta, vice president of Cesar Chavez's United Farmworkers Union-now a prominent DSA member.

Harrington left, Despres at microphone

Note Cesar Chavez's "Si Se Puede!" slogan behind Despres-almost certainly the real origin of the Obama campaign's "Yes We Can!"

The Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinners almost always feature DSA members, many of whom are ex-communists. Many speakers and awardees have gone on to work for Obama or play some significant role in his life or career, including Harold Washington, Dolores Huerta, Jackie Grimshaw, Saul Mendelson, Jose LaLuz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Danny Davis, Miguel Lavalle, Lou Pardo, Jackie Kendall, Eliseo Medina, Bruce Raynor, Jan Schakowsky, Henry Tamarin, Henry Bayer, Tom Balanoff William McNary, Quentin Young and Timuel Black.

Quentin Young has been Obama's friend, neighbour and physician. He has also been Despres's doctor and a friend for 50 years. Young was in the Young Communist League in the 1930s, then the Communist Party for many years before joining DSA in 1982.

Timuel Black is also a long time Obama friend and supporter. He is a member of the Communist Party splinter group Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and a DSA donor.

Despres knew Timuel Black well. The pair organised a delegation of Chicagoans to march with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama in 1965. At the time Black was a member of the Socialist Party. Later Despres served serving on a "Citizen's Committee" supporting Black's campaign for State Representative in the 22nd District.

The "Citizen's Committee" was chaired by Communist Party member Harold Rogers. Also serving with Despres were former former communist Charles Hayes, DSA members Saul Mendelson (former Trotskyist), Danny Davis and Milton Cohen (former communist) and journalist Don Rose.

Harold Rogers, Charles Hayes, Harold Washington, Carol Moseley Braun, Danny Davis, Milton Cohen and Timuel Black were all leaders in 1981 of another far left organization, the Chicago Committee in support of Southern Africa.

Despres and Don Rose also went back. In the early 1970s Rose, a veteran of several communist controlled organizations, set up a newspaper, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices. Rose's business partner was David Canter, a longtime Communist Party member, raised partially in the Soviet Union and at one time a registered agent of that country.

"Voices" featured a weekly column from local Alderman Despres and articles by and about Hyde Park radicals, socialists, peace activists, SDS rioters, Cuba sugar cane cutters and communists.

It campaigned strongly against the Chicago Police's "Red Squad" the section dedicated to gathering intelligence on communists and radicals.

Despres was also very active against the "Red Squad"-not surprisingly as he was one of their targets.

According to the Illinois ACLU (of which Despres was a leading member);

Unlawful surveillance of political and religious organizations and community groups by the FBI and Chicago police was rampant in Chicago for many decades up through the mid-1970s, when federal lawsuits by the ACLU of Illinois and other organizations resulted in court supervision over these intelligence-gathering activities. Groups like the League of Women Voters, Operation PUSH and the Independent Voters of Illinois as well as individuals including former Chicago City Council member Leon Despres, Jesse Jackson Jr., Studs Terkel, Dick Simpson and Dr. Quentin Young were subjected to unlawful surveillance and the disruption of lawful political activities

The late Studs Terkel, (who attended Despres's 100th birthday celebration) was a long time secret Communist Party member, Jesse Jackson was supported by communists and Dick Simpson was involved with the Debs Dinner set.

Independent Voters of Illinois was heavily infiltrated by socialists such as Milton Cohen, Saul Mendelson, Betty Wilhoitte (all DSA) and a who's who of the Chicago left including Dick Simpson, David Canter, Bernice Bild, Bob Mann, Joe Moore, David Orr, Sue Purrington, Carol Moseley Braun and Michelle and Barack Obama.

After "Voices" folded in 1975, Rose and Canter embarked on a new project-mentoring a young student journalist named David Axelrod-later to serve as Obama's presidential campaign boss and White House advisor.

David Canter, Harold Washington, circa 1983

By the early '80s Mayor Daley was dead and gone and Canter and several others persuaded Harold Washington to stand for the Chicago mayoralty.

Rose, Axelrod, Canter and Despres all worked on the successful campaign-which was essentially an alliance between the Chicago Communist Party and DSA.

Rose, Axelrod and Canter all worked for Washington's administration, while Despres served on the new Mayor's Chicago Plan Commission and as City Council Parliamentarian until Washington's death in 1987.

After the Washington era Despres returned to his law practice but maintained strong political interests.

His last major political act came early this year. When Illinois congressman Rahm Emmanuel gave up his seat to serve as Obama's Chief of Staff a bye-election was called in Illinois's 5th District.

Leon Despres's law partner Tom Geoghegan threw his hat in the ring. He was endorsed by Leon Despres, Quentin Young and Don Rose, but lost the Democratic primary race.

Even Leon Despres and the Hyde Park socialists couldn't win 'em all.

Obama file 77 here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This website seems dedicated to focusing on smokescreen issues rather than the what's important.

Newsflash: the President of the USA is not in an alliance with 'communists'.He's the head of the worlds foremost imperial power- why would he bother dealing with some disaffected nobodies when his country is at war?

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy far-right Republican conspiracy theories!

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...


Looks like you may have left Carl Davidson speechless on this one!


Facts speak the truth.

1:11 AM  
Blogger mah29001 said...

Here's Obama's weekly address on YouTube. Obvious problem...much of what Obama wants includes government promoting it:

7:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home