Barack Obama and the Communist Party

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President Barack Obama
Barack obama1.jpg
44th President of the United States
Assumed office: January 20, 2009

Born August 4, 1961
Birth name Barack Hussein Obama II
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse Michelle Obama (m. 1992)
Political party Democratic Party
Religion Christian Liberation Theology
Signature Obama-signature-small.png
This article is part of a series about
Barack Obama
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Barack Obama's involvement with the Communist Party USA

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Communist leader on "friend" Barack Obama

On November 15, 2008, Sam Webb, National Chair of the Communist Party USA delivered an address to the Communist Party USA National Committee. During his address, he noted the following concerning the party's relationship with Obama,

"The left can and should advance its own views and disagree with the Obama administration without being disagreeable. Its tone should be respectful. We are speaking to a friend."

Frank Marshall Davis

Frank Marshall Davis

Barack Obama's first known connection with a Communist Party USA supporter was his boyhood relationship with communist poet Frank Marshall Davis in Hawaii.

Barack Obama's relationship to Frank Marshall Davis, first came to light through a March 2007 speech[1] at New York University's Tamiment Library by Communist Party USA supporter and historian Gerald Horne.

Commenting on the alleged leftist sympathies of Hawaiians, Horne said;

When these sources are explored, I think scholars of the future will be struck by, for example, the response in Honolulu when tens of thousands of workers went on strike when labor and CP leaders were convicted of Smith Act violations in 1953 – a response totally unlike the response on the mainland. Of course 98% of these workers were of Asian-Pacific ancestry, which suggests that scholars have also been derelict in analyzing why these workers were less anti-communist than their Euro-American counterparts.
In any case, deploring these convictions in Hawaii was an African-American poet and journalist by the name of Frank Marshall Davis, who was certainly in the orbit of the CP – 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 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, a people who have been the least anticommunist and the most left-leaning of any constituency in this nation

Frank Marshall Davis' communism

Information from Davis' 601 page FBI file reveals that Davis (born 1905) became interested in the Communist Party USA as far back as 1931.

Certainly from the mid/late '30s to the early '40s Davis was involved in several Communist Party fronts including the the National Negro Congress, the League of American Writers, the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties and the Civil Rights Congress.

The FBI first began tracking Davis in 1944 when they identified him as member of the Communist Party's Dorie Miller Club in Chicago-card number 47544.

Davis taught courses at the party controlled Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago and attended meetings of the party's Cultural Club until he left for Hawaii in 1948.

Hawaiian activism

Frank Marshall Davis' move to Hawaii was influenced by two secret Communist Party USA members Harry Bridges and Paul Robeson.

When contemplating moving to Hawaii, Davis "wrote to Harry Bridges, whom I had met at Lincoln School. Bridges suggested I get in touch with Koji Ariyoshi, editor of the Honolulu Record..."

The Lincoln School was run by the Communist Party USA. Koji Ariyoshi was a leader of the Hawaiian Communist Party which controlled the ILWU affiliated Honolulu Record- which Davis went to work for.

Before going underground in 1950, the Hawaiian Communist Party was one of the most dynamic in the U.S. at the time. The mainland put huge resources into the Hawaiian party because the Soviets wanted the U.S. military presence on the islands shut down. The Hawaiian communists were charged with agitating against the U.S. military bases at every opportunity. Several times the FBI observed Davis photographing obscure Hawaiian beaches-possibly for espionage purposes.

Through its control of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) the Hawaiian Communist Party USA had considerable influence on the local Democratic Party. In the mid '50s, while still a confirmed communist, Davis like many of his comrades, became an official in the local Democratic Party.

At the time the underground Communist Party was divided into two or three person independent cells. Davis led one such cell "Group 10" with his wife Helen Canwell and one other comrade.

An extensive Senate Security Investigation in 1956 shattered the Hawaiian Party, driving the remnants completely underground .

The FBI continued to monitor Davis into the 1960s and he was marked down for immediate arrest should war break out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Still a communist?

ACPFB letterhead April 12, 1973

Frank Marshall Davis met Barack Obama in 1970 or 1971 when Obama was about 10 years old. The relationship lasted until Obama left Hawaii for Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1978.

As late as 1973, Frank Marshall Davis was still listed as an endorser of a major Communist Party USA front organization, American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born.

Known Communist Party USA members listed with Frank Marshall Davis at right include Richard Criley, Abe Feinglass, Hugh DeLacy, Stanley Faulkner and James Dombrowski.

Frank Marshall Davis and Obama

In an article by Toby Harnden published in the Telegraph on August 22, 2008, Communist Frank Marshall Davis's influence on the young Barack Obama was uncovered. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama's half-sister, told the Associated Press that her grandfather had seen Davis as "a point of connection, a bridge if you will, to the larger African-American experience for my brother (Barack Obama)".

Dawna Weatherly-Williams, a close friend of Frank Davis stated that Obama's maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham and Davis were close friends, adding that they would spend evenings together, playing scrabble, drinking, cracking jokes and smoking marijuana. She said that Davis was first introduced to Obama in 1970 at the age of 10:

"Stan had been promising to bring Barry by because we all had that in common - Frank’s kids were half-white, Stan’s grandson was half-black and my son was half-black. We all had that in common and we all really enjoyed it. We got a real kick out of reality."[2]

Chicago Communists first recorded interest in Obama

Peoples Weekly World, August 22, 1992 (view full article)

In an article entitled Voter enthusiasm on rise in Chicago by Judith M. Hochberg, published in the Communist Party USA paper People's Weekly World on August 22, 1992, Barack Obama, then Illinois State Director of Project VOTE! is quoted as saying:

"The main point is that awareness of the importance of voting, ehe excitement of voting this year is getting out there".[3]

Vernon Jarrett and Barack Obama

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Vernon Jarrett was a prominent Chicago journalist and was a family friend and later father-in-law of Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

In the 1940s Jarrett worked in several communist influenced organizations in Chicago, including serving on the publicity committee of the communist controlled Packing House Workers Strike Committee, with Frank Marshall Davis.

He also ran a radio show with Communist Party USA member Oscar Brown, Jr.

Vernon Jarrett was also a fan of Barack Obama. He watched his career from its early stages and became an influential supporter.

In 1992 Obama worked for the ACORN offshoot, Project Vote to register black voters in aid of the Senate Campaign of Carol Moseley Braun-who had strong Communist Party USA ties and was Harold Washington's legislative floor leader.

Obama helped Carol Moseley Braun win her Senate seat, then took it over himself in 2004-backed by the same communist/socialist alliance that had elected Washington and Moseley Braun.

Commenting on the 1992 race, Vernon Jarrett wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times of August 11th 1992;

Good news! Good news! Project Vote, a collectivity of 10 church-based community organizations dedicated to black voter registration, is off and running. Project Vote is increasing its rolls at a 7,000-per-week clip...If Project Vote is to reach its goal of registering 150,000 out of an estimated 400,000 unregistered blacks statewide, "it must average 10,000 rather than 7,000 every week," says Barack Obama, the program's executive director...

Dee Myles, a Chicago based chair of the Education Commission of the Communist Party USA penned a tribute to Vernon Jarrett, for the People's Weekly World of June 5th, 2004.

Readers like me can be extremely selective of the journalists we read habitually... We are selective about the journalists to whom we become insatiably addicted, and once hooked we develop a constructive love affair without the romance...

Such was my experience with Vernon Jarrett, an African American journalist in Chicago who died at the age of 86 on May 23. I became a Vernon Jarrett addict, and I am proud of it!

Vernon Jarrett’s career as a journalist in Chicago began and ended at the Chicago Defender, the African American daily paper. In between, he was the first Black journalist at the Chicago Tribune, and I first began to read his articles during his tenure at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Jarrett’s claim to fame is that he was a partisan of the cause of African Americans in the broad democratic tradition of Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois...

Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois were both Communist Party USA members. On April 9th, 1998 at Chicago's South Shore Cultural Center, Vernon Jarrett hosted a Paul Robeson Citywide Centennial Celebration event, with his old comrade and Party sympathiser Margaret Burroughs and former Communist Party USA members Studs Terkel and his old friend Oscar Brown, Jr.

Dee Myles went on to say;

Jarrett was fanatical about African Americans registering and voting in mass for socially conscious candidates. He championed Harold Washington like a great warrior, and this March, from his hospital bed, wrote an article appealing to Black Chicago to turn out to vote for Barack Obama in the Illinois primaries. Obama astounded everyone with an incredible landslide victory as the progressive, Black candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. From his sickbed, Vernon Jarrett issued a clarion call, and the people responded.

Communist Party support in Obama's 2004 Senate race

The Communist Party USA was supportive of several candidates in the 2004 election cycle including Frank Barbaro, Cynthia McKinney, Barack Obama, Betty Castor, Nancy Farmer and Inez Tenenbaum[4];

It would be helpful for each district to single out House seats that can be swung from Republican to Democrat to develop our list of key races, which includes progressive Frank Barbaro in New York and Cynthia McKinney in Georgia.
A number of exciting candidates are emerging in the Senate, in the first place Barak Obama in Illinois, and also several progressive women including Betty Castor seeking to retain retiring Bob Graham's seat as Democrat; Nancy Farmer seeking to defeat Kit Bond in Missouri; Inez Tenenbaum seeking to retain retiring Fritz Hollings seat as Democrat.

The Communist Party USA actively campaigned for Obama during his successful 2004 Illinois Senate race[5].

Activists from Illinois were immersed in the campaign to elect Barak Obama to the U.S. Senate. Obama won a landslide victory in the March 16 Democratic primary. If Obama wins in November, he would be only the third African American senator since Reconstruction.
“This was a historic victory. It was a victory for political independence and grassroots, coalition, and issue oriented politics over the machine and money,” said John Bachtell, Illinois CP district organizer.

From a November 21 2004 report to the Communist Party USA National Committee - "The Communist Party USA and the 2004 Elections: Build the Party, Build the Coalitions".[6]

MO: State Rep. During the campaign to elect a worker as State Representative: A new club in St. Louis, with another in formation. A new YCL club and another by the end of the year. A total of 19 new members in the YCL and Party. An increase from 2 to 12 bundles of PWW/NM a week. MI: A new club in Saginaw emerged from a national/district team that helped on a local campaign which elected a township trustee. A new club in the Upper Peninsula formed after a visit by Sam. New clubs in Lansing and Ann Arbor will be formed by the end of the year. ILL: 27 new members and an increase in PWW/NM bundles to 2500 a week. This in the process of participating in the movement from Illinois to Wisconsin to put that state over the top for Kerry, participating in the historic election of Barak Obama to the US Senate, and the successful campaign of Melissa Bean, defeating incumbent Republican Congressman Philip Crane.

In an October 23 2007 report to a Chicago Special District Meeting on African American Equality, Communist Party USA National Board member John Bachtell wrote:[7]

The historic election of {Harold} Washington was the culmination of many years of struggle. It reflected a high degree of unity of the African American community and the alliance with a section of labor, the Latino community and progressive minded whites. This legacy of political independence also endures...
This was also reflected in the historic election of Barack Obama. Our Party actively supported Obama during the primary election. Once again Obama’s campaign reflected the electoral voting unity of the African American community, but also the alliances built with several key trade unions, and forces in the Latino and white communities.
It also reflected a breakthrough among white voters. In the primary, Obama won 35% of the white vote and 7 north side wards, in a crowded field. During the general election he won every ward in the city and all the collar counties. This appeal has continued in his presidential run.

Young Communist League backing

According to a November 20 2004, election report[8] from Young Communist League USA national coordinator Jessica Marshall confirms Young Communist League USA support for Obama's campaign through Youth for Obama.

In New York YCLers were delegates and founders of the local organizing committees of the National Hip Hop Political Convention. In Providence, Miami and Chicago YCLers helped head up the League of Pissed Off Voters efforts. YCLers staffed Democratic Party operations and headed up precincts in Ohio and Florida. A YCLer from Virginia was a canvas director for a progressive young candidate in a tight race in Ohio. In Miami, the newly formed club helped ACT organizing efforts at Miami Dade Community College.
In Chicago YCL members were very active in the Youth for Obama efforts and one member worked with the United States Student Association and his student government to register over 1,000 new voters.

From a 2006 Young Communist League USA report by Jessica Marshall.[9]

Young people are up to the challenge. In 2004 youth-run organizations helped to organize and register 4.6 million new young people to get out and vote… the majority of them voted against Bush and more than half were young people of color. The YCL was there and present for those experiences - we learned alongside them through our Midwest Project.
The YCL has to be at the table this fall too. Every club and every member needs to be out there and involved. And we need to bring everyone we work with out too! This is a national campaign to change the Congress and we are gonna be a part of that!

We don’t have to be millions to have an impact! Just think about what a small group of YCLers have done in less than four years since our last convention!
We organized dozens of young people to head to the battleground states in 2004

In Ohio our YCLers were asked to lead up get out the vote teams because of our experience and hard work.
In Cincinatti we helped defeat an anti-gay ballot initiative.
In New York we worked on a campaign to elect Frank Barbaro defeat a Bush Republican and elect a real progressive
In Chicago we helped to form a youth vote operation to elect Barak Obama.
In St. Louis we were instrumental in electing John L. Bowman a progressive state representative. Bowman publicly acknowledged the key role the YCL and Communist Party played in his election.

"Revolutionary mole" letter

Frank Chapman is a long time Communist Party USA supporter. In the early 1980s he chaired a party front National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. In the mid '80s he served on the board of another communist front, the U.S. Peace Council, alongside two future Obama colleagues and supporters Alice Palmer and Barbara Lee.

Just after Obama won the pivotal Iowa primary Chapman wrote a letter to the January 12, 2008 edition of the CPUSA's Peoples Weekly World;[10]

Now, beyond all the optimism I was capable of mustering, Mr. Obama won Iowa! He won in a political arena 95 percent white. It was a resounding defeat for the manipulations of the ultra-right and their right-liberal fellow travelers. Also it was a hard lesson for liberals who underestimated the political fury of the masses in these troubled times.
Obama’s victory was more than a progressive move; it was a dialectical leap ushering in a qualitatively new era of struggle. Marx once compared revolutionary struggle with the work of the mole, who sometimes burrows so far beneath the ground that he leaves no trace of his movement on the surface. This is the old revolutionary “mole,” not only showing his traces on the surface but also breaking through.
The old pattern of politics as usual has been broken. It may not have happened as we expected it to happen but what matters is that it happened. The message is clear: we can and must defeat the ultra-right, by uniting the broadest possible coalition that will represent an overwhelming majority of the people in a new political dynamic. We must quickly shed yesterday’s political perspective and get in step with the march of events.

Message of support to a Communist Party "front"

In March 2008, Barack Obama sent a message of support to the Communist Party USA controlled Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday organization.

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April 1, 2008 Washington DC--Evelina Alarcon, Executive Director of Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday welcomed the backing for a Cesar Chavez national holiday from Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama who issued a statement on Cesar Chavez’s birthday Monday, March 31, 2008. “We at Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday appreciate the backing of a national holiday for Cesar Chavez from presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. That support is crucial because it takes the signature of a President to establish the holiday along with the Congress’s approval,” stated Evelina Alarcon. “It is also encouraging that Senator Hillary Clinton who is a great admirer of Cesar Chavez acknowledged him on his birthday. We hope that she too will soon state her support for a Cesar Chavez national holiday.”

Alarcon’s remarks were part of a statement made at a press conference at our nation’s Capitol on April 1st called by Chair of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) in support of HR 76, a resolution he authored with 62 Co-Sponsors that encourages the establishment of a Cesar Chavez national holiday by the Congress[11].

Barack Obama’s statement for a Cesar Chavez national holiday:

"Chavez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist, and a civil rights leader. And his cause lives on. As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago. And we should honor him for what he's taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation. That's why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez's birthday a national holiday. It's time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union."
Senator Barack Obama March 31, 2008.

Obama's sister given communist "front" award

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standing Evelina Alarcon left, Maya Soetoro-Ng, right

In June 2008, Communist Party USA leader and Executive Director of Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday, Evelina Alarcon presented an award from the organization to Barack Obama's younger sister Maya Soetoro-Ng at a gathering in East Los Angeles[12].

Addressing a largely Latino audience in East Los Angeles yesterday, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng shared stories about her childhood with her older brother, Barack Obama, and the effect he has had on her life. Held in El Sereno’s Hecho en Mexico restaurant, the event drew more than a hundred enthusiastic community activists, local elected officials, and regular citizens...
Evelina Alarcon, a notable Obama supporter and the sister of long-time Los Angeles politician Richard Alarcon, presented a poster to Obama’s sister commemorating the life of Cesar Chavez.
Alarcon recounted the accomplishments of the late Chicano leader and argued persuasively for honoring his accomplishments with a national holiday. Reminding those in attendance that Barack Obama supports the call to make Cesar Chavez’s birthday a national holiday. Alarcon trusts that if Obama is elected president the holiday will become a reality.
Obama has been quoted recently to say:“As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago and we should honor him for what he’s taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation. That’s why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez’s birthday a national holiday. It’s time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union.”

Communist support in '08

The Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League USA, put in a huge effort to elect Barack Obama in 2008.

Individual party members who actively propagandized for Obama, or worked on the ground to get him elected include;

Communists alter history to protect Obama

Screenshot of article as it appeared as at Dec. 30, 2007
Screenshot of the article as it appeared as at Nov. 10, 2010

To the left is a screen shot an article entitled "Special District Meeting on African American Equality", taken as it appeared on the Communist Party USA website as at December 30, 2007. Note the reference to Communist Party support for Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate primaries.[13]

To the right is a screen shot of the same article taken on Nov. 10, 2010. Note that the statement, "Our Party actively supported Obama during the primary election" has been edited out.[14]

References