Barack Obama and the Committees of Correspondence
The former communists joined with former Maoists, Trotskyists, socialists and anarchists to launch CoC at Berkeley, California in 1992 and to convene the official founding conference in Chicago in 1994.
In 2000, Committees of Correspondence (CoC or CofC) became Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS).
Obama and the Committees of Correspondence
- What makes Obama different is that he has also been a community organiser. He has read left literature, including my works, and he understands what socialism is. A lot of the people working with him are, indeed, socialists with backgrounds in the Communist Party or as independent Marxists. There are a lot of people like that in Chicago who have worked with him for years...
Timuel Black is an historian, activist and nonogenarian icon of the Chicago left. Black is a veteran of the Socialist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America. For several years he has served on the Committees of Correspondence advisory board.
- So it’s no surprise that in 1991, when a community organizer named Barack Obama returned to Chicago with a Harvard law degree, he sought advice from Black. Seventeen years later, on November 4, 2008, Black and his wife, Zenobia, watched the election coverage in their home with friends. “When we learned that he had made it, that there was no turning back, the house just went wild
Alice Palmer had allegedly promised Obama her State Senate seat if she was successful in a run for the U.S. Congress.
She wasn't successful, but Obama refused to stand aside and went on to win the seat unopposed-after getting all his opponents (including Palmer) disqualified on voting technicalities.
"I liked Alice Palmer a lot. I thought she was a good public servant," Obama said. "It was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently."
His choice divided veteran Chicago political activists.
"There was friction about the decision he made," said City Colleges of Chicago professor emeritus Timuel Black, who tried to negotiate with Obama on Palmer's behalf. "There were deep disagreements."
Despite the mess, Timuel Black became and remains an admirer of the ambitious young politician.
"My first impression was this was a very, very brilliant young man," Black says.
Black said Obama's biggest obstacle would not be from whites, but from blacks.
- "The biggest thing he has to face is the accusations by some blacks that he is not black enough...He has to overcome that without being so black that he alienates potential white supporters."
Speaking of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign he said;
- “Obama is the test of how deep racism is in this country...Barack is the recipient of the struggle of other generations...That means that you feel proud of your ancestors, your successes...(Obama), based on the opportunities that were opened to him by others, is in the position to prove to the world whether the United States of America is a true democracy, or is a continuing hypocrisy.”
Timuel Black was involved in Obama's campaign committee during his successful 2004 U.S. Senate race.
- For forty years, he shaped our young men and women into those citizens. And though he may have retired from the teaching profession nearly two decades ago, he never stopped being a teacher. We are all his students in a classroom that never closes.
Carl Davidson was a leader of the Students for a Democratic Society, a staff writer for the Maoist publication The Guardian and an activist with the pro China Communist Party USA (Marxist-Leninist) and the League for Revolutionary Struggle, before joining Committees of Correspondence on its founding in 1992.
One of the Committees of Correspondence's early projects involved establishing the radical New Party in the early 1990s.
- I'm from Chicago, too, and known Obama from the time he came to the New Party to get our endorsement for his first race ever. I've been in his home, and as an IL legislator, he's helped or community technology movement a number of times. He said all the right things to the ACORN and New Party folks, and we endorsed him, but I noticed too, that he seemed to measure every answer to questions put to him several tmes before coming out with it.
Carl Davidson was one of several Chicago area residents, including Don Rose, Marilyn Katz and James Weinstein, who first came together as Chicagoans Against War in Iraq in September 2002 to campaign against the war in Iraq.
On October 2 2002 Chicagoans Against War in Iraq organized the famous anti war rally in Federal Plaza Chicago, where Illininois State Senator Barack Obama made his name as a strong opponent of the war. Some of the people around Davidson, later held a fundraiser for Obama when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2004.
- He spoke at our first antiwar rally. He spent most of his speech detailing all the wars in history he supported, then finally made a distinction between just wars and 'dumb' wars, and going into Iraq, which was still six months down the road then, was a 'dumb war,' and he flatly opposed it. Good, that put him on our side, and some of us organized a fundraiser for him for his Senate race.
Danny K. Davis
- "Over 500 delegates and observers (including 140 from Chicago) attended the founding convention of the Committees of Correspondence (CoC) held here in Chicago in July.
New Ground reported that speakers…included Charles Nqukula, General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Dulce Maria Pereira, a senatorial candidate of the Workers Party of Brazil, Angela Davis of CoC, Andre Brie of the Party of Democratic Socialism of Germany (a revamp of the old East German Communist Party). Guests during the Convention included Cook County Commissioner Danny Davis, Chicago Aldermen Helen Shiller and Rick Munoz, a representative of the Green Left Weekly of Australia and a representative of the Cuban Interest Section."
Davis has been a long time friend and supporter of Barack Obama-one his most loyal political allies.
New Party News Spring 1996 page 1, celebrated the Davis’ Congressional victory and went on to say;
- "New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary)..."these victories prove that small 'd' democracy can work' said Obama".
Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers
The two men were involved in efforts to reform the city’s education system. They appeared together on academic panels, including one organized by Michelle Obama to discuss the juvenile justice system, an area of mutual concern. Mr. Ayers’s book on the subject won a rave review in The Chicago Tribune by Mr. Obama, who called it “a searing and timely account.”
Mr. Obama further expanded his list of allies by joining the boards of two well-known charities: the Woods Fund and the Joyce Foundation.
These memberships have allowed him to help direct tens of millions of dollars in grants over the years to groups that championed the environment, campaign finance reform, gun control and other causes supported by the liberal network he was cultivating. Mr. Brazier’s group, the Woodlawn Organization, received money, for instance, as did antipoverty groups with ties to organized labor like Chicago Acorn, whose endorsement Mr. Obama sought and won in his State Senate race.
Professor Durham went into "education reform" in the 1970s and in the 1990s founded the organization Community Organizing and Family Issues.
Katz, with Carl Davidson helped organize Obama's appearance at the 2002 Chicago anti Iraq War rally.
- It was through the law firm that Mr. Obama met Marilyn Katz, who gave him entry into another activist network: the foot soldiers of the white student and black power movements that helped define Chicago in the 1960s.
- “For better or worse, this is Chicago,” said Ms. Katz, who has held fund-raisers for Mr. Obama at her home. “Everyone is connected to everyone.”''
Katz was a major fundraiser and a delegate at the Democratic Party convention for Obama.
It was pulled at very short notice after adverse publicity began surfacing on the blogosphere.
Barack Obama was Alice Palmer's chief of staff when she ran for Congress in the mid 1990s. She was the main sponsor of Obama's early political career until he took her old Illinois State Senate seat in 1996.
Committees of Correspondence and Progressives for Obama
Progressives for Obama was originated by socialists, for socialists.
Of the four main founders, two Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Barbara Ehrenreich are senior members of Democratic Socialists of America. The fifth founder, Chicago activist Carl Davidson, the organization's webmaster is now one of four co-leaders of Committees of Correspondence.
Of the website's endorsers James Campbell, Barry Cohen, Van Gosse, Zenobia Johnson-Black, Marilyn Katz, Fred Klonsky, Eric Mar, Jay Schaffner, Dan Swinney, Harry Targ, John Trinkl and Mildred Williamson have proven Committees of Correspondence connections.
Shortly before the November 2008 election CCDS issued a statement "A Critical Moment-a message to CCDS membership" calling for a major effort to defeat the Republicans and elect Obama.
- With less than three months remaining before the November 4th general election, CCDS members together with all left and progressive forces are urged to work wholeheartedly to ensure a massive defeat at the polls for John McCain and his war-mongering, neo-conservative, right-wing sponsors.
- Only a massive turnout of new, young, African American, Latino, Asian American, trade union, and progressive voters casting a ballot for Barack Obama can insure this defeat. We must find ways to argue the stakes inherent in a McCain win on key issues: ending the war, the faltering economy, creating “green” jobs, a sustainable environment, universal health care, and restoring the right to organize unions.
- The various smears, racism and fear mongering surrounding the first viable African American presidential candidacy are making inroads among large segments of the public. CCDS members have a role to play in challenging the racism, joining with broad efforts like that of the petition campaign against Fox TV’s racist characterizations of the Obamas organized by the Color of Change. Hip hop artist, Das and 150 others delivered 620,000 signatures to Fox TV’s studios in Manhattan in July.
- It is important to find ways to pressure the Obama campaign from an independent platform, and resist efforts to demoralize, sidetrack, and divide the movement to elect Obama. Progressives For Obama (P4O) is one such vehicle. It emerged in March 2008 during the primary campaign and has become a viable voice of critical support from the left, aiming to countervail the growing right-wing pressures on the Obama campaign.
- We urgently ask CCDS members to link up with local campaigns and organizations like Progressives for Obama (P4O) to infuse the election campaign with the issues that matter most – and making the campaign at the base a deeply progressive project.
- The NEC, at its most recent meeting, discussed issuing a message urging members in local areas to help build Progressives for Obama. At the launch of P4O, a draft call was issued by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover. Carl Davidson, a member of the NCC of CCDS, is a key organizer and moderator of the P4O web blog. The list of endorsers has grown impressively to include leaders of labor, peace and justice organizations, and leading progressive individuals.
Carl Davidson added his own addendum to the message, urging CCDS members to work with Tent State, Progressives for Obama, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice and The Nation magazine.
- Work locally to expand the electorate in a younger, more progressive direction. Register new voters, and work with other groups, including the young people around the Obama campaign. If it's a normal election, McCain can win. If it's not, and turnout is new and different, we have a good shot. It really boils down to that.
- Get out the vote. Registering doesn't help if they don't go to the polls. Again, work with others and the Obama youth, to do this. Be resolute, don't get sidetracked by the bumpy ride, stick to the slogan, “Stop McCain, Stop the War, Vote Obama 2008!”
- Get outside the usual comfort zones and make new allies. We're going to need them to wage struggle with the Obama White House in 2009...
- Hook all this up with a local progressive blog or two or three, or start one yourself...Be a public face, then link to others across the country and with us nationally. This is the scaffolding of a national network.
- If you're up for adventure, come to Denver for the Democratic National Convention. Hook up with Tent State, P4O, PDA, UFPJ and the Nation Magazine. We’ll put you to work!
- CCDS members have a lot to contribute as an independent force committed to advance the fight for peace and for a massive jobs program in this year’s crucial elections. From this perspective we urge members to consider joining and or supporting Progressives for Obama with our ideas, activism and financial support.
- For those members and friends who are supporting other independent candidates, we urge that we go forward together to register new voters, fight hard on the issues and lay the groundwork for expanding and consolidating the progressive majority.
At the Committees of Correspondence founding conference, Berkeley California, July 17-19, 1992, Barbara Lee was a candidate for the CoC National Coordinating Committee, while still a Democratic California State Assembly person.
- I wanted to share some exciting news with you, as today I announced my endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States.
- Like so many Americans, I first heard Senator Obama when he delivered his electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Deep down, I knew I'd witnessed history in the making.
- Barack Obama represents a bridge to the future. He embodies the hope and new direction that our country so desperately needs. As I've watched Senator Obama campaign for the presidency, I am convinced that he is a real agent of change; a man who can lead our nation in a new and positive direction.
- This century cries for social, environmental, diplomatic, global, and neighborhood solutions to the misery that confronts far too many people in our own country and around the globe. I share Senator Obama's vision and active commitment to building a society based on activism, progressive values and a keen sense that we must act now and outside of the usual bounds of partisanship and expediency.
- I know that a President Obama would find a prompt and effective way to end the occupation of Iraq and that he would strengthen U.S. diplomacy and international development as an instrument of national policy to prevent crises that lead to war and conflagration.
- I know that a President Obama would place education, health care, poverty, economic security, criminal justice reform, climate change and all of the important domestic issues at the top of his agenda.
- And, I know that a President Obama would make the eradication of HIV/AIDS at home and abroad a top priority.
- I founded One Voice PAC as an organization dedicated to helping elect truly progressive candidates who will challenge the status quo. To that end, I am honored to endorse Senator Obama's candidacy and I hope you will join me in helping him secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Van Jones and the Committees of Correspondence
Bay Area left identity Betita Martinez, a CCDS Advisory Board memberwas close to Jones and helped "mentor" his Ella Baker Center for Human Rights staff. Martinez, Committees of Correspondence supporters Max Elbaum and Felicia Gustin, Van Jones and Adam Gold of STORM served together on the organizing committeeof anti-Iraq War newspaper War Times.
When leading Committees of Correspondence member Max Elbaum released his book "Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che" in 2002- Van Jones contributed these comments on the flyleaf;
- By unearthing a hidden history of radical U.S. politics, Max Elbaum has erected an invaluable bridge between the generations. Finally, we have one book that can successfully connect the dots between the battles of the 1960s and the emerging challenges and struggles of the new century."
- The second annual CCDS and Kendra Alexander Foundation Banquet will take place on Sunday, February 19 at the Redwood Gardens community room in Berkeley with Van Jones, a pioneering human rights activist known as a steadfast opponent of police brutality and mass incarceration, as keynote speaker.
- Jones is now working to create environmentally friendly, "green-collar" jobs for formerly incarcerated persons.
- The banquet is titled "Towards Building a Progressive Majority" and benefits the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and the Kendra Alexander Foundation. The Foundation was named in honor of the visionary leader of the Committees of Correspondence.
- The four legged stool that won the U.S. presidential election, Socialist Review, December 2008
- Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
- New York Times May 11, 2008
- Progressives for Obama blog
- Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, A Message to CCDS Membership, August 10, 2008
- CoC official ballot paper