This post begins a series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.
The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure. The Preface makes a bold opening statement. The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement. The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable. The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.
The author begins the Preface by asking the question “What on earth is a Community Organizer?”
He then proposes to answer it with the assertion that community organizing is a profession. Socialism is the goal. Stealth is the strategy.
The Socialism Puzzle
“Late in the afternoon of April 1, 1983, a twenty-one year old Barack Obama made his way into the historic Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union to attend a “Socialists’ Scholars Conference. Within twenty-four hours, his life had been transformed. There at that conference Obama discovered his vocation as a community organizer, as well as a political program to guide him throughout his adult life.” So begins the book.
The Socialists Scholars Conference (SSC) of 1983 was a convention organized by prominent socialist scholars and activists as a bicentennial memorial in honor of Karl Marx who died in 1783. The largest gathering of socialists in American history was held three weeks earlier in the same Hall. It was also a tribute to Marx and attended by 6,000 people with another 5,000 turned away.
The conferences took place in 1983, ‘84 and ‘85 during Obama’s years at Columbia University. The New York Times referred to this period of seclusion and personal reflection as “the lost chapter” of the President’s life. There is not a lot that can be documented about this interlude, but we can be certain he attended at least the 1983 Marx memorial conference and that his Columbia associations and activities were consistent with socialist beliefs. Obama wrote an article for the campus paper Sundial calling for total nuclear disarmament as necessary to defeat the “military-industrial interests” and their “billion dollar erector sets.”
Frances Piven, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Executive Committee and a woman with deep ties to ACORN opened the convention with a speech declaring “We must stand within the intellectual and political tradition Marx bequeathed us [ as a] living tradition – the thinking of active people” – to shape history as inspired by the ideas of Karl Marx.
Another convention speaker was Cuban journalist Jose Marti. In his remarks to the gathering he praised Marx as an “ardent transformer, uniter of men of different peoples, and tireless, powerful organizer.”.
James Cone, an eminent black liberation theologian and mentor to the Rev Jeremiah Wright spoke at the 1984 SSC convention. Kurtz speculates that this may have been Obama’s first introduction to Wright and the Trinity Church.
Karl Marx recognized the need to be pragmatic in the course of implementing socialist control. Whereas force and coercion may yield faster results in some countries, patience and subtlety would be required in others, notably those nations profoundly committed to individual freedoms and personal property rights. Socialists remain divided to this day between advancing their goals with open advocacy of their beliefs or settling for the slower advance that would come from a stealth and incremental approach which is a strategy of gradual implementation culminating with an ambush from within. As a socialist, Obama would fall into the latter more pragmatic stealth school.
Kurtz quotes John Drew, a man who was a Marxist radical in his youth and knew Obama when they both were students at Occidental College.
[Barack] was a “pure Marxist socialist at the time and hewed to the ”Marxist-Leninist” view that a violent socialist revolution was likely within his lifetime. The job of a proper radical, Obama believed, was to prepare for that event.
Radical philosophical beliefs are often passing fantasies of idealistic youth. But observing Obama over the ensuing years yields a picture of a true believer, a man of conviction, sincerity and dedication to ideals similar to those he held as a youth.