Tag Archives: Michael Harrington

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF – Chapter 10 – The Obama Administration

This post continues the series of chapter by chapter summations of the book Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.

Chapter 10
The Obama Administration
The modern socialist movement in America has abandoned its open and militant ways of that were so evident in the sixties.  That approach might work to bring the sought after revolution and change in an impoverished nation but not in a democratic, free and prosperous country like the United States.  Socialist scholars like Saul Alinsky and Michael Harrington convinced other movement leaders a long time ago that the only workable strategy for transforming the United States into a Marxist socialist government is a combination of stealth and incremental advance.  That’s the course followed by Obama and his administration today.

Stealth was evident in the way the health care plan was handled.  The stakes were high because single payer health care would bring 16 % of the national economy under government control.  That was Obama’s real objective.  Every measure was taken to avoid scrutiny which is why there was such a rush to get the bill passed as rapidly as possible.  The “public option” originally proposed was designed to lead to single payer, government only, healthcare over time…  Obama denied the single payer objective claiming the public would always have a choice; the government would simply be offering an additional option in fair competition with private insurance companies.  It should be obvious to anyone that private industry must remain profitable to survive and cannot compete with government that, supported by taxpayers, can operate indefinitely at a loss.

Barack Obama ran his presidential election campaign on promises of a post-partisanship and an open style administration.  Once in office, it turned out to be quite the opposite.  He stirred controversy, for instance, by attacking the Fox News network, calling them illegitimate and attempting to bar them from press conferences to which the other networks were invited.  He attacked the Supreme Court while speaking as President of the United States before the entire Congress and to the entire nation by television.  These are not steps toward healing; they are overt acts of division.

Naive voters may think the increased partisan hostility is a failing.  But, to a trained community organizer it is an objective.  The generation of animosity and division is the ground work laid for the conditions that prepare people to accept, even demand change.

To a community organizer, polarization is a strategy.  Creating division is the first step in the path to transfer of power.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF A Conference for Marx

This post continues the 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.

*****

Chapter 2
A Conference for Marx

Here Kurtz delves further into the nature of community organizing and how Barack Obama came to embrace it.

It was just a few months after the Marx Bicentennial Memorial Conference when Obama sent out letters in search of a community organizing job. In Dreams from My Father” Obama speaks of his decision – “I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.”

Given the influence the 1983 conference had on Obama’s life, it is important to understand the nature of the conference. It was a symposium where proponents of the purist form of socialism in the style of Marx and Lenin presented their various views in forums and break-out sessions.

Debate centered around two schools of thought about the best way to implement socialism in the United States, either by open advocacy of socialist beliefs culminating in a militant forced change or by the slower but more pragmatic method of working within the democratic process.

Michael Harrington was the leading proponent for the pragmatists. The principle voice for militant change was Stanley Aronowitz.  Aronowitz wanted to infiltrate the banks with employees loyal to the socialist cause, and then on a pre-planned day, literally burn the banks by setting fires within their confines. Harrington’s strategy was to engineer a non-violent form of redistribution using the banks as a conduit through which money could be controlled to flow to the cause.

In the end, Aronowitz won the argument. Harrington capitulated to the anxious Aronowitz who wanted to burn the banks with the simple statement “OK, if you think it will work.” Kurtz cites this as evidence that “even the greatest modern proponent of democratic socialism saw democracy more as a tactic than a principle – merely the most practical route to socialism in the United States.” Of course Aronowitz never followed through on his plan to burn the banks.

Peter Dreier led another panel entitled Socialist Movements.  Most likely this was the best attended panel at the 1983 conference. Dreier was a DSA National Executive Committee member and the “key strategist in ACORN’s campaign to pressure banks into funding high-risk mortgages to low-credit customers.”

Dreier proposed a twofold plan. First to implement legislative change democratically as “reforms” within the capitalist system. The “reforms” however, would be “so incompatible with capitalism that they gradually precipitate the system’s collapse.” He argued for “injecting unmanageable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis,” to “gradually expand government spending until the country nears fiscal collapse.” And then, capitalism having failed, organizers would turn the people toward socialism as the solution.

Simultaneously, grass roots organizations like ACORN should be built to influence public policy through advocacy and by winning seats on corporate boards, municipal boards and various commissions. In addition to helping enable the legislation Dreier sought, this cadre-in-waiting would help to minimize the violence expected with the collapse of capitalism.