Obama's Communist Mentor
AIM Column | By Cliff Kincaid | February 18, 2008
Is "coalition politics" at work in Obama's rise to power?
In his biography of Barack Obama, David Mendell writes about Obama's life as a "secret smoker" and how he "went to great lengths to conceal the habit." But what about Obama's secret political life? It turns out that Obama's childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a communist.
In his books, Obama admits attending "socialist conferences" and coming into contact with Marxist literature. But he ridicules the charge of being a "hard-core academic Marxist," which was made by his colorful and outspoken 2004 U.S. Senate opponent, Republican Alan Keyes.
However, through Frank Marshall Davis, Obama had an admitted relationship with someone who was publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). The record shows that Obama was in Hawaii from 1971-1979, where, at some point in time, he developed a close relationship, almost like a son, with Davis, listening to his "poetry" and getting advice on his career path. But Obama, in his book, Dreams From My Father, refers to him repeatedly as just "Frank."
The reason is apparent: Davis was a known communist who belonged to a party subservient to the Soviet Union. In fact, the 1951 report of the Commission on Subversive Activities to the Legislature of the Territory of Hawaii identified him as a CPUSA member. What's more, anti-communist congressional committees, including the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), accused Davis of involvement in several communist-front organizations.
Trevor Loudon, a New Zealand-based libertarian activist, researcher and blogger, noted evidence that "Frank" was Frank Marshall Davis in a posting in March of 2007.
Obama's communist connection adds to mounting public concern about a candidate who has come out of virtually nowhere, with a brief U.S. Senate legislative record, to become the Democratic Party frontrunner for the U.S. presidency. In the latest Real Clear Politics poll average, Obama beats Republican John McCain by almost four percentage points.
AIM recently disclosed that Obama has well-documented socialist connections, which help explain why he sponsored a "Global Poverty Act" designed to send hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid to the rest of the world, in order to meet U.N. demands. The bill has passed the House and a Senate committee, and awaits full Senate action.
But the Communist Party connection through Davis is even more ominous. Decades ago, the CPUSA had tens of thousands of members, some of them covert agents who had penetrated the U.S. Government. It received secret subsidies from the old Soviet Union.
You won't find any of this discussed in the David Mendell book, Obama: From Promise to Power. It is typical of the superficial biographies of Obama now on the market. Secret smoking seems to be Obama's most controversial activity. At best, Mendell and the liberal media describe Obama as "left-leaning."
But you will find it briefly discussed, sort of, in Obama's own book, Dreams From My Father. He writes about "a poet named Frank," who visited them in Hawaii, read poetry, and was full of "hard-earned knowledge" and advice. Who was Frank? Obama only says that he had "some modest notoriety once," was "a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes during his years in Chicago..." but was now "pushing eighty." He writes about "Frank and his old Black Power dashiki self" giving him advice before he left for Occidental College in 1979 at the age of 18.
This "Frank" is none other than Frank Marshall Davis, the black communist writer now considered by some to be in the same category of prominence as Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. In the summer/fall 2003 issue of African American Review, James A. Miller of George Washington University reviews a book by John Edgar Tidwell, a professor at the University of Kansas, about Davis's career, and notes, "In Davis's case, his political commitments led him to join the American Communist Party during the middle of World War II-even though he never publicly admitted his Party membership." Tidwell is an expert on the life and writings of Davis.
Is it possible that Obama did not know who Davis was when he wrote his book, Dreams From My Father, first published in 1995? That's not plausible since Obama refers to him as a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes and says he saw a book of his black poetry.
The communists knew who "Frank" was, and they know who Obama is. In fact, one academic who travels in communist circles understands the significance of the Davis-Obama relationship.
Professor Gerald Horne, a contributing editor of the Communist Party journal Political Affairs, talked about it during a speech last March at the reception of the Communist Party USA archives at the Tamiment Library at New York University. The remarks are posted online under the headline, "Rethinking the History and Future of the Communist Party."
Horne, a history professor at the University of Houston, noted that Davis, who moved to Honolulu from Kansas in 1948 "at the suggestion of his good friend Paul Robeson," came into contact with Barack Obama and his family and became the young man's mentor, influencing Obama's sense of identity and career moves. Robeson, of course, was the well-known black actor and singer who served as a member of the CPUSA and apologist for the old Soviet Union. Davis had known Robeson from his time in Chicago.
As Horne describes it, Davis "befriended" 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."
It was in Chicago that Obama became a "community organizer" and came into contact with more far-left political forces, including the Democratic Socialists of America, which maintains close ties to European socialist groups and parties through the Socialist International (SI), and two former members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), William Ayers and Carl Davidson.
The SDS laid siege to college campuses across America in the 1960s, mostly in order to protest the Vietnam War, and spawned the terrorist Weather Underground organization. Ayers was a member of the terrorist group and turned himself in to authorities in 1981. He is now a college professor and served with Obama on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. Davidson is now a figure in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, an offshoot of the old Moscow-controlled CPUSA, and helped organize the 2002 rally where Obama came out against the Iraq War.
Both communism and socialism trace their roots to Karl Marx, co-author of the Communist Manifesto, who endorsed the first meeting of the Socialist International, then called the "First International." According to Pierre Mauroy, president of the SI from 1992-1996, "It was he [Marx] who formally launched it, gave the inaugural address and devised its structure..."
Apparently unaware that Davis had been publicly named as a CPUSA member, Horne said only that Davis "was certainly in the orbit of the CP [Communist Party]-if not a member..."
In addition to Tidwell's book, Black Moods: Collected Poems of Frank Marshall Davis, confirming Davis's Communist Party membership, another book, The New Red *****: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946, names Davis as one of several black poets who continued to publish in CPUSA-supported publications after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. The author, James Edward Smethurst, associate professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, says that Davis, however, would later claim that he was "deeply troubled" by the pact.
While blacks such as Richard Wright left the CPUSA, it is not clear if or when Davis ever left the party.
However, Obama writes in Dreams From My Father that he saw "Frank" only a few days before he left Hawaii for college, and that Davis seemed just as radical as ever. Davis called college "An advanced degree in compromise" and warned Obama not to forget his "people" and not to "start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that ####." Davis also complained about foot problems, the result of "trying to force African feet into European shoes," Obama wrote.
For his part, Horne says that Obama's giving of credit to Davis will be important in history. "At some point in the future, a teacher will add to her syllabus Barack's memoir and instruct her students to read it alongside Frank Marshall Davis' equally affecting memoir, Living the Blues and when that day comes, I'm sure a future student will not only examine critically the Frankenstein monsters that US imperialism created in order to subdue Communist parties but will also be moved to come to this historic and wonderful archive in order to gain insight on what has befallen this complex and intriguing planet on which we reside," he said.
Dr. Kathryn Takara, a professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who also confirms that Davis is the "Frank" in Obama's book, did her dissertation on Davis and spent much time with him between 1972 until he passed away in 1987.
In an analysis posted online, she notes that Davis, who was a columnist for the Honolulu Record, brought "an acute sense of race relations and class struggle throughout America and the world" and that he openly discussed subjects such as American imperialism, colonialism and exploitation. She described him as a "socialist realist" who attacked the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Davis, in his own writings, had said that Robeson and Harry Bridges, the head of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and a secret member of the CPUSA, had suggested that he take a job as a columnist with the Honolulu Record "and see if I could do something for them." The ILWU was organizing workers there and Robeson's contacts were "passed on" to Davis, Takara writes.
Takara says that Davis "espoused freedom, radicalism, solidarity, labor unions, due process, peace, affirmative action, civil rights, ***** History week, and true Democracy to fight imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy. He urged coalition politics."
Is "coalition politics" at work in Obama's rise to power?
Trevor Loudon, the New Zealand-based blogger who has been analyzing the political forces behind Obama and specializes in studying the impact of Marxist and leftist political organizations, notes that Frank Chapman, a CPUSA supporter, has written a letter to the party newspaper hailing the Illinois senator's victory in the Iowa caucuses.
"Obama's victory was more than a progressive move; it was a dialectical leap ushering in a qualitatively new era of struggle," Chapman wrote. "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."