On March 23, 2007, a reception was held at the Tamiment Library at New York University. The occasion was the official opening of the archives of the Communist Party USA. The keynote speaker was Gerald Horne, noted Communist and contributing editor of the Communist Party journal, Political Affairs.
In his speech, Horne spoke glowingly of an African-American poet, Frank Marshall Davis, of Chicago, who moved to Honolulu at the height of the anti-communist fervor of the late 1940s. According to Horne, Davis was “certainly in the orbit of the Communist Party – 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…”
He continued, “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…eventually decamped to Chicago. In his best selling memoir Dreams From 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 anti-communist and the most left-leaning of any constituency in this nation…”
Horne concludes his speech by suggesting that one day a teacher will instruct her students to read Obama’s Dreams From My Father in conjunction with Davis’s memoir, Living the Blues, and that, in so doing, they will “examine critically the Frankenstein monsters that US imperialism created in order to subdue Communist parties…”
So what is the significance of all this? Were it not for Horne’s speech at New York University in March 2007, and a February 18, 2008 report by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media (AIM), titled “Obama’s Communist Mentor,” the significance for the American people could have been lost. Obama’s close ties to yet another influential mentor would never have been known.
Was Obama aware that Davis, his pre-college mentor, was identified as a member of the Communist Party USA in the 1951 report of the Commission on Subversive Activities to the Legislature of the Territory of Hawaii? According to Kincaid, Obama makes only brief references to Davis in his memoir. Obama writes about “a poet named Frank,” who visited them in Hawaii, who once had “some notoriety,” who imparted a lot of “hard-earned knowledge,” and who was “a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.”
Wright was a Chicago writer who became a member of the John Reed Club, a Communist front organization. Later, after joining the Communist Party, he became executive secretary of the club and editor of Left Front, a Communist Party magazine. Langston Hughes was a black poet and playwright who was also a member of the John Reed Club and a well-known communist sympathizer.
So, if Obama was aware that “Frank” was “a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes,” and he was fully aware of who those men were, why did he not provide a more complete description of Davis’s political affiliations and the “decisive influence” he’d played in helping Obama “find his present identity as an African-American?”
In fact, in referring to them as “contemporaries,” it appears that Obama may have purposely understated the relationship of the three prominent black communists. That characterization could be taken to mean nothing more than that they were roughly the same age or that they were alive at the same time. William L. Andrews, of the University of Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography, refutes that interpretation. He tells us in his review of Davis’s Living the Blues that Davis was an “intimate” of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.
+In his article, Kincaid reports on the findings of a New Zealand blogger, Trevor Loudon, who has published the text of a letter by Communist Party USA sympathizer Frank Chapman, written to the party newspaper. In referring to Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses, Chapman wrote, “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.”
“Progressive?” “Dialectical?” “Struggle?” “Revolutionary?” These are words that we have rarely seen used in the same paragraph since American liberals were successful in silencing the communist-hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s. It looks as if those terms will soon be coming back into vogue and we have Barack Obama to thank for it.
It also appears that, if Obama is able to successfully weather the Rev. Jeremiah Wright storm, he will soon have another even more deadly storm front gathering on his political horizon. Many on the political left will admit that Obama is so new to the political spotlight that voters know very little about him. That’s true. And the more we learn about him the less there is to like.