A Further Perspective

The Progressive’s Progress

Comrade de Blasio’s takes New York City.

By 11.8.13

Panch S (Creative Commons)

New Yorkers have chosen the mayor they deserve. The home of Communist Party USA and the Daily Worker, and, of course, Columbia University and the New York Times, has finally done it. It was only a matter of a time. It’s fitting that the election of Bill de Blasio occurs amid the “hope and change” and “forward!” presidency of Barack Obama, another “progressive” who eagerly and fundamentally transforms the America we knew.

New York’s new Democratic mayor spent his formative years stumping for the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Bill de Blasio peddled subscriptions for the regime’s newspaper,Barricada, the Sandinistas’ version of Pravda. The Liberation Theology guru was gaga for Latin American communist dictators. His love ran so deep that he and his bride actually honeymooned in Cuba decade after his earlier romance in the Soviet Union. The couple somehow orchestrated their Havana honeymoon despite a U.S. embargo on travel—signed by President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who today would have to change parties. Regardless of the embargo, American communists always found a way to Fidel’s island prison. Bill de Blasio, too, went where his heart led him; he found Fidel.

Today, de Blasio finds himself where his heart has led him again, this time leader of New York. His comrades throughout the city have rolled out the red carpet. De Blasio is declaring war on “inequality” and the evil rich, committing himself to leveling incomes and ensuring vengeance. If only he had more power to level more incomes… but, hey, who knows, in the new America, the White House could be just around the corner.

Bill de Blasio didn’t merely edge out his mayoral opponent; he destroyed him. He won by 50 points, the kind of margin communist despots once staged in phony elections behind the Iron Curtain. The difference, of course, is that citizens of the Soviet Bloc never actually voted for the communist. In New York in November 2013, no secret police or Party apparatchiks manipulated the results; the masses saluted and delivered. If he’s watching, Fidel Castro must be stunned, as are the ghosts of Lenin, Stalin, and Bolsheviks past. If the old commies could have won just one legitimate election with the support of the masses, they would have held one.

All of which leads to the question: Just how far left is Bill de Blasio? Is he still a communist?

In response to Tuesday’s vote, one of my anti-communist colleagues wrote a piece titled, “America’s First Openly Marxist Big City Mayor.” Another, a respected Cold War historian, told me that de Blasio is a “post-communist communist.” Ron Radosh calls de Blasio’s win “a victory for the old Communist left,” which it undeniably is.

Yet, ask Bill de Blasio his politics and he describes himself the same way American communists have been doing for 80 years: a “progressive” pursuing “social justice.” “Make no mistake,” he declared in his victory speech, standing behind a large sign proclaiming “PROGRESS,” “the people of this city have chosen a progressive path. And tonight we set forth on it—together, as one city.”

Of course he describes himself as a progressive. They all do. The word has become almost meaningless because of how the communist left has co-opted it to mask its agenda. Worse,certain progressive scholars don’t hesitate to anoint certain communists “progressives.”

Go to the website of People’s World, successor to the Daily Worker as the flagship publication of Communist Party USA. The writers describe themselves and their ideas as “progressive” infinitely more than “communist” or “Marxist.” It’s more palatable language for the uninformed. As I write, the lead piece posted at People’s Word is an editorial highlighted by a beaming photo of de Blasio behind the “PROGRESS” banner. “The people of the city, in electing de Blasio, took a powerful stand against an array of policies that benefit the 1 percent over the 99 percent,” People’s World celebrates. “[V]oters overwhelmingly backed him and the progressive agenda he put forward.”

Yes, the “forward”-looking “progressive agenda.”

Take a look at the founders of the 2008 group Progressives for Obama. From Tom Hayden and Mark Rudd to Jane Fonda and the other fellow travelers, it’s a Who’s Who of ’60s communists, SDSers, and Weathermen. But they call themselves “progressives.”

When I was researching my book Dupes, the biggest challenge was sifting through various self-described “progressive” individuals or “progressive” organizations to figure out if they were genuine liberals or closet communists cloaked as liberals.

When the U.S. Congress in 1961 published its major investigation of communist front-groups, titled, “Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications,” one of the most popular title listings in the massive index was “Progressive.”

Progressive, progressive, progressive.

If you want a front for your communist cause or identity, call it “progressive.” American communists have done this successfully since the 1930s—and they haven’t stopped. Indeed, why stop? It works. The label is red meat for enlisting a wider swath of naïve liberals to your cause or campaign. It’s a deliciously deceptive tactic whose success surely never ceases to amaze its manipulators.

And so, ho-hum, Bill de Blasio today calls himself a “progressive.” Naturally.

When asked about his communist past, de Blasio neither denies nor disavows it. At the same time, he doesn’t exactly spill his guts. Nor does he say whether and why and how he repudiated it. To the contrary, he embraces the standard Marxist class-warfare rhetoric he has no doubt used his entire adult life; in this, he’s not unlike our president.

To that end, what we really have here is another eerie Obama-like situation, or perhaps Obama-like deception. Call it the Obama model of obfuscation, rewarded by a compliant media that allows the model to succeed.

Like Bill de Blasio, Barack Obama has similar skeletons in his ideological closet. Both his mother and father were far to the left, essentially near or on the Marxist left. They met in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii. When Obama’s Kenyan father abandoned him, a leftist grandfather introduced him to a potential mentor and father figure, Frank Marshall Davis, who had been a literal card-carrying member of Communist Party USA, an old Party agitator who founded and edited Chicago’s communist newspaper in the 1940s. Davis’s work was so extreme that in December 1956 the Democrat-run Senate called him to Washington to testify on his “Soviet activities.” He was so radical that the federal government placed him on its Security Index, meaning Davis could be immediately arrested if war broke out between the United States and Soviet Union.

Given all these influences, I pointed out here at The American Spectator last year that we Americans actually have our first Red Diaper Baby President. Interestingly, Radosh notes that de Blasio is a “bona fide Red Diaper Baby;” thus, New Yorkers arguably have their first Red Diaper Baby Mayor to go with the Red Diaper Baby President they likewise elected.

When Barack Obama left his communist influences in Hawaii for Occidental College, he was so far to the left that one eyewitness, the eminently credible Dr. John Drew, who ran the campus Marxist club, was introduced to Obama as a fellow communist. I interviewed Drew at length for my book on Frank Marshall Davis, The Communist, and his account is wholly consistent and believable.

Thus, here’s the million-dollar question for Barack Obama, which is frighteningly similar to what we now ask of Bill de Blasio: When and where and how did he break from these communist roots? He has never told us, which would be the easiest thing to do—if he genuinely left them.

Instead, we have a young man (Obama) who later, in 1996, went on to join the socialist New Party, who, later still, launched his Illinois state senate bid in the living room of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and then who, in his final year in the U.S. Senate, was ranked by National Journal as the most leftist member of the entire Senate—to the left of Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy. He then soared to the White House, de Blasio-like, on the wings of what he called “redistributive change,” “collective action,” “spreading the wealth,” leveling income, and bashing the rich. The country twice voted him a mandate. But all along we never learn: What does he really believe? When was his communist past ever rejected?

New Yorkers—those that actually give a damn—can now ask themselves the same questions about their chief executive.

Alas, what does that mean? What’s the big picture? Among other things, it means, in short, here we go again: Another “progressive” boldly moves his project “forward!” As for those of us who dare point out the communist past as relevant to the future, we are mocked as reincarnates of Joe McCarthy. As we scratch our heads trying to make sense out of this insanity, we are labeled extremists by the extreme leftists and their dupes. As we are, another staunch “progressive” waves his banner and carries on his fundamental transformation with the handy compliance of the masses.

Thanks, New York. Thanks, America.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His new book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.