By Steven Miller
  • Monday, August 2, 2004

Well, it’s official now. Both the Communist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America are urging U.S. voters to support the Democratic Party this election.

No doubt Tom Jefferson and Andrew Jackson—not to mention Harry Truman—are spinning in their graves.

Sometimes, of course, it’s unfair to blame candidates for those who want to back them.

Ronald Reagan made this point admirably in 1966 when California Governor Pat Brown’s operatives were trying to tie the Gipper to the John Birch Society. A 13-page report released to the media was titled “Ronald Reagan Extremist Collaborator: An Expose.”

Reagan’s response was that, while he would welcome the support of Birch Society members, such support would be evidence that he had “persuaded them to accept my philosophy, not me accepting theirs.” California voters got to know Reagan well during the campaign and accepted his explanation.

So what, if anything, is different about the affinity that the Marxist parties have for today’s U.S. Democratic Party?

Just one thing: The fact that great chunks of the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Truman now are sincerely Marxist.

A major exhibit here is the intimate relationship between Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the largest Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives—the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Currently listing 54 members—53 Democrats and one explicit Socialist, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders—the caucus includes over a quarter of House Democrats. Among them is the leader of House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi.

The caucus was first organized at the 1980 Democratic Party national convention by none other than the founder of Democratic Socialists of America, Michael Harrington. Working with Harrington on the effort was Ronald Radosh—one of the founding fathers of the New Left. Born to Communist parents and himself a party member for some years, Radosh recorded the episode in Commies, a personal account of his journeys through America’s radical landscape.

“I sat with Mike and others listening to the major speech given by Ted Kennedy, whom we regarded as the Democratic Party’s best hope, the titular leader of the broad left wing. I proudly handed out leaflets to Democratic delegates, explaining to them that we were not only Democrats but also socialists, and that our work would only strengthen their ability to reach their own liberal goals. For us, the highlight of the convention was a meeting Harrington scheduled … at one of the convention hotels, billed as the first meeting of ‘the socialist caucus of the Democratic Party.’ Harrington presided over talks by [International Association of Machinists President] William Winpinsinger, Ron Dellums and John Conyers.”

To this day, Dellums and Conyers remain members of the caucus.

The DSA hosted the Congressional Progressive Caucus website until 1999, when the conservative web news site, WorldNet Daily, revealed the link between the two organizations. At that point the Progressive Caucus quickly moved the website over under Congressional auspices.

As the DSA was under scrutiny because of its influence over Democratic members of Congress, it also removed from its website several inflammatory Marxist-Leninist songs. One, “Red Revolution,” was sung to the tune of “Red Robin.” Its words: “When the Red Revolution brings its solution along, along, there’ll be no more lootin’ when we start shootin’ that Wall Street throng. ...”

Another song removed, “Are You Sleeping, Bourgeoisie?” was sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques”: “Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Bourgeoisie, Bourgeoisie. And when the revolution comes, we’ll kill you all with knives and guns, Bourgeoisie, Bourgeoisie.”

Not unexpectedly, the DSA website also featured The Internationale—the anthem of angry Reds ever since the 1871 Paris Commune.

More evidence for the proposition that Marxists now have a major hand on the tiller of the Democratic Party is the hard-edged course taken by the AFL-CIO under John Sweeney. Not only is Sweeney an in-your-face member of the DSA, but he is, in the words of Washington Post reporter Peter Baker, “perhaps the single most dominant force within the Democratic party.”

The reason is money: Big Labor now spends much more on politics than even both major political parties combined. In a 1995 burst of candor, top AFL-CIO official Richard Bensinger put the unions’ political spending power in perspective.

“Look at the Christian Coalition,” he said. “They have $25 million. We have $11 billion.”

In the Sweeney era, the same Marxist notions that define the DSA have come to define Big Labor. And—the latter being the Democratic Party’s power center—those notions increasingly tend to define the party itself.

Next week: How and Why the AFL-CIO Went Socialist.

Steven Miller is policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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