Progressives and Communists: Out of the Closet -- Together

A close look at the Saturday "One Nation" rally in Washington reveals something quite telling. It was a major gathering of the "progressive" left, highly billed, vigorously promoted. And it happened to include -- in fact, it warmly accepted -- the endorsement of Communist Party USA.

Expectedly, a bunch of the rally's endorsers carried the word "progress" or "progressive" in their title, from People’s Organization for Progress to Progressive Democrats of America. More still unhesitatingly describe themselves as progressive, from racial eugenicist Margaret Sanger's Planned Parenthood to Norman Lear's heirs at People for the American Way, plus the usual suspects from the "social justice" Religious Left.

And then, too, there was CPUSA.

Why is this so remarkable? It's remarkable because historically, communist involvement at these rallies has been meticulously concealed, hidden from progressives, with the communists using the progressives as props -- as dupes. That the two sides here, on Saturday, happily accepted one another, proudly uniting, shows how far to the left progressives have moved, not to mention their unflagging confidence under the ascendancy of Obama-Pelosi-Reid.

My personal experience on this is very instructive. I've chronicled how communists, for a century now, cunningly manipulated progressives, surreptitiously drawing them into their rallies, protests, and petitions, not letting themselves (or their intentions) be known. I have fliers from marches sixty and seventy years ago, with many of the same endorsers that were there on Saturday, but with CPUSA's name smartly absent, even as CPUSA members canvassed the rally, if not spearheading it.

Back then, the communists' stunning successes suckering progressives shocked even Moscow. They fooled them right up to the front gates of the White House in the summer of 1940, where the hideous communist front the American Peace Mobilization duped even the New York Times into headlining it as a "clergy group." They pulled off an extraordinary stunt in Chicago in the summer of 1968, sabotaging the Democratic National Convention. Communists managed to enlist progressives into undermining their own Democratic presidents and parties and platforms.

As an indicator of the success and duration of this manipulation, consider this fact:
When Congress, in December 1961, published its seminal investigation of communist fronts, titled "Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications," a product of research dating to the founding of the American Communist Party in Chicago in 1919, the most popular index listing started with the word "Progressive." It was progressive groups that were misled, used, abused, and infiltrated more than any other.

How long has this continued? All the way to the 2008 election.

Consider the group Progressives for Obama, formed during Obama's presidential bid. It was loaded with and even founded by some hardcore communists from the 1960s. Consider merely two of them: Tom Hayden, one of the group's four founders, and Mark Rudd, one of the 94 original signers. Hayden and Rudd had been leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which subverted the policies and plans of Democratic presidents ranging from Vietnam to the 1968 convention. In 2008, both Hayden and Rudd suddenly reemerged as "Progressives for Obama."

Rudd’s take on how Obama won the 2008 election is shrewd -- and dead on. Understanding that moderates and independents made the difference, Rudd noted the crucial importance of Obama not openly conceding his far-left views. Rudd wrote,

Obama is a very strategic thinker. He knew precisely what it would take to get elected and didn’t blow it. But he also knew that what he said had to basically play to the center to not ... scare centrist and cross-over voters away. He made it. ... And I agree with this strategy. ... Any other strategy invites sure defeat. It would be stupid to do otherwise in this environment.
Basically, what Rudd said is that Obama hoodwinked "centrist" and "cross-over" voters. As Rudd rightly put it, Obama couldn't be candid about his true intentions in "this environment." That's an environment where Americans, in poll after poll, have described themselves as "conservative" over "liberal" by a margin of 2:1, by approximately 40% to 20%, for decades now. Incredibly, those numbers were unchanged even on November 4, 2008, when Obama easily won the election.

Thus, a candidate like Obama can succeed only by pushing his agenda guardedly. He ran as a centrist, not as National Journal's certified "most liberal senator in 2007." It worked. As Rudd put it, Obama "didn't blow it."

America’s exalted moderates and independents were duped by a nebulous, catch-all-be-all banner of "change." Now, the progressives are in power, ready to implement the kind of change they had in mind all along.

And now, with Obama having secured victory, the likes of Rudd and Hayden -- shocked that the electorate finally voted for their kind of guy -- have been less circumspect about their intentions. Rudd urges, "Here's my mantra: 'Let's put this country on our shoulders and get to work.'"

Rudd has rolled up his sleeves, as have his erstwhile comrades.

And that was precisely what spilled into the streets on Saturday, October 2 in the "One Nation" rally, fittingly centralized in Washington. This time, however, the collective was unafraid, buttressed by a confidence that coaxed the communists out of the closet and into the welcoming arms of "progressives."

Gee, you'd think that after the collapse of the USSR and the Berlin Wall, and after 100 million corpses, progressives would be fleeing communists like the plague.

The election of Obama-Pelosi-Reid in November 2008 -- by America's "independents" and "moderates" -- has dawned a new day for the American Left -- or, at least perhaps, until November 2010. We shall see.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.