Obama's Communist Mentor Wins Big in Greece
The Greeks have elected a communist as their new prime minister, or at least a onetime communist. As noted by an appreciative People’s World, the flagship publication of Communist Party USA, after gleefully “eschewing the traditional religious swearing-in ceremony,” Greece’s new “radical left leader,” Alexis Tsipras, took the helm of the ship of state this week.
The Greek far left is thrilled, while the rest of Europe is deeply concerned.
The big victory for Greece’s communists made me think of one of my biographical subjects -- Frank Marshall Davis -- the literal card-carrying member of Communist Party USA who was a mentor to Barack Obama throughout the 1970s. Davis had badly wanted a communist Greece. For a period in 1947, the subject dominated his communist newspaper, the Chicago Star, more than any other topic. Before I lay that out, let’s back up a bit, with a reminder of who Davis was.
Frank Marshall Davis (1905-87) was a writer, poet, and political extremist, so radical that the FBI had him under continued surveillance. The federal government actually placed Davis on the Security Index, meaning that in the event of a war between the United States and USSR, Barack Obama’s mentor could be placed under immediate arrest.
Davis’s targets were Democrats more than Republicans, given that it was Democrats like Harry Truman who had the White House in the late 1940s and opposed Stalin’s expansion. In December 1956, the Democrat-run Senate Judiciary Committee called Davis to Washington to testify on his activities. Davis pleaded the Fifth Amendment. No matter, the next year, the Democratic Senate published a report titled, “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” where it listed Davis as “an identified member of the Communist Party.” A decade-and-a-half later, Davis (who moved to Honolulu in 1948-49), would meet a young Barack Obama.
Davis joined the Communist Party in Chicago in the early 1940s. He became very active in Party circles. In 1946, he was the founding editor-in-chief of the Chicago Star, the Party-line organ for Chicago. There, Davis shared the op-ed page with the likes of Howard Fast, a “Stalin Prize” winner, and Senator Claude “Red” Pepper, who, at the time, sponsored the bill to nationalize healthcare in the United States. Davis and his Star favored taxpayer funding of universal healthcare, blasted Wall Street, big business, and big oil, demanded wealth redistribution to fund “public works projects,” attacked GOP tax cuts, excoriated “profits” and millionaires and corporate executives -- and pushed hard to prevent any U.S. aid to Greece.
Shortly into the launch of Davis’ newspaper, President Harry Truman -- whom Davis despised and attacked as a fascist and a racist -- made the historic announcement of his Truman Doctrine. On March 12, 1947, to a joint session of Congress, Truman announced his plan, which sought $400 million in essential aid to Greece and Turkey to try to stem the rapid advance of Soviet communism. He wanted to keep Greece and Turkey from becoming Soviet satellites. Stalin lusted for a “Red Mediterranean,” or, at least, for access to the sea at some point. He was especially optimistic about Greece.
For such reasons, the USSR and international communist movement immediately began a campaign to demonize the Truman Doctrine, and Frank Marshall Davis took up the charge with abandon in the Chicago Star.
Davis personally pounced into action, even before the Star could launch a special issue against the Truman announcement. On the March 15, 1947 op-ed page, sandwiched between columns by Howard Fast and Senator Pepper, Davis smoked off a piece titled, “Democracy -- for export.”
What did Davis want America to do? He toed the Moscow line, arguing that America should “stay out” of the democracy business and leave it to Stalin, allowing the Russians to continue to install “new peoples’ governments” worldwide, just as the Kremlin was doing in Poland and Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
Davis’ opening salvo was a signal of the fusillade to follow. Right on cue, the entire March 22, 1947 edition of the Star was devoted to debunking “Truman’s Plan.” The cover of the newspaper that day featured a poor Greek woman barefoot outside her mud hut, holding one shoeless child in front of another hunched behind her. The caption decried “Truman’s proposal to furnish arms to the reactionary Greek dictatorship.” These Greeks, said the caption, live in “unspeakable poverty” and “grope for a democratic and more fruitful life.” To attain that life, they needed nothing from America -- certainly no aid. America needed out of Greece’s business.
The Star’s front page asked several probing, rhetorical questions, all aimed at Truman: “Who threatens the freedom of Greece? What’s behind the Truman proposal? Is the Greek gov’t worthy of support? What is the solution to the Greek crisis?”
As one searched for answers inside, one encountered a world upside down. Who was threatening Greece? The answer, of course, was America.
Chiming in on the editorial page for that particular edition was the triumvirate of Davis, Howard Fast, and Claude Pepper, with the senator giving the view from Capitol Hill. “We want to see democracy there,” said Senator Pepper on Greece, “but not outside money poured in to maintain a disputed king or to pull British chestnuts out of the eastern Mediterranean fire.”
The Star had outlined its position on the Truman Doctrine and Greece specifically: America needed to stay away from Greece, which was a monarchical-fascist government, a “legalized tyranny” guilty of “Nazi collaboration” (a typical charge from the communist left).
This was just the start, the opening cannon fire in a sustained assault on the Truman Doctrine that rattled the pages of the Chicago Star throughout its existence. What I’ve noted here is a tiny sample of Davis’ blistering campaign against Truman’s attempts to keep Greece from going communist. Davis’ was obsessed with pushing Greece to the communists.
With the election of Alexis Tsipras, it looks like Frank Marshall Davis is finally closer to getting his way.
Meanwhile, Europe is apoplectic, with predictions of the imminent doom of the Euro and the death of the Maastricht Treaty. The fears are not unjustified. Greece continues to get worse and worse, with potential for major problems for the rest of Europe. This election is disastrous.
We congratulate Greece on successfully completing its parliamentary elections, and we look forward to working closely with its next government. The Greek people have taken many difficult but important steps to lay the groundwork for economic recovery. As a longstanding friend and ally, the United States will continue to support their efforts and those of the international community to strengthen the foundation for Greece’s long-term prosperity.
We also have this from Mark Stroh, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council: “We congratulate Greece on successfully completing its parliamentary elections and we look forward to working closely with its next government.”
It doesn’t look like Barack Obama is too bent out of shape by Greece’s choice. To the contrary, we have from his spokesmen two congratulations and two optimistic pledges to “work closely” with the new government. I’m not surprised.
Frank Marshall Davis would be pleased. He, too, would most assuredly extend congratulations and an offer to work closely with Greece’s new government.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His recent books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.