Sunday Not Quite A Book Review: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history 1962-1976”

July 3, 2016

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

Since I haven’t been posting much of late, I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to revive the Sunday Book Review series. Great idea!

Trouble is, the book I read is one that I can’t get a handle on the right approach to reviewing it. smiley d'oh! smiley headbang wall

The topic is so large and so complex that I’m left with just one thing to say: if you are ever tempted by the idea that things would be better if we just gave government all the power it wanted, read Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976”. That should slap some sense into you.

The book tells the story of bloody turmoil China was thrown into for over a decade because of the paranoia and whims of one all-powerful man, Mao Zedong. Setting faction against faction, even against his own Communist Party, Mao threw China into such chaos that at times it seemed a second civil war might result — and in some locales, it did.

Fearing that his “comrades” would sideline or even depose him for his horrific errors in the 1950s, worried that a Khrushchev waited in the wings to bring ideological revisionism and a denunciation of Mao’s legacy as Khrushchev did to Stalin in his 1956 “Secret Speech,” Mao and his allies waged war against enemies often made up wholly in Mao’s mind.

The price, of course, was paid by the people. Whether looking for “capitalist roaders,” “revisionists,” members of various “anti-Party cliques” and agents of foreign powers lurking within the Party itself, or merely people of “bad class background” (for example, former landowners under the old regime and their relations), enemies weren’t just found among a few rivals to Mao. Dikotter’s book tells in appalling detail how ordinary Chinese had to suffer because of Mao’s whims: prison camps, “reeducation” centers, thousands of city residents exiled to the country with no relevant skills and yet expected to survive — and never return to the city. People humiliated, driven to suicide or beaten to death by teenaged “Red Guards.” Knowledge, learning, and arts declared worthless, even evil, if they didn’t conform to “Mao Zedong Thought” and serve the class struggle. The horror stories of Lovecraft and King are nothing compared to what really happened in China in the 1960s.

Over and over, we’re treated moments of madness, but also shown how people resisted, or at least tried to survive. When Mao’s insane economics made even basic goods almost impossible to get, many set up secret factories and trade routes, reestablishing an underground capitalism in Communism’s heartland. Secret book clubs meeting to share a copy of forbidden Western literature. Playing Classical music on old phonographs in a closet, hoping no one would hear and denounce you to the authorities.

It’s said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” China in the Cultural Revolution is a glaring example of this, and Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” should be part of any “scared straight” program for anyone tempted by statism.

Highly recommended.

PS: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” is available in hardcover and Kindle format. I’m happy to say the Kindle book was well-formatted and free of any errors as I recall. Fair disclosure, I get a few cents from purchases made through my links.

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Bookshelf update – The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976

May 29, 2016

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Frank Dikötter’s  “The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976”.

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it seems to be another proof of something I’ve long believed: that Human history produces far more horror than any story by King or Lovecraft. The Cultural  Revolution, like so many other Leftist attempts to remake humanity –the French Revolution during “the Terror,” Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy (2), the USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea– shows how dangerous it is to let one person, one group, or government in general to have too much power.

The Cultural Revolution is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.
(2) Yes, Fascism and Nazism, two variations on statism, are products of the Left.


Sunday Book Review: “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century”

January 11, 2015

book cover kengor dupes

Dupes is good book on an important, under-covered aspect of our political history: the relationship over the last nearly 100 years between liberals and progressives, on the one hand, and the communists (big “C” and small “c”) who used them to advance their goals. The book is meticulously footnoted and historian Paul Kengor is scrupulously fair to his subjects, often at pains to point out that the targets of the communists’ most vicious attacks were not conservatives and Republicans, but anti-communist liberals, such as Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson.

On the subject of dupes, Kengor writes:

This is a book about dupes, about those Americans who have unwittingly aided some of the worst opponents of the United States. Misled about the true aims of foreign adversaries, many Americans (and other Westerners) have allowed themselves to be manipulated to serve opponents’ interests.

He rightly notes that for the duped, the main enemy was always to the Right, not the communists who were committing atrocities year after year, to which these dupes were blind, sometimes willfully so. Among the revelations (or perhaps just “arguments settled”) in the book are Senator Ted Kennedy’s clandestine offer to cooperate with the USSR against President Reagan and the truth that most of the famous “Hollywood Ten” really were members of the Communist Party, or at least highly sympathetic toward Stalin.

The book brings the topic of “dupery” into the modern era by connecting the generations of communists and socialists from the 1920s through the 60s radicals (especially the SDS and Weatherman) to those same radicals’ connections to President Obama in his Chicago days. It closes with an intriguing look at whether Humphrey Bogart, who violently denounced the communists when he discovered he had been duped over the Hollywood Ten, was himself a member of the Party or at least very sympathetic toward it at a low point in his life in 1934. Again, Kengor is very judicious in his analysis of the available evidence.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the book seems more a history of the communists and socialists, than of the dupes they played for sometimes-willing suckers. Still, Dupes fills a gap in our country’s recent history and is well-worth reading. The book is available in Kindle and hardcover formats. As for the Kindle edition, I’m happy to say I encountered no typos or formatting problems, which are all too common in e-books. Kengor’s writing style flows easily, sometimes conversational, but is never unprofessional.

Recommended.

RELATED: I earlier reviewed Paul Kengor’s “The Communist,” his biography of Frank Marshall Davis, President Obama’s Stalinist mentor during his Hawaiian boyhood.


Sunday Book Review: Injustice — exposing the racial agenda of the Obama Justice Department

November 6, 2011

Fundamental to the American system of self-government is trust on the part of the public that votes will be counted fairly, elections will be run fairly, and the laws protecting our right to vote will be applied equally to all. Absent that trust, the system cannot stand: a citizen’s vote will be seen as worthless, elections meaningless, and the law as a tool for oppression and tyranny. It’s the risk of the latter that J. Christian Adams, a former career attorney with the Voting Rights section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, wants to warn us about.

In “Injustice: exposing the racial agenda of the Obama Justice Department,” Adams asserts that, for years, leftists and liberals in the Voting Rights Section allied with and coming from what he calls the “racial grievance industry” have resisted enforcing the provisions of the Voting Rights Act when the victims are White and the oppressors are Black. To these attorneys, civil rights laws were meant to protect Blacks and other “national racial minorities,” not White voters. When Black and other groups corrupt an election, that’s merely “payback” for decades or even centuries of oppression by Whites — indeed, some lawyers of the Civil Rights Division feel they should facilitate this.

As Adams tells it, the problem goes back at least into the Clinton administration and becomes more of a problem under Democrats because they are generally allied to and supported by the various groups comprising the racial grievance industry, such as the NAACP and ACLU, among others. Under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, and contrary to the charges of “politicization” screamed by the Left, the political appointees at the DoJ who oversaw the career attorneys would either block ridiculous, unjustified legal action or force reluctant left-liberal lawyers to enforce the law in a race-neutral manner. They also made sure to hire attorneys of all political backgrounds — conservative, liberal, and non-political.

This all changed with the coming of Barack Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder: no conservatives have been hired since 2009, even though the Division has been greatly expanded. Indeed, left-liberal civil rights activism became a prerequisite even to be hired at the Civil Rights Division, and new attorneys were regularly hired from leftist advocacy groups. Leftist career attorneys were promoted to supervisory political appointments that gave them the power to set policy. Instead of political appointees being a brake on the racialist instincts of the career attorneys, they became their facilitators and enablers. As one leftist attorney told Adams when asked why he opposed suing in an obvious case of intimidation by radical Blacks directed toward White voters, “I didn’t come here to sue Blacks.”

Adams illustrates his charges of ethical corruption at the Civil Rights Division with specific examples. Among them:

  • Noxubee County, Mississippi, and its Democratic “boss,” Ike Brown, who with his partisans engaged in blatant electoral corruption to elect Black allies and disenfranchise Whites and those Blacks who wouldn’t play along.
  • The infamous New Black Panther Party intimidation case from Philadelphia in 2008, to which Adams devotes two chapters. Not only does he show the Holder DoJ throwing out a case it had won by default, but he also explores a possible explanation via a political payback to the NBPP for support given to Obama when he was an obscure candidate in 2007.
  • The case of the New Haven fire department, which radicals at the Department tried to force to promote Black firefighters over White and Hispanic candidates who had clearly done better on the promotion exams. This went to the Supreme Court as Ricci v. DeStefano.
  • Suing the city of Dayton to force it to hire Blacks onto its police force, even though those applicants had flat-out failed the entrance exams.

And there are many others, including shocking examples of unprofessional conduct, some of which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against DoJ attorneys.

Adams concludes with a chapter of recommendations to reform the Department of Justice, some as simple as a ban on political activity by DoJ staff (a limited one had been in place, but it was regularly ignored by leftist attorneys from 2008 on), others as radical as breaking up the Civil Rights Division and distributing its duties among other departments that could ensure professional, race-neutral conduct. While not all DoJ/CRD lawyers engage in racialist behavior, Adams makes it clear the problem is widespread and only massive reform will fix things. Naturally, we can’t expect these to be acted on by President Obama and AG Holder; if it is to happen at all, it will have to be under a future Republican administration.

“Injustice” is an important book, one that exposes how far the Civil Rights Division has gone from being a neutral enforcer of the law, to being a partisan of a racial spoils system that misuses the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts to pursue a racialist, radical leftist agenda. And he leaves us with a reminder and a warning: these same people will be supervising the 2012 elections.

As Adams writes, it’s up to us to keep our eyes open and call-out corrupt behavior whenever and wherever we see it, and to make sure real reformers come to power in 2013.

Summary: Highly recommended, appalling yet essential reading, but be prepared to get angry.

RELATED: Adams has also written about the DoJ’s, I kid you not, “secret internal redistricting plans to try to force states, counties and cities to maximize the number of black elected officials resulting from redistricting” — meet “Max Black.” He writes often for PJMedia and also blogs at the Election Law Center. If you have any concern at all for the integrity of our electoral system, you should put him on your reading list.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: FDR’s Folly

September 25, 2011

Many years ago, when I was doing my undergraduate degree in History, I read “The Historian’s Craft,” by the great French historian Marc Bloch. One lesson he taught that’s stuck with me all these years is that “objective” history is a myth; the historian, by declaring what is significant through his choice of what facts to include in his work, inevitably suffuse the work with a subjective viewpoint — his opinion.

Careful historians take this inevitable bias into account and look for facts that contradict their thesis, evaluating them against those that support the historian’s point of view and thus reaching a reasoned synthesis. But, again almost inevitably, certain perspectives gain wide enough acceptance that they go from being opinion and argument to unquestioned “received wisdom.”

The history of the New Deal is an example of this. According to the standard telling, the era of vast government intervention in the economy under Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved the nation from economic collapse after the reckless laissez-faire economics of the 1920s and a series of “do nothing” Republican presidents. People found jobs, the hungry were fed, and labor gained their just rights. This was the orthodoxy pushed by liberal historians such as Arthur Schlesinger and Frank Friedel, whose works influence the teaching of history in high schools and colleges down to today.

In recent years, however, works by conservative and libertarian authors have challenged this orthodoxy to argue that the New Deal was not nearly as effective as proclaimed, perhaps even a total failure. Actually analyzing the application and results of New Deal policies, rather than just concentrating on the politics, a few years ago two UCLA economists published a study arguing that FDR’s policies lengthened the Depression by seven years. Journalist Amity Shlaes authored “The Forgotten Man,” an important revisionist history of the Great Depression that questions many of the standard assumptions.

Into this latter, revisionist literature in 2003 came Jim Powell’s “FDR’s Folly: how Roosevelt and his New Deal prolonged the Great Depression.” Powell is a scholar with the libertarian Cato Institute, and he approaches the New Deal with a very skeptical eye. His thesis is that the New Deal was a failure because its diagnosis of the problem, that the economic collapse was caused by prices (both of goods and labor) being too low and that the way to fix the problem was to regulate the economy to maintain prices at a higher-than-market value. He shows instead that this contributed to the problem by making labor too expensive, thus pricing less-skilled workers out of the market and thus keeping unemployment high. (By some estimates, unemployment never went below 13-15% during the Depression. If a program is to be judged by its results…)

Powell also criticizes the vast expansion of federal power under FDR, an expansion made necessary because of the administration’s belief that free markets had failed, that unrestrained competition had brought about the crisis, and that the only way out was to highly regulate all aspects of the economy. This had the effect, Powell argues (I think correctly), of severely weakening economic liberty, for example the freedom of two or more parties to agree to a contract, and the rights a property owner, such as  a factory owner, has over his own property. What had previously been the inherent rights of the individual guarded under the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments were gutted by a succession of Supreme Court rulings, particularly after FDR was able to appoint several sympathetic Justices, who argued that “economic rights” were less important than political rights, such as free speech.

Powell organizes his book in a series of questions, which are then explored to attack one aspect or another of the New Deal orthodoxy. Here are some samples:

  • “What did FDR borrow from Hoover?” (1)
  • “Why did FDR triple taxes during the Great Depression?”
  • “Why did the New Dealers destroy all that food when people were hungry?”
  • “How did New Deal labor laws throw people out of work?”
  • “How did FDR’s Supreme Court subvert individual liberty?”
  • “How did New Deal policies cause the Depression of 1938?”

It’s become a cliché to describe a book as “eye-opening,” but that’s the effect Powell’s book had for me, clearing the scales of liberal orthodoxy away from my eyes by stepping outside the accepted history and daring to ask questions and hold the New Dealers accountable for the results of their policies. And, with the full-throated resurgence of statism under Obama and the progressives, this eight-year old book has a new relevance. Believe me, just change a few of the names and dates, and you’d swear Jim Powell was writing about Barack Obama.

Maybe Time was right to say Obama is the new FDR.

Summary: FDR’s Folly (2003, Three Rivers Press) — recommended.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, the orthodox view of a laissez-faire Hoover is all wrong.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday book review: A Country Of Vast Designs

May 1, 2011

For most people, when asked to name a historically significant US president, the name “James K. Polk” is not the first to come to mind. Sandwiched between the revolutionary trio of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson at one end and the giant presence of Abraham Lincoln at the other, his historical memory overshadowed by his larger-than-life mentor, Andrew Jackson, Polk seems to fade into the background of obscurity, lost among truly forgettable men such as Tyler or Pierce.

Journalist Robert W. Merry thinks this is odd and, when you consider Polk’s accomplishments over the course of his single term, one has to concede Merry has a point. In just four years, Polk succeeded in lowering tariffs to promote free trade, fostered the creation of an independent treasury for the holding of federal money, settled a lingering territorial dispute with Britain that avoided war and gave us our Pacific Northwest, and fought a war with Mexico that ended with the occupation of Mexico City and the acquisition of the American Southwest and California. In all, Polk added between 500,000-600,000 unimaginably valuable square miles to a nation that now extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

And yet we hardly know the man’s name.

Robert Merry sets out to rectify this in his “A Country Of Vast Designs,” which is a political history of Polk and his administration, and of the Mexican War.

The book covers quickly his early life, from his birth in North Carolina to his political career as a rising member of the House under President Jackson, whom Polk served so well and faithfully that Jackson almost regarded him as a son. Merry recounts how Polk’s political career seemed stalled or even at an end after he lost reelection as governor of Tennessee. But, a believer in his own destiny for greatness, Polk set his eyes higher, aiming for the nomination as vice-president at the Democratic Party’s 1844 convention in Baltimore.

Merry covers the machinations of the convention well, how a split between pro- and anti- tariff forces and another, more serious dispute over the question of whether to annex Texas crippled the candidacy of former president Martin van Buren (another Jackson protege) and left room for Polk to emerge as the original “dark horse” candidate. Polk went on to win, defeating the Whig Party’s perennial candidate, Henry Clay. (Who, convinced of his own intellectual superiority, couldn’t believe people were voting for Polk instead of him. Shades of John Kerry.)

While the domestic issues of Polk’s administration were significant, it is the twin issues of foreign affairs and war that take up the lion’s share of the book. Readers may be surprised to see how close we came to war with Britain over the Oregon territory (jointly occupied by the two powers, and which then included Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and portions of what is now Canada), thanks to recalcitrant maximalists in Polk’s own party and a freelancing British ambassador who left his government with the impression that the Americans would never compromise on their maximum demands. In the end, compromise was reached and the current boundary with Canada set.

Regarding the Mexican War, Polk has been perhaps unfairly charged with starting a war on false pretenses in order to steal Mexican territory. Merry shows that the boundary dispute that was the immediate trigger for war, whether the Texas-Mexico boundary was on the Nueces river or further south along the Rio Grande, was much more debatable than commonly accepted nowadays. Since it’s independence in the 1830s, Texas had repeatedly claimed the Rio Grande line and patrolled the land between the two rivers. Mexico, on the other hand, while claiming the Nueces line, made no move to enforce it, thus weakening its claim under international law. When Texas was admitted to the Union, Polk felt obliged to defend what the new state saw as its proper border, and so sent an army under General Zachary Taylor to protect it. A fatal clash between a detachment of Taylor’s troops and a Mexican force that had crossed the river lead Polk to ask for a declaration of war, his war message to Congress including the famous words “American blood has been shed on American soil.”

(It is worth noting that the opposition Whigs largely voted in favor of the war, then savagely criticized Polk after it dragged on, accusing him of starting an illegal war, violating the Constitution, and of usurpation. Sound familiar? And the irony of a Democrat suffering such abuse should not be lost on the perceptive reader.)

Without rehearsing the course of the war, itself, Merry’s telling of the tale may lead one to the conclusion that America was lucky to find itself in a fight with an opponent whose military leadership was genuinely incompetent and even more fractious than our own. While General Taylor was competent and General Winfield Scott was borderline brilliant, the clash of egos between these commanders and their subordinates, and the rank insubordination and disrespect shown by both men toward their commander in chief should leave modern readers appalled. (Not to mention the clash of egos among commanders in the Far West that nearly cost us California.) Indeed, the nation was “treated” to the sight of several courts martial and lesser disciplinary hearings — all against successful battlefield commanders who couldn’t keep their pride in check.

In the end, though, and even after the insubordination and firing of our chief negotiator, Nicholas Trist (who continued negotiating with the Mexicans, anyway, even after he’d been fired), Polk had his treaty gaining vast new territories in return for relieving Mexico of the large monetary claims American citizens had made against that nation after suffering decades of corruption and abuse. Approval of the treaty itself was a near-run thing, as opposition Whigs wanted to abandon the conquered lands as wrongfully gained, while the ugly question of slavery in the new territories threatened to tear Polk’s coalition apart.

Those were the events of Polk’s administration, but what does Merry tell us of the man, himself? While he was not a large, imposing man (in fact, Merry says several times that James Polk was quite unprepossessing), he was nevertheless convinced of both his and his country’s destiny for greatness. Entering office with just four goals –lower tariffs, an independent treasury, the settling of the Oregon question and the acquisition of Mexican territory to the Pacific– Polk set about them with a phenomenal single-mindedness and steadiness of purpose that belied his small stature.

But, like all men, he had his weaknesses. He loathed personal confrontation, thus never fired his Secretary of State, the future president James Buchanan, who richly deserved it. And Polk made excuses not to confront his Treasury Secretary, Mississippi’s Robert Walker, who may well have been embezzling funds or getting kickbacks on quartermaster contracts meant to supply the army in the field.

Polk also had an inability to separate normal, petty politics from the personal, so often took offense at things said in the normal course of the vicious political dialog of the day. (You think things are bad now…) His determination to achieve his goals also lead him to a sanctimony and self-righteousness that lead him to think only he truly had the nation’s interests at heart, a virtue he was rarely willing to ascribe to others.

And he was what we would call these days a micro-manager, delving into the details of the operations of government departments at a level far beneath what a president should concern himself with. While Polk had a tremendous capacity for work and a strong sense of duty to his job, he would also work himself to exhaustion. His later days in office were often marked by illnesses one suspects were brought on by overwork. Indeed, Polk died just a few months after leaving office in 1849.

In the end, Merry has done a creditable job reintroducing Americans to a significant period of our history and a significant president, both mostly and unjustly forgotten. If the book has a serious weakness, it may be that too much of the present informs Merry’s view of the past; at times, while reading “A Country of Vast Designs,” I felt as if I were reading a thinly disguised story of US politics in the years after the invasion of Iraq, with a self-serving opposition, charges of disloyalty, and vicious, uncalled for attacks against the president. Then again, it may be that rancor of that kind is simply a feature of democracies when they embark on controversial wars, whether in Mexico or in Iraq, and that Merry sees strong resemblances because they really are there.

Regardless, this is a tale entertainingly told, not with the depth of an academic work (and I hate the style of end-noting used), but with a journalist’s eye for personalities and color.

Highly recommended.

Fair disclosure: I get a few pennies from Amazon for clicking through the book links, and a few pennies more should anyone buy a copy.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: Radical in Chief

November 28, 2010

One of the salient features of the 2008 presidential campaign was the obscured background of the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama. While the basic facts were known (Born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia, graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, community organizer and state senator in Illinois), certain areas were kept hidden from the public: his school records at Columbia and Harvard, and his state senatorial papers, for example. Thanks to a compliant press more interested in Sarah Palin’s tanning bed than the character and beliefs of a man who might (and did) become president, by Election Day in 2008 we knew little about what Barack Obama believed and what experiences shaped him. While a few researchers raised troubling questions, we instead were left with the image his campaign and media allies projected and protected: a post-partisan liberal pragmatist.

According to journalist Stanley Kurtz in his new book, Radical in Chief: Barack Obama and the untold story of American Socialism, it was all a deception, a lie to conceal the truth: that President Obama is and has always been a committed Socialist.

To tell this story, Kurtz also has to take us through recent history of the American Socialist movement itself, from the crack-up of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late 1960s through the ideological struggles between the radical Weathermen and NAM factions, on the one hand, and the Democratic-Socialist groups that sought incremental change. The former advocated direct action and confrontations leading to revolution based on an alliance of radicalized Blacks supported by Socialist activists and an “awakened” middle class. The latter felt the United States was not in a pre-revolutionary state (the failure of the government to collapse after Nixon’s resignation stunned many SDSers), and that the best way to advance Socialism was to work through organized community groups (sound familiar?) and sympathetic politicians to pressure corporations from below and above. Changes would be gradual and would involve both creating entitlements that would be hard to take away, and “non-reforming reforms,” that would purport to fix a problem while actually making it worse and, eventually, precipitating a crisis that would make the American people open to Socialist solutions. The infamous Cloward-Piven strategy is one example.

It is this latter faction that became dominant and in which, according to Kurtz, Barack Obama found a home.

Kurtz traces two threads that converge in Chicago: the rise of Socialist-dominated community organizations and Barack Obama’s intellectual awakening as a community organizer that lead him from New York to Chicago. The former covers community organizing’s origins as a largely Socialist profession and takes us through both well-known groups, such as ACORN, and more obscure (outside of the Socialist community) ones, such as the Midwest Academy and UNO of Chicago. We encounter Socialist activists who are nearly household words these days -Bill Ayers, for example- and others who are influential behind the scenes, such as Greg Galluzzo, Harry Boyte, and Heather Booth. All of these and more became part of Obama’s network as a community organizer and a rising politician. He benefited from their connections, and they later benefited from the money and influence he could funnel their way as a board member on several foundations and as a state senator.

The other thread traces Obama’s intellectual development. Kurtz touches on his teenage association with Communist Party member Frank Davis in Hawaii and his open Marxism-Leninism at Occidental College, but focuses on his introduction to the combination of Socialism and community organizing at the two or three Socialist Scholars Conferences he attended while a student at Columbia University, and on his exposure tothe Black Liberation Theology developed by James Cone, which lead him to… Chicago and Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

As Kurtz shows us this complicated and tightly-woven tapestry, he wants us to bear two things in mind: first, that the strategy of the modern incrementalist Socialists has been to disguise their Socialism (except among themselves), knowing that most Americans would reject doctrinaire Socialism if offered openly. Instead, it is clothed in terms of pragmatism and community and American values to make the program palatable to more people, only revealing the Socialist goals behind the community organization’s plans to a dedicated few. Second, that Barack Obama himself adopted this deceptive strategy to disguise his own Socialist leanings as he presented himself to the targets of his organizing efforts and then the voters.

Along the way, Kurtz examines the controversies that arose during Obama’s campaign -the associations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, his service on the boards of the Woods Fund and the Chicago Annenberg Project, and his membership in the ACORN-controlled New Party- to see what the truth was. In each case, Kurtz concludes, either by direct documentation or strong deduction, that Barack Obama and his allies have at best been misleading or have flatly lied about these and other issues. He also shows that, had the mainstream media even done a modicum of genuine investigative work, much of this could have been uncovered, likely derailing Obama’s presidential aspirations.

In the end, Kurtz seeks to answer two questions: Is President Barack Obama a Socialist, and, now that he is in office, does his past matter? He answers both in the affirmative. Kurtz argues, and I agree, that the weight of the evidence shows that Barack Obama was not only a committed Democratic-Socialist in his early life, but that there is no evidence he ever changed his beliefs, either as a state senator or as president. Indeed, Kurtz uses the example of the supposed craziness of pushing ObamaCare in the face of terrific opposition and at great cost to the Democratic Party to show Obama following the strategies of an Alinskyite community organizer, willing to take a short-term setback to get a long-term, irreversible change. Instead of crazy, Kurtz says, Obama may be crazy like a fox.

Regarding his second question, Obama’s past matters now because, as the President and his allies have gone to such lengths to hide these Socialist values, it is only through studying his days in New York and Chicago that we form a clear idea of the path on which he wants to take America as its president. Should he run for reelection, they will again try to present him as a pragmatic problem-solver seeking to bring people together for common solutions. (This time, one expects, they’ll be greeted with guffaws.) It is up to us, since the major media will hardly help, to bear in mind the truth of Obama’s past to see through the moderate-liberal haze and focus clearly on the Democratic-Socialist reality.

Radical in Chief: Barack Obama and the untold story of American Socialism is an excellent book that should be on the short list for all those interested in modern American politics and the direction of the nation. Stanley Kurtz takes the complex stories of man and movement and, through extensive research and with meticulous footnoting, presents them in a clear, compelling fashion that makes a strong case.

Highly recommended.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)