Today's post follows on yesterday's, which I titled The William Ayers plan to turn America's schoolchildren into Maoists and how Barack Obama helped him.
In the post, I posed a question for Professor Stephen Diamond, whose research and writing at Global Labor blog uncovered the real relationship between Obama and Ayers. My question was about Diamond's use of the term "authoritarian Leftist." I hoped he would clarify the term, which he did. He also raised deeply troubling questions.
Thank you for your continuing interest in my writing on the Ayers-Obama connection.
Regarding your question about the nature of authoritarian leftists: well, in fact, these people are not, in my view, leftists at all but they pose as leftists. Instead they have a view of society which says that the only way to respond to inequality and other social problems is to impose, from above, radical restructuring that allows them to take the reins of social and political power. Probably the best essay on this issue ever written is The Two Souls of Socialism by Hal Draper. A copy can be read here.
Examples of “socialism from above” today are found in Cuba, China, North Korea, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. These are bureaucratic regimes that face deep-set problems of economic development but respond to them with authoritarian “solutions” that end up limiting the ability of those countries to advance economically or politically.
When capitalism enters into a crisis, which is more frequently than is widely accepted, then these authoritarian approaches tend to become more attractive. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the rise of authoritarian politics in Nicaragua during the period of Sandinista domination in the 1980s. A copy can be read here.
Of course, there are many examples of right-wing authoritarianism as well – the dictatorships throughout Latin America in the 60s and 70s, for example.
One of the tragic dynamics that emerges in these countries is a kind of symbiotic relationship between “left” and “right” wing authoritarians – they feed each other in ways that can lead to near genocidal results as in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s.
In my view, a genuine left would embrace democratic efforts to respond to social and economic problems. Thus, I support independent trade unions and human rights as a precondition for solving the problems of economic development in such countries.
Here in the United States I was genuinely shocked to learn of the dominance of variations of the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front], Chavez or Maoist approach to politics inside our graduate schools of education.
During a recent academic conference on labor issues, I attended a panel on “social justice” education and heard firsthand from professors, a high school teacher and graduate students how this authoritarian model is (mis)used in the classroom.
It was an eye-opener. Just as Sol Stern has written, they still really do rely on the work of Paolo Freire (who developed an educational program to teach illiterate Brazilian peasants to read) as a model for 21st century Hispanic [U.S.] inner-city advanced-placement high school students headed to some of our best colleges and universities.
These students – a group of whom attended the conference session in question – come from working-class backgrounds and only a handful had parents who attended college. They attended an allegedly poorly performing inner-city Los Angeles high school and were apparently examples of “the oppressed,” to use Freire’s term and the one used by several of the panelists.
Yet in a generation the parents of these "oppressed" students had left destitute lives in Mexico and Central America and found a way for their children to enter the University of California system – despite the 'malicious' role of standardized tests. As I joked in one of my blogs, I could have skipped the (dangerous) fieldwork I undertook during a civil war in Nicaragua if I had known that I could have studied neo-stalinism right here at home!
Of course the joke is on us because these people have an undue influence over research and policy initiatives in education. For example, the President elect of AERA [American Educational Research Assn.] – of which Ayers is to be a Vice President in charge of Curriculum Studies – is Carol Lee, whose work has influenced the racialist rants of Jeremiah Wright.
The great unanswered questions are: what is the education policy of Senator Obama and what role is Bill Ayers playing today in shaping it?
My contribution to the debate has been to point out that there is a long and close relationship between Obama and Ayers precisely on the question of education policy – as evidenced by the Annenberg Challenge. I believe the campaign of Obama owes the American electorate an answer to that question.
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to post my reply.
It is very helpful, Professor Diamond. Thank you.
I also want to thank RezkoWatch and Larry Johnson's No Quarter for republishing yesterday's Pundita post. It's vital to alert the American public to Barack Obama's true relationship with William Ayers, yet the mainstream media have avoided the issue like the plague.
Interestingly, the two blogs mentioned above are known as a 'must read' for media people and politicos closely following the Democratic primary campaigns. It's interesting because despite the influence of these two blogs, news they've carried about the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and Obama and Ayer's connection to the project has not made it into the mainstream media. To my knowledge the news has not even gotten outside the blogosphere.
In any event, readers who want to stay on top of news about the Democratic primary campaigns are well advised to check in at least once a day at RezkoWatch and No Quarter, which boast excellent sources.
Also, I'm checking in daily with Steve Diamond's Global Labor blog, which I hope might provide a few more pieces of the Obama-Ayers relationship. And the blog features reports that relate to the issue of the authoritarian Left and its negative impact on the U.S. education system.
October 9, 2008; 9:30 AM Eastern Time UPDATE
I'm updating this post because of intense media/public attention to the William Ayers-Barack Obama relationship.
Much more has come to light about the relationship since I posted the above report. One of the people who has been driving this story is Steve Diamond.
If you already have some familiarity with the story, you might want to proceed to Diamond's October 6, 2008 post, Ayers/Obama Update: The David Blaine Award Goes to The New York Times Magic Act. The post, published at Diamond's Global Labor blog, has the best summary he's provided so far of Ayers' educational theories and how Obama has served to promote them.
The catch is that the summary is presented as part of Diamond's ongoing discussion of how The New York Times has continued to suppress and distort his investigation -- even though three reporters from the paper have recently interviewed him several times.
(I note with sarcasm that Diamond watchers know that this state of affairs represents an improvement since May, when the Times ignored his letter to them about his research on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the work that Ayers and Obama did for it.)
The negligence of the U.S. press in reporting on Ayers' theories and Obama's relationship with him is a story unto itself; it's perhaps the strongest indictment to date of the present state of American journalism. But if you want to go straight to the summary, scroll down to the 14th paragraph of the October 6 report:
So what is the evidence of the influence of Ayers' world view on Obama and his presidential candidacy?And read from there.
If you want to delve further into the story, you can start with Diamond's April 22, 2008 post, Who "Sent" Obama? and read forward from there. Not all his posts since that time are about the Ayers-Obama relationship and related matters, but the majority are.
If you get stuck at the discussion in the summary about reparations on account of refusing to believe your eyes, Diamond's May 24, 2008 post Apparently Obama does, indeed, support reparations will assure you that you read right the first time.
The posts at Global Labor are the very best background on all the issues touching upon the Ayers-Obama relationship. As far as I know only one other person, Sol Stern, is both knowledgeable enough to discuss Ayers' ideas in authoritative fashion and willing to speak up very frankly in public about them. (See my May 20 post, The William Ayers plan to turn America's schoolchildren into Maoists and how Barack Obama helped him, for more on Stern and links to his writings on Ayers' education ideas.)
Stanley Kurtz, the Conservative commentator who has studied Diamond's research and undertaken his own research on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Obama-Ayers relationship, has provided a helpful introduction in a September 23, 2008 report for the Wall Street Journal.
Yet Kurtz (who holds a PhD from Harvard in social anthropology) started his journey of discovery from outside the teaching profession and without a thorough background in the education ideas promoted by Ayer's and his colleagues.
One glance through Diamond's summary tells that Kurtz is still on a learning curve. He is not alone. The news media are so far behind Diamond that at this rate it will be 2015 before they catch up.
Barack Obama has banked on this great Cloud of Unknowing. And yet a reading of Diamond's summary reveals that this is not rocket science he's talking about; it's just that for years the mainstream media have avoided examining the education topics that Diamond and Stern discuss.
Those who have read Dr Diamond's October 6 summary might ask whether I have considered changing "Maoist" to "neo-Stalinist" in the title of the May 20 post as I have progressed on my own learning curve. The answer is no.
I will let political scientists such as Diamond parse the differences between neo-Stalinism and Maoism. In the end what does it matter if you refer to a death camp by a number, or name it the 'Bluebird School of Reeducation?' Stalinists, Maoists, Fidelistas, etc. -- they all boil down to a military-backed gang of thugs.
And my view is that William Ayers and Barack Obama are not ideologues of any stripe; I see them as totalitarians behind their word screens. They want unquestioning obedience to their commands; they want everyone to think and act in unison, and they know this can only be achieved through indoctrinating children.
Any doubts I had that Obama is a totalitarian were resolved a few days ago when I studied the “Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act,” otherwise known as education bill S.2111, which was introduced by Obama.
The bill has not passed, as yet, but the wording is a clear indication that Obama's idea of child education is using the public school system to effect massive state intervention in every area of a child's life.
As to what exactly Obama means by "positive behavior" -- the bill does not spell it out. But study Steve Diamond's writings, and Sol Stern's, if you want to see behind Obama's screen of words about making American public school graduates better candidates for higher education and leveling the playing field for the nation's poorest children.
Finally, Obama's relationship with William Ayers is just one of many he developed with the far left/authoritarian stream of American politics. If you are just coming to a study of Obama's involvement with such Americans, the best place for orientation is the blog The Real Barack Obama (RBO), formerly RezkoWatch. (No Quarter is also a good source.)
The blog has amassed a thick dossier on Obama's web of political alliances, including those branching from his involvement with the convicted criminal Tony Rezko.
There are few puff pieces at RBO, and those few are to leaven the grim revelations. Many of the posts are original reports, which are meticulously researched and cross-referenced. The blog also acts as a relay station for daily media reports and opinion pieces on Obama's relationships.
I warn that once you start digging through RBO's archives you will be stunned at how much information the mainstream media has left unreported about Obama's relationships. Yet RBO is closely followed by mainstream news outlets working on Obama stories, so there is no question that the information has been ignored.
The Real Barack Obama, and Steve Diamond's Global Labor blog, are examples of citizen journalism at its finest.
The question, however, is how much longer American democracy can survive if its citizens cannot depend on professional journalists for accurate news on vital issues.