Friday, April 01, 2011

Obama's student days: Rules for revolution

Don't that beat all! Usually, when I ask a far-right conspiracy-monger to prove his claims, all I get is insult and invective. Proof? Evidence? Don't bother asking for any.

That stuff is for sissies. Or so they tell me.

But this time...this time, things worked out differently. I actually got me some evidence. I don't know whether it's trustworthy evidence; that's for you to judge.

There's a recurrent meme pushed by the various tea party sites which holds that Barack Obama, during his time at Occidental College, had joined something called the Marxist Student Association. (For example, see here.)

This allegation didn't jibe with me -- for one thing, I doubted that there was an organization by that name at Oxy at that time. There certainly was no such group (to my knowledge) at UCLA, which I attended during roughly the same period.

This piece in the American Thinker claims that Obama had actually joined something called the Democratic Student Socialist Alliance. Actually, I vaguely recall a group with a similar name at UCLA (which also sported a Spartacus Youth League and the ever-popular Revolutionary Communist Party, run by Chairman Bob).

So I decided to make polite inquiries. And by "polite," I mean I wrote to a few teabagger-friendly blogs demanding that someone back up the bullshit. My inquiries had lots of capital letters. Lots of exclamation points. Lots of four-letter words. Hey, it's me.

Well, one thing led to another, and eventually I was put in touch with someone I will here call only Diana V., who makes two startling claims: 1. There really was an inner core group that called itself the Marxist Student Association, and 2. Barack Obama (with whom she would occasionally "have a sandwich," as they say on How I Met Your Mother) was a leading member of that organization.

To repeat: Don't that beat all.

Not only that. She could prove what she had to say. She still had in her files, after all these years, a document that Obama wrote to other student Marxists.

I present the document here, as is. Obviously, I can make no claims regarding authenticity, since I do not possess the originals. These rather small scans are all we have to go on right now. In this post, we'll present the first and second pages in the original, plus a transcription of the entire letter. (Boy, was that a tedious job! That's the trouble with documents from 1981: You can't cut and paste.)

So, caveat lector and make of this what you will. I daresay that there is a pretty good argument to be made in favor of its authenticity. Diana V. doesn't seem like a nutjob -- but then again, I've "met" her only through email.

The words below the asterisks are (putatively) Obama's. I'll return at the end.

* * *

Rules for revolution: Revisions in light of current events

Marxist Student Association
Occidental College
February 26, 1981

Dear brothers and sisters in struggle,

The document popularly (and mistakenly) titled Rules for Revolution was issued to selected officers during early years of the Bolshevik movement. These directives were inadvertently made available to a wide and psychologically unprepared public in 1919, when an early and imperfect copy was made available to Edgar Sisson. Soon thereafter, the document fell into the hands of counterrevolutionary sources in the United States, who promulgated the false story that the text was acquired from a fallen soldier during the first World War. The original author is presumed to be Alexander Gumberg, an agent stationed in Sweden.

It is useful to review these directives at this historical stage, especially given recent events, both tragic and inspiring, in Central America, as well as the continuing revolutionary struggles in South Africa and Afghanistan. We shall examine the degree to which these rules have met with success, and to what degree they require reformulation in order to best serve the class struggle in the present epoch.

Rule 1. Corrupt the young: get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness.

To a large degree, this has been accomplished. We have inculcated the young with the idea that no philosophical, intellectual or spiritual goal could possibly be of greater importance than an idealized and ultimately unrealizable sexual experience. The stultifying superficiality of American culture should be evident from even the most cursory survey of popular television programming.

Rule 2. Get control of all means of publicity. Get peoples’ minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books, plays and other trivialities.

In essence, this rule is an outgrowth of the first. The hypersexualization of American society became possible only after infiltration and control of the major media was established. Given the declining interest in theater, reference should be made to film and television in future versions of this document. The advent of such pastimes as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, with their well-understood narcotizing effects, should exponentially increase the trivialization of western youth culture, with a corresponding decrease in national I.Q. The ubiquity of pornography has, as predicted, led to an unprecedented culture-wide antipathy for socio-religious norms and reactionary forms of nationalism.

Rule 3. Divide people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.

This directive has proven to be a double-edged sword. Divisions have indeed occurred. But the greatest divisions now seem to be manifesting on the proto-revolutionary American left, where class consciousness has been overwhelmed by the politics of identity based on race, gender and sexual preference. At this time, these divisions can be made to serve our interest, since they alienate many segments of the youth population from the recently installed ultra-reactionary administration of Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, at the correct historical moment, leadership within the movement should call for unity, not division, and should emphasize the paramount importance of income redistribution over individualized goals.

Rule 4. Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule and obloquy.

At this time, Ronald Reagan is not just the elected leader but the self-appointed moral exemplar for the United States. It is imperative that our agents work tirelessly to diminish his stature. To a large degree, this is already being accomplished: Even at this early stage of his presidency, editorial cartoonists and television commentators routinely emphasize Reagan’s age, unimpressive film career and presumed intellectual inferiority. We must continually focus public attention on the rise in unemployment (currently more than 8 percent); conversely, we should do everything in our power to keep the unemployment figures high by arguing against promising free market solutions, which can, at best, offer only a temporary fix. It must be admitted that Reagan’s cross-generational appeal is genuine, and that his ability to manipulate his own image is, in certain respects, worthy of emulation.

Rule 5. Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and as ruthlessly as possible.

At present, this injunction is unworkable, and revision is strongly urged. Traditional revolution from without constitutes, in the American context, a romanticized form of quasi-military action which is doomed to failure due to the insufficiently developed revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat. It is therefore imperative to adopt the stratagems of synarchy, albeit suitably modified for our overall purposes. We must henceforward devote our energies to the tactic of burrowing within the electoral system, thereby to inject one of our movement leaders (under deep cover) into the strongholds of power. It is not inconceivable that we could, once again, have a figure sympathetic to a Marxist analysis of history in a position to subvert the American presidency itself. On that previous occasion, an unforeseen outbreak of individualistic deviationism resulted in a loss of control, necessitating the implementation of an emergency solution. Of course, a deep cover leader sympathetic to the proletarian cause could only manifest his true revolutionary potential after re-election; therefore, it is of paramount importance for such an agent to maintain a veneer of friendliness to monopolistic capital during his first administration.

Rule 6. By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit; produce fear of inflation, rising prices and general discontent.

To a partial extent, this has been accomplished through the establishment of such programs as Social Security, Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental organizations designed to minimize what Gumberg has called the ruggedness of the citizenry. National debt, however, remains at a level considered manageable within the capitalistic system. It is thought that an increase in the Soviet military posture throughout the world, especially in Afghanistan, Africa and Central America, could force a corresponding increase in American defense spending. This, in turn, would result in increased government debt which must be met either by burdensome taxation or an inflationary increase in the money supply.

Rule 7. Foment strikes in vital industries; encourage civil disorders and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward these disorders.

It is felt that, in order to re-assert union dominance (and thereby promote a corresponding rise in proletarian consciousness), an excellent first step would be the initiation of a strike of the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association/American Teachers’ Association, and/or the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Rule 8. By special argument cause a breakdown of the old moral virtues; honesty, sobriety, continence, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.

This has been largely accomplished throughout American society. The preceding decade has properly been called the Me Decade, due to the replacement of so-called conventional morality with a new paradigm based on solipsism and self-absorption. The pro-Marxist intellectual class has, through the use of casuistry and an appeal to narrow self-interest, promoted situational ethics and secular humanism as the new sine qua non. Virtue itself is now seen as a transient and dangerously amorphous concept. The prevalence of relatively inexpensive narcotics (cocaine, marijuana, etc.) and the widely advertised growth of Eastern forms of religious expression has immeasurably aided the culture-wide tendency toward narcissism. The call to revolution must therefore be couched in terms of narrow self-interest, at least until the inculcation of proletarian class consciousness. (See below.)

Rule 9. Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext with a view of confiscation of them and leaving the population helpless.

At present, this goal seems impossibly distant and unrealizable. However, a catastrophic event (assassination, a mass public shooting spree or some similar act of terror) could lead to the enactment of laws designed to impede access to firearms.

Conclusion: The precepts outlined in this early revolutionary document are in some respects adaptable to the current political environment. In other respects, revision is necessary. The following proposed additional precepts are worthy of consideration:

Proposal 1. Increased demonization of any academic, intellectual or public opinion shaper who casts doubt on the Sino-Soviet split.

Proposal 2. Abandon a traditional revolutionary strategy within the United States, replacing it with a synarchic strategy of overthrow from within, via election. Although the Democratic party represents the natural vehicle for overthrow, it is not the only possibility.

Proposal 3. Increase the perception of a culture of scandal and corruption in Washington. It works to our benefit if corruption is seen as a bipartisan problem. Alienation from the political leadership increases the workers’ frustration with the false sense democracy provided by the capitalist-controlled electoral system.

Proposal 4. Alienate the American worker from the corporate leadership, and thus from capitalism itself. In films and television programming, the capitalist should always be portrayed as callous and murderous.

Proposal 5. Subtly increase public tolerance for socialism by providing economic aid to ailing American industries. In this way, the capitalists themselves will be trained to demand socialist protectionism.

Proposal 6. Alienate the proletariat from traditional forms of Judeo-Christian worship. Promote such non-traditional concepts as the depersonalization of God and the transcendental nature of the Self. Our cultural opinion-shapers should emphasize polytheism, pantheism, nature-worship (environmentalism) and perhaps even what we may term neo-gnosticism. Each of these modalities can be made to serve the overall goal of non-individuation, which in turn should increase public acceptance of collective solutions to quotidian problems.

Additional proposals from other committee members are welcome. Greetings in solidarity with all the brothers and sisters engaged in our international crusade for economic justice and proletarian freedom.

Yours in struggle,

Barack H. Obama

* * *

Cannon here again. Obviously, I would counsel the readers to be very cautious in accepting this document at face value. Of course, it has often been said that a man who isn't a Marxist at the age of 20 has no heart, and a man who isn't an anti-Marxist at age 40 has no head. Or something like that. The point is, young people do go in for the extremes, and they often espouse positions that look silly in later years.

(For example, I kind of liked Heaven's Gate on first viewing. Go figure.)

The references to "synarchy" puzzled me. I wrote to Diana V. about Obama's use of this phrase. Her reply was, to say the least, quite startling.
Synarchy refers to rule by an interior elite. It is a system which by definition transcends normal categories of left and right. It is also a system that cannot translate into a mass movement. Instead, synarchists use infiltration as their modus operandi.

Barry often told me that this was the methodology espoused by his father. I asked him what he meant by this, since I was under the impression that his father was some sort of minor official in Kenya. Barry explained that Barack Obama Sr. was not his true father, even though he had been led to so believe from childhood until about the age of 16. He showed me pictures of his mother Ann and Barack Obama Sr and I had to admit that Barry, the man puffing away on a Winston not five feet away from me, resembled neither one.

His true father, he said, was a former high official in the Franklin Roosevelt administration named Alger Hiss. He asked if I had heard the name and I said of course, everyone had, he was the guy railroaded by Nixon, and that's when Barry smiled that enigmatic smile of his. He went on to explain that when his father had divorced his wife in the late 1950s, he had an affair with a black woman named Grace Ford, supposedly the estranged daughter of Wallace Ford. When the child was born out of wedlock, Alger was mortified since at the time he was trying to re-establish his good name and he even had dreams of returning to government work. In 1961, having an illegitimate child with a black woman would not have endeared him to Middle America.

He still had contacts in the State Department who were able to locate a suitable couple to raise the child. "All the documents and such were taken care of," Barry told me, and I think those were he exact words. He says that he went through the rest of his life with a guardian angel, only it wasn't revealed to him until the age of 16.
Can I confirm any of this? No. But it seems worthy of further research.
Dagnabbit! Every frickin' year, I fall for it!
You almost got me too . . . except I've grown to have more respect for your thinking. Thanks for the fun.
I am skeptical by nature, but I don't trust a word of anything in early April. This was very elaborate. Kudos to you, sir. Masterfully done.
I read pretty much the same document in 1962, that copy was supposedly written by a Mr. J. Kennedy of Hyannisport, MA. I wish I could send you a scan but unfortunately we fed it to the dog.
I am in awe of your work ethic. I wish I had 40% of it. Well done!

Well, Joe, you got me.

Not that it was a prank but that this "document" came from an outside source.

It's reads like a conservative's idea of the rules for revolution as espoused by Obama. I can believe that it would be out there in Tea Party land as proof of Obama's Communist roots.

If you delete the last paragraph and the comments I wouldn't be surprised that it, or links to it, start to show up on Right Wing blogs.
They will be showing up anyway, Mr.Mike. I mean-- it sounds like O'Precious. Good work, Mr.Cannon.
Joke it may be, but "rule by an interior elite" is the only thing that comes close to being a belief held by Barack Obama.

He also seems to believe in other assaults to be perpetrated on the masses as espoused by Leo Strauss, such as the use of myths to keep us fooled. Is it a coincidence that Strauss also taught at the University of Chicago?

Carolyn Kay
I agree that it was well done (you had me going for a few minutes there, in fact) - the problem is that the wingnuts are going to be quoting this until 2016 as "proof" from a "left wing blogger". Once this goes viral, I fully expect Rush and Beck to cite it as authoritative. It might even get you a guest spot on Rense. ;-)

I've got to go prune my spaghetti trees.
P.S. I sort of liked Heaven's Gate, too - at least the parts where Isabelle Huppert is naked.
There should be no doubt that such a voracious web-devourer as you, Joseph, are quite familiar with the extensive research and theorizing that others have done to support their claim and Bill and Hill were a "CIA Couple" from their college days forward.

And judging from your own near-religious devotion to adoring their lives of "good works" (in the pre-PUMA Democrat Party) it would seem you vehemently reject the above thesis.

But, does that sincerely and firmly held position also make you reject, out of hand, the possibility that Ann Dunham and her various Black-militant lovers were also variations on the "CIA Couple" paradigm?

Or are you willing to entertain the thought that the well-known sealing and suppressing of much actual documentation of the formative years of her only-begotten son (The Lightbringer) could be not because of "divine intervention," but because of "Company Policy"?
Good one, Joseph! Masterpiece!

Yes, it reads like the right-wing, paranoid dream of what a young Barack Obama could have written. But I am not sure that a young Obama could write so cogently (not to mention so radically). Everyone knows his politics are closer to President Reagan's than to that of anyone else.

I am troubled, Joseph, by your dual embrace of Obama hate and birther hate. This confluence is distressingly similar to the curiously identical stance maintained for years by Fox News and big-time (Hannity, Limbaugh, etc.) Fascist radio.
Anonymous 4:42 PM : LOL! Can't take a joke, can you? :-)

Joseph, good one. Had me going for the first third or so, until a light bulb came on and I scrolled back up to check the date. Nicely done.

I really can't imagine Obama writing something that well thought out, in any case.
I was on board until the reference of a "suitable couple" being found by the State Dept. Obviously Stanley Ann and Barack Sr. would have failed that test.
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