Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Barack Obama and socialism

Obama may be more left-wing than many of his supporters think:

If there is a mystery at the heart of Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, one thing is not left a mystery, the fact that Barack Obama organized his life on the ideals given to him by his Kenyan father. Obama tells us, "All of my life, I carried a single image of my father, one that I .. tried to take as my own." (p. 220) And what was that image? It was "the father of my dreams, the man in my mother's stories, full of high-blown ideals .." (p. 278) What is more, Obama tells us that, "It was into my father's image .. that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." And also that, "I did feel that there was something to prove .. to my father" in his efforts at political organizing. (p. 230)

So we know that his father's ideals were a driving force in his life, but the one thing that Obama does not give us are the contents of those ideals. The closest he comes is when he tells us that his father lost his position in the government when he came into conflict with Jomo Kenyatte, the President of Kenya sometime in the mid 1960s; when he tells us that his father was imprisoned for his political views by the government just prior to the end of colonial rule; and when he tells us that the attributes of W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela were the ones he associated with his father and also the ones that he sought to instill in himself. (p. 220) This last group is a hodge podge, perhaps concealing as much as it reveals, in that it contains a socialist black nationalist, a Muslim black nationalist, a civil rights leader, and (at the time indicated in the memoir) an imprisoned armed revolutionary.

A bit of research at the library reveals the answers about Barack Obama's father and his father's convictions which Obama withholds from his readers. A first hint comes from authors E. S. Atieno Odhiambo and David William Cohen in their book The Risks of Knowledge (Ohio U. Press, 2004). On page 182 of their book they describe how Barack Obama's father, a Harvard trained economist, attacked the economic proposals of pro-Western 'third way" leader Tom Mboya from the socialist left, siding with communist-allied leader Oginga Odinga, in a paper Barack Obama's father worte for the East Africa Journal. As Odhiambo and Cohen write, "The debates [over economic policy] pitted .. Mboya against .. Oginga Odinga and radical economists Dharam Ghai and Barrack Obama, who critiqued the document for being neither African nor socialist enough."

Hat tip, Steve Sailer!

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