Life of the New Party
A redistributionist success story.


Stanley Kurtz

A variety of evidence now indicates, with a high degree of likelihood, that Barack Obama was a member of the far-left New Party, which also endorsed him in his first run for the Illinois state senate in 1996. Obama’s New party ties graphically illustrate the connection between his troubling “associations” and the core economic issues of the presidential campaign. The New Party’s agenda was radically redistributionist. More important, the New Party’s specific strategy for achieving its economic goals precisely paralleled Obama’s now infamous 2001 radio remarks on “major redistributive change.” So let’s take a tour of New Party ideology, after which we can explore the ever-increasing evidence that Obama himself was in fact a New Party member.

Left of Liberal
Obama’s New Party-endorsed first run for office began in late 1995. So it’s of interest that New Party co-founder Joel Rogers published an essay describing the Left’s need for the New Party in the March/April 1995 issue of The New Left Review. (The New Left Review, can fairly be described as a prestigious outlet for writing that is largely Marxist/Socialist in content.) Since the revelation of Obama’s New Party ties, Rogers has striven to paint his outlook as mainstream and moderate. Yet this 1995 article, contemporaneous with Obama’s run for office as a New Party-endorsed candidate, gives the lie to that claim.

It’s notable that New Party supporter and left-extremist Noam Chomsky is one of the few readers thanked in Rogers’s acknowledgments. From there, Rogers quickly links his political prescription to the claim that there are fundamental problems in the way American society is structured. Above all, Rogers expresses disdain for liberals, who characteristically refuse to take steps to gain “social control of the economy” or to put “serious constraints on capital.” Mere liberals (embodied for Rogers by Bill Clinton) are corrupt tools of “unconstrained capitalism.”

In Rogers’s view, then, American capitalism needs to be tamed and transformed in fundamental, structural, ways, a task which mere liberals are unable and unwilling to undertake. Rogers does also slam America’s use of force in pursuit of its foreign policy goals, and decry our legacy of “four hundred years’ racism.” Yet his focus is clearly on the need to transform the very structure of the American economy.

This is why Rogers addresses himself, not to Clintonian liberals, but to “progressives.” For Rogers, the key difference between the two is that liberals are unwilling to generate a popular movement from below that would remove command of the economy from the hands of corporate capitalists. Liberals are content to manipulate the public from above, when what’s actually needed, says Rogers, is “mobilizing outside the state.” Only such grassroots mobilizing can hope to challenge corporate power.

Incremental Socialism?
Does this make Rogers’s a socialist? Arguably, yes. But the answer to that question is not a simple one. Rogers hopes to avoid the socialist label. Like many on the far left, he couches his ultimate goals in euphemism and convoluted language. So instead of calling for socialism, Rogers demands “economic democracy.” That sort of euphemism produces locutions that would strike most Americans as odd: “The biggest ‘rule’ and barrier to democracy, of course, is capitalism–private ownership of the means of production…and what follows does not seek to change that rule directly.” In this passage, the word “democracy,” serves as a virtual synonym for socialism, to the point where capitalism itself is described as the greatest “barrier to democracy.” What Rogers seems to want to say here is that the entire capitalist system is blocking his ultimate socialist goal. But of course he can’t afford to say that out loud. So instead he simply calls capitalism “undemocratic.” Yet in the same phrase, Rogers notes that his strategy for undermining capitalism is long-term and indirect (“what follows does not seek to change that rule [i.e. capitalism] directly”).