By: Trevor Loudon
One of America’s leading academic Marxists, Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia University, Manning Marable, has died, aged 60.
One of the most influential black radicals of his era, Manning Marable was both activist and academic, playing leadership roles in several Marxist organizations and authoring numerous books and articles, including a soon to be released biography of Malcolm X.
Marable even claimed the President of the United States Barack Obama as one of his readers.
In the December 2008 issue of British Trotskyist journal Socialist Review Marable wrote.
What makes Obama different is that he has also been a community organizer. He has read left literature, including my works, and he understands what socialism is. A lot of the people working with him are, indeed, socialists with backgrounds in the Communist Party or as independent Marxists. There are a lot of people like that in Chicago who have worked with him for years…
One of Marable’s first confirmed radical affiliations was with the 1970s Marxist group New American Movement, founded mainly by veterans of the Students for a Democratic Society and the Communist Party USA. Marable’s wife Leith Mullings (Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama) comes from a Communist Party background.
Marable was an early member of Democratic Socialists of America after it was founded in 1982 and by 1984 was a D.S.A. vice chair, alongside the likes of far left Democratic congressman Ron Dellums, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harry Britt and Washington DC City Councilor Hilda Mason.
Like many socialists, Marable was happy to work with communists. In November 1989 he addressed the 10th anniversary conference of the Communist Party controlled U.S. Peace Council, alongside two well known D.S.A. affiliates, Michigan Congressman John Conyers and his Vermont colleague Bernie Sanders.
Marable was an almost annual speaker at D.S.A’s Socialist Scholars Conferences in New York – which Barack Obama is known to have attended in the early 1980s.
In 1992, a new Marxist organization Committees of Correspondence was formed when a third of the Communist Party broke away to link up with DSAers, Trotskyists, Maoist, leftist Democrats and anarchists in an attempt to modernize and broaden the U.S. left. Marable became a co-chair of the new coalition.
Through C.O.C. Marable got involved in the LINKS network. This was an Australian based publication designed to link the Cubans, former East German and third world communists with Trotskyists and Maoists, black radicals, anarchists and “green” activists to form new leftist parties in several countries based on the model of the very successful (and now ruling) Brazilian Workers Party.
Interestingly, President Obama has worked to forge strong ties to the Brazilian Workers Party leadership since assuming office.
In 1994 Marable was one of many D.S.A. and C.O.C. activists behind the New Party – a crypto socialist grouping aimed at nudging the Democratic Party to the left. While it didn’t last long, the New Party helped propel its best known members Barack Obama and DSAer/Democrat Illinois Congressman Danny Davis onto the national stage.
In June 1996, Manning Marable led a delegation of fifteen prominent African Americans to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Members of the delegation included Marable’s wife: Leith Mullings, Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York; writer/editor Jean Carey Bond; political theorist Clarence Lusane; Columbia University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis and DSAer Michael Eric Dyson, Visiting Professor of African American Studies, Columbia University.
During Marable’s Cuba sojourn, he met many government officials, intellectuals and community leaders, as well as having a lengthy conversations with Assata Shakur aka Joanne Chesimard an escaped terrorist cop killer from the U.S.
After meeting Chesimard, who is black, Marable wrote:
The struggle to destroy racism still remains a central challenge in Cuba: but on balance, the Cubans are far more honest about their shortcomings, and have achieved greater racial equality for Blacks than we have in the U.S….
In the late in 1990s, Marable joined activists from D.S.A., C.O.C., Communist Party USA and other Marxist groups to found the Black Radical Congress. There is no evidence that Barack Obama attended the B.R.C.’s founding conference in Chicago in June 1998, but Obama’s Marxist pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright was certainly there, as was future Obama “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones.
On October 30 and 31, 1998, the radical Brecht Forum celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto” at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, New York.
Individual endorsers of the event included Manning Marable.
In 2006-7, several radical groups including D.S.A., C.O.C., Communist party USA and several former leaders of the terrorist Weather Underground including Jeff Jones, Mark Rudd, and Obama allies Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to form a new radical umbrella organization Movement for a Democratic Society.
MDS February 2007. Mark Rudd far left, Jeff Jones, second from right, Manning Marable, center.
At M.D.S.’s February 2007 meeting in New York, Marable was elected Chair of the new organization. M.D.S. It never really did take off, but it did last long enough to spawn an offshoot, Progressives for Obama, in time for the 2008 Presidential election.
Manning Marable packed a lot of Marxism into his 60 short years.
His socialist legacy lives on in countless University campuses and political movements across the nation – even in the Oval Office itself.