1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8007/obama-hid-his-fathers-socialism-from-readers/

Obama Hid His Father’s Socialism From Readers

April 7, 2008 by

[cross posted at PrestoPundit]

The “Rosebud” of Barack Obama’s DREAMS FROM MY FATHER.

There’s a big mystery at the heart of Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father:  A Story of Race and Inheritance.  What was Barack Obama doing seeking out Marxist professors in college?  Why did Obama choose a Communist Party USA member as his socio- political counselor in high school?  Why was he spending his time studying neocolonialism and the writings of Frantz Fanon, the pro-violence author of “the Communist Manifesto of neocolonialsm”, in college?  Why did he take time out from his studies at Columbia to attend socialist conferences at Cooper Union?

And there is more mystery in the book.  Why does Obama consider working in a consulting house for international business like being “a spy behind enemy lines?”  Why does he repeatedly find it so hard to explain his political views to others?  Why was he driven to become a left-aligned political organizer?  It’s a question Obama again and again can’t seem to answer to the satisfaction of the interlocutors in his own memoir.

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 Kenyatta, 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.”

I have a copy of Barack Obama’s paper here in my hand, obtained from the stacks at UCLA.  The paper is as describe by Odhiambo and Cohen, a cutting attack from the left on Tom Mboya’s historically important policy paper “African Socialism and Its Applicability to Planning in Kenya.”  The author is given as “Barak H. Obama” and his paper is titled “Problems Facing Our Socialism”, published July, 1965 in the East African Journal, pp. 26-33.

Obama stakes out the following positions in his attacks on the white paper produced by Mboya’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development:

1.   Obama advocated the communal ownership of land and the forced confiscation of privately controlled land, as part of a forced “development plan”, an important element of his attack on the government’s advocacy of private ownership, land titles, and property registration. (p. 29)

2.  Obama advocated the nationalization of “European” and “Asian” owned enterprises, including hotels, with the control of these operations handed over to the “indigenous” black population. (pp. 32 -33)

3.  Obama advocated dramatically increasing taxation on “the rich” even up to the 100% level, arguing that, “there is no limit to taxation if the benefits derived from public services by society measure up to the cost in taxation which they have to pay” (p. 30) and that, “Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.” (p. 31)

4.  Obama contrasts the ill-defined and weak-tea notion of “African Socialism” negatively with the well-defined ideology of “scientific socialism”, i.e. communism.  Obama views “African Socialism” pioneers like Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Toure as having diverted only “a little” from the capitalist system. (p. 26)

5.  Obama advocates an “active” rather than a “passive” program to achieve a classless society through the removal of economic disparities between black Africans and Asian and Europeans. (p. 28)  “While we welcome the idea of a prevention [of class problems], we should try to cure what has slipped in .. we .. need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now .. so long as we maintain free enterprise one cannot deny that some will accumulate more than others .. “  (pp. 29-30)

6.  Obama advocates price controls on hotels and the tourist industry, so that the middle class and not only the rich can afford to come to Kenya as tourists.  (p. 33)

7.  Obama advocates government owned and operated “model farms” as a means of teaching modern farming techniques to farmers.  (p. 33)

8.  Obama strongly supports the governments assertion of a “non-aligned” status in the contest between Western nations and communist nations aligned with the Soviet Union and China.  (p. 26)

So what does all this tell us about Barack Obama, the father, and how does it help us fill in the gaps and decipher Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father?  We know from Obama’s memoir that his father is an “uncompromising” man whose ideals and principles gets him in trouble with the “big man” who ran Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, leading to a dramatic scene in which Kenyatta personally confronts Obama the father and in one fell swoop destroys not only his government career but ultimately his life.  Working with Obama’s book alone it is hard to know what is going on.  We get only an inkling when Obama quotes his “Granny” (one of Obama the elder’s wives) as saying the following,”I would tell him he was too stubborn in his dealings with the government.  He would talk to me of his principle .. “  (p. 424)

Now if we fill in the missing information we have now learned about Barack Obama the elder — that he held uncompromising socialist and anti-Western views in line with Kenyatta’s principle political rival Oginga Odinga — we can understand why he had conflicts of “principle” with Kenyatta and government.  And the timeline begins to make sense.  TIME magazine reports the open conflict between the anti-communist, pro-Western Kenyatta and the communist-allied, anti-Western Odinga in a story from June, 1965, a story in which Odinga declares “communism is like food to me.”  By 1966 Odinga was out of the government.  In Obama’s Dream From My Father these political events and their consequences for Barack Obama the elder are described in the voice of his sister Auma:

“The Old Man [Obama], he left the American company to work in the government, for the Ministry of Tourism.  He may have had political ambitions, and at first he was doing well in the government.  But by 1966 or 1967, the divisions in Kenya had become more serious.  President Kenyatta was from the largest tribe, the Kikuyus .. The vice-president, Odinga, was a Luo [as was Obama], and he said the government was becoming corrupt.  That, instead of serving those who had fought for independence, Kenyan politicians had take the place of white colonials, buying businesses and land that should be redistributed to the people.  Odinga tried to start his own party, but was placed under house arrest as a Communist.  Another popular Luo minister, Tom M’boya, was killed by a Kikuyu gunman.  Luos began to protest in the streets, and the government police cracked down ..

Most of the Old Man’s friends just kept quiet and learned to live with the situation.  But the Old Man began to speak up.  He would tell people that tribalism was going to ruin the country and that unqualified men were taking the best jobs.  His friends tried to warn him about saying such things in public, but he didn’t care.  He always thought he know what was best, you see.  When he was passed up for a promotion, he complained loudly.  ‘How can you be my senior,’ he would say to one of the ministers, ‘and yet I am teaching you how to do your job properly?’  Word got back to Kenyatta that the Old Man was a troublemaker, and he was called in to see the president .. Kenyatta said to the Old Man that, because he could not keep his mouth shut, he would not work again until he had no shoes on his feet.

I don’t know how much of these details are true.  But I know that with the president as an enemy things became very bad for the Old Man.  He was banished from the government — blacklisted.  None of the ministries would give him work.  When he went to foreign companies to look for a post, the companies were warned not to hire him .. Finally, he had to accept a small job with the Water Department.”

There are a couple of false notes in this account.  To begin with, Barack Obama the father didn’t “begin” to speak up. Obama was challenging the policies of Kenyatta’s government from the left in the most prestigious forum possible, the East Africa Journal, at exactly the same moment when Vice President Odinga was challenging the Kenyatta government from the left.  What is more, Obama did so in openly arrogant and condescending fashion, almost as if saying to Kenyatta and his government, ‘How can you [be in charge of the economy], when I am teaching you how to do your job properly?”  The last lines of Obama’s EAJ paper capture the tone of the whole,

Despite my remarks, it is laudable that the government came out with the paper.  But this is not to deny that fact that it could have been a better paper if the government were to look into priorities and see them clearly within their context so that their implementation could have had a basis on which to rely.  Maybe it is better to have something perfunctorily done than none at all!


Postscript.  The historical significance of the clash between Kenyan leaders Mboya and Odinga continues to be an important subject of discussion in the Kenya even today, and more so given the rise of Oginga Odinga’s son Raila Odinga.  Odinga recently claimed to be Barack Obama’s cousin, and the two appeared together in 2006 at pubic events.


“Marxist professors” — see page 100 of Dreams From My Father

“a Communist Party USA member as his socio- political counselor” — the character “Frank” in Dreams For My Father is the communist poet Frank Marshall Davis.

“Frantz Fanon” — see page 100 of Dreams From My Father.

“attend socialist conferences” — see page 122 of Dreams From My Father


Ruben Sunden April 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm

And to the illuminated “Inquisitor”… here’s some news for ya: Every law is a form of social engineering.

And some forms of social engineering (such as the Feds bail out of Bear Stears) aren’t laws, but purported discretionary acts of a bureaucrat.

Have you seen the size of the United State Code, or your own state codes recently? Do you appreciate how much social engineering we employ? (It keeps me and many others employed… and making more money than you!)

The question is never whether or not it’s social engineering — because it all is — but whether the benefits of the new arrangement/relationships outweigh the enforcement costs.

Inquisitor April 17, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Actually, it is the legal protection of rights, not “social engineering”. I know brain-addled legal positivists can’t grasp this. So nice try, fool. Since you didn’t read this “hack’s” article no one need take you seriously.

TokyoTom May 8, 2008 at 5:27 am

Greg, I thought that you might perhaps be interested this important scholarly work by neocon Daniel Pipes, who is concerned that the facts that Obama has a Muslim name, lived in a Muslim country with a Muslim step-father when he was 6 to 10 and was registered in schools as a “Muslim” “deserves careful attention for what it tells us about the candidate’s integrity”, since it might show that “if [Obama] was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.”


Honestly, I’m not thrilled by much of Obama’s liberal agenda, but I got to say that the fact that the neocons will go digging this far into his childhood to pin a “Muslim liar” charge on him tells me that at least Obama is not beholden to the special interests that have so corrupted our foreign policy under the Bush administration.

Reality Check May 21, 2008 at 11:47 am

Obama, Rev. Wright, Nation of Islam are all Muslims disguised as Christians in order to infiltrate and incrementally influence our society.

nihil June 1, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Milton — I guess you aren’t Milton Friedman’s ghost and are sailing under false colors. That’s a war crime!I play nothing on the internet.
I speculate that your obvious jealousy of graduates of elite universities is a result of being bumped by some AAAA candidate. Where did you get your educatio0n. Under a bush? Some defunct Mississippi bible college?
You ought to get that jealousy problem fixed. If left untreated it will ruin your life.
Say, why doesn’t anybody on this site ever discuss L. von Mises’ important contribution to the completion of the edifice of communist economic theory. Not very original and quite derivative, but still necessary to make the vessel warertight.

seeker June 21, 2008 at 12:21 am

Why Obama’s Father is very important to Barack Obama?

Because he said so. Read the book of Obama and see how he idolise his own father.

The sad thing is that he forgot the good life and opportunity given by his white relatives.

Why important? Because Barack will have a hard time to deny his socialist and communist principles.

So what? Actually there is nothing wrong about it. About 40% of the Americans are now socialists. Vermont is truly the state of the socialists. Illinois is a very socialist state. A California judge said that because Cold War is over, communism is no longer a threat to the republic and communist party can now register.


Who knows, the Americans may now be ready to become one.

In the end, JFK and Reagan failed. Communism has won in the end.


Tootie July 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Seeker, I respectfully disagree. Our next president, 2012, will be much like Reagan. Did you know when he was very young he asked Jesus to make him President of the U.S. and he would promise to bring prayer and righteousness to our country? His dreams will come to pass fully; I know it. It may not look like it now but you will see it happen. We will be a Christian country even greater than we were in the nineteenth century.

Feel the coldness? Want love? It will be here.

Dave Perry September 4, 2008 at 1:24 pm

People always think that the grass is greener on the other side. Take a look at the real life in Russia and most European Countries, do you really think life is better over there?

I like to tell the people that don’t read or do research about the current candidates like Obama: Be careful what you wish for! And that is the latest topic at my blog. – Well anyway keep up the good work, I will be back.

ThereseJDanielsson November 10, 2008 at 9:30 pm

Not even a week after the president election the blond topblogger from Sweden, Linda Ekholm speaks out loud about Obama!
And I really believe this is truly written by heart. Scary!


Bob Miller March 10, 2009 at 9:02 am

Well…not one person has posted to this article..

But you can SEE where the Messiah… got some of his ideas regarding HOW THE US should be remade in his and his father’s image.

I see this as part of the blue print for Obama.. and now realize what I suspected of his personal agenda.

It has taken him less than 90 days to send the United States into Bankruptcy and I recognize that he is an advocate for taking from the rich and giving to the POOR Black Africans here in America… even they may be 3-6 generations out of Africa.


Emil Suric June 30, 2009 at 10:34 am


You seem confused; Obama openly sought Marxian professors/advisers, attended Marxian conferences, and had two parents who were literally communists. You don’t see any connection here? May this influence his agenda? Taking over GM, his class-warfare rhetoric, about to take over the banks, all coincidence?

Caleb October 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm

What utter paranoid drivel. It’s amazing what a website template and a few writers can do.

Dennis October 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm

“…at least Obama is not beholden to the special interests that have so corrupted our foreign policy under the Bush administration.”

Maybe this is true and maybe it is not, or maybe the special interests are slightly different or have a different veneer.

What is true is that Obama is the latest presidential manifestation of the party and ideology that produced the monsters Wilson, FDR, and Truman. These individuals lied us into wars that were far, far worse than Bush’s Iraq in terms of deaths and material destruction, and in driving the militarism and imperialism that has defined American foreign policy in the 20th and 21st centuries. In short, our foreign policy has been corrupted for many decades.

Obama has done precious little, on net, of substance to change U.S. foreign policy (and the assault on civil liberties) that took place under Bush, which itself was a rehash of what several other Democratic and Republican presidents had done.

Regarding Bush, in many respects, he is nothing but a modern day Woodrow Wilson as concerns foreign policy.

walt September 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm

no he is not he is beholden to the muslim brotherhood for obama is muslim

Appalled January 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Okay – all you who voted for Obama…you are probably out of work…unable to find work…companies closed down…banks won’t loan you money…are waiting on your food stamps…can’t understand CNN, ABC, or CBS when they report on current events…defend your man, even though he is clearly “winging it” and an utter failure…probably defended the Fort Hood reponse…and you are probably supporting the Health Care Bill, which is the final blow to modern economics in this country. So, how’s about that Obama?

Independent March 11, 2010 at 8:31 am

I particularly love that the Grand Disillusioned still truly believe that by now, under McCain/Palin, this would be the land of milk and honey; jobs would abound, Wall Street would be protecting our financial interests and making the American Dream come true for all; the Free Market would be the rule of the day – the banks and insurance companies would be policing themselves and their games would be absolutely fair for all. By the way, while we are picking nits, do you know that McCain was not born in this country? Nope, not on this soil.

It is also amazing to read here how, supposedly, educated folk rate socialism with communism with absolute equivalency. For you folks, if you are collecting Social Security or on Medicare, your better get out, you are participating in a communist plot.

NeoCon Hysteria April 8, 2010 at 4:45 am

Its revealing to hear the fear, anger and hatred coming from the socialist bloc. Has anyone ever really done an in-depth psychological study on those who tend to gravitate to socialism and socialist beliefs? Im sure there has, if anyone could reference’s some authors please.

I believe socialist suffer from the childhood need to be told what to do. To be taken care of, tucked into bed at night and told stories. How anyone can be a grown well adjusted independent adult and be a socialist is beyond me. I dont think its psychologically possibly.

Socialism is the need to be psychologically taken of by a parental figure (government) because you lack the abilities to take care of yourself. The welfare state is a mental illness. Any healthy, young individual should never be on welfare.

The hatred socialist are known to project against anyone who opposes socialism, reveals their psychological issues. Most socialist tend to project a curtain sense of ‘bravado’ or this kind of projected outer strength. They’re fighting something. What they’re fighting most will simply tell you ‘capitalist pigs’. If you look deeper.. you quickly come to the conclusion that this is a false sense of protection against their inner cowardice and social dependency. And if you dont share their personal weakness or agree that their own personal dependency should be the model for everyone on the planet.. then you’re their ‘enemy’ for not subscribing to their addiction or stunted childhood.

What i just wrote enrages socialist. It doesn’t have to do with economics. The rage because they’re psychologically incomplete as human adults. The mere term ‘Adult’ angers most socialist. Try it sometime. The difference between a Socialist and a Libertarian is Libertarians raise Adults and Socialist raise 60yr old children.

Socialist are stunted children who never grew up to be adults. For whatever reason. This is why Socialism is a psychological illness.

Now, socialist will try to attach themselves to things like poverty, the homeless, the sick, the old, etc. And they will attempt to slander Libertarians by making the ridiculous claim that Libertarians oppose these parts of society, and that they somehow are the defenders of them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Infact it is the complete opposite. In a Socialist society there is no room for unproductive workers. The old are useless and therefor should be minimalized and liquidated. Same goes for the sick. Whereas a Libertarian society opens the human spirit for innovation and progress.

Socialism = One Giant Corporation. The State. If you’re not producing for the corporation, you’re fired. Ironic that socialist decry the ‘corporations’ when their own beloved ideology creates the biggest Corporation of all.

Most Socialist are complete idiots and never stop to follow through with their own belief systems that they so loudly promote. There is a saying that goes ‘the loudest one in the room is generally the dumbest’ It is no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of Socialist you will meet throughout your life are from the ages of 14-24. Why? How come you dont see 50yr old socialist running around? im sure you could find a few camping out in

The answer is simple… If you’re 25 or older and call you’re a Socialist then you’re suffering from an illness that is preventing you from becoming an adult.

This comment will make socialist angry, just as it would a 10yr old who yells at his parent when he/she calls their kid a ‘child’. The child gets mad and yells back… ‘im not a child anymore, im an adult’. This is effectively the same reaction that socialist suffer from, only at much more older age.

Lightman September 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm

The level of dishonesty in this article is obscene. For one, no book exists entitled “The Communist Manifesto of neocolonialism” and it is beyond the pale to insinuate that Fanon, a Marxist anti-colonialist was a supporter of neocolonialism; neocolonialism is a capitalist idea which, in certain facets, would be supported by libertarians.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I gather he was referencing someone else’s branding of “The Wretched of the Earth” as “The Communist Manifesto of neocolonialism”. I don’t get that either, perhaps “anti-colonialism” or “post-colonialism” was meant. I don’t get why Obama is being criticized for reading the book, everyone should, I hear most everyone in the Pentagon does. I don’t get a lot of things, I guess. I don’t get how so many people in D.C. read this book and still persist in their doomed (thus insane) mercantilism. I don’t get how leftists so easily paint all capitalists as mercantilists. I guess because so few capitalists thoroughly oppose mercantilism.

walt September 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm

like father like son

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: