Trevor Loudon was our guest on Sentinel Radio's "The Awakening," this past, Monday, 9/28, 9-11pm ET,,, 6-8pm PT (it is archived for listening, here, also downloadable from the Sentinel Radio page in BTR).
by Trevor Loudon
In June 2009 Patrick Gaspard, a Brooklyn-based, 41-year-old Democratic operative, became White House director of the Office of Political Affairs.
Patrick Gaspard’s official responsibility is to provide the president with an "accurate assessment of the political dynamics affecting the work of his administration" and to "work with powerbrokers around the country to help push the president’s agenda".
According to Rep. Gregory Meeks, "He’s a low key, behind-the-scenes, no-fingerprints kind of guy. I need something, I call Patrick. And if he calls, it’s a big deal. He’s close to the president.”
Considerable attention has been focused on Gaspard's ties to the radical community group ACORN.
This post looks at Gaspard's ties to the groups behind ACORN-the groups that helped President Obama during his Chicago days-Democratic Socialists of America and the Communist Party offshoot Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
Patrick Gaspard was reportedly born in Kinshasa, Zaire, after his father, a political opponent of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, fled there.
Patrick Gaspard’s father moved with his wife from Haiti to "post-liberation" Zaire, when its pro-communist leader, Patrice Lumumba, appealed to French-speaking academics of African descent to teach there.
Three years after Patrick Gaspard’s birth, the family moved to New York.
Like Obama, Patrick Gaspard wrote poetry. Like Obama , Patrick Gaspard grew up admiring third world leftists and revolutionaries. He reportedly idolized Aime Cesaire, a radical poet/politician from the French colony of Martinique.
Cesaire was elected to the French Parliament with the French Communist Party, but later left to form his own leftist party in Martinique.
Cesaire also taught the anti-colonialist Marxist theorist Frantz Fanon, of whom Obama wrote admiringly in his autobiography, Dreams From My Father.
Patrick Gaspard got his start in politics, in the mid 1980s, organizing demonstrations in New York City for "social justice" in Haiti.
He got his first taste of campaign work in the 1988 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson-like Obama a product of the Chicago socialist machine.
Patrick Gaspard went on to David Dinkins’ first New York mayoral race, as an intern in Dinkins' office and then to City Hall, when Dinkins won the New York Mayoralty.
Dinkins was at the time, a member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
In 1997, outgoing Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger, also a member of Democratic Socialists of America, enlisted Gaspard for her doomed mayoral campaign against Rudy Giuliani.
After the Messinger debacle, Gaspard became chief of staff to Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a radical feminist from the Lower East Side.
In 1999, Lopez loaned Gaspard out to help Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to organize a march in protest of the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant.
Gaspard was allegedly a key organizer of the civil disorder that followed Diallo's death.
The union was one of the central organizers of the civil disobedience that followed, and 1199 President Dennis Rivera and then-Political Director Bill Lynch asked Gaspard to coordinate those efforts.Dennis Rivera, president of Local 1199, recruited Gaspard to the union- where after some he rose to the rank of union Executive Vice President.
It is important to realize that Local 1199 is one of New York's most powerful and militant labor unions.
Founded in 1932, the union was left led from the start and was investigated in 1948 by the House Un-American Activities Committee for Communist "infiltration".
At at a March 2007 meeting to celebrate the [[Communist Party USA]] donation of its papers to New York's Tamiment Library, Steve Kramer, executive vice president of Service Employees Union [[Local 1199]], spoke of the Communist Party’s role in building and maintaining his union.
Recounting 1199’s “''disastrous”'' 1984 strike and internal strife in which “''the union almost tore itself up'',” Kramer said that but for the party’s efforts, “''1199 would have been a small union''” Today, with nearly 300,000 members, it is the world’s largest union local.
When the Communist Party split in 1991, several Local 1199 officials joined the dissenting faction and took many comrades into the breakaway Committees of Correspondence.
Among those Local 1199 officials signing the Communist Party dissenter's "An initiative to Unite and Renew the Party" document, which brought tensions to crisis point, were Paul Friedman (Local 1199 Vice President), Rafael Pizarro (Local 1199 organiser), Geoffrey Jaques (associate editor 1199 News) and Marshall Garcia (Local 1199 executive Vice President).
Friedman, Pizarro, Jacques and Garcia all went on to support Committees of Correspondence.
Pizarro also went on to help found the radical New Party, which Obama joined in Chicago in 1995.
Many other 1199ers also supported Committees of Correspondence, including Lenore Colbert (Local 1199 Vice President), Pat Harris (Local 1199 Vice President), David Kranz and Socorro Laguerra (Local 1199 rank and file), Pam Mills (Local 1199 Seattle), Bruce Richard (SEIU San Francisco, now a Local 1199 Vice President), Angela Doyle (Local 1199 Vice President) and Nelson Valdez (Local 1199 Vice President}.
Doyle, Valdez and Richard still hold senior positions with the union.
In addition, leading Committees of Correspondence member Mael Apollon is involved with the Local 1199 Child Care Fund.
Also of note is the late Merrilee Milstein , who was from 1972 to 1994, Vice President of the New England Local 1199. Milstein was a hard left activist in her own right and was married to Communist Party member Brian Steinberg.
Milstein left 1199, to become assistant to then Connecticut Secretary of State Miles Rapoport-now president of the ACORN supporting, DSA linked, New York think tank Demos.
Barack Obama was one of Demos' first Trustees when it was established in 1999.
Gerry Hudson, now a vice president of the SEIU, also got his start at Local 1199 in New York. Hudson is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and also serves on the board of the Apollo Alliance-founded by Obama's recently departed "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones.
In 2003, Patrick Gaspard was granted leave from Local 1199 to work as the deputy national field director for the presidential campaign of Howard Dean. After Dean was eliminated from the race, Gaspard became national field director for George Soros’ political action group America Coming Together.
Later Gaspard helped Yvette Clarke win the Congressional seat vacated by Democratic Socialists of America member and Communist Party supporter Major Owens.
Clarke is now a member of the leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus-which has long and deep ties to DSA.
In 1995 Patrick Gaspard was an organizer for the New Jersey chapter of the New Party, a creation of ACORN, DSA and Committees of Correspondence.
By 2001 Gaspard was a leading activist in the New Party offshoot, the New York Working Families Party-a DSA/ACORN/Committees of Correspondence/Communist Party collaboration.
Gaspard and Bertha Lewis of ACORN, wrote a letter to the July 2, 2001 issue of The Nation, "In the course of their letter, Gaspard and Lewis describe their extensive joint involvement in Working Families Party activities." The letter is signed, "Bertha Lewis, ACORN, WFP; Patrick Gaspard, SEIU State Council, WFP."
According to DSA's Democratic Left Summer 2001
Veterans of the left will remember that the 1968 Peace and Freedom Party and the 1980 Citizens Party arose at moments of greater left-wing strength and did not significantly alter the national electoral landscape. Nor has, unfortunately, the New Party, which many DSAers work with in states where “fusion” of third party and major party votes is possible (such as the DSA co-sponsored Working Families Party in N.Y. State).
The DSA youth wing's 2004 "Life After Bush" Conference included, "A series of well-attended workshops detailed the nuts-and-bolts of electoral activism, lead by veteran campaigners from trade unions and the NY DSA-affiliated fusion Working Families Party."
Speakers at Life after Bush included:
- Cornel West, DSA, New Party founder, 2008 member of Barack Obama's Black Advisory Council. A Progressives for Obama endorser.
- Frances Fox Piven, DSA, New Party founder, co-creator of the famous Cloward-Piven Strategy for wrecking the US economy. A Progressives for Obama endorser.
- Steve Max DSA Director of Organizing and Training, Midwest Academy Chicago.
- Leslie Cagan Committees of Correspondence, National Coordindator, United for Peace and Justice
- Ian Williams DSA, a correspondent for In These Times and The Nation
- Bertha Lewis, Co-Chair, Working Families Party, Executive Director, New York ACORN.
DSA member Jay Mazur is also prominent in the Working Families Party and is also an endorser of the Progressives for Obama website.
Patrick Gaspard is still listed on the advisory board of the the WFP aligned Working Families Center, alongside:
- Working Families Party co-chair Bob Master
- Working Families Party Secretary and New York ACORN head, Jon Kest.
- SEIU's Hector Figueroa-a regular speaker at DSA's Socialist Scholars Conferences - including the 2004 event where Van Jones also spoke.
- Andrea Batista Schlesinger -on the board of the Oakland based Applied research Center which is closely aligned with Van Jones' Ella Baker Human Rights Center.
- Former Committees of Correspondence National Coordinating Committee member Nathan Newman, who recently wrote in the Daily Kos, "I knew Van (Jones) pretty well back in the early 90s when we were both involved in community organizing efforts, including involvement in a variety of left-leaning groups."
Van Jones, as a young man, admired third world revolutionaries like Amilcar Cabral. He went from radical community organizing into the San Francisco Committees of Correspondence and the New York DSA aligned left (like Obama, Jones was a Trustee of the DSA aligned Demos), before moving on to the White House.
Patrick Gaspard, as a young man, admired third world revolutionaries like Aime Cesaire. He went into radical organizing and mixed with the DSA/Committees of Correspondence aligned New York left, before moving on to the White House.
Parallel lives? Or just the way US socialism works?
This article originally appeared in Trevor Loudon's blog, New Zeal.