Progressive History Restored

, Cliff Kincaid, Leave a comment

As a student, Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was so interested in the socialist movement that she wrote a thesis about its history in New York City from 1900-1933. But the history of the Progressive Party, which ran FDR’s former vice president Henry Wallace as its presidential candidate in 1948, helps bring the subject up to date and explains the current direction of the Democratic Party.

The Progressive Party was controlled by the Communist Party but efforts to work through the democratic process did not die out with its election defeat in 1948. Communists and “progressives” then targeted the Democratic Party for a takeover from within.

A semi-official history, in the form of the book, Gideon’s Army, was written by Curtis MacDougall, a professor of journalism at Northwestern University who also wrote Interpretative Reporting, a standard text in journalism schools for more than 50 years. MacDougall, who wrote critically (even in his journalism textbook) about efforts to expose communist influence in the U.S. Government, was himself a Progressive Party activist and candidate.

Not surprisingly, MacDougall’s influence was felt not only on generations of journalists, but on his own son, A. Kent McDougall, who was acknowledged in the 1972 edition of Interpretative Reporting as then being with the New York office of the Wall Street Journal and lending “valuable assistance” in its preparation. Kent came out openly as a Marxist after working at the Journal, where he said he inserted positive stories about Marxist economists and “the left-wing journalist I.F. Stone.” Stone, it turned out, was a Soviet agent of influence.

MacDougall’s 319-page FBI file, released to this journalist, revealed that he had a close association with the Chicago Star, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, and many different CPUSA front organizations. But the Star connection deserves special comment. The executive editor of the Chicago Star was none other than Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party member who would later become President Barack Obama’s childhood mentor in Hawaii and was active in the Hawaii Democratic Party.

In 1948, notes historian David Pietrusza, Davis’s Chicago-based paper, the Chicago Star, wholeheartedly backed Henry Wallace. That summer, he adds, the Progressive Party “apparatus” converted the paper into the Illinois Standard, thus enabling Davis to relocate to Hawaii on the advice of fellow Progressive Party activist Paul Robeson. Robeson, it turned out, was a secret member of the Communist Party.

It is significant that MacDougall’s history of the Progressive Party, Gideon’s Army, was published by Italian-born American Communist Carl Marzani, who served a prison term for perjury in falsely denying, while employed by the State Department, that he was a Communist Party member. His publishing house, Marzani and Munsell, was subsidized by the Soviet KGB.

However, the history of the “progressive tradition” issued by the Center for American Progress (CAP) ignores all of this. It claims:

“With the rise of the contemporary progressive movement and the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, there is extensive public interest in better understanding the origins, values, and intellectual strands of progressivism.

“Who were the original progressive thinkers and activists? Where did their ideas come from and what motivated their beliefs and actions? What were their main goals for society and government?

“The new Progressive Tradition Series from the Center for American Progress traces the development of progressivism as a social and political tradition stretching from the late 19th century reform efforts to the current day.”

Unfortunately, this series ignores the role of the Progressive Party of 1948 and the Communist Party influence in it.

The book, The Power of Progress, written by CAP President John Podesta (with John Halpin), is a bit more open and honest. It does mention the communist influence in the Progressive Party, noting the “perceived tolerance of communists within the 1948 Progressive Party” and quoting leading liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger as saying that “the political tolerance of an illiberal creed like communism, coupled with progressives’ earlier isolationism, could not hold during a time of ideological struggle with a spreading Soviet empire.”

But the use of the word “perceived” is interesting.

It is important to note that Podesta apparently does not regard communism as an “illiberal creed.” After all, Podesta strongly defended communist Van Jones, before and after he was fired by the White House.

Podesta’s book goes on to say that “The practical application of many of these fiercely anti-communist positions quickly became problematic for many progressives” because of the loyalty reviews ordered by President Truman and “the overt Red-baiting of Joe McCarthy and [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover…” The loyalty reviews were designed to make sure that government employees were loyal Americans and not sympathetic to communism.

Why the use of the term “fiercely” anti-communist? Can one be too strongly opposed to an ideology that has resulted in 100 million deaths?

Also notice how Democratic President Harry Truman has become a villain in the Podesta narrative, sharing equal billing with the “Red-baiting” Senator McCarthy and the FBI director. Such a formulation displays the ideological shift in the Democratic Party.

This is more evidence of how modern “progressives” have broken with the anti-communist liberal tradition.

Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at This is an excerpt of one of his columns, which can be read in its entirety here.


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