Barack Obama’s favorite professor was Roger Boesche. David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story, writes that he “worked his classes through Nietzsche, Tocqueville, Freud, Weber, Sartre, and Marcuse, following more on the questions they raised than the answers.” (p. 358) But Maraniss omitted Marx from the list, airbrushed no doubt because we know Boesche was Obama’s “favorite professor.” We also know that Boesche’s favorite political philosopher was Marx, whom Boesche said he “loves,” as evinced from his lecture given while Obama was still a student in April 1981.
From The Occidental:
What Marx offers to Boesche at this time of day is an historical analysis, an explanation of how this world of capitalism emerged. “Gradually,” Marx explains [Boesche] said, “the economic power of the Third Estate, the commercial classes ended the power of a landed aristocracy.” And gradually, he continued, “the vast majority will recognize their power, recognize an ‘utterly umimbelishable’ need to transform the world, and bring a more sophisticated form of democracy than Jefferson’s world of sheperds [sic] and yeoman farmers could offer.
Marx’s socialism, he explained, offers a democracy suited to the modern world of cities and technology, in which the producers or workers control the workplace, in which those who work reap the benefits. With Marx, he said, “I can share the optimism of those who believe in the wonders of science and technology.” Marx is confident that through technology, humans can be liberated from drudgery, and that within the body of a people once liberated, we will find, said Boesche, “A thousand Shakespeares and a thousand Newtons each generation.”
It was from Boesche’s Marx, and not Boesche’s Tocqueville, that Obama seems to have decided to become a community organizer.
Marx, [Boesche] explained, is optimistic in his belief of “community, fellowship; each man or woman as artist; democracy in a more perfect equality; control over one’s daily life.”
It was a value that Boesche shared, telling his audience,
…I choose to value democracy in its broadest sense—democracy of the community and neighborhood, decentralization of centralized cities and states, democracy in unions and schools, and factories, and workers who control the enterprises in which they work.
(Susan Keselenko, “Boesche Synthesizes Political Convictions,” The Occidental, May 1, 1981).
Obama may also have attended a March 4, 1981, lecture by Peter Breiner of Stanford which discussed the works of Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg and was attended by over seventy students at the small liberal arts college. (Gretchen Lux, “Stanford’s Breiner Views Marxism,” March 6, 1981).
On April 20, 1981, the famous communist Carl Marzani, who wrote the book The Promise of Eurocommunism, visited campus. Eurocommunism, said Marzani, can help bridge the gap between socialism and democracy, and “integrate socialist economies with the Bill of Rights — democracy as we know it.” (Debbie Levi, “Marzani realistic about the future of Eurocommunism,” The Occidental, May 1, 1981).
And finally, there was the political analysis of James Lare, a comparative politics professor, who breathlessly extolled the virtues of 1970s Communist China. To quote Lare:
The fact that the Communist regime, has, during its thirty years in power, virtually eliminated starvation from both city and countryside as well as reorganizing economic and political life in a way that has drastically reduced foreign exploitation, the most extreme forms of corruption, and such social ills as prostitution, gambling, and petty theft, is itself a major achievement. Indeed, I view it as one of the masterpieces of social and political engineering of the twentieth century comparable in some ways to such technical achievements as the development of nuclear energy and the exploration of outer space.