Who Were Barack Obama's Marxist Professors?

When Reagan was shot, the Democratic Socialist Alliance held a colloquium in which three Occidental professors — Norman Cohen, Mike McAleenan, and Lawrence Goldyn—all spoke. (We don’t know if Obama was present, but given that his friends were the organizers behind the Democratic Socialist Alliance, the large crowd, and the nature of the talk, it seems more than likely he was.) Professor Cohen blamed the shooting on the “capitalist system itself,” according to the report. “The problem is the society we live in,” Cohen told the crowd. So bad was American society that Cohen, in the question and answer period, refused to stand for the national anthem. “To do so would be to support all of the American activities in El Salvador and other third world nations,” he said.

Professor McAleenan was next. He provided a sociological description of would-be shooters and he blamed the “so-called American dream” and our “never fail-always-succeed society.” Professor Goldyn assailed the “patriotic propaganda” that was designed to portray Reagan as an American hero and seriously wondered that “if those who subscribe to the American Dream can be shot, then the lives of dissenters must be in even greater danger.” (Anthony Russo and Dan Karasic, “Assassination is topic of forum,” The Occidental, April 17, 1981).

At Occidental, Obama may well have attended a presentation of the film Revolution or Death which, in the words of The Occidental, the school newspaper, “describes the vast inequality of wealth and political power in El Salvador.” The film and discussion was sponsored by Obama’s friends in the Democratic Socialist Alliance and by the political science and history departments, with over 150 students in attendance.

Although we do not know for sure that Obama attended, it is likely, given his focus on international relations. His friend, Caroline Boss, who gave him his start as an activist with a speech before campus, was the leader of the Democratic Socialist Alliance and his professors were there for the screening. Still another friend, Hasan Chandoo, his self-described “brother” and roommate, blamed America’s desire to save the “capitalist order” for the killings in El Salvador in a letter to the editor. Egan, one of Obama’s professors and the Marxist from Argentina who gave teach-ins with the help of the Democratic Socialist Alliance, criticized American policy in Latin America, blaming Americans' appetite for “Big Macs” and “industrialization” for his native land's woes. (Lisa Messinger and Debra Lewinter, “Egan Links Economics and Latin Repression,” The Occidental). In all, twenty-four Occidental professors signed a letter, including Obama’s teachers, Boesche, Newhall, Goldyn, and Egan, arguing that the U.S. should not intervene to stop communist aggression in El Salvador.


Small wonder then that the film shown praised the Revolutionary Democratic Front, while its promoter, Roberto Alfaro, condemned America for giving aid to the Contras. “The people decided to go that way (communist)… made their own choice. Revolutions are not exported. Revolutions have to be made from within,” Alfaro told the audience at Occidental. Alfaro praised the Revolutionary Democratic Front, which, his film said, had as its goal “an end to terror… a redistribution of land, and true democracy.” (Hannah Bentley, “Salvadoran Plight Examined,” The Occidental) Alfaro’s group, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), masqueraded as a popular resistance group against American involvement in Latin America. In reality, it was a Communist front, connected with the terrorist group FMLN and founded by the brother of the head of the Community Party, Farid Handal, in 1980, and the Communist Party USA, as part of an influence operation to distort America’s focus in stopping the formation of communist regimes in Latin America.

The FBI later linked CISPES to a series of terrorist attacks in the early ‘80s, including an attack on Fort McNair in April 1983 and the bombing of the U.S. Capitol in November 1983. Naturally, Occidental had a chapter of CISPES when Obama was a student. Was Obama a member?