Skip to comments.Long-lost article by Obama's dad surfaces
Posted on 10/14/2009 11:16:37 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
Barack Obamas dad was such an important but absent figure in his life that he devoted his first book, Dreams From My Father, to the search for details about his fathers life and how the quest helped forge a sons identity.
Now, a long-forgotten essay written 43 years ago by Obamas father has surfaced, and its contents reveal much not only about the senior Obamas grasp of economic theory but also about the iconoclastic politics that, his son would later write, sent him into the spiral of career disappointment that concluded with his death in 1982 in his native Kenya.
Parts of the article, titled Problems Facing Our Socialism, have been making the rounds on several small blogs over the past week, but Politico.com is now, for the first time, reproducing the entire piece in its original form.
The scholarly eight-page paper, credited to Barak H. Obama, is never mentioned in Dreams From My Father, nor has the candidate discussed it in any of his many public speeches. (Politico brought the article to his campaigns attention late last week, but aides did not respond to a request for comment from Obama.)
The papers substance, though, offers insight into the mind and the political trajectory of a man described by his son largely through his emotional life, his family and his traditions.
Published in the esoteric East Africa Journal in 1965, the year after Kenyan President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta took power and the country declared independence from British rule, the paper takes a gently mocking tone to the Kenyatta governments key, controversial statement of economic policy, titled African Socialism and Its Applicability to Planning in Kenya.
Obama seniors journal article repeatedly asks what the Kenyan government means by African Socialism, as distinct from Soviet-style communism, and concludes that the new phrase doesnt mean much.
Elements of Obamas argument now seem prescient, others deeply dated, but his central aim particularly in the context of the heady early days of African independence was moderate and conciliatory.
The question is how are we going to remove the disparities in our country, such as the concentration of economic power in Asian and European hands, while not destroying what has already been achieved and at the same time assimilating these groups to build one country, Obama senior wrote.
When he wrote the paper, he was in Nairobi and working on a never-completed Harvard doctoral dissertation, according to his brief biography in the journal.
Two years earlier, he had divorced his wife, who was raising his son in Hawaii.
But even back in Nairobi, the elder Obama felt free to mock the Kenyan government.
Maybe it is better to have something perfunctorily done than none at all! he concluded.
Thats the attitude, his son would later find, that took him from a career in the Kenyan governing class to a small job at the Water Department and then to unemployment and alcohol.
Obama senior, who returned to Kenya after his Harvard years, soon became a public critic of Kenyattas growing favoritism toward the Kikuyu tribe, over Obamas Luos.
Word got back to Kenyatta that the Old Man was a troublemaker, and he was called in to see the president. According to the stories, 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, Obama quoted his half-sister as telling him.
Obama wrote that his father was rehabilitated after Kenyattas death in 1978 but was by then broken and embittered.
Obama seniors 1965 paper, however, brims with confidence and optimism.
The article, with a loaded term in the title and a casual discussion of socialism, communism and nationalization, has raised the hackles of some anti-Obama conservatives who have been discussing it online.
Greg Ransom, a blogger who unearthed the journal at the University of California, Los Angeles, library, calls the article the Rosebud that provides the missing key to Obamas memoir. Ransom wrote about the articles contents recently in a posting with the provocative headline Obama Hid His Fathers Socialist and Anti-Western Convictions From His Readers.
But Kenya expert Raymond Omwami, an economist and UCLA visiting professor from the University of Helsinki who has also worked at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, said Obama senior could not be considered a socialist himself based solely on the material in his bylined piece.
Omwami points out that the elder Obamas paper was primarily a harsh critique of the controversial 1965 government document known as Sessional Paper No. 10. Sessional Paper No. 10 rejected classic Karl Marx philosophies then embraced by the Soviet Union and some European countries, calling instead for a new type of socialism to be used specifically in Africa.
The government paper rejected materialism (i.e., conspicuous consumerism), outlined the nations goals to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and disease, and also laid out important decrees regarding land use for economic development. Obama seniors response covers these issues, frequently focusing on the distribution of real estate to farmers. Since most Kenyans could not afford farmland in line with market forces established earlier by white British farmers, the elder Obama argued that strong development planning should better define common farming space to maximize productivity and should defer to tribal traditions instead of hastening individual land ownership.
In other words, Obama seniors paper was not a cry for acceptance of radical politics but was instead a critique of a government policy by Kenyas Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, which applied African socialism principles to the countrys ongoing political upheaval.
The critics of this article are making a big mistake, says Omwami, who at Politicos request read the document and the associated Internet debate over the weekend. They are assuming Obama senior is the one who came up with this concept of African socialism, but thats totally wrong. Based on that, theyre imbuing in him the idea that he himself is a socialist, but he is not.
Omwami says he would instead refer to the elder Obama as a liberal person who believed in market forces but understood its limitations. Sessional Paper No. 10 centered on the new control of Kenyas resources, promoting a form of trickle-down economics in which financial aid would be consolidated in more populated areas with the hope that positive effects would eventually be felt by smaller villages.
Obama senior argued against this notion, and Omwami suggests history has proven him correct since most, if not all, small communities in Kenya have yet to benefit from monies that poured into larger cities since the nations independence four decades ago.
The elder Obama also looked ahead to what has become a shaping force across Africa urbanization arguing that the governments efforts to lure citizens back to the land were futile.
If these people come out in search of work, it is because they cannot make a living out of whatever land they have had, he wrote.
In retrospect, it was one of several warnings in the paper that would prove true.
If you understand the Kenyan context, you can clearly see in that paper that Obama senior was quite a sharp mind, Omwami concluded. He addresses economic growth and other areas of development, and his critique is that policymakers in Kenya were overemphasizing economic growth.
We had high economic growth for years but never solved the problems of poverty, unemployment and unequal income distribution. And those problems are still there.
Obama seniors projections and critiques are so spot on, says Omwami, that he plans to assign the paper to his classes in the future.
Bill Ayers write this too?
An interesting E-mail exchange:
"I found something strange, but dont know if its important or not. Barack is the ANGLICIZED, (WHITE,) version of Barak. obama Sr. never used the name Barack. I found a government document he wrote after he had already gone back to Kenya. His name was BARAK, not Barack. Every article now written about him contains the Anglicized version of his name because that is the name Barack Obama GAVE HIMSELF. It was NOT the name his father used."
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Barack_(disambiguation)&redirect=no Barak (Hebrew: בָּרָק, Lightning; Shine), Al-Burāq (Arabic: البُراق al-Burāq lightning)
"The meaning of the name Barack is Blessed-NOT TRUE MUBARAK means blessed. Note on this list the ONLY two people with the name Barack. People named Barak or Barack:
Barak Badash, Israeli football player. Barak Bakhar (born 1979), Israeli football player. Aharon Barak (born 1936), former President of the Supreme Court of Israel. Daphne Barak, Israeli-American interviewer. Ehud Barak (born 1942), former Israeli Prime Minister. Josef Barák (18331883), Czech politician, journalist, and poet. William Barak (18241903), the last traditional elder of the Wurundjeri-willam clan in Australia. Zeev Barak, pseudonym used by Wolf Blitzer (being the Hebrew translation of his name). Barak Epstein (born 1979), American film director. Barak Moshe (born 1991), Israeli football player. Barack Obama (born 1961), 44th and current president of the United States. Barack Obama, Sr. (19361982), Kenyan economist and President Barack Obamas father. Barak Sopé (born 1955), Vanuatu politician. Barak Yitzhaki (born 1984), Israeli football player.
Barack Obama was named after his father Barack (Obama) Sr. Originally from Kenya, he came to the United States as a student. Barack was named the 2007 Name of the Year by iVillage.coms The Baby Name Wizard  According to Barack Obamas website the following etymological definitions are offered: barik: blessed (Arabic) baraka: blessing (Arabic)(Kiswahili) baraka: also berakhah, in Judaism, a blessing usually recited during a ceremony baruch: Also related to berakhah or bracha (Hebrew: berakhot), which is a blessing. baraka: also barakah, in Arabic and Islam, meaning spiritual wisdom and blessing transmitted from God Baraka, a rarely used French slang term for luck, derived from the Arabic word NAMESAKES Barack (Barry) Obama, Sr. Father of the President of the United States, Barack Obama FAMOUS PERSONS Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is the forty-fourth and current President of the United States of America.
NO OTHER BARACKs SEEM TO EXIST."
Just throwing this out there.
I just finished “Barack & Michelle”. I think his mom was a Socialist as well.
propaganda leak - not that I would expect anything else from the source
African socialism is where they drive their country into starvation, then beg for food from non socialist countries.
A perfect quote to use ... for the Obama Administration!!!