Kenya was a Cold War ally of the U.S. For example, Kenya boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games at President Jimmy Carter's request, a bigger sacrifice for Kenya than most of other 28 countries that boycotted, since the Olympic running events provide Kenya with its main shot at glory on the international stage. The international prestige of Kenya's first President, Jomo Kenyatta and Kenya's relatively successful evolution, meant that Kenya's "pro-capitalist" (in truth, crony capitalist) policies were a valuable counterexample during the Cold War struggle for hearts and minds of Third World countries.
There's a big mystery at the heart of Barack Obama's Dreams For My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. What was Barack Obama doing seeking out Marxist professors in college? Why did Obama choose a Communist Party USA member as his socio- political counselor in high school? Why was he spending his time studying neocolonialism and the writings of Frantz Fanon, the pro-violence author of "the Communist Manifesto of neocolonialsm", in college? Why did he take time out from his studies at Columbia to attend socialist conferences at Cooper Union?
And there is more mystery in the book. Why does Obama consider working in a consulting house for international business like being "a spy behind enemy lines?" Why does he repeatedly find it so hard to explain his political views to others? Why was he driven to become a left-aligned political organizer? It's a question Obama again and again can't seem to answer to the satisfaction of the interlocutors in his own memoir.
If there is a mystery at the heart of Barack Obama's Dreams For My Father, one thing is not left a mystery, the fact that Barack Obama organized his life on the ideals given to him by his Kenyan father. Obama tells us, "All of my life, I carried a single image of my father, one that I .. tried to take as my own." (p. 220) And what was that image? It was "the father of my dreams, the man in my mother's stories, full of high-blown ideals .." (p. 278) What is more, Obama tells us that, "It was into my father's image .. that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." And also that, "I did feel that there was something to prove .. to my father" in his efforts at political organizing. (p. 230)
So we know that his father's ideals were a driving force in his life, but the one thing that Obama does not give us are the contents of those ideals. ...
A bit of research at the library reveals the answers about Barack Obama's father and his father's convictions which Obama withholds from his readers. A first hint comes from authors E. S. Atieno Odhiambo and David William Cohen in their book The Risks of Knowledge (Ohio U. Press, 2004). On page 182 of their book they describe how Barack Obama's father, a Harvard trained economist, attacked the economic proposals of pro-Western 'third way" leader Tom Mboya from the socialist left, siding with communist-allied leader Oginga Odinga [father of current Luo leader Raila Odinga, who recently claimed to be Sen. Obama's cousin], in a paper Barack Obama's father for the for the East Africa Journal. As Odhiambo and Cohen write:
"The debates [over economic policy] pitted .. Mboya against .. Oginga Odinga and radical economists Dharam Ghai and Barrack Obama, who critiqued the document for being neither African nor socialist enough."
Ransom dug up from the stacks at UCLA the 1965 paper "Problems Facing Our Socialism" by Barack H. Obama in the East Africa Journal.
... The paper is as describe by Odhiambo and Cohen, a cutting attack from the left on Tom Mboya's historically important policy paper "African Socialism and Its Applicability to Planning in Kenya." The author is given as "Barak H. Obama" and his paper is titled "Problems Facing Our Socialism," published July, 1965 in the East African Journal, pp. 26-33.
Obama stakes out the following positions in his attacks on the white paper produced by Mboya's Ministry of Economic Planning and Development:
1. Obama advocated the communal ownership of land and the forced confiscation of privately controlled land, as part of a forced "development plan", an important element of his attack on the government's advocacy of private ownership, land titles, and property registration. (p. 29)
2. Obama advocated the nationalization of "European" and "Asian" owned enterprises, including hotels, with the control of these operations handed over to the "indigenous" black population. (pp. 32 -33)
3. Obama advocated dramatically increasing taxation on "the rich" even up to the 100% level, ...
4. Obama contrasts the ill-defined and weak-tea notion of "African Socialism" negatively with the well-defined ideology of "scientific socialism", i.e. communism. Obama views "African Socialism" pioneers like Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Toure as having diverted only "a little" from the capitalist system. (p. 26)
5. Obama advocates an "active" rather than a "passive" program to achieve a classless society through the removal of economic disparities between black Africans and Asian and Europeans. (p. 28) "While we welcome the idea of a prevention [of class problems], we should try to cure what has slipped in .. we .. need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now .. so long as we maintain free enterprise one cannot deny that some will accumulate more than others .. " (pp. 29-30) ...
8. Obama strongly supports the governments assertion of a "non-aligned" status in the contest between Western nations and communist nations aligned with the Soviet Union and China. (p. 26)
In short, the Presidential frontrunner's father's policy views were similar to Robert Mugabe's.
In Obama's memoirs, he plays up his father's failure to achieve the brilliant career seemingly open to him in the mid-1960s as due to ethnic politics (he was a Luo, Kenyatta a Kikuyu), and, later, due to his father's drinking. But the Presidential candidate skips over the more politically relevant ideological clash between his father and Kenyatta. As Mona Charen noted, leftism is more assumed than articulated in Obama's slippery autobiography.
Although, Barack Obama Jr. spent only one month of his life with his father, when he came to visit Hawaii when his son was a schoolboy at Punahou prep, the young man heard plenty about his father's brilliance and high ideals from his leftist mother, who remained a lifelong defender of her ex-husband, and leftist paternal grandfather.
Obviously, Obama is not going to impose his father's Mugabeist ideals on America. He's clearly evolved ideologically. Still, Ransom's important work raises the essential question: How far has he evolved? And has his heart kept up with head? The nominating process is practically over and we're only now beginning to understand just how far to the left Obama started out, and we really don't have a clue what the future trajectory of his personal ideology would look like.
Perhaps one of our thousands of political reporters should ask him?