The Historical Reason why the Republicans are “Red” on the Electoral Map—the Republican Party was Founded by Socialists and Communists—the real Conservatives in America were the (mostly Southern) Constitutional Democrats—the Harry Byrds of Virginia and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Sam Ervin, and their brethren…..

What Allen West Does Not Know About Communists and Congress

John Nichols on April 13, 2012 – 8:17 AM ET

Florida Congressman Allen West was wrong when he suggested that there were dozens of communists in the current Congress. Misled by crank websites, the out-there Republican from Florida said Tuesday, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party… They actually don’t hide it. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

It would be generous, indeed, to suggest that West is confused.

The Congress is not currently a haven for followers of Karl Marx.

And there are none to be found in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has over the years included a few friends of democratic socialism—which espouses an economic and social justice vision every bit as far removed from the Stalinist excesses that West seems to be decrying as the current Republican Party’s views are from those of its radical founders.

The democratic socialist connections and tendencies that exist are no secret. The CPC was once led byUS Senator Bernie Sanders, who has always identified as a socialist, and it is includes as a longtime member former House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, who (like former US Senator Ted Kennedy and the Reverend Jesse Jackson before him) has worked with groups such as Democratic Socialists of America to advance proposals for single-payer “Medicare for All” healthcare reforms.

But the vast majority of CPC members are run-of-the-mill progressive Democrats, very much in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson when it comes to domestic policy and to their support for civil rights and economic fairness.

As for Marxists, they’re in short supply in this current Congress.

But West might take a measure of comfort in knowing that he is not entirely wrong about the fact that the Congress has included readers of Marx, ideological allies of the Communist Party and members who were elected in alliance with the Socialist Party.

For the most part, these radicals have operated under a single banner. But it is not that of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—and certainly not that of the Democratic Party.

The banner around which radicals have historically gathered in official Washington has been that of the Republican Party.

Founded at Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854 by utopian socialists and militant abolitionists, the early Republican Party included many German-American immigrants who had come the United States after the wave of European revolutions that stirred in 1848 fell short of its radical goals. Among the first Republicans were allies and associates of Karl Marx, such as Joseph Weydemeyer, who would eventually serve as as a Civil War colonel.

Abraham Lincoln, who like so many of the leading Republicans of his day read Marx and Engles in the pages of Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune (where they served for many years as European correspondents), spoke often about the superiority of labor to capital and was highly critical of concentrated wealth. Among Lincoln’s White House aides was Charles Dana, Marx’s editor. And the sixteenth president accepted the congratulations of Marx and his fellow London Communists after Lincoln’s 1864 re-election.

The radical Republicans of the late nineteenth century and the progressive Republicans of the early twentieth century often worked closely with Socialist Party stalwarts. Indeed, when Robert M. La Follette, a lifelong Republican, sought the presidency in 1924, he did so with the backing of the Socialist Party.

In the 1920s, New York Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia, another lifelong Republican and the future mayor of New York, was elected on the Socialist line. When LaGuardia served as mayor in the 1930s and 1940s,Manhattan’s Republican borough president hired the political writer for the Communist-aligned Daily Workernewspaper as one of his top aides.

La Guardia’s successor in the US House, Vito Marcantonio, was elected on the Republican line but with open support from Communists. Though Marcantonio often voted for policies backed by the Communists and was hailed in the pages of the party press, it is not believed that he ever joined the Communists. He identified as a Republican, and he served as a independent man of the left who was beloved by his working-class constituents.

Marcantonio’s Republicanism was in the tradition of the party’s founders, very radical and very committed to breaking the grip of racist and segregationist Democrats on the policymaking of the country. It happened that this stance, in this regard, paralleled that of the Communist Party—which during the period of his Congressional service elected members of the New York City Council from Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Marcantonio, who represented part of Harlem, worked to bring African-Americans into the Republican Party and championed their candidacies. He would have delighted in the fact that a once-segregated Southern state such as Florida now sends an African-American Republican—Allen West—to Congress.

But Marcantonio, a student of Lincoln and the radical Republican tradition, would probably have encouraged West to read a bit more of the real history of the Republican Party.

John Nichols is the author of The “S” Word: A Short History of a American Tradition—Socialism(Verso).

6 responses to “The Historical Reason why the Republicans are “Red” on the Electoral Map—the Republican Party was Founded by Socialists and Communists—the real Conservatives in America were the (mostly Southern) Constitutional Democrats—the Harry Byrds of Virginia and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Sam Ervin, and their brethren…..

  1. Wow. So now it’s taboo to point out that the Democrats are explicitly pro-Communism and while many Republicans are to the left, Democrats are obviously moreso and literal apologists like Maxine Waters for Communism? And Robert Kleagle Byrd is as far from a conservative as one can get.
    I hate Lincoln too, but I have no love lost for today’s spread-the-wealth, Castro-Chavez-CPUSA supporting Democrats.

    • Charles Edward Lincoln III

      For my part I do not see that the Republicans, as a force in history, have been any less expressly and explicitly pro-Communist than the Democrats. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first U.S. President after 20 years of the Roosevelt-Truman New Deal—not only did Eisenhower FAIL to roll back socialism in the U.S., he let it march forward and supported Chief Justice Earl Warren’s “cynical as all hell” war on the constitution in the name of civil rights….. John F. Kennedy was a true anti-communist, I think, and he died. Richard Nixon was originally an opportunistic anti-Communist who, with his toad-like Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, sold America-out to the Communist Chinese, and made the Communist Chinese the richest corporate capitalists in the world (go figure all that….it’s still beyond me). John F. Kennedy would have preserved the gold and silver standards of currency in the USA, Richard M. Nixon abolished them. Ronald W. Reagan campaigned suggesting he was going to tear down the New Deal and the Great Society, but he never even removed the 1970s newly created Departments of Energy and Education….and he quadrupled the U.S. Debt—and made the U.S. more like Mexico—at the same time as effectively throwing our borders open to mass migration through Simpson-Mazzoli, the first of the great “Amnesty” laws…. George H.W. Bush was the one who talked endlessly about the “New World Order” under the leadership of the United Nations and George W. Bush proposed the nationalization of all distressed automotive and financial institutions during his last year in office (2008) and merely handed a newly minted very nearly Soviet-style economy to Barack Obama—the man who looked LEAST like George W. Bush and so was the most likely to continue his policies— We need to get rid of BOTH the Democrats and Republicans…. but I do not understand why you do not think Robert Byrd was a true conservative, because to my mind he really was one of the finest and longest standing traditional conservatives in the Senate—if you want to elaborate about why the sponsor of Constitution Day was not a true constitutionalist, be my guest….

  2. That is an outright LIE! The Rebuplican Party was never founded by Socialists and Communists.

    In Ripon, Wisconsin, former members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories.* That party was the Republican party. Abe Lincoln was their first Rebuplican President.

    The color scheme was the invention of television’s early color broadcast news. Early on, some channels used a scheme of red for Democrats and blue for Republicans.** Other networks used other color schemes. Around the year 2000, the color scheme was arbitrarily assigned and set by the Liberal media as it is today.

    It was NEVER the choice of the Republican Party to be the “red party”.


    • Charles Edward Lincoln III

      SORRY, Mr. Red Frogg, if that really is your name—recent research by Donald Kennedy, Thomas DiLorenzo, and many others, has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the Republican Party was founded and heavily influenced from the beginning by Socialists and Communists fleeing from Europe after the Debacle of 1848, a large series of revolutionary attempts all over the continent triggered by the publication of Marx & Engels Communist Manifesto. Donald Kennedy goes into greatest detail showing the similarities between Lincoln’s War on the South and Hitler’s Blitzkrieg tactics, but even this is not really news—my grandfather attended VMI (the Virginia Military Institute) for several years before studying chemistry at Harvard, and based on the short military education he had there, he immediately recognized William Tecumseh Sherman’s tactics in Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland and his subsequent treacherous attack on Russia and the Ukraine in 1941. The Republican party always stood for a corporate-governmental, “military-industrial” alliance to “spread the wealth”, and destroy the independence of the small farmers and property holders who predominated in the South. Slavery was definitely in the “propaganda” of the Republican Party, but DON’T RELY ON WIKIPEDIA for analytical history would be my best advice. If you want to see deeper than “this day in history” summaries—as much as I love such mnemonic devices to review and memorize historical sequences myself—you have read what Lincoln read—and he read Marx and Engels voraciously. And so did half of his generals and cabinet. This is not an “outright lie” but I don’t mind that you raise the accusation so that I can refute it. Read deeper than High School/Wikipedia History and you will find that all the evils of Modern Socialist America—everything that Barack Obama is trying to perfect—started under Abraham Lincoln and the Radical Republicans, including (1) centralized banking on the present “mixed” model of government partnership with private controlled banks for uniform public-private policy making, (2) the Income Tax, (3) the use of Civil Rights legislation OSTENSIBLY to “free the slaves” but really to “enslave the free”, (4) the progressive degradation and disregard of all real constitutional safeguards and protection for real freedom, including but not limited to every single clause of the bill of rights and above all, the writ of habeas corpus, which had NEVER been abrogated openly in the Anglo-American world since the start of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I until Abe Lincoln’s war, (5) the political use of war as an instrument of national and private enrichment in the United States, all five of these factors, and many others, appeared for the first time as blights on our land in 1861-1865. I hope you will do your homework and become better educated on this topic—remember just those two names: Donald Kennedy and Thomas DiLorenzo—and start from there….. you’ll be amazed. The Republican Party was the TROJAN HORSE that brought Socialism and Communism into the American Government—make no mistake about it, and it all started in 1854 as a political party in Wisconsin, which was a part of the United States dominated by German emigrants post-1848…. Most of my life is the opposite of what was “normal” in history—I myself have some German ancestors who left Austria and Liechtenstein during the dislocations of 1848—because they had been loyal courtiers of the Austrian Klemens Wenzel, Furst von Metternich—and, as befitted their aristocratic but small agrarian background and leanings, they ended up settling in the South….only to end up losing to allies of the same group they had fled just 12 years before…. History is very complicated but never boring….

  3. You’re clearly more comfortable with the Democrats than the Republicans. Robert Byrd was far from a conservative. He was a KKK member who was a reliable and consistent liberal, and a friend of the likewise utterly reprehensible Ted Kennedy. Constitution Day? Sometimes liberals feign patriotism, but basic gestures of something like that alone do not make someone a conservative and they make it pretty obvious they’re supporters of Communism.

    I think JFK is overrated to a good extent. He lied during the Bay of Pigs, and people died because of it. He was a liar and adulterer.

    • Charles Edward Lincoln III

      Being a (former) member of the Klan and an associate of a President’s liberal brother makes Robert Byrd a liberal? How about his voting record in general and what he stood for? I think you will see that Robert Byrd was pretty closely aligned with Ron Paul. You think RP is a liberal too because he disagreed with W’s “1984” implementation of perpetual war? I see no difference between Republicans and Democrats per se—I look at what they actually say and do beyond the banner they choose to fly. I like Republicans if you are talking Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond (who started off as a Democrat), Ron, and Rand Paul—although I am not quite as sure about Rand as I am about Ron. But mostly I see the Republican mainstream as a pack of liars with lots of PACs of liars and crooks behind them.

      Ich bin der Geist der Stehts Verneint und das mit Recht! 512-968-0031 Tierra Limpia/Deo Vindice Matthew 10:34-39: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

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