A “nice Jewish girl”…who loves Iran

Medea Benjamin

Code Pink’s occupation of the Venezuela Embassy in Washington, D.C., about which we’ve written a couple of times, naturally drew our attention to the group’s co-founder, Medea Benjamin, who had somehow managed to fly under our radar until this current escapade. Who, we wondered, is this woman? And did her parents name her for Medea – a Greek mythological figure who, in the play Medea by Euripides, kills her children in revenge – or did she take the name herself?

Medea at the OAS

The answer to the name question was easy enough to find out. Medea Benjamin’s birth name is Susan. She has described herself as a “nice Jewish girl from Long Island.” She took the name Medea while in college, which was also when she joined the radical group Students for a Democratic Society. During the Vietnam War she supported the Viet Cong. Later she lived in Cuba, where she felt, she said, “like I died and went to heaven.” Alas, she was expelled from Eden after she wrote an article criticizing Cuban censorship. As much as she cottoned to Communism, she apparently didn’t fully grasp the concept at the time.

Medea in Iran

In 1983 she moved to San Francisco, where she worked for an leftist group that is believed to have sent aid to the Sandinistas. (Her daughter is named after a Sandinista rebel.) She co-founded the radical group Global Exchange in 1988, co-founded Code Pink, a feminist response to the War in Iraq, in 2002, and co-founded Iraq Occupation Watch in 2004. Over the years, often in cahoots with out-and-out Communist groups such as the Workers World Party or with funders of jihadist terror, she’s engaged in a great deal of disruptive behavior around the world, racking up an impressive number of arrests on several continents. She’s also disrupted speeches by both Obama and Trump. Global Exchange organized riots against the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, and Benjamin was a leader of protests that resulted in Starbucks introducing “Fair Trade Certified” coffee.

On Capitol Hill

Naturally, she’s an Israel hater, having taken part in the 2008 protests against Israel’s invasion of Gaza and in the 2011 Gaza flotilla. She’s also a longtime fan of the Castro regime in Cuba and of the chavistas in Venezuela – hence her occupation of the embassy. Under Hugo Chavez, she has said, Venezuela was “the center of a new, progressive model of socioeconomic development that is shaping Latin America’s future.” She’s also had at least one friendly meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and collaborated on one of her initiatives with agents of the North Korean government. In 2014 she took part in an anti-Israeli conference in Tehran that was organized by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and that featured panels on “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat, “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up,” “9/11 Truth Movement Strategies and the Zionism Issue,” “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths,’” and “Islam as Authentic Universal Religion vs. Zionist Memes of Islam.”

How, you may wonder, has Benjamin managed financially to spend her life traveling the globe denouncing capitalism and waving homemade signs in the faces of politicians and diplomats? Answer: family money. She’s funded her one-woman war on capitalism with the proceeds of her father’s capitalist endeavors.

Sorry, New York Times: there’s nothing cute about Communists

Deirdre Griswold on a WWP placard

On Tuesday we met Deirdre Griswold, a leader of the Workers World Party who didn’t let the fall of the Soviet Union end her love of Communism and her deep regard for the USSR. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times – home of this website’s poster boy, Stalin apologist Walter Duranty – didn’t let Griswold’s admiration for the monsters who created the Gulag keep it from publishing a cozy profile of her in 2004.

David Hafetz

Entitled “Last of the True Believers” and written by David Hafetz, the profile was precisely the sort of thing you’d expect from the newspaper that made Fidel Castro a hero. Here’s Hafetz’s opening: “Most New Yorkers, Deirdre Griswold concedes with a smile, probably think Marxism is, as she puts it, ‘finished.’ It’s enough to make an aging Socialist revolutionary chuckle.” Get the point? This is no dour apparatchik out of some crude anti-Communist fantasy. She smiles. She chuckles. Also, she’s not a Stalinist but a “Socialist,” a devotee of “Marxism.”

Hafetz went on: “The Soviet Union collapsed and other radical leftists may have grown disillusioned, but as she sips tea and dips into a fruit plate at a diner on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, Ms. Griswold exudes the impregnable optimism of a true believer.” Note the homey details. And hey, how can you not appreciate optimism? How can you not admire a “true believer”?

Griswold (left) at a rally

Hafetz then mentioned Workers World, which “reports the news with a Marxist-Leninist twist and a dash of Stalinism.” A twist! A dash! Adorable. (Imagine a Times reporter writing the words “a Hitlerian twist” or “a dash of Nazism.”) Workers World, stated Hafetz, “often roars in protest,” but Griswold herself, “now 67, with reading glasses that dangle past her white hair, doesn’t exactly look ready to man the barricades.” Au contraire, she “speaks with a schoolteacher’s practiced patience and sounds as enthusiastic parsing the imperialist nature of the United States’ involvement in World War II, not to mention the war in Iraq, as discussing where to find good granola on the Internet.”

We kept waiting for Hafetz to use the word “grandmotherly,” but he didn’t have to: the point was made.

On and on it went. Hafetz itemized some of Griswold’s contradictions – she despises private ownership but owns an apartment, hates the U.S. government but accepts social security, abhors capitalism but likes window shopping – but he treated these contradictions as if they were cute. “She’s only human, she says.” Yes, a human who spent most of her life serving totalitarian masters.

Katherine Stapp

Hafetz interviewed Griswold’s daughter, Katherine Stapp, who revealed that “her mother believes deeply in the possibility of a better world.” Hafetz, for his part, was certainly eager to paint the old gal as humane: “She has marched against imperialism and police brutality, and in favor of the rights of groups like gays, the transgendered, immigrants and black plumbers.” You could hardly find a more classic example of the way in which the Times soft-soaps Communists, depicting them not as cheerleaders for tyrants and murderers but as super-liberals whose only crime, perhaps, is excessive idealism. Hafetz concluded his piece with a quote from the lady herself: “Our goal is to have a revolution so people don’t have to work three jobs….We want the workers to get a rest, to live a little. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

No. She has spent her life fighting for the cause of bloodthirsty dictatorship. For the kind of police state in which people lie awake at night in terror of a knock on the door, a sham trial, a summary execution. She has spent her life spitting on freedom.

She loves North Korea!

Deirdre Griswold (left) with WWP colleagues in Pyongyang

Who is Deirdre Griswold? Surely this was a question that more than a few of Tucker Carlson’s viewers asked on the evening of February 12, when Ms. Griswold, a feisty, white-haired woman of a certain age, was a guest on Carlson’s Fox News TV show. She was there because she’s an admirer of North Korea. She’s also a shameless fount of disinformation. Vociferously, she denied that North Koreans are forbidden access to information about the world. When Carlson said that North Koreans aren’t allowed to watch foreign movies, she accused him of making it up. She hailed North Korean literacy and medical care and insisted that, contrary to Carlson’s claim, North Koreans aren’t “living in some kind of jail.” When Carlson asked why North Koreans aren’t permitted to leave their country, Griswold shook her head and said: “People go back and forth all the time.”

Who is this woman? Carlson identified her as a member of the Workers World Party (WWP). And what, you ask, is the Workers World Party? It’s a solidly Communist organization, founded in 1959 by a group of comrades who split from the somewhat better known Socialist Workers Party (SWP) because they supported Mao’s revolution and the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, both of which the SWP opposed. In other words, they formed the WWP because the SWP wasn’t radical enough for them. (As it happens, the SWP was itself a splinter group, formed by Trotskyites who’d been expelled from the pro-Stalinist American Communist Party.)

Griswold’s dad, Vincent Copeland, addressing an audience some time in the early 1980s

Griswold isn’t just any member of the WWP. Her stepfather, Vincent Copeland, was one of its founders and was also the founding editor of the party’s newspaper, Workers World. Griswold succeeded him as editor over five decades ago, and still holds the position to this day. In 1980, she was the party’s candidate for President of the United States, receiving about 13,000 votes.

The Soviet Union collapsed over a quarter century ago, but Griswold remains a fan. On the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution she gave a speech affirming her abiding loyalty to the totalitarian empire that gave us Lenin and Stalin, the Gulag and the Holodomor. While many on the left, she told her comrades, were so “stunned” by the fall of the USSR that they “abandoned Marxism,” the WWP did not.

For Griswold, what matters is not that the Kremlin regime was toppled but that it hung on as long as it did. “The fact that the Soviet Union lasted for 74 years despite everything the imperialists did to destroy it,” Griswold declared, “is an incredible testament to the strength of the working class and the struggle for socialism.” This endurance, she added, “proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that a state based upon the working class and formerly oppressed peoples with a planned economy is vastly superior to capitalism.”

No decent person, obviously, could regard this woman’s politics as anything other than reprehensible. One major American newspaper that profiled her 14 years ago, however, did its best to depict her as charming and deeply humane. Which paper? Well, if you’re a regular reader of this site you can probably guess. But we’ll tell you all about it on Thursday.

Caleb Maupin, lackey for Putin and the mullahs

Working for the mullahs

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Caleb Maupin, a small-town Ohio boy who became a Communist in fifth grade and went on to help organize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York. The OWS movement, however, fizzled just as quickly as it had flared up. 

Maupin giving a talk

But if OWS was effectively dead, Maupin remained active. At some point he quit the Workers World Party, with which he had long been associated. In recent years, instead, he has appeared to be strongly aligned with the governments of Iran and Russia. In 2013 he appeared very briefly on CNN, speaking against U.S. participation in the war in Syria. The next year, he spoke at a conference in Iran. In 2015, he was on board an Iranian ship, the Shahed, claiming to be on a “humanitarian mission” to Yemen, although various countries charged that the ship was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group. In addition, he has served as UN correspondent for Iran’s government-owned Press TV.

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

He has also been a reporter for RT (Russia Today), the English-language news, TV, and radio service of the Putin regime. In a December 2015 article for RT, he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was still alive and well: “Due to the policies of the Bolivarian government, it now costs less than $1 to fill a gas tank. Children in schools receive free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Rural Venezuelans receive interest-free loans in order to buy their own land. Public transportation is extremely cheap – and free for senior citizens….In the Bolivarian neighborhoods of Caracas, one can have the kind of conversations about literature, world history, politics, religion and philosophy only found on college campuses in the United States.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameini

In another piece, he charged that “US society is based on money and capitalism with so much violence everywhere and so much state repression” and that it was thus “highly conducive to insanity; this is not a healthy society.” In yet another RT contribution, he spoke up for the Islamic Republic of Iran while smearing pro-democracy Iranian dissidents as liars and impostors.

Mao Zedong

In one September 2015 interview with Beijing-based Maoist Jeff J. Brown, Maupin praised Mao Zedong, celebrated the “great strides” China has taken in the last few decades as a (supposed) consequence of the revolution begun by Mao, and bonded with Brown over their shared contempt for America’s capitalism and “fascism.”

The fact that much of Maupin’s recent work has been published by the relatively obscure group Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), which will sponsor a debate on July 8 between Maupin and a member of the “alt right,” may indicate that his career is on the decline. But this seems improbable. Maupin is, after all, an ambitious and still very young man, and his association with SYNA more likely reflects his interest in mentoring a new generation of young American Communists to carry on the work of the revolution that has preoccupied him since his childhood.

From Ohio to Occupy Wall Street: Caleb Maupin

Yesterday we met Caleb Maupin, who became a Communist as a fifth grader in a small Ohio town and by 2010 was a prominent rabble-rouser in Cleveland and a leading local voice in the Workers World Party (WWP).

Maupin at a 2007 WWP conference

But the big city beckoned. A year later, Maupin was living in New York, and still an active WWP member. A July 2011 piece at the website of the International Communist Youth League (Fourth International) mentions Maupin’s attendance at a recent event held by the Spartacus Youth Club at the City College of New York. Maupin, identified in the article as “a writer for Workers World newspaper, the party organ of the reformist, pro-Democratic Party outfit of the same name,” was called upon at the event by Spartacists “to defend his party’s fawning over Obama and support to Democratic city councilman Charles Barron.”

Maupin did so by accusing the Spartacists of seeking “to be an isolated sect,” pure in its ideology but barren in its impact, whereas the WWP, in his view, were out to bring together diverse Leninist forces in an authentically productive class struggle “against a common enemy.” (The conflict, interestingly, is reminiscent of that which raged for many decades between strict Protestant fundamentalists – who out of a sense of theological purity chose to keep their distance from politics – and evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell, who allied with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and others in the Republican Party in an effect to exert a degree of power in the mainstream culture.)

A 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally in New York

In New York, Maupin was involved in the 2011 planning of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and was also working, according to his profile at RT – the media empire run by the Putin regime in Russia – as “a youth organizer for the International Action Center.”

OWS at its height

Maupin turned up in a 2012 Reuters report about OWS’s first anniversary. It quoted Maupin, described as living in Queens, as follows: “A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation.” He added: “We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention.” A year later, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation took note of the second anniversary of OWS, which by this point was being described in the past tense. Again Maupin made an appearance, with Kilkenny describing him as having been “arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.”

Caleb Maupin, small-town Commie

Caleb Maupin

On May 19, we took a brief look at a collegiate Communist named Dakotah Lilly who, defending chavismo on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, was identified as a representative of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA). In the article we mentioned one Caleb T. Maupin, who, on SYNA’s website, also championed Chavez-style socialism, actually claiming that “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

We were curious about this Caleb T. Maupin, so we looked into him. Born around 1988, he grew up in Orrville, a town of 8000 in Wayne County, Ohio, where, according to a 2010 profile in Cleveland Scene, he was converted to Communism in fifth grade – yes, fifth grade – after reading The Communist Manifesto. He soon “began contacting local socialist groups about how he could get involved” and before his teens were over had joined the Workers World Party.

Adam Gluntz

Studying political science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, a Cleveland suburb, Maupin met Adam Gluntz, a fellow student who was then a conservative, and argued politics with him until he had turned Gluntz into a fellow Communist. Maupin thereupon “founded the local chapter of FIST,” a nationwide radical organization whose full name is Fight Imperialism – Stand Together. A 2008 article in Workers World recounted his participation in a recent debate at Baldwin-Wallace on the subject of “Socialism vs. Capitalism.” During the debate, Maupin argued that “socialist countries, particularly Cuba, have dealt with and rid themselves of the products of capitalism—including racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, and lack of healthcare, education, housing and social programs.”

Reinaldo Arenas

Anyone who knows anything about any socialist countries, especially Cuba, would be able to knock down every one of these assertions with dispatch. Just to choose one: to claim that Cuba has rid itself of homophobia is to spit on the lives of all the gay people whom the Castro regime imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Has Maupin, we wonder, ever read the late Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls, about the torment of being gay in Castro’s Cuba?  

At some point, Maupin “dropped out of school to focus full time on activism.” It was shortly thereafter that the piece in Cleveland Scene appeared. It begins as follows:

Caleb Maupin would like you to know he’s not a super-villain, despite what you may have seen on TV. A communist? Sure. But he’s not out to indoctrinate your children. Not yet.

The 22-year-old is chatty and affable, a skinny pale kid with a burning bush of unruly red hair. When it comes to talking politics, he’s obviously done his homework: facts, dates, obscure legislation, the fates of forgotten labor leaders, snippets of protest songs — in conversation he drops all forms of arcana from the annals of the American left. In part, he’s learned the game as a careful student of history, but he also sees himself as an inheritor of the radical tradition.

The article described Maupin and Gluntz as “a straight-faced Laurel and Hardy of liberal radicalism” who “attend nearly every public demonstration held in the area, from immigration rallies to protests against police brutality,” and had thereby “quickly become fixtures in this crowd.”

But that was only the beginning. Maupin was about to leave the small pond of Cuyahoga County for the big time.