When today’s labor leaders want to hone their gangster skills they call 1960s radical Heather Booth, a mentor to generations of the activist Left.
A disciple of Saul Alinsky, the socialist-feminist Booth co-founded the Chicago-based Midwest Academy, a training institute for community organizers. “Alinsky is to community organizing as Freud is to psychoanalysis,” she says. The Midwest Academy is funded in part by radical left-wing philanthropies such as George Soros’s Open Society Institute, Tides Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago. (Barack Obama and Bill Ayers served together on the Woods Fund board.)
The Midwest Academy claims since 1973 to have “trained more than 30,000 activists in progressive organizations, unions, and faith-based groups” to help advance “the struggle for social, economic, and racial justice.” The school “teaches an organizing philosophy, methods and skills that enable ordinary people to actively participate in the democratic process.”
Early in her organizing career, Booth was more honest when discussing her beliefs. “Truly reaching socialism or feminism will likely take a revolution that is in fact violent, a rupture with the old ways in which the current ruling class and elites are wiped out,” she said in the 1970s.
Booth has been honored for her contributions to the American socialist movement. In 1987 the Chicago branch of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) bestowed the Eugene Debs Award on Booth. The honor is named after the five-time presidential candidate and labor organizer who founded the Socialist Party of America. Other radical labor leaders and community organizers to receive the award are AFSCME Council 31 political director John D. Cameron (2011), SEIU executive vice president Eliseo Medina (2004), and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka (1994).
But Booth long ago embraced using Alinskyite stealth and subterfuge to achieve a socialist transformation of America. She knew that political activists who openly self-identify as socialists are usually doomed to fail. So she decided to associate her views with values such as fair play and “democracy.”
Instead of confronting authorities directly, radicals should embrace incrementalism, she reasoned. They ought to push for issues that matter in people’s daily lives such as health care and urban redevelopment.
The Midwest Academy, which is only one of the training facilities she created, helps organizers con the masses into accepting socialism. The school’s website is littered with a smorgasbord of Alinskyite boilerplate. For example:
Oppressive social structures are maintained in part because authorities masquerade as benevolent, define inequalities as too complex for resolution, and hide real conflicts of interest in a fairy tale of paternal benevolence. An organizer, therefore, seeks out confrontations and conflict; for the organizer understands that only in conflict situations do issues become clear with real interests no longer camouflaged; only in conflict situations does the rhetoric of the powerful lie exposed and the mobilization of a movement become possible.
Prominent Midwest Academy alumni include former SEIU chief Andy Stern and Miles S. Rapport, president of the influential left-wing pressure group Demos. Lesser known radicals such as Carlos Jimenez, an organizer with the labor-backed Jobs with Justice, and Becky Wasserman, a lobbyist at the anti-Israel group J Street, are also alumni.
Booth is now one of the better connected labor thugs in Washington, D.C. Her husband is Paul Booth, formerly national secretary of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Mr. Booth is executive assistant to Gerald McEntee, president of the powerful public sector employees’ union AFSCME.
In 2007 she was director of the AFL-CIO’s campaign for universal healthcare.
She was also was training director for the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration. She was founding director of the NAACP National Voter Fund in 2000, and claims to have increased black voter turnout by almost 2 million votes. She has done consulting work for the Center for Community Change, MoveOn, Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Campaign for America’s Future, and the National Organization for Women.
In 1992 Booth was director of field operations for Carol Moseley-Braun’s (D-IL) successful run for the U.S. Senate. That was the same campaign that made Barack Obama, who led a get-out-the-vote effort benefiting Moseley-Braun, a rising star in the organizing community.
Booth also founded the innocuous-sounding Americans for Financial Reform, a labor-backed pressure group that advocates an economy-killing “financial speculation tax.”
“A big battle still needs to be waged to curb the incentive for speculation and to get our money back to fund jobs and health care, climate and more,” she said last year. “This fight against Wall Street is part of an even larger fight over who matters in the society, over our values and our priorities, over whether or not we have corporate control in banking, whether BP can destroy the coast, whether the insurance companies can deny our health care, whether companies can dominate our politics saying that money is speech,” Booth said.
On Dec. 13, the Midwest Academy awards in Washington, D.C. will honor one of the chief architects of the mortgage collapse, retiring Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and radical Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim who co-chairs the far-left Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Booth is likely to provide the entertainment that night.
She can be embarrassingly schmaltzy when surrounded by fellow believers. During a panel discussion at a leftist confab in October, Booth led her fellow Marxists in a stirring recitation of the old labor movement song “Solidarity Forever.”
Perhaps at next month’s awards ceremony she’ll let her guard down and recite the lyrics of “The Internationale” instead.