My first “Socialists in Congress or Senate” profile looks at Barbara Lee.
Barbara Lee has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1998, representing the ninth District of California. Lee is a member and former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and is Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
Lee later became a staff member for radical California Democratic Party congressman Ron Dellums.
Dellums was a member of Democratic Socialists of America and a co-founder of the CPC. He also had close ties to the Communist Party front American Peace Council and described himself as a “pinko commie”. During nearly three decades in the Congress he worked closely with the extreme left Institute for Policy Studies, the Soviet-front World Peace Council, Fidel Castro, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and Grenada’s late dictator Maurice Bishop.
In 1983 US forces invaded Grenada and discovered seven tons of documents confirming the communist nature of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement. Included was material from the Moscow based, Lenin’s Institute for Higher Learning and correspondence with Ron Dellums’ office.
In 1982, Dellums had traveled to Grenada to gain an overview of “the building of the new international airport.” There was concern in the US that the airport, built by Cuba and the Soviet Union, was capable of supporting Soviet long range bombers.
In a report submitted to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on June 14, 1982, Dellums emphatically denied that the airport was intended for military use. A copy of the report was found among the cache of Grenadian documents, along with minutes of a December 15, 1982 New Jewel Movement Politburo meeting.
“Ron Dellums: His assistant, Barbara Lee is here presently and has brought with her a report on the International Airport that was done by Ron Dellums. They have requested that we look at the document and suggest any changes we deem necessary Â they will be willing to make the changes.”
Lee also belonged to a communist front called the US-Grenada Society, which supported Bishop’s New Jewel Movement. She also attended a conference of “non-aligned nations” in Havana while on Dellums’ congressional staff
In 1991 a the Communist Party USA split over tactical and leadership issues. The minority faction then joined with former Maoists from Line of March, Trotskyites from several organisations and a few anarchists, to form a new organisation.
In July 1992, while a member of the California State Assembly, Barbara Lee attended the founding conference of the Committees of Correspondence (CoC) and was elected to its national coordinating committee.
Others on the committee included her old friend, former three time CPUSA vice Presidential candidate Angela Davis, former CPUSA Presidential candidate Charlene Mitchell, former CPUSA correspondent in Moscow, Carl Bloice and former Socialist Workers Party Presidential candiate Peter Camejo.
In an essay posted on the CoC’s website, former CPUSA national organizations secretary Danny Rubin states that “it is the Committees of Correspondence that has become a continuer of the best traditions and history of the CPUSA….”
Herb Romerstein, a former professional staffer for the House Intelligence Committee and a former undercover agent in the CPUSA has written “When I wrote an article for Human Events exposing the CoC and identifying Ms. Lee, she first denied the whole story, but then admitted it. CoC decided to no longer list some of their leaders.”
While being interviewed on the conference Davis was asked;
Are you finding yourself becoming more involved into “mainstream” politics?
I don’t think so. But on the other hand if mainstream politics moved towards the left, then suddenly we’d need to support those politics. At our conference, we will be listening to talks by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who I suppose you could say are mainstream politicians, who have made important radical interventions. So my position is wherever one happens to be, it is possible to carve out a site of resistance.
When, or if Barbara Lee left CoC is unknown. The Coc (now known as the ) still maintains links to the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s parent body, .
There is occasional talk of a merger between the two organisations and they often co-operate locally, including inside California’s Socialist Unity Network.
DSA member Noam Chomsky also serves on CoCDS’s advisory board as does Angela Davis.
Ron Dellums announced his retirement from Congress in late 1997 and endorsed California State Senator Barbara Lee in the race to succeed him. Lee easily won the election, entering Congress and quickly joining the CPC.
In 1999, Barbara Lee was the only House member to vote against Bill Clinton’s plan to bomb Serbia. She was one of just five House members to vote against bombing raids on Iraq and is best known as the only member of Congress to vote against supporting President Bush’s plan to use military force to respond to 9/11.
In 2001, Lee cast the only “no” vote to the US invasion of Afghanistan. She has been a vocal critic of the Iraq War and supports legislation creating a Department of Peace.
Barbara Lee, co-Chairs the most powerful bloc in the Congress of the world’s most powerful nation.