This section of Discover The Networks focuses on organizations whose agendas are those of the political far left. All of these groups are committed to radical social change; some go so far as to seek the overthrow of the U.S. government and the dissolution or transformation of all American institutions -- particularly capitalism.
Perhaps the most notorious radical group in the United States today is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which grew out of George Wiley's National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, NWRO invaded welfare offices across the U.S. -- often violently -- bullying social workers and loudly demanding every penny to which the law "entitled" them. ACORN has long continued this tradition of high-profile theatrics and intimidation. Today the organization's efforts ae devoted chiefly to discrediting capitalism, increasing government control over the economy, promoting socialized medicine, advocating open borders, passing "living-wage" laws, increasing taxpayer funding for urban public schools, and conducting get-out-the-vote drives on behalf of Democratic political candidates. Adds Foundation Watch editor Matthew Vadum: "The group claims to fight for affordable housing and it rails against foreclosures and so-called ‘predatory’ lending, even though it demands that banks make loans [to underqualified borrowers] destined to default."
In recent years, ACORN has engaged in massive campaigns of voter-registration fraud. The organization’s get-out-the-vote activists have been implicated in schemes involving the falsification and destruction of registration forms, the forging of signatures, the registration of dead or non-existent people, the registration of the same individuals multiple times, and the illegal registration of convicted felons. In 2008, election officials in several states said that fully half of ACORN voter registrations were fraudulent. All told, ACORN was under investigation for voter-registration fraud in at least 13 states.
Another major radical group, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), was established in 1992 by a number of prominent Communist Party USA members. Aiming to serve as a “catalyst for change” that will inspire “united action among all who feel the brunt of oppression in the U.S.,” CCDS today describes its members as “activists in all the social movements of our country – [movements] of labor, civil rights, immigrant rights, women, peace, international solidarity, gay and lesbian rights, environment, youth and students, seniors, and religion.” The organization seeks “to help shape a clear-cut alternative to the destructive, mean-spirited corporate drive for profit above all else” that allegedly undergirds capitalism. CCDS also pursues “constructive solutions” to the problems it says are caused by capitalism, namely “poverty[,] unemployment, racism, sexism, [and inadequate] health care], education, and housing.”
A close ideological ally of CCDS is the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the United States. "To achieve a more just society," says DSA, "many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed. ... Democracy and socialism go hand in hand." DSA seeks to increase its political influence not by establishing its own party, but rather by working closely with the Democratic Party to promote leftist agendas.
Another very influential radical group is the International Action Center (IAC), founded in 1991 by the infamous America-hater Ramsey Clark and staffed by members of the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party. IAC’s activism is founded on the central premise that a racist, imperialist, sexist, homophobic United States is the world’s chief violator of human rights -- guilty of unspeakable atrocities, past and present, foreign and domestic. As one IAC official puts it, "no one in the world … has a worse human rights record than the United States."
Also a vital constituent of the radical left is the Chicago-based Midwest Academy (MA), a training center for a variety of leftist causes and organizations. MA instructs its trainees in techniques of "direct action," i.e., confrontation and intimidation. Moreover, the Academy indoctrinates its students in "us-versus-them" leftist ideology, thereby turning out an ever-growing cadre of radicalized activists who can be called on to "take on larger issues," including anti-war protests, labor rallies and political confrontations.
A relative newcomer to the scene of radical politics is the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS), founded in 2006 "to effect change at the most basic levels of economic, political, and social organization" by means of "a radical, democratic program counter-posed to authoritarian movements." MDS acts as both mentor and financial support for the newly revived Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), ideological descendant of the eponymous organization from the 1960s. Many MDS members are veterans of the New Left whose heyday was the Sixties and Seventies. One of MDS’s major goals in 2008 was to help Barack Obama win the U.S. presidency.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), founded in 2004, also represents part of the radical mosaic in America today. A proponent of "revolutionary Marxism," PSL’s raison d’etre is to oppose capitalism, which it defines as "the system in which all wealth and power is held by a tiny group of billionaires and their state," and to promote "socialism."
Few radical groups are as extreme in their agendas as Refuse & Resist! (R&R), founded in 1987 by longtime Revolutionary Communist Party member Charles Clark Kissinger. R&R's founding statement condemns America for what it calls the country's drive to use "force of arms" to achieve "global dominance and superiority over other people" -- a goal with "a distinctly fascist aura … raising the specter of a police state."
The RESOURCES column on the right side of this page contains a link to the section where profiles of these and other radical groups can be found. It also contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore the phenomenon of radicalism and issues related to it.