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What Allen West Does Not Know About Communists and Congress

By       Message John Nichols     Permalink
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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 Worker newspaper 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.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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