Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a vice presidential contender on Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden’s VP shortlist, told NBC News that she is “not a communist.”
“I’m not a socialist. I’m not a communist. I’ve belonged to one party my entire life and that’s the Democratic Party and I’m a Christian,” Bass told NBC News on Monday in response to reports of her long and troubling associations with communists.
While it is likely true that Bass has been a member of the Democratic Party her entire life, her decades-long association with communists, her membership in a communist front group run by Cuba’s communist regime, and her public praise for her communist mentor and communist influencers all paint a much more complex picture of her ideological leanings.
At least five facts seem to belie her claim that she is not a communist.
1. Early Communist Influences
In a 2008 interview, Bass explained that many of the influencers who “played a huge role” for her in high school were communist. “In Hamilton [High School] for example, a lot of the Jewish parents were activists and some of them were in the Communist Party,” Bass said. “And so I grew up with a lot of red diaper babies. And there were some African American parents who were in the Communist Party. There were teachers who were in the Communist Party. So, white radicals were very influential. And at the same time you have the Panthers and the whole black movement.”
“Red diaper babies” is a slang term used to describe children of members of the Communist Party USA during the Cold War.
2. Eulogy to Her Communist “Friend and Mentor”
On January 30, 2017, Bass took to the floor of the U.S. House to eulogize her “friend and mentor” Oneil Cannon, who was a leading member of the Communist Party USA. In its obituary for Cannon, the communist website People’s World cited his work as the Communist Party USA’s education director in the Southern California District and as a member of the Party’s Southern California and National Central Committees.
3. Leadership/Membership in a Communist Front Group Controlled by Cuba’s Communist Regime
Bass has a decades-long association with the Venceremos Brigade, which is a communist front group founded in 1969 by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and run by the Cuban intelligence service, the General Directorate for Intelligence (DGI).
Cuba’s communist regime used the Venceremos Brigade as a recruitment tool to co-opt American radicals as assets for intelligence gathering and long-term political influencing, according to a 400-page FBI report from 1976 based on information obtained from former DGI officials.
Bass made her first trip to Cuba with the Brigade in 1973 when she was 19. She would make at least eight trips to Cuba during the 1970s (i.e. during a decade in which the Vietnam War was raging, and the Cuban regime was actively assisting and hosting America’s Viet Cong enemies).
An October 1975 article in the communist Daily Worker identified Bass as “the leader of the Venceremos Brigade in southern California.” An undercover surveillance of Bass conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1970s also identified her as a brigade leader who “returned from Cuba to the USA bringing back propaganda literature.”
In 1982, Gerardo Peraza, a former high-ranking Cuban intelligence official who defected to the United States, explained in sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate that Cuban intelligence officers controlled the Venceremos Brigade and selected its participants.
This process was further explained by Dwight D. Crews, an undercover police deputy from New Orleans who testified before a 1972 U.S. House Subcommittee about the vetting process he endured when he applied to join the Venceremos Brigade. “To be a member of the brigade, you had to be confirmed as a Marxist‐Leninist,” he said.
He said getting into the Brigade “required filling out a detailed application, undergoing interviews concerning his political beliefs and three‐and‐a‐half months of twice‐a‐week indoctrination sessions,” the New York Times reported.
This vetting process was especially true for Brigade leaders.
“You don’t get to be the leader of the L.A. Venceremos Brigade unless the Cuban intelligence trusts you,” David Horowitz, the 1960s historian and co-editor of the leading radical magazine of the era Ramparts, told Breitbart News. “They were run by Cuban intelligence, and you don’t get to have a position of authority in an organization like that without them trusting you.”
In a recent statement to Tablet magazine, Bass’s office claimed that she was merely a member of the Brigade, not a leader. That contradicts all the contemporaneous reports of her leadership. It is also beside the point because every member of the Brigade had to undergo a rigorous vetting process to ensure they were “confirmed as a Marxist-Leninist.”
4. Associated with a Clandestine Maoist Organization
Bass has also been linked to a loose organization of radical Marxist-Leninists aligned with the Maoist New Communist Movement. The organization, called Line of March, was part of the Maoist “anti-revisionist” faction of Marxism-Leninism and was founded in Oakland, CA, in 1980 by Irwin Silber. Line of March associates operated their network in a deliberately clandestine manner, believing that this type of activism and party organizing needed to be done in secret without formal names or titles. They called themselves “rectificationists,” as a nod to their Maoist sympathies.
Bass’s name and some of her associates are included in a document from the 1980s listing “Consolidated rectification forces.”
When Tablet magazine asked Bass’s office about this document associating her with the Line of March’s “rectification forces,” her spokesperson did not deny the association or the document’s authenticity. The spokesperson’s response was that Bass had simply “attended events.”
5. Socialist Speaking Engagements and Memorial for Communist Party Leader
In the 1980-90s, Bass spoke regularly to various far-left organizations, including the Democratic Socialists of America. She helped organize a memorial service for South African Communist Party leader (and Stalin admirer) Joe Slovo in 1995. She was also a featured speaker at the 1993 West Coast Socialist Scholars Conference. The conference theme that year was “New Realities, New Identities: Socialism and Empowerment.”
While it is possible that Bass no longer identifies with communism in any way, just three years ago she was eulogizing her “friend and mentor” who was a prominent leader of the Communist Party USA.
Though she now says that Fidel Castro’s murderous legacy is “very troubling” and that she “didn’t have any illusions that the people in Cuba had the same freedoms I did,” she hailed Castro just four years ago as “Commandante en Jefe” and said his death was “a great loss to the people of Cuba.”
More damning still is the fact that she has only now distanced herself from these associations because she is being vetted for a job that is just one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
Rebecca Mansour is a Senior Editor-at-Large for Breitbart News. Follow her on Twitter at @RAMansour.