New York Times Carries Major Obituary for Socialist Workers Party Vice Presidential Nominee of 1968

Kwame Somburu, left, with a student in New York in 1969.

Kwame Somburu, left, with a student in New York in 1969.

From Richard Winger at Ballot Access News:

The New York Times has this lengthy obituary of Paul Boutelle, who was the Socialist Workers Party vice-presidential nominee in 1968. The obituary even has a picture, which is somewhat rare for Times obituaries.

Boutelle changed his name in 1979 to Kwame Somburu. He left the Socialist Workers Party and joined Socialist Action. He died at the age of 81, in Albany, New York, on May 3, 2016.

Excerpt from the article cited, written by Sam Roberts:

Kwame Somburu, a 1960s radical who vainly sought elective office as a perennial candidate of the Socialist Workers Party in New York and California, died on May 3 in Albany. He was 81.

The cause was complications of kidney cancer, his son Daryl Boutelle said.

Mr. Somburu evolved from a high school dropout named Paul Boutelle, who sold the Great Books of the Western World series door to door and voted for the straight Republican ticket in 1956, into a public school teacher who adopted the name of a Kenyan tribe and embraced a Trotskyite scientific socialism forged in anti-imperialism and class-conscious black nationalism.

He renounced violence but echoed Malcolm X’s credo of gaining black power “by any means necessary”; organized blacks against the war in Vietnam; unambiguously declared that “if it weren’t for crime and lies and terrorism and massacres there’d be no United States”; and, while insisting that he was not anti-Semitic, vigorously opposed Zionism.

In his first of nine campaigns for public office, he ran for the State Senate in Harlem in 1964 as a candidate of the Freedom Now Party, a branch of a fledgling all-black organization formed in Michigan. But after his defeat, he acknowledged that a black political mass movement was probably premature.

Instead he joined the Socialist Workers Party, which, he explained in the party’s newspaper, The Militant, “has a consistent record of engagement in independent class politics, is the Marxist organization that has developed the best analysis of black nationalism, and has been from the start a firm supporter of efforts to build an independent black political party.”

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