Mike Rotkin

  • Earned PhD in the History of Consciousness Department at UCSC
  • Had a stealth strategy to implement socialism in the U.S.
  • Served nearly 20 years on the Santa Cruz City Council
  • Served as Mayor of Santa Cruz
  • Was editor of "The Socialist Review" for ten years
  • Was a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU's Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU
  • Served as president of a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers

Mike Rotkin is a former instructor of Marxist theory at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). He earned a PhD in the History of Consciousness Department at UCSC, the same department that awarded Huey Newton his doctorate in the 1970s. Rotkin also served on the Santa Cruz City Council for close to twenty years and was formerly the Mayor of that city. Moreover, he was the president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers., and he spent ten years as editor of The Socialist Review.

Rotkin’s ideals were outlined in his 1991 PhD thesis (entitled Class, Populism, and Progressive Politics: Santa Cruz, California 1970 – 1982), which described his stealth strategy to implement socialism in the United States. A chapter from this thesis, titled “A Three-Part Strategy for Democratic Socialism,” served as an assigned reading for his “Introduction to Marxism” course. Part one of this strategy was Grassroots Organizing, which meant finding groups with grievances against society and helping them to “wrest concessions,” as Rotkin phrased it in his thesis. Borrowing from Saul Alinsky’s tactics, Rotkin advocated hiding his true socialist agenda from the people he helps while “preparing the ground” for subsequent stages.

The second stage of Rotkin’s strategy was Developing a Socialist Presence, founded on the premise that there is “a desperate need to put forth a vision of an alternative society in a language understood by Americans” – a propaganda program that hid his real goal, the implementation of socialism in the United States. Rotkin further described this deceptive approach in stage three, Developing Progressive Coalitions, where he suggested that leftwing groups should band together under a non-controversial slogan such as “Get America working again” while keeping secret those radical ideals which most citizens would not readily accept.

In his thesis, Rotkin imperiously asserted that because the “average citizen has so little experience working with other human beings to achieve social goals,” it would be “absurd to even think about them running society as a whole.”

Rotkin was successful in implementing his strategy. By 1982, the end of the period examined in his thesis, he described a progressive voting bloc which included Santa Cruz-area leftwing environmentalist groups, feminist and criminal-justice movements, gay and lesbian groups, African-American and other minority organizations, labor unions, arts and culture organizations, and alternative media. More recently this list expanded to include also the homeless, low-cost housing advocates, and drug users. To curry favor with these coalitions, Rotkin and the progressives on the council spent millions of taxpayer dollars on expanding the bloated, unionized city workforce; promoting a radical gay agenda in the public schools; financing services for a large homeless population; and attempting to implement rent control.

These measures resulted in a financial crisis characterized by increased taxes but no significant reductions in spending. In fact, the council once approved a $43 million development project to provide heavily subsidized housing and gallery space for 100 artists. In the meantime, businesses were leaving the city, the tax base was declining, roads were pocked with potholes, and gang violence was a growing problem.

Rotkin also sought to promote the legalization of drugs – starting with marijuana, but eventually encompassing all drugs that are currently illegal.

Rotkin, who headed the Santa Cruz chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, ratcheted up his marijuana advocacy by approving a retail medical marijuana dispensary, designated an annual “Medical Marijuana Day,” and authorized a new city department – an “Office of Compassionate Use” – to sell marijuana to people who had notes from their doctors authorizing them to purchase the drug. Rotkin never mentioned the ultimate objective of the ACLU Drug Reform Project – the legalization of all drugs – knowing that such a goal would not garner much public support; thus he prefered to pursue his objective incrementally.

In addition to his crusade for drug legalization, Rotkin declared a “Camilo Mejia Day” in honor of an American sergeant who spent a year in prison for refusing to return to active duty in the Iraq War. The professor also raised funds for a movie called Planet USA, which featureed radicals Tariq AliMedea Benjamin, and Amy Goodman.

Rotkin participated as a panelist in a Berkeley conference, sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America, called “Making Trouble: Building a Radical Youth Movement,” where he boasted of bringing radical speakers to the UCSC campus.