A Washington Democratic congressional candidate praised a radical labor leader in a 2017 interview with a liberal group based in Spokane, after previously listing the same person as an inspiration in her 1986 doctoral thesis.
Lisa Brown named communist leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn when asked "Who is the greatest hero we have never heard of?" in a May 2017 interview with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.
"Well, a lot of people have heard of her, but they may not know the Spokane connection and that is Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who was also known as the Rebel Girl," she said in response to the question.
This is not the first time Brown has praised Flynn. The Washington Examiner reported last week that the Democratic candidate described Flynn and anarchist Emma Goldman as influences in her 1986 doctoral thesis. "As a feminist … I am also inspired by great women activists, such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Emma Goldman," she wrote.
"Other great women in my life include Golie Jansen, the members of the Boulder Socialist-Feminist Collective, and the members of the Spokane Women’s Group," Brown continued.
Flynn became chairwoman of the U.S. Communist Party in 1961 and argued capitalism was incompatible with "human welfare." In a 1916 essay entitled "Do You Believe in Patriotism?" Flynn argued loyalty to class trumps loyalty to country.
"The train on which I write rushes by factories where murder instruments are made for gold. I would be ashamed to be patriotic of such a country," Flynn wrote. "In the black smoke belched from their chimneys, I see the ghostly faces of dead workers–our poor, deluded slain brothers. I re-affirm my faith, ‘It is better to be a traitor to your country than a traitor to your class!’"
Neil Beaver, Brown’s legislative aide during her time as majority leader of the Washington state senate, recommended honoring Flynn in a Freedom of Speech Park in 2008. Specifically, Beaver wanted to recognize Flynn for her part in an early 20th-century struggle in Spokane involving the Industrial Workers of the World, a far-left labor group.
Without mentioning Flynn, Brown issued a statement through her campaign spokeswoman addressing her inspirations. "Do I find women who got engaged in the issues of our time inspiring? The answer is yes – from Joan of Arc, to Amelia Earhart to Aretha Franklin – I’m motivated by women who stood up, spoke out, and got involved during some of the most critical moments in history."
Brown is running against House Republican Conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She is one of 39 candidates endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC.