Bill de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr. on May 8, 1961 in New York City and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1983, he legally changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm, adding his mother’s maiden name to his identity. In 2002 he changed his name for a second time and became Bill de Blasio.
Historian Ron Radosh describes de Blasio as: (a) “a far left radical whose ancestors are theNew Left and the Communists”; and (b) “a bona fide red diaper baby” who, “like many of his generation … kept his parents’ … pro-Communist politics not far from his heart.” Both de Blasio’s parents were far leftists—most likely, members of the Communist Party USA or some of its numerous front groups. His mother, Maria de Blasio, worked in the early 1940s at the Office of War Information—a U.S. government agency staffed largely by pro-Soviet leftists who depicted the USSR in a positive light.
In 1983, while he was still at NYU, Bill de Blasio toured parts of the Communist Soviet Union. This was a period of significant Cold War tension between the United States and the USSR, as the Soviets were attempting to permanently solidify their nuclear superiority over the U.S. Notably, de Blasio at one time served as an organizer with the anti-nuclear, anti-American organization Physicians for Social Responsibility.
De Blasio took his first job in 1984 with the NYC Department of Juvenile Justice. Three years later, having recently earned a master’s degree at Columbia University‘s School of International and Public Affairs, he was hired to work as a political organizer by the Quixote Center (QC), aMaryland-based, Catholic social-justice organization with Marxist leanings.
In 1988 de Blasio, an ardent supporter of Nicaragua’s Marxist Sandinista government—which was backed by the Soviet Union, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Yasser Arafat‘s Palestine Liberation Organization—joined a number of his QC colleagues in a ten-day trip to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine to people who had been affected by the violent revolution that was raging there. (The Reagan administration, meanwhile, was giving financial and military aid to the Contras, who were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista regime.)
Upon returning home from Nicaragua, de Blasio began working for a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care in Central America. Continuing, moreover, to support the Sandinistas in whatever way he could, he joined the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, an organization that held meetings and fundraiserson their behalf. De Blasio also subscribed to the Sandinista party’s newspaper, Barricadda. He continues to speak admiringly of the Sandinistas to this day, lauding the “humble” and “really inspirational” blend of “youthful energy and idealism” that they brought to the task of “trying to figure out what would [make their society] work better.” “I’m very proud to have been deeply involved in a movement that rightfully thought U.S. policy toward Central America was wrong-headed and counter-productive and not in line with our values,” de Blasio said in September 2013. “I’m proud to have been involved in the effort that was challenging that.”