Friday, July 26, 2013

Anti-Communism, a Call for the Return**

An Anti-Communist is a dog. I don’t change my views on this, I never will.
                                                                   Jean-Paul Sartre

One would have to beat the briar patches hard these days to chase an anti-Communist out of the brambles. Sartre would not now find himself pressed to change his views; no one would suggest otherwise.  Anti-communism has been out-of-vogue for many years and for many reasons. Volumes could be written to explain why, but one obvious reason is the steady Left-ward drift of American culture since the mid-twentieth century. The Kulturkampf of the 1960s pushed America to the Left, and turned anti-Communism into a retreat for closed-minded, parochial hicks who couldn’t grasp the intricacies of French Existentialism or appreciate the new Cuba of Fidel’s making.
Communism is the Left at full throttle, at its “best.”  Communists of the twentieth century in large portions of the world had complete power over tens of millions of people.  They did what they said they would do – throw out the Capitalist exploiters. They ruled for decades over fiefdoms of equality and plenty that no one was allowed to leave.  The non-Communist Left has not only evinced no sense of shame for the history of their high-achieving Leftists cousins – Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, even Fidel – but actively and enthusiastically sang their praises all the while they were erecting the gulags, torturing and murdering the opposition, and eviscerating their economies.  The New York Times’s Walter Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer (never withdrawn) for his dishonest reporting of Stalin’s famine-handiwork; the truth-telling Malcolm Muggeridge was blackballed.  The abundant evidence of their monstrous cruelties notwithstanding, our high-culture sophisticates still prefer to ignore, downplay or rationalize them.  They remain enamored with the bearded German prophet, decrying the rapacity of profit-seekers and defending Communism’s humanistic “idealism.”  It was just that the wrong people tried to implement it.  Yale University Press recently published Why Marx was Right by Terry Eagleton, a book of no less than 258 pages, classified by the Library of Congress as social science, not fiction or humor.  Eagleton is not an economist, philosopher, political scientist or historian, but as one might guess, an English Professor, a “Distinguished” one according to his official title from the University of Lancaster. This book, its publisher and its author, taken altogether are a perfect illustration of why the humanities has become completely irrelevant outside the walls of academe.
Another reason for anti-Communism's decline is the gradual but seemingly inevitable secularization of American society. Anti-communism moves those with an affinity for the transcendent:  communists abhor the notion, the possibility that human beings might be something more than complicated configurations of molecules, understandable given the millions of living souls they made into dead bodies. But secularism tilts away from the transcendent and is much more compatible with the materialist orientation of the contemporary Left and its disdain for traditional religion. 

One is struck by the profound change in the softening of attitude of the American people over the course of the last fifty years toward Communism.  One of the Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates proceeded with these comments from the standard bearers.

Senator John Kennedy: We set a very high standard for ourselves. The communists do not.  They set a low standard of materialism.  We preach in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution, in the statements of our greatest leaders, we preach very high standards; and if we’re not going to be charged before the world with hypocrisy we have to meet those standards.

Vice-President Richard Nixon: Also as far as religion is concerned, I have seen Communism abroad. I see what it does. Communism is the enemy of all religions; and we who do believe in God must join together.

These words, forming part of the political conversation in America, near the end of 1960 must have resonated strongly with the American people. No main stream politician after 1970, with the exception of Ronald Reagan on a few occasions, would or could talk like this. Consider their striking contrast with the autobiographical musings of a current national politician:

President Barak Obama: To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students, the foreign students, the Chicanos, the Marxist Professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets….  At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz [sic] Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated." [From, Dreams from my Father, 100-101]

Whatever one might think of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, neocolonialism and Eurocentrism, it is indisputable that the Cold War-revulsion with communism in the West has disappeared.  Still, it is remarkable that such an angry and bitterly tinged confession of Communist infatuation expressed above by our President as a young man (never apparently regretted or retracted) would never be considered as a serious issue by the electorate.    

But there are many other things now to fear and reprobate besides our President’s youthful, Marxist dyspepsia.  Still, I think, it is worthwhile to reconsider our kinder-gentler posture toward an ideology that ravaged a good portion of the planet and its people during the twentieth century.

I propose that there are at least three good reasons to launch a militant anti-Communism for the twenty-first century.  First, for much of the latter half of the twentieth century, it has been difficult to know the extent and ferocity of the slaughter conducted by Communist regimes.  Because of the vast disparity between the promises and the performance, Communists became masterful at both hiding the enormity of their iniquities and pretending to be virtuous.  Recent access gained to archives that have long been inaccessible to outside researchers has confirmed what mid-twentieth century anti-Communists knew, that the Reds in China and Russia were shooting and starving their people by the millions.*   Those who were under them suffered deeply; those who were not rightly loathed and feared them.

In spite of a century of mass-murder with its extensive documentation the self-infatuated monsters responsible for it have never been fully execrated.  The tens of millions of their victims deserve the solemn acknowledgement of their innocence and suffering.  The perpetrators richly deserved to be remembered for all that they did and be showered forever with ignominy.  

The second reason is to demolish the phony, self-glorifying rhetoric of Communism’s “anti-Fascism.”  Stalin defeated Hitler only after he colluded and connived with him and then only after he collected the generous assistance from England and the U.S. – Lend-Lease, Studebaker trucks, and a second front.  As long as we allow the bogus argument to persist that Communists have courageously advanced the values that Hitler eschewed – equality, tolerance and world peace – they will continue to peddle the howler that they are the avatars of moral rectitude and human progress.

The third, and perhaps most important reason, is the persistence of communism.   Hitler is long dead and wholly execrated by the German people. Holocaust deniers in Germany and Austria are thrown in jail.  No one pays homage to dead Nazis. However, Mao and Lenin still molder away in their mausoleums and receive veneration.  Daniel Ortega was given a second chance in Nicaragua.  Communist governments, parties and movements abound, and in some places thrive. 
Anti-Communism is needed as a counterpoise to the ambitions of the twenty-first century Marxists and their friends. They never cease to believe that with the same political ideology that shaped and inspired Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, unlike them, they can make a peoples’ revolution that is a happy-time for all, a dream rather than a recurring nightmare – Socialism with a Human Face.   

Jasper Becker, Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine, Free Press, 1996,
Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, a Reassessment, Oxford, 2007,
Frank Dikotter, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most
Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62, Walker & Co, 2010.   

**Dedicated to my friend, Mike Burton, who fought the communists in Vietnam.

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