“A bourgeois, property-owning democracy tends to breed its own antibodies. These antibodies immunize it, in large degree, against the lunacies of its intellectuals and artists.” Irving Kristol
During the twentieth century Communist governments murdered roughly a hundred million of their own citizens, tortured and tormented millions more, and robbed hundreds of millions more of individuality, human dignity, and hope. Joseph Stalin alone ordered the deaths of some twenty to thirty million Soviet citizens, including six or seven million in the Ukraine in a single year. When not committing atrocities against their own people, Communists committed even worse atrocities against the people they captured or conquered during their wars of aggression. (In WWII Berlin, for example, soldiers of the advancing Soviet Army raped some ten thousand German women literally to death, according to hospital records.)
Within the United States a virtual army of Communist spies and sympathizers labored to promote the interests of mass murderers like Stalin and Mao. Soviet spies provided Stalin’s government with the secrets of the atom bomb. Soviet agents in the State department shaped American policy in ways that facilitated Communist conquest in places like Hungary and China. During WWII, Communists in the federal government’s Office of War Information even pressured Hollywood to make movies portraying the Soviet Union in a positive light.
But don’t expect to hear these things in a college history class. Most history professors are so committed to their left wing political beliefs that they downplay or ignore most of Communism’s crimes, and demonize anti-Communists in our own country.
From Superpower to Has-Been
In a famous 1982 speech, President Ronald Reagan eloquently condemned Communism for its many evils; and urged the other leaders of the free world to support his plans for military and diplomatic action to free the enslaved millions behind the Iron Curtain. If free people would stand together against Communism, he said, the result would be “the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history, as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.”
American intellectuals, with few exceptions, reacted to the President’s 1982 speech with scorn. Communism has always been considered chic among ivory tower liberals, who applaud its Utopian promises while overlooking its real-world abuses. The college campus intelligentsia somehow viewed Reagan’s vision of a world without Communism as both impossible and wrong-headed.
Today, thank God, the Soviet Union lies moldering on that ash-heap that President Reagan could see in its future back in 1982. Real freedom has come into the lives of millions Eastern Europe and Western Asia. China has been forced to abandon Communism in all but name. The only remaining Soviet-style Communist regimes in the world are in desperately poor and miserable countries like Cuba and North Korea. In the words of Thomas Sowell, “Marxism is an ism that has become a wasm.”
While most people celebrate this new world order, some on the hard left (including a fair number of college history professors) view the halcyon years of Communism with ill-concealed nostalgia; and view cold warriors like Reagan, J. Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy with ill-concealed rage.
Eric Foner’s Version of History
Professor Eric Foner, a past president of the American Historical Association, sprinkled his freshman history textbook Give Me Liberty with flattering references to the Communist Party USA; which until 1991 was the Soviet Union’s base of operations for espionage and subversion in the United States.
During the Great Depression, Foner tells us, “Only the minuscule Communist Party seemed able to give a political focus to the anger and despair.” “The CIO and Communist Party,” Foner states, “became focal points for a broad social and intellectual impulse that helped to redraw the boundaries of American freedom.” Furthermore, “the Communist Party was the era’s only predominantly white organization to make fighting racism a top priority.”
Not surprisingly, Dr. Foner takes a dim view of the anti-Communist movement of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Like other textbook authors, he repeatedly uses the word “hysteria” to describe the anti-subversive efforts of this period. And like other textbook writers, he resorts to making flat-out false statements about Senator Joseph McCarthy, in order to portray America’s counter-espionage efforts as a fraud and a crime.
Professor Foner condemns the NAACP for purging Communists from its leadership during the Cold War years, and gives very sympathetic treatment to black activists W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson, both of whom actively supported the Soviet Union. Foner laments that “When the government deprived Robeson of his passport and indicted Du Bois for failing to register as an agent of the Soviet Union, few prominent Americans, white or black, protested.” “The charge against Du Bois,” Foner goes on to say, “was so absurd that even at the height of McCarthyism, the judge dismissed it.”
The charge against W.E.B. DuBois was not at all absurd, in actual fact. Both DuBois and Robeson were proud recipients of the Soviet Union’s “Stalin Peace Prize.” When Soviet butcher Joseph Stalin died in 1963, DuBois described him as a “great man” in a eulogy published in the National Guardian. In the eulogy DuBois went beyond praising Stalin personally, and actually commended Stalin’s murder of Russia’s “kulaks” (small farm owners) as a necessary step in defending the future of Communism.
Dr. Foner also goes out of his way to whitewash Soviet crimes during the WWII era, but that will be the subject of a future post.
Dr. Foner has certainly not been the only textbook writer to give Communism a sympathetic portrayal. His book is not the only one to use the word “hysteria” in describing anti-Communist measures taken by the American government during the Cold War, and it is certainly not the only one that makes blatantly false statements about Joseph McCarthy.
Communists as Martyrs
In the textbook Making A Nation the chapter on the Cold War opens with a very sympathetic portrayal of Esther and Stephen Brunauer, an “American success story” who “should have looked forward to a happy, prosperous future.” The Brunauers’ troubles started when “a US Congressman accused Esther of being one of the ‘pro-Communist fellow travelers and muddle heads’ in the State Department.” The story goes on to describe how the Brunauers were exonerated; but lost their jobs in the government, despite their manifest innocence, because “The Brunauers’ employers, the State Department and the Navy, were unwilling to keep such controversial people on the job.”
The truth is very different.
As M. Stanton Evans shows in his exhaustively researched and abundantly well-documented book Blacklisted by History the hearing that “exonerated” Esther Brunauer was nothing more than a series of denials by Mrs. Brunauer, which the sympathetic committee chairman (Senator Millard Tydings) chose to accept at face value.
Evans proves in his book that most of Mrs. Brunauer’s denials were lies. She denied involvement with a Communist front group called the American Youth Congress; the record shows that she was a member of the group and sponsored one of its meetings.1 She denied collaborating with a Communist named Clarence Hathaway; the record shows that she did.2 She denied presiding at a 1936 meeting of the American Friends of the Soviet Union; Evans’ book actually includes a copy of a promotional poster for the event, with her name printed in big letters in the center!3
McCarthy found these activities especially troubling because Mrs. Brunauer’s husband, who also had a history of associations with Communist front groups, worked in weapons research for the Navy and had, at one point, asked to be involved in the military’s nuclear weapons program.4
Similar misrepresentations of Communist agents as martyrs, and government investigators as heartless inquisitors, appear in many other freshman history textbooks. The example above is more or less typical.
Any student in a college history class would do well to remember that the portrayal of Communism being presented is likely to be biased, if not downright dishonest. The truth is that Communism was (and still is, wherever it is being practiced) an evil ideology that makes Hitler’s National Socialism look tame by comparison; and it was greatly facilitated in the twentieth century by its fans and supporters in the United States.
1M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History, p. 353
3ibid., p. 351
4ibid., p. 354, 355