Convention Discussion: Anti-communism today

BY: Gary Bono| June 5, 2014

Submitted by Gary Bono, New York, NY

Anti-Communism, well this is a big topic and one we still must confront. This is not an academic, rigorous or even a thorough account and it includes personal anecdotes and observations that may or may not be of general interest or importance but I hope it at least serves to get people thinking about the issue and encourages responses.

Surprisingly or not, anti-Communism, although greatly diminished persists till this day. This does not mean that things, including popular perceptions and public manifestations, have not changed in a positive direction. For instance, in an obituary on March 12th of this year a major daily newspaper, Newsday, mentioned, in a completely matter of fact way, that the late English union leader, Bob Crow, was a communist. Things have certainly changed! Something like 60 years ago this same newspaper, much to its everlasting discredit, reported that it was communists who were really behind the then current attempts by black families to buy houses in Levittown, families who, “of course” would never have had such ideas if they were not being manipulated by the “evil” communists. Another interesting recent development of note was the total failure of red-baiting by the opponents of Bill DeBlasio in the campaign for Mayor of New York. While this was an important and interesting development and should be carefully analyzed, regional differences should also be kept in mind. This was New York City after all and anti-communism still does exist and, in my opinion anyway, still remains a major impediment to the expansion of both our size and our influence. In progressive community and among working class people things are much better much better but outside it mixed but there are problems there also.

How do these problems affect us? How can we respond to them? Well, there can be different strategies. Some people are particularly “underground” others completely open, many others at one point or another in between these. This largely depends on the particular circumstances of the person and in certain cases great secrecy is warranted – an enduring legacy of the period of intense repression, ideological and propaganda offensive, a legacy, although diminished that still persists after more than 60 years and encourages red-baiting in its modern manifestation. In its most blatant and extreme form we see things like extreme right wing nutcases frothing about the 85 communist members of congress, communist Kenyans like Obama and assorted other nuttiness. It might be inviting to laugh about things like this but this kind of thing sets the parameters of the debate and allows more mentally balanced anti-communists to use more subtle red-baiting tactics to attack their enemies.

Of course anti-communism is nothing more than an expedient tactic that the right employees in furthering their real goal of extracting as much as possible from the poor and working people. In this vein remember the right wings assault on the poor people’s organization, ACORN. This organization was explicitly non-ideological but this did not protect it from the fury of the right whose main difficulty with it was not really ideological but rather that it was effective in empowering poor people.

Today we are witnessing a conflation of today’s anti Russia hysteria, really a dispute between two capitalist powers, with anti- communism in its anti-Soviet guise. Remember the nonsense about the “peace dividend” that was supposed to have followed the demise of the Soviet Union? This totally a-historical concept was itself an aspect of anti-communism. One that saw our “enemy” as “communism, specifically the Soviet Union. In the absence of that enemy we were supposed to enter a golden sage of peace. Of course this never came to be, if anything the world is a much more violent place as the drive for neo-imperialist domination and inter -capitalist rivalries assert themselves. Even now, more than 20 years after the demise of the Soviet Union we still see plenty of examples of gratuitous, “knee jerk” anti-Sovietism which generally is synonymous with anti-communism. To some extent this is a holdover from the McCarthy period and the hysterical anti-communism of the late 40’s when members of the CPUSA were deemed to be foreign agents. It just goes to show the power of a lie that is repeated often enough and with seeming authority.

This kind of thing is still rampant in popular culture. Even movies ostensibly showing the Soviet side of WWII such as “Enemy at the Gate” are plagued by insidious anti-Sovietism, synonymous with anti-communism. I also recall a recent movie about the WWII era Jewish partisan organization led by the legendary Bielski brothers. In this movie the revolutionary nature of their partisan organization was down played and narrow nationalism was stressed. When they appeared the Russian officers were made to appear as sinister anti-Semites when in fact once the Bielski partisans meet up with the elements of the Red army the officers went out of their way to resolve difficulties between their enlisted men and the Bielski group.

Perception is everything, or, at least, that it’s more important than reality. In this vein I would like to relate an anecdote, (some of you probably heard this before) of an incident between my wife and one of her friends. They were talking and, I don’t know how it came up, but my wife mentioned the communist party, her friend who is just a regular person, not particularly politically aware asked incredulously, “Isn’t that like the skinheads?” How can one respond to something like that? Some-how just saying no doesn’t seem to be enough. Of course many of those who want to cling to outdated forms, symbology and concepts never have to deal with anything like this because they are so far underground, but this is, in fact the reality, this is what we have to deal with if we are ever to reach beyond the narrow boundaries of the most advanced sectors of the progressive community. Similarly I recall a conversation I once had with a progressive county legislator who came out of a labor background. I happened to mention to her that Mike Quill, the first International president of TWU, was a Communist. She strongly insisted that no, he was a socialist. We went back and forth for a while, my saying that he was a Communist and she insisting that he was, instead a “socialist” as if there was some huge distinction between the two with “Communist” being very bad, an appellation that certainly should not be applied to Quill. In fact TWU was founded in the 1930’s, specifically as a project of the CPUSA. At the time the party was forming “Red” unions and it was decided that urban mass transit was ripe for such a project. Towards that end the Party supported an organizing drive in transit. Even then, though, the Party was reticent to reveal its role and that of the individual organizers. A “creation” myth was concocted about the union being founded by a bunch of Irish nationalists meeting in a Columbus Circle dinner. There were a lot of workers of Irish origin in transit and the organizers did take advantage of the already existing social networks of these workers and, sometimes even adapted phony Irish personas, (they were called “synthetic” Irishmen), but the Columbus Circle story is a myth. In reality it was the CPUSA that organized transit and founded the TWU and all the original leaders of the union, including Quill, were members, although most of the time, due to the knee jerk anti-communism that existed even in those days and the political backwardness of much of the workforce they were “underground”.

This leads to yet another anecdote. I recently met up with a relative who I had not seen in some time and for one reason or another we got to talking about the prominence of the communist party, (AKEL), on Cyprus. Well, one thing led to another and as the conversation became more general they guy asked me what I had to say about Stalin. Well, paraphrasing Jarvis Tyner, I said that I was not a part of that government and the relative seemed to accept that. The incident, however, reveals something interesting. Stalin is the major anti-communist bogey man. The fact that every communist, even those in the US have to explain Stalin is itself an aspect of anti-communism. Do proponents of capitalism have to explain, for example, Idi Amin?

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014


Related Party Voices Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer