More on the red menace

Ron Silliman (
Tue, 16 Apr 1996 12:48:17 -0400

"Do you suppose anyone on this list is at all interested in, or is
aware of even the possible existence of, books in which the Communists
are _not_ the Good Guys? That anti-communism was, on the whole, both
correct and a good thing?

Just wondered.

Michael Etchison"



I had thought of suggesting, of all things, J. Edgar Hoover's book on
the subject from the 1950s, The Enemy Within (as I believe it was
called -- its been 40 years since I read it), to give a "flavor" of
what the tone was that progressive activists in the early 1960s had to
contend with. I suppose Herbert Philbrick's I Led 3 Lives or any of the
other McCarthy era tomes would serve the purpose just as well.

Frankly, anti-communism was, on the whole, terribly destructive. Not
because actually existing Stalinist regimes were not oppressive and
imperialist -- they were both -- but because it was used (both
internally within the US and externally through foreign policy) to
accomplish an inordinate number of horrible things. It was used to
justify racism and worse. Progressives of all stripes were red-baited
and hounded for years. From the Rosenbergs (one of whose sons, Michael,
was lurking on this list awhile back and may still be -- Hi, Michael)
up until the very present (Buchanan followers have been quoted just
this year as calling Clinton, the most conservative Democratic
president since Wilson, a "faggot commie bedwetter") association with
communism has been a charge utilized to disengage political discourse.
Without the "threat" of communism, US policy in South East Asia becomes
immediately apparent as deeply irrational (and the millions killed
during the war are one consequence), as has been US policy toward the
Carribean, Latin America and the rest of the third world.

Anticommunism even hurt the people whom it presumably sought to help --
the victims of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
To the great frustration of social democrats like Mike Harrington and
Irving Howe, the Trotskyist tradition in the US (save for its militant
dingbat fringe -- I believe the Sparts are still active), and the
"western Marxist tradition" out of Europe, real discourse concerning
the politics of that world were preclude by the monotone rigidities of
anti-communism. It was the Socialist Review (viz. Michael Burawoy's
articles in the late 80s), not the Reagan intelligence apparatus, that
was discussing how the critical battles for democracy in the early '90s
would be taking place in Eastern Europe. The fall of the wall, etc,
caught those anti-communist geniuses quite off guard.

So much for rewriting history, Michael,

Ron Silliman