Over the next month or two I am going to offer up some of my personal opinions on things political. I hope to cover a number of isms including communism, conservatism, socialism, capitalism, progressivism, and corporatism. Sometimes the isms will be mixed together. In most cases I will be referring to things political in the US but not exclusively.
If politics isn’t your bag you can be assured that I will also be posting other stories about other things too.
Out of all the swear words, we know that the “F” word probably has the biggest impact. Calling someone a “communist” is intended to have a similar impact. It is like a broad condemnation of complete evil. In some ways calling someone a communist is like lobbing a grenade. Just like putting “mother” before the “F” word to give it more impact “Marxist” or “Stalinist” are often words that are used as substitutions for “communist.
You could find yourself in a lot of hot water if you used a disparaging name to identify a minority but hardly anything is ever said by anyone if someone is labelled a communist. Most often the accusation is associated with anything by the right to be considered socialist.
Something like 40% of Americans believe that Obama is a socialist. It is kind of hard to figure out that assumption because he hasn’t done anything of note that would be considered socialist. Even Obamacare (The Affordable Healthcare Act) requires US citizens to buy their healthcare insurance from privately owned insurance companies. The stock market has been booming for the past few years and corporate America is making record profits. There has been no curtailing of religious freedoms and there have been no restrictions on gun ownership. Where is the socialist take-overs of privately owned businesses?
None of this stops the far right from lobbing the grenades though.
For all intents and purposes communism as a political ideology is almost dead. There are only 5 communist countries left in the world and there is zero threat of communism expanding. Those 5 countries are China, Viet Nam, Cuba, Laos, and North Korea. North Korea is basically a rogue state run by people that are close to being insane. North Korea is more like a cult that a society. Laos (11 million people) and Cuba (6.5 million people) have small populations and are hardly influential in the world. China and Viet Nam have mixed economies even though they are considered communist. Over 7 million tourists visit Viet Nam ever year and China has over 560,000 millionaires.
The same people who throw the grenades accusing people of being communists seem to have no problem with the hundreds of US corporations including Apple, Nike, Hewlett Packard, etc., that use communist labour in China to manufacture their products. The grenade throwers also turn a blind eye to all the US jobs that have gone to China or the simple fact that China wouldn’t be what it is today without all of their exports to the US.
A number of Americans have a funny way of looking at history. If the truth is uncomfortable they often tend to ignore it like it never happened.
Socialism and for that matter unionism became a part of the American fabric with the advent of the industrial revolution in the latter part of the eighteen hundreds. It used to be that kids could work in mines instead of going to school, there was a 6 day work week, workers had few rights, and working conditions were often deplorable. The Gilded age in the 1890s in America was about a large working class ruled by wealthy monopolists. Those that went out on strike for better conditions were often beaten and sometimes murdered by hired thugs or private militias including the Pinkertons.
The stock market crash of 1929 (caused by greed and false values of stocks) and the Dust Bowl in the 1930s (caused mostly by poor agricultural practices) led to The Great Depression which was felt worldwide. People with no hope looked to other political ideologies. Communism was one of them. Many were looking for some way to try and solve the poverty and unemployment problems. At its peak, the American Communist Party had something like 80,000 card carrying members. Most of these members had no clear understanding of the suffering and deaths going on in Russia at the time.
|President Franklin Delano Roosevelt|
In 1932 FDR was elected president. The US economy was in a shambles. Unemployment was at 25% and millions were homeless. One of the first things FDR did was institute new banking regulations and the Glass-Steagall Act was implemented to prevent risky business practices by financial institutions.
Old age security was also introduced. Up until then old people who were poor often lived their remaining years in poor houses. The WPA ( Workers Progress Administration) was formed to carry out public works projects. Almost every community in the US had a park, bridge, or school constructed by the agency. At its peak in 1938 the WPA employed over 3 million people.
FDR was elected in 1932 with 57% of the vote and in 1936 with almost 61% of the vote. Some Republican businessmen including the father of later president H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, a banker who was against any form of socialism, considered overthrowing the elected government with the aid of an armed militia. Oddly enough, Prescott Bush was a big advocate for birth control for women.
For the most part the US was isolationistic when it came to being involved in WW2. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour changed all of that. Between the socialistic things that FDR introduced to the US and the US entering WW2, any American interest in communism became hard to find. Even Woody Guthrie signed up for the merchant marine.
Throughout the duration of the war thoughts about the evils of communism were put on the back burner in the US. FDR sat at the same tables along with Churchill and Stalin. There were even American war posters lauding their Russian comrades. America said and did very little when Stalin took over the Baltic countries in 1939 in a deal he made with Hitler.
|Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin chummy at Yalta.|
After WW2 the USSR moved rapidly in bringing eastern European countries into the Soviet bloc, including Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and East Germany. It is quite understandable that American politicians and generals were freaking out. And on top of having a huge army the commies now had their own atomic bombs. In 1946 Winston Churchill read a speech that talked about the “iron curtain”.
In 1948 Israel became a country. In order to survive they instituted a kind of collectivism in which their younger people were required to work on kibbutzes (agricultural farms) and serve for a few years in the military. Nobody in the US was calling them communists or even socialists because of those collective farms.
In 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the US for espionage on behalf of the USSR. Alger Hiss had previously been convicted of espionage in 1950. There was a kind of panic at the time as to who how many had infiltrated the military and the government in the US.
Also in 1950, a Republican Senator from Wisconsin made his first accusations about the number of communists he believed to be in the US federal government. The blacklists started with creative Hollywood types who were mostly writers who at some point earlier in their lives had communist sympathies. At one point even Lucille Ball of I love Lucy was suspect because her uncle at one time was a communist. The reality is that Lucille Ball twice was registered as a communist when she voted in 1936 and 1938.
McCarthy never was one who liked to deal in facts. He would reel off numbers of who he thought were active communists but couldn’t actually name them because he was just guessing. He was exposed for who he was by the famous newsman Edward R. Murrow as man of innuendo and little else.
|Joseph Welch and Joseph McCarthy|
In June of 1954, Joseph N. Welch, the head council for the US army, called McCarthy out for going after a junior lawyer who at one time had belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, a group that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had once tried to get designated as a communist front organization. Welch said to McCarthy “Have you no decency sir?” Later in 1954 McCarthy was censured by the US senate in a 67-22 vote. McCarthy’s career was over and he died a few years later of alcoholism.
By the mid-1950s there were only about 5000 card carrying members of the American Communist Party. It is thought that 1500 of them were informants for the FBI.
The “Cold War” between the US and the USSR lasted 4 decades. Once McCarthy disappeared the paranoia about suspecting Americans of being communist sympathisers disappeared except for a few right wing crackpots.
In 1961 The Bay of Pigs assault on Cuba by a rag tag bunch of Cuban exiles with some clandestine American support occurred and ended up a disastrous fiasco. Cuba had become communist under Fidel Castro who came to power in 1959. In 1962 there was a standoff between the USSR and America over Soviet missiles in Cuba. It was probably the closest that the Soviets and the Americans ever came to going to war with one another. In the end the Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba. Missiles were also secretly removed from Turkey, a US ally.
10 years later, in 1972 US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, under President Nixon opened up detente with China. US relations with the USSR also started to change.
In 1981 Ronald Reagan was elected US president. He was as anti-communist as they come dating back to the 1940s. He believed in a large build-up of US armed forces with a presence around the world. The Soviet Union was teetering at the time. The president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, condemned a number of actions that Stalin and Nikita Krushchev had taken. The Soviets were at war in Afghanistan for 9 years and it was draining them financially.
In 1987 Reagan gave his “tear down this wall” speech in Berlin. In 1991 the Soviet empire collapsed. It is still being argued today as to what impact Reagan had on the demise of communism in Eastern Europe.
10 years later 9/11 happened. Politics were changing rapidly in America. The new fears resulted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. America became more severely divided. Conservatives became more rigid. Bush Jr. ran the US into the toilet. The 2 wars he engaged in were unfunded. Although the US was at war for most of his presidency, he decided to do something unprecedented during a time of war. He gave huge tax breaks to the rich.
Most of America had had enough of Bush’s style and Obama was elected over John McCain as president. Obama was first of all black which enraged many on the far right but he was also perceived to be a liberal. Instead of recognizing how the Republican Party had been largely responsible for the huge accrued national debt, the financial meltdown, and massive unemployment, Republicans decided instead to block anything progressive that would help solve some of the problems.
In 2012 Republicans took over congress with the promise of more jobs aided in large part by a new faction of their party called The Tea Party. Congress now has an approval rating of about 9%. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage have come to the fore and job creation has virtually been ignored.
Along with the Tea Party came the identifying of Obama as the “other”. 64% of Republicans believe that Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii and dispute his birth certificate whether it be the long or short one. Equally disturbing is the continual identification of Obama as a communist or socialist. Obama could have fought for the public option in his healthcare bill which would have been a socialist entity but he took a pass on that. Hell, Obama isn’t really a progressive never mind being a socialist or communist.
Communism is dead period. Using it as an attack tool in this day and age is sad and it really is a very strong indication that those that use the word to defile someone else’s character just don’t have any understanding of what they are talking about.