The Failures of Anti-Communism

Main St., too.
Main St., too. | Source

Today, there is little talk of communism, regarded mostly as an experiment that failed. But for almost an entire century, fear of the underclasses taking charge was rampant. Ever since the French Revolution, there could be no credible talk of royal and aristocratic forms of government. But communists did not stop there. They took aim at the middle class, too. In fact, they targeted the middle class and dissed just about all its cherished beliefs, customs, traditions, tastes, and standards. In 1919, the Third International Comintern formed to insure communists that they alone would dominate all the various movements to the left of status quo capitalism. Although Germany, considered the center, or possibly the next center of power, in Europe, remained independent of revolutionary forces, it had always been the original communists's object of desire. Russia had its own axes to grind, primarily against the oppression of a Tsar and his vast power and domain. But since it was Russia, not Germany, that eventually accepted the renegades of the Left Wing, many intellectuals, artists, and, for lack of a better term, liberals, rallied to their cause. Later on, it is worth noting, they changed.

The above is a short history indeed. The truth is much more complicated. But the point of the hub is that despite being unprecedented and without much in the way of historical ties, or even well-wishers, the communists who settled into Russia, booted out their rivals, then spread out across the globe, were incredibly hard to fight, cold or hot. In fact, they were never fought effectively. That they were smart and capable, if at times under-financed and short-handed, is a given. But anti-communists were at least as smart and capable, and also had the advantage of being well-funded, with tons of popular support. And as strong and vibrant as the leading anti-communist country, America, was, internally and externally, its fight against communism was much more difficult than anticipated.

Look at the record: McCarthy, HUAC, Korea, China, Europe, Vietnam, Cuba, and an assortment of other contested regions. At best, America acquitted itself with a semblance of decency, but never victory. Not altogether. Despite the possibility that he was right, McCarthy could not conclusively prove the existence of communists in the state department. HUAC subpoenaed a number of Hollywood writers, actors, producers, and directors, some of whom indeed were members in the Communist Party of America. Others were merely activists with casual card-carrying acquaintances. Nonetheless, HUAC could also never establish that filmmakers, individually or in concert, did much more than contribute to the manufacture of movies that most people liked. They were, as a whole, however (if this is condemnatory), highly motivated to bring about a better world. But outside of providing opprobrious alternative entertainment of a sort, little to nothing was accomplished by this congressional committee. Also, the Hiss-Chambers drama, despite ending in a conviction, to this day remains inconclusive.

In Korea, fighting had to be abandoned. Later, in Vietnam, the same result ensued. Cuba, just eighty miles away, turned out to be well-fortified and surprisingly prepared, courtesy of the old Soviet Union. Eastern Europe lost country after country to the Iron Curtain with virtually no opposition. In China, American-backed Chiang Kai-Shek ultimately capitulated to Mao Tse Tung, who won not only on battlegrounds but within the hearts and minds of his fellow-countrymen. In other words, although communism is in abeyance, it was a terrible problem in its heyday, and threatens to be so again, should it return. Few people one meets, then or now, cotton to communism, and yet, transient though it was, it had strongholds all over the globe. This includes our own hemisphere. Overseas, it controlled (slaughtered and lorded over) Cambodia. In Latin America, it achieved legitimacy in El Salvador. In South America, the Chilean military had to overthrow an elected government in order to oust a radical, socialist president.

Not to spoil the party. . . . But since capitalism is the dominant economic system, the only real exception being Red China, now is the time for it to excel and not squander an opportunity that might not last forever. As far as anyone knows, there is no competitive economic configuration in the West, and despite any and every catastrophe, capitalism will probably only be succeeded by the kingdom of heaven. And yet, with one crisis after another, and the awful quagmires that persist, despite the best efforts and attendant noble prize-winning minds, there are grave doubts. With every passing day, the 19th century industrialism that was first and foremost in the mind of Marx becomes more and more quaint. But we are all economic animals, and the primary form of capitalism that currently obtains, along with its secondary variations -- consisting as it does of innumerable markets -- is surely not that of our fathers and grandfathers. Just something to keep in mind. . . .

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