June 13, 2008
Return of the Dupes and the Anti-Anti-CommunistsBy Paul Kengor
Since literally the founding of the American Communist Party in 1919, the extreme left -- specifically, the communists -- have relied upon genuine liberals to be dupes, or suckers, to help further their cause. Here's how it typically worked: the communists would engage in some sort of work or agenda, very focused, and which they would be prepared to publicly deny. Anyone who has done any work with or on communists, from New York City to Moscow, can speak at length about how they operated with deceit. As Vladimir Lenin had said, in a favorite quote cited often by Ronald Reagan, the only morality that communists recognized was that which furthered their interests.
At some point as the communists pursued their intentions, someone or some group -- usually conservatives or moderate Republicans -- would catch on and blow the whistle. When the alarm was sounded, the communists typically would flat-out lie about whatever they were doing: claiming not to be guilty of the charges, but rather victims of right-wing paranoia. For this, they relied upon gullible liberals -- non-communist liberals -- to join them in attacking their accusers on the right.
These liberals, particularly after the McCarthy period, came to detest the anti-communists on the right. These liberals were not pro-communist but anti-anti-communist. They saw the anti-communists as Neanderthals, and still do, even though the anti-communists were absolutely right about the 20th century slaughter otherwise known as Marxism-Leninism. This ongoing anti-anti-communism is immediately evident in a quick conversation with your typical liberal in the press or academia. When I lecture at universities around the country, rattling off facts about the literally unparalleled communist destruction in the 20th century -- easily over 100 million people died under communism from about 1917-79 -- the young people are riveted, clearly having never heard any of this in the classroom, whereas their professors roll their eyes, as if the ghost of Joe McCarthy had flown into the room and leapt inside of my body.
It is all, yes, quite bizarre, quite strange, and really requires more of a psychological explanation for which I'm not adequately trained. But the point is that this anti-anti-communism works beautifully for the true communists who rely upon liberal dupes -- of whom the communists are privately contemptuous, given the liberals' stunning naïveté.
Fortunately, on the plus side, there have been some good non-communist liberals who refused to be duped - the late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. comes to mind -- and who were crucial to ratting out the communists. These are the smarter liberals, not dictated to purely by emotion. These liberals played an important role during the Cold War, and for a very significant reason that rarely gets its due: these liberals knew, as the right-wing anti-communists knew, that the communists often actively undermined genuine liberal causes -- from advancing workers' rights to civil rights.
Why do I mention this now? Because the entire process is being repeated once again before our eyes, except now it's worse, given that the modern left is so outrageously uninformed, having been trained -- by the mainstream media, Hollywood, liberal historians, and the academy -- to reflexively dismiss any charge of communism as illegitimate McCarthyism, even when the charge is not only accurate but, importantly, exposes how the communists have literally schemed to undermine yet another genuine liberal cause.
I will start from the beginning:
A couple of weeks ago in Washington, Herb Romerstein and Cliff Kincaid, two veteran investigators of American communism, held a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the release of two new reports on Barack Obama's radical past, or, more specifically, his association with extremist elements from the American left -- yet more evidence of a frightening pattern of associations by Obama throughout his distant and recent life, from Bill Ayers to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, all of which at the least shows bad judgment. At the press conference, they discussed Romerstein's report on Frank Marshall Davis, an influential figure in Obama's early life, whom Obama refers to only as "Frank" (albeit affectionately) in his autobiography Dreams From My Father. Davis was a communist, a member of CPUSA. Romerstein developed that fact very carefully in his report, which contained at least a half dozen exhibits and other forms of reliable documentation -- a fact that itself is news, since many (on the gullible left) still like to question whether Davis was a Party member.
Before going further, I would like to add a word on Herb Romerstein's credibility: Romerstein himself was a communist early in life, a member of CPUSA. He broke ranks over 50 years ago. He went on to become probably the single most respected authority on American communism. He is the go-to guy on questions of American communism -- thoroughly respected from the legislative to executive branch. He is the individual who did the work on the Venona papers. He is completely credible.
I know this well, because I know Romerstein. I've worked with him on precisely this kind of research. He is extremely fair, precise, nuanced, and knowledgeable. He constantly exhorts me by email or phone: "Now, Paul, be careful there: He was a liberal and never a communist -- a sucker, maybe; but not a communist." Another example, which is a direct quote from an email: "He was a small ‘c' communist, but never a party member, and later a non-communist liberal who cooperated with the FBI." Or, as he often says: "No, Paul, he was a good guy. An anti-communist liberal. No dupe." Romerstein is no witch-hunter and has never been accused of such. He is the epitome of responsible anti-communism.
That said, what did Romerstein find on Frank Marshall Davis? He showed not only that Davis was a communist, but -- listen up, liberals -- how Davis and his comrades worked to undermine genuine liberal causes because of their lock-step subservience to the Comintern and the USSR. Modern liberals need to understand, for example, how the American communist movement, including men like Davis, flip-flopped on issues as grave as Nazism and World War II based entirely on whether Hitler was signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin or invading Stalin's Soviet Union. The disgusting about-face by CPUSA on this matter was unforgivable. And what a shame that liberal college professors don't teach this to their students. Liberals also need to know how their friends inside government were used by communists who sought victory for Mao Tse-Tung in China in 1949, which would lead to the single greatest concentration of corpses in human history: 60-70 million dead Chinese from 1957 to 1969.
Finally, if that doesn't concern liberals, they should understand how communists, including Frank Marshall Davis, used the civil-rights movement, and again and again exploited and undermined the NAACP. Romerstein lays this out at length in his report. He quotes Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, who rightly noted of Davis and his comrades: "they would now destroy the local branch of the NAACP." They would do so after having destroyed another good civil-rights organization. "Comrade Davis," wrote Wilkins, "was supported by others who recently ‘sneaked' into the organization with the avowed intent and purpose of converting it into a front for the Stalinist line." Wilkins knew well that this was a standard "tactic" by the communists; it was known by everyone involved in the NAACP at the time. Wilkins, like many civil-rights leaders of his time, refused to be duped by Davis and his comrades.
Where does Obama meet Davis? -- in Hawaii. Similar to Obama, whose mother moved from Kansas to Seattle to Honolulu, with Obama on to Chicago, Frank Marshall Davis went from Kansas to Chicago to Honolulu. Obama freely admits to learning and taking advice from Davis, which surely was nothing like the "Midwestern values" that Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) claimed his mother learned in Kansas. While most Americans by the late 1970s and early 1980s were at last convinced that détente with the Soviets was a sham, and that the USSR was an Evil Empire that needed to be dissolved, Obama almost certainly was learning exactly the opposite -- moving totally against what Ronald Reagan described as the "tide of history," a "freedom tide" that would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history."
Instead, as Obama writes in Dreams From My Father, he was hanging out with the "Marxist professors," attending "socialist conferences," and "discuss[ing] neocolonialism." Rather than learning about the American exceptionalism that would seek to bring freedom to the USSR and Eastern Europe, Obama was hearing about the glory of the Bolshevik experiment. This was the wrong side of history.
Enter Dana Milbank
Jumping into this unfolding drama is Dana Milbank, the columnist for the Washington Post. Milbank was apparently one of the few mainstream journalists to attend the Romerstein press conference on Capitol Hill, according to the reporting of columnist Bill Steigerwald, a good reporter who was also there. Steigerwald noted that it quickly became apparent that Milbank was basically there to mock the event. In response, Milbank could write about it in the Post, and his fellow liberals could enjoy a chuckle at the expense of the latest exhibit of right-wing anti-communist cavemen.
Milbank didn't disappoint. He described the press conference as a new Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, as the 2008 version of the 2004 Swift Boat veterans, and described Romerstein as "a living relic from the House Committee on Un-American Activities." The whole thing, reported Milbank, sounded "like a UFO convention." He even pooh-poohed the quite legitimate, quite telling point that Obama's past affiliations are so "dodgy" (Milbank's word) that he would have difficulty getting a government security clearance. Indeed, he would-and that's a big deal for a man who could be our next president.
To be fair, Milbank, while at the press conference, did ask the pertinent question: Was Romerstein trying to argue that Obama is a communist? What's the point of this if Obama is not a communist, right?
Well, yes and no. He has not, to anyone's knowledge, ever been a member of the Communist Party. On the other hand, his friends have been members. And there is a clear long-running association in this man's life with the most radical of the far left: on the religion side, there is Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger, on the political side, there is the likes of William Ayers and, yes, Frank Marshall Davis, to name only a few. And remarkably, Obama cites some of these people as mentors, and even draws from their messages in conceiving the title of the bestselling book that made everyone gaga over Obama in the first place -- here I'm referring to Audacity of Hope, which is based on a Rev. Wright sermon.
These associations actually should tell us a lot, as should Obama's struggle to deal with them only once the public learns their full extent. It all points to a truly troubling reality: regardless of whether the man is a communist, his politics are remarkably radical, and have been for a very long and recent time -- and that's a crucial consideration as America considers voting for him.
And guess what? Dana Milbank and his allies know this. They will not admit it because of what they themselves try to conceal on a daily basis, and likewise as poorly as Obama: their obvious liberal bias. Like Obama, the liberal press can never be fully open about its thinking and intentions. And liberals in the press, by and large, clearly want Barack Obama to be president, a bias that clouds their judgment and hinders their ability to do objective reporting. Their lack of objectivity is obvious.
What's more, Milbank and the others would be concerned -- likely obsessed -- if Obama were a Republican who had these sort of long-running associations with the far-right. In fact, they themselves do this kind of hard digging on Republicans.
Frank Marshall Davis, as Roy Wilkins of the NAACP noted, toed the Stalinist line. What would Dana Milbank think of, say, a John McCain mentor who had toed the line for Hitler? I can tell you that I, as a conservative Republican, would be pretty darned disappointed and would demand some answers. I would not turn it into a joke. And if McCain did not absolutely, convincingly repudiate it, I absolutely would not vote for him.
Once again, too, it is the anti-communism that liberals like Milbank visibly despise, not the pro-communism. The end result is that the bad guys on the communist far-left, such as the likes of Frank Marshall Davis, continue to get a pass long after they've departed this world, as will those who consider them mentors. These were extreme leftists who hurt liberalism -- who hurt some of the dearest liberal causes. Davis, in death, is protected, his dirty work covered up, by a press who must now protect their anointed one.
The irony of journalists like Dana Milbank, who is far from alone, is that while they are laughing at the anti-communists, they seem to have no idea that the loudest howls of laughter have always come from the communists who see such journalists as dupes -- as gullible liberals to be duped to advance the communist cause. It is a time-honored tradition, and genuine liberals have filled the role again and again. It is always important to know who you friends are and aren't. And the communists were never the liberals' friends. The fact is that the joke is on liberals, except that none of this is really very funny.
Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).