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Travis Cunha

Feb 25, 2024

American Anti-Communism in the 21st Century

The American right wing has long clashed with Communist groups and their policies, both domestically and internationally. However, not since McCarthyism have we witnessed such discrimination against "communists" in the United States. Although we aren't seeing actors and celebrities being blacklisted for their political beliefs, several states are enacting laws to discourage the spread of ostensive "communist ideas," with Florida taking a leading role in this effort.

In Florida, November 7th is now officially recognized as "Victims of Communism Day," and there's rapid progress on a policy mandating schools to teach the "history of Communism," of course with a bleakly negative portrayal. Introduced by House Republicans in January, the legislation requires public schools to include lessons on various topics, such as the history of communism in the United States, communist policies in Cuba and Latin America, and the expansion of communism throughout the 20th century, citing events like China's Cultural Revolution. If approved, these educational mandates are set to be implemented in the academic year spanning 2026-2027.

The average consumer of American mainstream media might interpret this as conservative right-wing attempts to protect against radical leftists, or as racially-charged and reactionary MAGA supporters enforcing authoritarian measures on activists. However, those with a more nuanced historical understanding, not influenced by simplistic categorizations, see a fundamental flaw in both Democratic and Republican views of this conflict. Despite portraying themselves as opponents, they are contending with the same underlying problem.

Tragic Ignorance of History

Both Republicans and Democrats share a common misunderstanding of the history of Communism, which would likely surprise them if they delved into some research. Many Republicans (and leftists) might be astonished to discover that their party wasn't founded by Abraham Lincoln or a business magnate, but by a Marxist American named Alvin Bovay. Born in 1818 in New York, Bovay was an attorney and an active abolitionist who played a crucial role in the establishment of the Republican Party. In 1854, he organized a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, where a group of anti-slavery activists convened to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This gathering laid the foundation for the founding of the Republican Party, which quickly rose as a significant political force in the United States, particularly in its opposition to the expansion of slavery into new territories.

Disciplined Marxist-Leninists often hold a greater disdain for the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, partly due to their limited historical understanding of the ideology they claim to follow. While the right-wing frequently labels any Democratic policy or action as "Marxist," Democrats themselves don't always reject this characterization; in fact, some even embrace it. However, by professing to continue the historical class struggle, they are actually adopting a distorted version of Marxist ideas that gained popularity during the Cold War, as part of an effort by U.S. intelligence agencies to create an "acceptable" form of leftism that wouldn't threaten Capitalism. Elizabeth P, in her article "Cultural Pseudo Marxism" for The Revolution Report, extensively covers this phenomenon. The concept that emerged from this narrative became known as "Cultural Marxism."

Elizabeth's article explains: "According to Critical Theory, ideology is seen as the primary source of oppression, and the goal is to analyze and challenge these ideas that impede human freedom. In contrast, Marxism employs dialectical materialism to understand that these ideas merely reflect reality rather than shape it." The impact of this narrative is evident today, as the largest "leftist" groups in America often prioritize cultural issues over attempts to unite based on class struggle.

The mainstream left in the United States is now comprised of individuals who either identify as Communists while condemning the historical accomplishments of the Soviet Union and modern China, or who praise both while advocating for ideologies that diverge from orthodox Communist principles.

Rather than prioritizing class struggle as the central rallying point, these misguided leftists often imagine Stalin and Lenin as advocates fighting against transphobia and racism, revealing a significant lack of understanding about the ideologies of past Communist leaders.

Fighting an Imaginary Monster

The American understanding of Communist history is tragically distorted by both those who claim to support it and those who seek to eradicate it entirely. However lamentable this situation may be, it's essential to recognize that it's also their responsibility for not seeking the truth. While genuine Communists and anti-imperialists in the West face increasing censorship, the information remains available for those courageous enough to seek out the real history of Communism. Understanding the actual events would disrupt the narratives of both the left and right. The left would need to account for supporting leaders who often did not prioritize the same cultural issues. Meanwhile, the right would need to reconcile denouncing a group of people who also advocate for a government that aims to dismantle state bureaucracy, protect small businesses and farms, and uphold traditional notions of successful and healthy families.

Presently, the right is engaged in combating an enemy that doesn't truly exist; there aren't any actual Marxist groups in the United States with enough influence to shape policies. Similarly, the left faces a similar dilemma, as they claim to represent a faction that never truly existed: Marxist groups that upheld the legacies of Stalin and Mao while disregarding class issues and neglecting the poor under the guise of being "backward" or "racist."

This leaves us in a challenging position for those who genuinely aim to carry on the tradition of the great Communists who came before us and adapt the struggle to the modern American context. Though the answer may not be immediately apparent, it's crucial that we resist being drawn into either camp. We must stay unwavering in our commitment to addressing working-class issues and recognizing the true enemy, which remains consistent with Lenin's time: the global elite who perpetuate poverty and endless wars to enrich themselves.

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