Another purpose in studying communism is to escape the lies of our time. Hollywood makes much of the “communist scare” time period, claiming the government was going around left and right to find communists, allowing innocent people to be blacklisted from Hollywood. However, almost never in school do teachers teach about this. Any knowledge I gained on the matter was due entirely to personal study.
I will admit, my studies of communism at this time lie within the Old World rather than the New. I do not know very much about the communist scare. There is, however, an unexpected source for information on this time period: When Character was King by Peggy Noonan. This is a biography on Ronald Reagan, and it describes how the former president went from an indifferent Democrat to someone who realized something much bigger was going on.
Reagan’s misadventures with communism began on page 55, where Noonan mentions his speeches against Nazi fascism made just post World War II. A friend suggested he mention communism in his next speech, though at that point Reagan had given it little thought. Keeping the suggestion in mind, Reagan added a mention to his next speech: “[I]f I ever find evidence that communism represents a threat to all that we believe in and stand for, I’ll speak out just as harshly against communism as I have fascism” (Noonan 55). Much to his surprise, the response was silence.
Since Reagan was a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, he was able to involve himself in a group investigating communist action in Hollywood (Noonan 56). Reagan then discovered that strikes being held at the time involved members of the communist party, some even admitting that they were being directed by Moscow (Noonan 57). Doing nothing more than investigating this matter led to much hatred for Reagan, and there was even a communist plot to throw acid in his face (Noonan 55).
Reagan was witness to many things that proved the communist scare: actors reciting the USSR constitution, volunteering to fight for the Soviets over America in the event of a war, and calling those that didn’t agree with them things like “capitalist scum”, “enemy of the proletariat”, and even “witch hunter” (Noonan 58). Reagan witnessed them hassling fellow actor John Garfield for standing up for him during a meeting (Noonan 61).
The communist’s reason for going after Hollywood was made clear by an unintentional parable in Reagan’s biography. Many years later, when Reagan had been shot during his first year as president, two of the people involved were influenced by films. One was his shooter, John Hinkley, who had wanted to shoot a president after seeing the film Taxi Driver. A film Reagan himself starred in as a Secret Service member inspired his bodyguard Jerry Parr to join the service (Noonan 195). Neither of these men were communist, but this scenario demonstrates the power of cinema.
Another lie present is that Che Guevara was not a murderer. Ignorant people admire this man. In FTCC’s own computer lab, March 27, 2013, I was told that “there are two sides to every story” concerning Guevara’s past, and that murdering people does not make someone a bad person (she followed up this gem with a comment saying that it is better to be racist than to be white).
So what is the side to Guevara’s story? He was certainly a communist, as he maintained contact with members of the communist party and was even a KGB contact for several years post 1953 (Fontova 40). Guevara’s activities centered around violence. He had peasants executed for refusing to join him (Fontova 38), executed random people without trial (43), murdered a boy for trying to defend his father (72), employed an insane rapist (73), and even confessed that he liked killing (67). There is also a myth about Guevara being a doctor, but Guevara himself admitted he wasn’t, saying he only had “some knowledge of medicine” (Fontova 195).
Even if a person refuses to believe all the previous information, there remains one troublesome piece of logic: Cuba now versus Cuba then. Back before Guevara and the Cuban revolution, the Cuban peso was 1:1 with the American dollar (Fontova 144). Now? The Cuban peso is worth nothing, and is not used outside of Cuba. In fact, it is worth so little that Cuba itself, beginning in 1993, began using American dollars as a side currency. In 2001, the Cuban convertible peso was created by the Cuban government, artificially rating these at a 1:1 value with the American dollar to force the Cuban people to use the convertible peso instead. It is now illegal to use the US dollar in Cuba (Economist par. 2).
Assuming one supports Che, does this same person also support Fidel Castro? After all, Guevara is partly responsible for Castro’s rise to power. Nowadays Cuban people risk their lives on haphazard boats to get to Florida because of Castro’s policies. Clearly, one who supports the rebel who created the “socialist paradise” must also support the tyranny itself, if only by association.
My favorite reason for studying communism is this: to become invincible; to remain unassaulted by wishy-washy historical revisionism. People these days think little of communism, that it is a mere relic of the past. They ignore it, calling it irrelevant and laughing at anyone who studies it (the advantage of being a nerd is that people laugh at me anyway, so I lose nothing by the study). We all know the saying that people who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. So, regardless of who is President, is on the Supreme Court, or is in the United Nations, America and Europe are doomed to learn the lesson of communism again because we did not learn it the first time. "Europe, of course, won't believe it. Not until Europe itself serves time will she believe it. Europe has believed our glossy magazines and can't get anything else into her head." (Solz ii302)