by U.S. Senator William Armstrong
There is a word missing from the following quotations taken from recent news stories: “Nicaragua, Cuba and other leftist countries have played leading roles in arming and training El Salvador left-wing guerrillas since 1980 …” (Washington Post); “The radical government that came to power in Ethiopia after the 1974 overthrow of the Emperor Haile Salassie …” (New York Times).
“… rising hopes within President Fidel Castro’s government for better relations with the United States … the Cuban leader is successfully pursuing contacts with governments previously leery of his revolutionary ideology …” (Washington Post).
“At Berkeley, California, more than 112 people, including black educator and activist Angela Davis, were taken into custody at the University of California after blocking the entrance to the administration building.” (United Press International).
“Left-wing,” “leftist,” “Cuban leader,” “revolutionary,” “activist,” “radical” – one word is conspicuous by its absence from the above characterizations.
To use it, even in circumstances where its accuracy is unquestionable, is to reveal oneself as rude, unsophisticated, and intolerant. It is in fact something of a four letter word.
The word, of course, is communist. Nicaragua, Cuba, and other communist countries are aiding the communist guerrillas in El Salvador. There is a communist regime in Ethiopia. Fidel Castro is a communist dictator and his ideology is communism. There is something jarring about seeing these obvious facts simply stated, so rare have such plain, honest descriptions become.
Most remarkable is the description of Angela Davis as a “black educator and activist.” Other press accounts of her arrest note her teaching position at San Francisco State or call her “a key figure in the protest movements of the 1960s.” None saw fit to mention that she was the candidate for Vice President of the United States, on the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) ticket, in the 1980 and 1984 elections. Her running mate was Gus Hall, General Secretary of the CPUSA.
To call someone who calls himself a communist a “communist” is not a provacation or slander but a plain statement of fact, mere truth in labelling. Why this reluctance to use the word that fits?
One can understand the desire not to be labelled a “McCarthyite,” a “red-baiter” or a “cold-war paranoiac” by indiscriminately tossing the word “communist” at anyone who happens to disagree with you.
But this meticulous insistence on avoiding the word altogether seems to go beyond that. For example, among the euphemisms commonly employed to replace “communist,” the strongest are “Marxist” and “Marxist-Leninist.” This substitution is accurate, but there is something clinical about it, as if one were to insist on using “canis familiaris” every time one means to say “dog.”
There seems to be more at work there than the desire not to appear provocative or unfashionable. After all, avoiding the word “communist” coincides so completely with the interests of the communists themselves. Specifically it suits their purposes that the “class enemy” (that is, most non-communists anesthetize themselves into believing that communists aren’t really so different from anybody else, that, deep down, they’re just like you and me).
This is not to say that those who substitute euphemisms are necessarily conscious of this. (One is tempted to call them “communist dupes,” but this again brands one as a 1950s throwback). It does mean that we have a less than accurate picture of the challenges that face us in the world.
For the fact is: there is such a thing as communism, and there are people that think of themselves as communists. They have very definite ideas about how the world works and how history develops. Philosophically, they are strict materialists and militant atheists, specifically rejecting the restraints of morality accepted by most of humanity.
They are dedicated, in the words of the Communist Manifesto, to the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions,” a statement of incredible scope. Their goal, in the words of Pravda, March 23, 1983, is: “a communist future for all mankind.” And their chief obstacle is the “main enemy,” the United States.
In pursuing this goal they have built a formidable network of communist-ruled states and communist-directed parties, fronts and mass organizations. Communist call this the “international communist movement” – another taboo expression for non-communists. This movement has a track record, one which even the most conservative of estimates reckons as costing tens of millions of lives.
To recognize these realities without evasion or self-deception is not to be bellicose or dogmatic: it is a necessary step in defeating the communist threat to peace and freedom in today’s world. Conversely, to avoid calling communism what it is, is to fool ourselves. Hiding our heads in the sand is hardly likely to make the world a freer or safer place.