The Sacramento Union, April 17, 2008
SACRAMENTO – The Senate Education Committee held a hearing earlier this month on SB 1322, which allowed members of the Communist Party USA to teach and hold meetings in California’s public schools. This measure, authored by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a southern California Democrat, has left many puzzled.
The Sacramento Bee endorsed the bill and mocked those who regarded the prospect of Communists in the classroom as a cause for concern. On one level, it isn’t. The Communist Party USA is pretty much a dead parrot, and few people outside American university faculties, theological seminaries, insane asylums and homeless shelters actually believe in Communism. Unfortunately, the bill is historically misleading.
It implies that the Communist Party USA was just like other parties. It wasn’t, despite ad copy to the contrary. The CPUSA was an anti-American hate group and wholly owned subsidiary of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. During the Stalin Era and beyond, the CPUSA served the USSR as an alibi armory, defending a murderous regime at the nadir of its brutality.
Whatever they said for the record, members of the CPUSA did not believe in democracy, the Constitution or due process under American law. They were not liberals or freethinkers and the Party persecuted members who deviated from the politically correct line. Neither were they idealists who hoped only for a better world. They knew full well the record of mass death, poverty and misery, but remained slavish totalitarians, and that holds true even if they are someone’s beloved relative or friend. That they tricked out Communism in populist pieties only adds to the indictment against them.
Communism itself has not exactly been swept into the ashcan of history where it belongs. A Communist regime still exists in the planet’s most populous nation, China, which operates espionage rings in this country. (See, “Sentence issued in military data case,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2008.) A Stalinist with nuclear weapons holds sway in North Korea. Cubans must endure a hereditary Communist dictatorship, which, by 2010, will allow them to purchase an electric toaster.
In America, meanwhile, Communists, Fascists, Nazis, Ku Kluckers and the like enjoy full rights to believe what they want and associate with those who believe likewise. They have no right, however, to a captive audience in California schools, use of public-school facilities, nor a salary from the public purse. Sen. Lowenthal would do better to craft a more diverse bill aimed at those with proven terrorist and totalitarian associations.
History is something to be studied, not created after the fact. The push is on to portray CPUSA members as misunderstood but essentially noble idealists, persecuted by evil capitalist America. California law should not be an accessory to that enterprise. Sen. Lowenthal’s bill, however, does have value. It confirms that California needs to do a better job teaching about the major mass movement of our time.
To teach this subject better, the emphasis should be on historical accuracy, not political correctness. The reading list should include books such as Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History,” also “The Great Terror,” “The God That Failed” and “The Black Book of Communism,” which estimates the global victims of Communism at 100 million.
As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And California now abides revisionism, political correctness, and ignorance, but the greatest of these is ignorance.