Paul  Kengor

Wilson dubbed the Bolsheviks "barbarians," "terrorists," and "tyrants." He said they were engaged in a "brutal" campaign of "mass terrorism," of "blood and terror," of "indiscriminate slaughter" through "cunning" and "savage oppression." The "violent and tyrannical" Bolsheviks were "the most consummate sneaks in the world," and Bolshevism was an "ugly, poisonous thing." Wilson warned that the Bolsheviks were pushing an "expansionist" ideology that they wanted to export "throughout the world," including into the United States.

Most significant, Wilson and his State Department insisted that America should not have diplomatic relations or try to find common ground with the Bolsheviks. "In the view of this government," said Wilson's State Department in August 1920, "there cannot be any common ground upon which it can stand with a power whose conceptions of international relations are so entirely alien to its own, so utterly repugnant to its moral sense. ... We cannot recognize, hold official relations with, or give friendly reception to the agents of a government which is determined and bound to conspire against our institutions; whose diplomats will be the agitators of dangerous revolt; whose spokesmen say that they sign agreements with no intention of keeping them."

One of Wilson's more striking displays was a Sept. 6, 1919, speech in Kansas City, where the great liberal seemed to engage in what his liberal forebears would certainly consider Red-baiting.

Reiterating his "abhorrence" of Bolshevism, Wilson was stumping for the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which was being opposed by isolationist Republicans. Here, Wilson compared that Republican opposition to the Bolshevik "spirit." He told his critics to "put up or shut up," and then asserted: "Opposition constructs nothing. Opposition is the specialty of those who are Bolshevistically inclined."

President Wilson was so concerned about international communism that he actually aided the forces fighting the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. He supported a naval blockade of a Red-controlled area inside the USSR, and even joined a multinational Western coalition in sending troops—a huge contingent of over 10,000 American boys—to battle the Bolsheviks.

Wilson's characterization of Bolshevism and the communist threat was hardly ill-informed. Highly educated, Wilson suffered no delusions about Marxism-Leninism, and knew that the American Communist Party was not simply another political party. He was a man of the progressive left who understood the destructiveness of the communist left. He observed how communists lied to and sought to manipulate his fellow progressives.

That is why communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, despised Wilson. It's a side of the renowned progressive that few, on the left or right, seem to remember or acknowledge. It's also a key reason why conservatives—Beck included—who, if nothing else, are vociferously anti-communist, might reconsider Wilson, at least somewhat.


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