Paul  Kengor

As someone with the highly unusual task of researching old, declassified Soviet and Communist Party USA archives, I often get quizzical looks as to why certain things from the distant past still matter.

Well, it’s indeed true that past is often prologue. And it’s striking to see how something in communist archives from, say, the 1920s, pertains to America right now.

That certainly seems the case with what I’ve found on the American Civil Liberties Union, whether challenging Christmas carols in public schools seven decades ago, or, currently, trying to compel Catholic hospitals to do abortions, or denouncing the Catholic bishops for opposing birth-control funding in “healthcare” legislation.

How ironic that I would find seeds of these things in communist archives, or, even more directly, in the pro-communist or pro-Soviet writings of the ACLU’s founders.

The ACLU’s early atheism is no surprise; its founders’ sympathies toward Bolshevism and the Soviet state are not disconnected from that atheism. Yet, most interesting, and unexpected, is how the ACLU’s founders’ views on the Leninist-Stalinist state’s advancement of abortion and birth control are connected—symbolically, at the least—to the organization’s advancement of abortion and birth control today.

Consider the founder of the ACLU, Roger Baldwin:

To get a sense of where Baldwin stood on all this, the best source is his 1928 book, Liberty Under the Soviets. The title was no joke. This champion of American “liberties,” like many ACLU founders, was fascinated with the Leninist-Stalinist state, having travelled there with other progressives in the hope that they had found the new world.

As to Baldwin and abortion and birth control, it isn’t easy to pin him down at the time of the Soviet legalization in the early 1920s. That said, Baldwin’s book comes close. Baldwin had to tread lightly on abortion in particular, as did birth-control feminists like racial-eugenicist Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood founder. Baldwin understood that only the most vulgar Americans considered legalizing abortion.

So, what did Baldwin say about these things in Liberty Under the Soviets? He hailed the “significant” “new freedom of women” in Soviet Russia. On page 118, he came nearer to endorsing Soviet abortion and birth-control policy: