Editor's Note: This piece was co-authored by Shonda Werry.
The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan raises new questions about what we gained from our twenty-year war there. In this “woke” era, our education system has turned away from teaching the evils of Marxism, leaving our children unable to understand the dangers of radical ideologies in all forms.
At a time when parents are, understandably, outraged by the ideological hijacking of teachers’ unions and curriculum by philosophies rooted not only in Marxism itself, but also in pedagogies that could have been taken from a Soviet-era playbook for undermining American society, it may seem a curious time to advocate for more Karl Marx in the classroom.
The truth is, though, that this indoctrination has been able to gain a foothold in our education system precisely because of our failure to teach the devastating consequences of implementing Marxism.
The notions that America is not an exceptional nation, that America was founded on racist ideals, and that our institutions bolstering freedom should be radically changed are rampant in classrooms today. Notably, all of these ideas were applauded, supported, and propagated by the Soviet Union and their Marxist cohorts in the United States.
When it comes to talking about evil political systems, our schools teach Nazi history, but what about the other totalitarian ideology that wreaked havoc in the 20th century, and continues to do so today? Where is the condemnation of Communism and the horrors that its decades-long implementation brought to millions across the globe, with millions dead and hundreds of millions oppressed?
To the extent that we see Communism addressed at all, it is usually a matter-of-fact text about economic systems and alternatives to capitalism. Communism is rarely exposed as a system of both economics and politics that has not only failed repeatedly, but has inevitably led to oppression, over and over again. (This failure is always accompanied by the constant refrain, “that wasn’t ‘real’ communism” as the excuse. Except it was.)
Teaching Communism purely as an economic system ignores the system’s true nature. This all-encompassing ideology undermines human nature to such a degree that it always necessitates brutal violence and totalitarian responses to force human beings to comply. Communism is hardly a mere economic system, since it must be predicated on political force – the subsumption of the individual to the demands of the collective.
In our superficial teaching of Communism, we fall for a Marxist tactic, the reduction of everything to purely economic terms. We thus lose sight of Communism’s attack on the individual, as the ideology sets out to build utopia. Individuals are diminished as nothing more than the building blocks of a better future society.
Communism always – and everywhere – degrades human worth. As David Satter noted in his book Darkness at Dawn, “During Russia’s more than seven decades of Communist rule, human beings were treated as raw material in the service of some ‘higher’ social goal.…The lives of individuals did not matter. What mattered was the system.” Human life, once devalued, is easily sacrificed under Communism
Black Lives Matter, a self-described Marxist organization whose teachings have infiltrated classrooms, purports to care about individual black lives. But societies based on Marxism systematically devalue human life. We see that under Communism no lives matter, regardless of race.
These Marxist methods arose in our schools against the backdrop of a severe lack of knowledge about Marxism. We don’t teach Communism, so we are not sufficiently on guard for Marxist tactics and explicitly Marxist class-based and race-based social agitation, as when Kindergarteners are asked to think about their racial “affinities” and to place themselves into different power groups.
The tendency to downplay Communism’s crimes and Marxism’s flaws is nothing new. Academics, journalists, and politicians in the last century have preferred to prop up Marxism by turning a blind eye to the actual history of starvation, labor camps, mass executions, and the crackdowns on political opposition.
Nikita Khrushchev set the standard for today’s liberals who wish to make excuses for Communism. Khrushchev whitewashed Communism’s crimes by shifting the blame to Stalin and his peculiarities, rather than honestly admitting that these crimes against humanity were inevitable in this flawed system. Today we continue Khrushchev’s fairytale when we make excuses for Communism’s role in China’s crackdowns on basic human freedoms, ignore Cubans’ cries for liberty, and refuse to teach the true history in our classrooms.
As we approach December’s thirty-year anniversary of the Soviet Union’s collapse, we are reminded of the importance of telling the truth about Communism. President Ronald Reagan never shied away from discussing the poverty and corruption attendant in a system that dehumanized individuals. The USSR collapsed under the weight of this truth.
The task of ridding our classrooms of Marxist indoctrination would be much easier if we were committed to teaching Marxism’s consequences.
Andrew Langer is President of the recently-created Institute for Regulatory Analysis and Engagement. Shonda Werry is a writer in Washington, DC.