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Anti-Communism in the American Classroom

By Wesley Hothersall

The author of this article is reflecting on their experiences while student-teaching at a public high school in a small Midwest town.

It goes without saying that anti-Communism fits into the American classroom as a hand fits into a glove. After all, these are the same classrooms that imbue a population that reports a 97% approval rating for the term “small business,” and an 84% approval rating for the term “free enterprise.”1 Far from being the negative actions of a handful of teachers or administrators, the impetus for this ideological cult of capitalism is to be found within the class nature of the state itself. Not only has the United States never achieved a successful socialist revolution, but it has not even come close to developing a strong social-democratic party, however reformist and opportunist it would end up being. Rather, the youth of today’s public high school classrooms are entering a world that, for the last 30 years, has been entirely molded by international finance capital, spearheaded by U.S. geopolitical hegemony. It is the youth who are on the frontlines of the struggle in combating the thesis of “the end of history.”

“The world counter-revolution at the end of the 20th century gave impulse to the ideological field of the thesis of the end of history, a campaign to affirm capitalism for all eternity. Centered on questioning the validity of Marxism-Leninism, to disarm the working class and the oppressed people in their struggle for emancipation, this was known as deideologization.”2

While this campaign presents itself as “deideologization,” it is actually a reaffirmation and re-solidification of capitalist ideology and values. U.S. law states that “a teacher cannot promote a personal or political agenda in the classroom.”3 In practice, this really translates to “a teacher cannot promote a personal or political agenda in the classroom that undermines the dominant political narrative of the U.S. capitalist class.” So long as you abide by this unwritten rule, teachers can be as ideological as they please.

How exactly does this “deideologization” manifest? Let us take an example from Pearson’s “United States History” textbook, published in 2016. In their section lumping together the social systems of Nazi Germany, military fascist Japan, and Soviet socialism, the authors of the textbook declare (without any supporting evidence) that:

Stalin was suspicious, cruel, ruthless, and tyrannical. He did not think twice about killing rivals or sentencing innocent people to death. His efforts to transform the Soviet Union into an industrial power and form state-run collective farms resulted in the deaths of at least 10 million people.4

Not to be outdone, a teacher that I observed went so far as to claim (again without evidence) that anyone who thought about subverting “Stalin’s rule” was “thrown in a black trash bag and taken away in the back of a Soviet truck, never to be seen or heard from again.” Under the veiled guise of being “non-ideological,” students are having anti-Communism systematically branded into their collective world outlook.

An essential component of this anti-Communist indoctrination is blatant, bizarre, and seemingly unconscious anti-Asian racism. Look no further than the propagation of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki myth that the two nuclear holocausts following the surrender of Axis powers in Europe actually “saved lives.” A PowerPoint used by a teacher reads: “Option 1: Launch a full-scale invasion of Japan, likely costing over 1 million lives. Option 2: use the newly developed and tested atomic bomb to end the war with Japan and not kill as many people as an invasion.” Thus, we see that the same textbook claiming (without evidence) that “at least 10 million people” died from collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union breathlessly apologizes for back-to-back genocides of ethnic Japanese civilians.

There is one country, however, where no punches are pulled, racist or otherwise. That country is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Blinded by the nuclear-like blast of their anti-Asian racism, students and teachers alike seemingly engage in competition as to who can say more derogatory, racist, ridiculous things about the DPRK, and particularly the Korean people. Frequent references are made to the idea of “we could just nuke them” and “would it really be that bad to ‘get rid’ of North Korea?” This, of course, cannot be said about other human beings unless you see them as qualitatively below yourself, as subhuman. While the racist fire is aimed primarily at the DPRK, its flames spread to China, Vietnam, and Laos as well. Instead of these countries being made up of “average” citizens as in the case in every other (capitalist) country, the people of these countries are instead “hiveminds” with “no agency” who are all “brainwashed” by “Communist indoctrination.” In reality, this is a racist assault on Asian culture and tradition. At its core, it is an unceasing attack on collectivism. Those who steer the ship of U.S. imperialism know how dangerous it is to their interests for an entire population to be mobilized for the militant defense of a strong Communist Party. These agents of western hegemony must exhaust all resources in the relentless demonization of collectivism, for they know that it is the collective power and action of the working class, led by its vanguard party, that will be its ultimate undoing. Of course, rationalizing the nuclear genocide of over 28 million people halfway across the planet is much easier if they are not really “people” at all.5

These tantrum-like attacks on the Soviet Union, Stalin, and the DPRK (and in doing so Marxism-Leninism) are ideological in every respect. One can disagree with socialism (i.e. Marxism-Leninism) and calmly explain their arguments for the superiority of capitalism. This, however, would be of no use to the capitalist ideologues, who must ensure the continued dominance of bourgeois ideology and influence. If our country’s history textbooks do not convey a message of hysteria in their attacks on socialism and communism, a potential ground could be fertilized for sympathy towards and even support of the geopolitical role played by the Soviet Union in the 20th century. This would, of course, contradict the aims and policies of the U.S. government since victory was achieved by the Bolsheviks in the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 (save the tepid and complex U.S.-Soviet alliance from 1941 to 1945).

In spite of the counter-revolutionary wave that swept the globe circa 1991, “The general objective of imperialist strategy was not achieved, since reality cannot be held by a straight-jacket, and class struggle did not stop for a single second, regardless of the fact that counter-revolution, triumphant at that moment, presented with propaganda historical events distorted to its favor.”2 As Marx and Engels remind us, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”6

Without a bulwark for socialism in the world today (a position formerly occupied by the Soviet Union), ideological hegemony has coalesced around the US/EU/NATO/AUKUS bloc of imperialist giants. Subordination and servility to this ideological leadership is a precondition for any “educational” system designed to sustain a “harmonious” development of capitalism, while always being ready to redirect blame toward the working class whenever capitalism’s inherent contradictions inevitably produce another crisis.

If the youth is to reverse these trends of generations past; if they are to break free from the shackles of relentless capitalist indoctrination, a special responsibility must fall upon the shoulders of like-minded public educators who consistently find themselves firmly in the camp against racism, against imperialism, against xenophobia, and for social progress. Without putting our jobs in jeopardy, which would serve to weaken the progressive teacher movement in America, we as public educators must take on the task of teaching social science from the perspective of dialectical and historical materialism. As comrade Stalin says:

“Everything depends on the conditions, time, and place. It is clear that without such a historical approach to social phenomena, the existence and development of the science of history is impossible; for only such an approach saves the science of history from becoming a jumble of accidents and an agglomeration of most absurd mistakes.”7

We will not find a way out of the present crisis if we continue to allow our students to have their ideological world outlook dominated by individualism and liberalism, for this will only send us back down crumbling roads which we have already traveled. Instead, we must be bold in the face of the ideological apparatus of the state. We must adhere to the principle of refraining from all anti-Soviet, anti-Communist rhetoric and teachings. As of today, the best tool for cultivating these skills is an educational institution called the People’s School for Marxist-Leninist Studies (PSMLS). This institution is carrying on the legacy of Communist education from generations past, offering free classes every week which are open to the public. Its website states that PSMLS “has the sole goal of educating the working class to prepare to build socialism in the United States of America.”8 Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and few can attest to or appreciate this fact more than educators. We must look to the PSMLS as a source of guidance for our ideological development as dedicated revolutionaries, particularly as teachers.

As professional educators, we must consistently urge our students to question the legitimacy of global U.S. hegemony, to question the reasons for comical levels of anti-Communist hysteria, or as Marx’s favorite motto goes: “doubt everything.”9 Only by diligently dedicating ourselves to rigorous Marxist-Leninist ideological education can we as public educators carry out this enormously important task. Marxism-Leninism, due to the scientific nature of its world outlook, is the only ideology capable of developing the levels of class consciousness necessary for a successful struggle against ideological indoctrination from the capitalist state.

As comrade Lenin said, “The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true.”10 With sufficient caution and relentless study, we can and we must demonstrate this truth to the wide masses of students in this country, thus forming the basis for a truly progressive teacher movement that will be powerful enough to directly confront the ideological machinery of the U.S. government.

References

  1. Jones, Jeffrey M. “Socialism, Capitalism Ratings in U.S. Unchanged.” Gallup.com. Gallup, December 13, 2021. https://news.gallup.com/poll/357755/socialism-capitalism-ratings-unchanged.aspx
  2. Cabrera, Pavel Blanco. “Communists and the So-Called ‘Socialism of the 21st Century.’” Ideological Fightback, 2012.
  3. “Teachers’ Rights: Overview.” Findlaw, June 21, 2016. https://www.findlaw.com/education/teachers-rights/teachers-different-freedoms-and-rights.html
  4. Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J. United States History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2016.
  5. “Страны.” in 2021 2022. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://all-populations.com/en/kp/population-of-dprk-north-korea.html.
  6. Engels, Karl Marx and Frederick. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” Communist Manifesto (Chapter 1). Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm#007.
  7. “Dialectical and Historical Materialism.” 1938: Dialectical and Historical Materialism. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm 
  8. About. People’s School for Marxist-Leninist Studies. (2021, October 29). Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://peoplesschool.org/about/ 
  9. “The ‘Confessions’ of Karl Marx (or These Are a Few of His Favorite Things).” DangerousMinds, June 13, 2020. https://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_confessions_of_karl_marx_or_these_are_a_few_of_his_favorite_things
  10. Lenin, V.I. “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism.” Marxists Internet Archive. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm