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The leaders of the AFL-CIO are in need of a little history lesson.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the nation’s labor leaders distanced themselves from subversive elements within their ranks. They did this not only out of a sense of patriotism, but self-preservation as well. Many learned the hard way that there is no compromising with Communists and other ideological thugs under party discipline. To form alliances with them represented organizational suicide — like a pact with the devil himself.

In Hollywood, unions led by Ronald Reagan, then a liberal Democrat, and Roy Brewer, also a Democrat, did their best to expose the secretive plotting of hard-core Communist Party members within the Screen Actors Guild, the Screen Writers Guild and the powerful technical unions.

The results were hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in which the Hollywood 10 — eight of whom were card-carrying members of the party and the other two former members — were jailed for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer the simple, straight-forward question: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

Now, remember, this came at a time when Josef Stalin was killing millions of his own people. It came at a time U.S. troops were being thrown into the meatgrinder in Korea. It came at a time when the Communist Party USA was taking its marching orders from Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Today, liberals are still whining about the “Hollywood Blacklist” that followed these hearings. But, it was the Hollywood Communists themselves who had invented the fine art of the blacklist — quietly denying roles and jobs to those who did not share their love of totalitarianism.

Other major unions throughout the country learned they would have far more respect from their members and the nation as a whole if they actively cleansed themselves of revolutionaries whose loyalty was to a hostile and oppressive foreign power. Policies against Communist Party membership in the AFL-CIO remained throughout the tumultuous ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s and the ’90s — until six weeks ago.

At the AFL-CIO’s 21st Constitutional Convention in Pittsburgh in September, a radicalized union under the leadership of John Sweeney repealed language in the federation’s bylaws barring members of the Communist Party from full participation.

“By getting rid of it,” explained Walter Johnson, president of the San Francisco Central Labor Council, “we are stepping away from one of our human frailties — confirming pre-formed conclusions and making judgments without knowing anything about a person or their beliefs.”

On the contrary, Mr. Johnson, you can tell a lot about a person who identifies himself as a Communist Party member — just as you can tell much about a person who identifies himself as a Nazi or a Ku Klux Klan member.

You can also tell a lot about the character of a union that embraces hatemongers and enemies of freedom within its membership. Remember, this is the union that funneled millions into the Clinton re-election effort.

The Communist Party USA, still under the leadership of Gus Hall, may not be getting millions of dollars a year from Moscow anymore, as it did until Boris Yeltsin came to power. But its tactics and goals remain the same.

So, what’s going on at the AFL-CIO? The leadership has either been completely compromised by the extreme left or they are hopelessly naive or desperate for members no matter what rock they might crawl out from under.

The establishment press didn’t even mention the change in the AFL-CIO’s constitution this fall. But I think it’s an indicator that merits close scrutiny.

Sometimes liberals make the mistake of thinking “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” No one is tougher on conservative policies and values than the Communists, therefore, some liberals believe, these guys are OK. What the liberals don’t understand is that Communists have no more respect for them and their rights than they do for anyone else’s. Liberals are usually the first ones lined up on the firing squad after the revolution.

Not that I think this country is on the verge of a Communist revolution. Instead, we’re on the lower levels of a slippery slope toward some weird hybrid breed of international corporate socialism — having much more in common with Mussolini’s fascism than Lenin’s Communism.

Nevertheless, when liberals are blinded to such important lessons of the past, it bodes ill for the future.

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