If you watch the communists, if you know anything about their ideology or their atrocities, then you might have reason to feel afraid when you hear Western leaders pronounce upon the trustworthiness of communist regimes. The awarding of favored trade status to China, the opening of relations with Vietnam and the push to accommodate North Korea are alarming developments for anyone who remembers the words of the “great theorist” of communist statecraft, Vladimir Lenin, who said that “treaties are like pie crusts, made to be broken.”
We should also be alarmed at President Bush’s endorsement of Russian President Putin’s trustworthiness. Here we see an American foreign policy novice embracing a KGB veteran, a “former” Communist Party member, on the occasion of their first meeting. Either the U.S. president is a person whose words mean nothing, or he is a person who actually trusts the man who oversaw the smashing of Chechnya.
But it is not fashionable to be alarmed. In fact, those who fear communists and “former” communists are often lampooned as paranoid. Such a depiction of anti-communists has been around for decades. People have grown so out-of-touch with historical fact, they are so ingrown with political infatuations, that the threat from communist countries is a matter of low priority if it is allowed in polite society at all.
In this regard it is better to speak of “rogue states” or Chinese national aspirations. Some are foolish enough to recite the number of times Russia has been invaded in the last 200 years. But this sleight-of-hand trick omits the number of times that Russia has invaded its neighbors. For some strange reason people cannot look at a map and realize that Russia did not become the world’s largest country by merely repulsing invasions. The truth is, the Russians have invaded most of the territory they now possess and took it from those who originally possessed it. Ask the Chechens, Tatars, Central Asians, Afghans, Finns, Poles, Mongolians, Georgians, Azeris or Romanians. They will set you straight. The same logic applies to China. Just ask a Tibetan.
There are so many pop formulas for dismissing the Russia-China threat. And there is a continuing diversion away from the communist legacy – the visible Leninist superstructure that has brought Moscow and Beijing together. We are deluded here in the West. We are deluded because we are ignorant and shallow in our knowledge of communism. We never did know our enemy. We knew his Stalinist facade but we never penetrated to the real people underneath. And now that these real people have emerged, we are surprised to find them so different and changed. We are surprised to see them agreeing with some of our objections, talking reasonably like rational beings instead of madmen.
They are no longer communists, we say to ourselves. Nobody believes in communism, not even communists. Such a statement sounds plausible only because we have been spoon fed this idea for the last 15 years. We hardly consider the logical impossibility of non-communist communists. We forget that communists and communist sympathizers are teaching in our universities. We forget that communist regimes continue to emerge in Africa, that a major communist insurgency has appeared in South America.
If communism does not matter, then how do we explain the battles and the killing that are taking place every day on at least two continents? How do we understand the regime in the People’s Republic of China?
Bill Clinton once suggested that China is not really a communist country. The Chinese Communist Party might smile at such a statement, but they would not endorse it. Perhaps out of diplomatic politeness and strategic expediency they would hold their tongue. Yet in America we dismiss the ruling ideology of the Chinese government. We do not remember that the Beijing dictatorship, with its labor-camp system, is based on a philosophy which demands the eventual destruction of world capitalism in favor of building a socialist civilization “with a high cultural level.” Just because communism has never been popular or well understood doesn’t mean it can’t rule 1.3 billion people. Minorities are decisive in government. In the West we have the financial elite. In the East they have a Communist Party elite. They have a KGB elite. Do not assume that communism has been abandoned.
The same goes for Russia’s leadership. We see a KGB lieutenant colonel in the Russian presidency. By his own admission he was formed in the Soviet mold. He was a member of the Communist Party Soviet Union. He worked in East Germany as a spy. Today he claims democratic credentials having served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg under a famous liberal politician, Anatoly Sobchak. Such credentials, of course, are superficial. Putin’s presidency does not reflect a liberal outlook. He does not ally himself with America but with communist China. He has openly established strategic partnerships with Vietnam, Cuba and Iran.
To distrust and fear Putin as a person of communist background is perfectly reasonable. It is not paranoid. To distrust him for being a KGB officer is merely common sense. Yet we are not allowed to view communists and “former” communists as conspiring against us behind closed doors. We are asked to set all that Cold War “rubbish” aside. We are told that communist credentials do not matter. To talk of a communist threat is to step outside mainstream.
No respectable middle class person wants to be out of step. Furthermore, we are now obligated to believe the good intentions of Chinese communists and Russian KGB officers because to suspect them of dishonesty and subterfuge is clinical paranoia, even though we have decades of history to show us that these people lie as a matter of course – and they break agreements, murder people, etc.
It is exasperating to find a book like Tom Mangold’s “Cold Warrior,” which likens strategic suspicion of Russia and China to mental illness. It was Mangold who proposed that CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton and KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn were both clinically paranoid. When a talented writer like Mangold, whose writing is persuasive and eloquent, puts forth such a theme in a popular account, a definite impression is made.
If we look carefully at Mangold’s argument we find nothing but a sly form of intimidation. Diagnosing a particular viewpoint as evidence of mental illness is akin to threatening bodily injury to anyone who agrees with that viewpoint. Think about it. Nobody wants to be lumped with the mentally unbalanced. To be so stigmatized is to lose all social standing. The Mangold argument is not an argument, it is intellectual thuggery.
To call someone “paranoid” is an assault on their integrity. Webster’s dictionary defines paranoia as: “A chronic mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions of persecution and of one’s own greatness, sometimes with hallucinations.”
If those of us who fear Russia and China have made some factual error, if there is some logical mistake in our analysis, wouldn’t it be sufficient to point to our mistake? On the other hand, diagnosing us as mentally defective seems underhanded and dishonest.
Why would anti-anti-communists need to rely on underhanded and dishonest methods?