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There comes a time to stop beating a dead horse. But there are full-time beaters of dead horses who just cannot bring themselves to admit that the horse is dead.
A recent example of dead-horse-beating is a documentary, Agenda: Grinding America Down (2010). It argues that Communism in America is not only alive and well, it is about to conquer America. In fact, we are almost out of time. Communism is about to take over.
I assume that your initial reaction is this: “This is nuts.” That was my reaction when I first viewed it. But, believe it or not, this documentary has begun to gain a following among fundamentalists who believe that Jesus is coming soon to set up His millennial kingdom. This theory of history teaches that everything must get worse and worse until a time when Christians are about to be overwhelmed by the forces of evil. Jesus will come and take them all to heaven for seven years, and then Jesus, His angels, and the resurrected perfect and immortal followers will return to set up an international bureaucracy to run the world. This theory is called premillennial, pretribulational dispensationalism.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 created a major crisis for this system of Bible interpretation. The “Beast from the North,” the USSR, collapsed. This ended the USSR’s supposed threat to the nation of Israel, which is central to this theory of world history. The nation of the north was now gone. So, how could Jesus’ return to whisk away his helpless church be imminent? I wrote a book on this topic in 1993, Rapture Fever. It’s here for free.
Then, in 2010, a fundamentalist offered the answer. Communism really did not die. Not at all. It is about to take over the USA. The visible collapse of Communism was really part of a Communist plot.
The fall of the USSR was not a hoax. The collapse of Communism in America immediately followed. Hardly anyone noticed. That was because American working class members had never accepted the idea of bloody proletarian revolution as an inevitable way of liberation. They hated Communism.
Why would anyone believe this documentary? Because it’s slick. It is based on a complete misreading of Communist history. It is also based on a series of deceptions. Conservatives cannot believe that someone would deliberately deceive them. So, they believe this message.
But what if the deception was based on self-deception? What if the producer is simply misinformed? What if he is a self-taught man who picked up a few unconnected (and erroneous) bits of information and tried to connect them by means of a thesis that seems superficially plausible? What if his sincerity is not backed up by the facts? What if the average viewer of his documentary is ignorant about these supposed facts? Then the viewer becomes a victim.
I don’t want you to be a victim. That is why I am writing this report.
THE LEGACY OF FRED SCHWARZ
The documentary is dedicated to Fred Schwarz. This indicates the degree of the writer-producer’s ignorance.
In 1996, Schwarz, the anti-Communist lecturer who brought me into the conservative movement in 1956 with one powerful speech, wrote a testament: Beating the Unbeatable Foe: One Man’s Victory Over Communism, Leviathan, and the Last Enemy.
That testament resonated with me. His one-hour lecture in 1956 was the most important lecture I ever heard, before or since. I was confronted with what seemed to be a well-organized, ruthless, and relentless enemy: international Communism. It controlled the USSR. The USSR controlled Eastern Europe. Communism controlled China. It had a vision of victory. It had an agenda. It had a comprehensive theory of historical causation: dialectical materialism. The USSR had enormous military power. It looked unbeatable.
Nevertheless, I signed up with Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. I was not yet a Christian. I even sent him $100 for a lifetime membership, which was about $850 in today’s purchasing power. I was 14 years old. I earned $1 an hour before taxes at a local record store.
A decade later, I began work on my book, Marx’s Religion of Revolution. It was published in 1968. Download it here. That book goes into detail on the philosophy of Marx and Engels. That philosophy is now dead. So is its economic analysis.
On December 31, 1991, the Communist Party of the USSR committed suicide. It disbursed the funds and shut down. The war was over.
Today, all that remains are North Korea and Cuba. The defeat of Communism is best seen in the satellite photograph of the Korean peninsula.
Schwarz knew it was over for Communism by 1996. He admitted that he was amazed that it fell so fast.
THE LEGACY OF DOUGLAS HYDE
Someone else had known: Douglas Hyde. He had been a major figure in Great Britain’s Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s. He converted to Catholicism in the late 1940s. He wrote a classic account of his years in the Party: Dedication and Leadership, which Notre Dame University Press published in 1956, the year that I heard Schwarz’s lecture.
In the mid-1980s, I was given a copy of his limited-printing book, Dedication and Leadership Techniques (1962). I wanted to publish it. I wrote him for permission. He said no. Why? Because the Communist Party no longer resembled the dedicated Party of his youth. He said that the book would give a false opinion of the Party as of 1985.
Communism is dead. It committed suicide: institutionally, morally, and economically. It deserves a public burial.
FIGHTING OLD BATTLES
Sadly, there are conservatives who still live in the past, as if it were still the glory days of Communism and therefore also anti-Communism. Some of them cut their teeth on anti-Communism. I was one of them. Schwarz did, too, more than anyone I have ever known. But by 1996, he knew that the fight was over. The West had won. He turned his files over to David Noebel, who ran Summit Ministries for years. Then Schwarz retired. He deserved his retirement. He died in 2003.
This brings me back to the documentary. It unfortunately was not produced by someone who understood the implications of what Schwarz did in 1996. He retired, having fought the fight and having won.
I am going to review this documentary in detail. Let me say from the outset that the documentary is not worth reviewing for its own sake. It is a very bad documentary. It is misleading. Most of all, it is a documentary that will sidetrack anyone who believes it.
Why? Because it is like an aging boxer who trains for an opponent he fought two decades earlier. That opponent had a fatal heart attack in the middle of a fight. The old boxer is making it more likely that his next opponent will flatten him. Why? Because he never changes his defenses. He is predictable.
AGENDA: GRINDING AMERICA DOWN (2010)
The documentary is here. It has been online for three weeks. About 9,300 people have clicked it. I doubt that many of them stuck with it all the way through. It is an hour and 20 minutes.
It begins with a clip from a B&W documentary on Communism that Ronald Reagan made 50 years ago. He says that the story he was introducing might not have a happy ending. It was a documentary on international Communism. It was a good documentary. It is now a document of an ancient past.
The story did have a happy ending. The Berlin Wall came down. Then the Soviet Union committed suicide in December of 1991. It was the greatest victory of my lifetime. The most powerful empire in history simply shut down: no bloodshed, no revolution. Not a shot was fired. Incredible.
The economic irrationality of socialism had been made clear by Ludwig von Mises in his 1920 essay, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” In 1989, Mises’ prediction had become clear even to Soviet economic planners. It became visible to all in late 1991. Mises was right. Marx was wrong.
None of this is mentioned in Agenda. It has movie clips of Soviet parades with lots of tanks and weapons from the 1960s, as if the USSR were still a threat militarily to the West.
It also fails to mention declining birth rates in Russia. It mentions abortion, but not abortion’s demographic effects. The Russians are dying off. Siberia is becoming depopulated. On Siberia’s southern border is China. At some point, the Chinese will start crossing that border. This is Russia’s #1 military problem. It has no solution short of nuclear war.
Agenda was made by a Bible-affirming Christian. Most of the people he interviewed are Bible-believing Christians. Yet not one of them thanked God onscreen for the greatest political victory of all time. Worse: the ones he quoted said that the fight with Communism still goes on, and that America is likely to lose unless the entire nation turns around morally and religiously.
In short, the documentary claims that God did not provide the victory. It says, loud and clear, that there was no miracle, no victory. Yet they call for God to work a miracle. To which God might well reply: “What do you think I gave you? Are you blind? You show no gratitude.”
Yes, some of them are blind. The ones onscreen who warned that the Communists are close to total victory are blind.
THE 1992 MEETING
The narrator-producer of the documentary gives this testimony. He says he attended a meeting at the University of California, Berkeley. It was a meeting of Communists. They were all gray heads. He thought that was significant. It was, too. It was a meeting of old people who had visibly lost the fight that had consumed their youth. They had wasted their lives. No one was listening, except for the visitor, who misread the meeting. He thought a bunch of kids at a meeting would have been silly. But, no, these were only old people.
If there are no kids at a meeting to plan strategy, it’s irrelevant. The people at the meeting have no future.
They were discussing strategy. He thought this was important. When Communists discuss strategy in a public room on campus, they are either starting over, trying to pick up the pieces, or else it’s a sham. It’s then a recruiting meeting. But it wasn’t. There were no young people. No young people at Berkeley? It’s all over but the burial.
He says that this was one faction of the CPUSA, which had split. He never asked the obvious question: How had it split? There was an obvious reason: the leaders were no longer getting instructions from the Communist Party of the USSR. There was no CPUSSR. It had shut down less than a year before. The Communist experiment in the USSR had ended in complete failure – the greatest single institutional failure in history.
He also did not ask this: What was the other faction doing? What was it saying? Where were its members meeting?
He says he gave no more thought to this until 2008. Then, out of the blue, it occurred to him that a meeting he could barely recall had somehow forecast all of the moral breakdown in the USA. Conclusion: the Communists – anyway, the Berkeley faction – had planned it all, organized it all, and was still pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
There was a curtain. There was a wizard behind it.
He then spent two years studying everything, he said. Really? Two whole years? I started studying this in 1956. Fred Schwarz started studying it in 1945. In 1996, he said the Communists had lost. I have said the Communists have lost ever since 1992. But the producer has concluded that they have almost won. At 1:16:33 into the documentary, he announces: “This is our last chance to push back.”
He reminds me of Dorothy, the tin man, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion after they had defeated the witch. They were once again standing in the grand hall, and the head was yelling at them. They were terrified of the head.
Think of me as Toto.
TOWARD SOVIET AMERICA
In the documentary, a book is referred to repeatedly, Toward Soviet America. It was written by the head of the CPUSA in 1932. The author was William Z. Foster. We are assured that this book holds the key to understanding what is happening today. It doesn’t. The book refutes everything in the documentary relating to Communism.
The documentary argues that today’s Left-wing movements are an extension of Marxian Communism. They aren’t. No book proves this more effectively than Toward Soviet America.
The author reflected Soviet opinion, meaning Stalin’s opinion, in 1932. What did Foster say about all Left-wing reform movements in capitalist nations? Exactly what Marx said, Engels sad, and Lenin said. They are all parts of the capitalist system. In Chapter 3, “Attempts to Liquidate the Crisis,” in the section The Movement for Capitalist Planned Economy, we read the following.
ALARMED on the one hand at the breakdown of the chaotic capitalistic economy in the crisis and on the other at the forging ahead of the Soviet Union with its planned Socialist economy, defenders of capitalism, especially in the United States, are raising a great clamor for a planned capitalist economy. “Give us a plan,” they cry in every key and in manifest confusion. Many of them frankly state that it is a case of either a planned capitalist economy or Communism (p. 161).
What are these people really doing? Opposing Communist revolution. This includes the A.F.L. (American Federation of Labor).
It is characteristic that the Social Fascist and Fascist leaders of the Socialist party and A.F. of L., together with many liberals, are advocates of capitalist “planning.” They try to prove that the revolution is not necessary for an ordered economy and prosperity for the workers. As agents of finance capitalism, these elements always manage to find “progress” in every new step that the capitalists find necessary for the exploitation of the workers. The A.F. of L. leaders’ demand now for “planning” and the abrogation of the anti- trust laws is just as much in the service of the employers as their support of the tariff, the rationalization of industry, the present wage-cut drive, etc.(pp. 163-64)
The essence of Communism, Foster said, is the proletarian revolution.
THE MAJOR social contradiction of the capitalist system is the conflict in interest between the owning capitalist class and the producing working class. This gives rise to class struggle, the capitalists always seeking to more intensely exploit the workers, and the workers struggling to retain the products of their labor. The class struggle, as we have already seen, becomes ever sharper with the intensification of the general crisis of capitalism, and it eventually culminates in the proletarian revolution (pp. 172-73).
Foster had nothing but contempt for these people. “Adapting themselves to the needs of the employers, the reformist Socialist and trade union leaders have developed their movement into an organ of the bosses for the Fascist repression and intensified exploitation of the working class” (p. 176). He hated the far-Left non-Communists most of all.
But the most insidious and dangerous to the workers of all this crop of demagogues are the so- called “left” Social Fascists. The substance of their activities is, while giving practical support to the right Social Fascists, to criticize them in the name of the revolution. They are the radical phrase-mongers par excellence. Their objective task is the confusion of the most advanced elements of the workers and therefore the breaking up of serious movements against the capitalists and their reactionary labor henchmen (p. 195).
What are Communists – true Communists – in favor of? This:
THE COMMUNIST PARTY bases its activities upon the principles of the class struggle, both with regard to its every-day struggles and its ultimate revolutionary goal. It relentlessly fights against the policy of class collaboration practiced by the Socialist party and the A.F. of L. leaders. Worldwide experience has fully demonstrated the fact that the workers cannot go along with the bosses as “friendly partners.” The capitalists and the workers are class enemies, with mutually hostile interests. The exploiters and the exploited are natural political foes. The relations between them depend upon the question of power. The workers can get from the employers only what they have the power to take. The A.F. of L. theory (which corresponds to the Socialist party practice) of the “harmony of interest between capital and labor” is the theory of the surrender of the working class to the bourgeoisie (p. 252).
What is their final goal? World Soviet government.
The American Soviet government will join with the other Soviet governments in a world Soviet Union. There will also be, very probably, some form of continental union. The American revolution will doubtless carry with it all those countries of the three Americas that have not previously accomplished the revolution (p. 272).
Problem: in December 1991, the USSR committed suicide. It no longer exists.
This is why those gray-heads at Berkeley in 1992 were having a public meeting. There was nothing left to conceal. They had hit the Communist equivalent of the brick wall. The Communist movement was dead in Russia. Someone needed to write Toward Soviet Russia. No one ever has.
If you believe the message of Agenda, I suggest that you take the documentary’s advice. Read Toward Soviet America.