When I was five years old, the first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, threatened to bury me. That was in 1956, when he buried the Hungarian Revolution. In California we welcomed Hungarian victims of Soviet brutality while finding no room for the Guatemalans whose democracy the CIA had crushed two years earlier. We were trained to ignore our victims and to fear our enemy. After all, Khrushchev could have buried us, even if he did not mean to do so literally, so much as to attend the funeral of capitalism. His formidable arsenal, we were told by Senator Kennedy, when he ran for president in 1960, contained more intercontinental ballistic missiles than ours. Soviet scientists propelled the first satellite and the first man into space. The Soviets had more manpower, more tanks and more dedication than we would ever have, somnolent as we were in our material comfort. 'Monolithic Communism' ruled most of the Eurasian landmass. J. Edgar Hoover, America's chief law enforcer, warned us about 'godless Communists' and their designs on our liberties in his bestselling Masters of Deceit. Other titles in the red-baiting crusade - yes, they called it a crusade - were You Can Trust the Communists (to Be Communists) and None Dare Call It Treason. Under banners proclaiming that 'The only ism for me is Americanism', and 'Better Dead than Red', Dr Fred Schwarz's Christian Anti-Communist Crusade held rallies that were guaranteed to fill the Hollywood Bowl.
LRB 9 March 2006 | PDF Download