Historians challenge false narrative behind St. Louis ‘Victims of Communism’ resolution
St. Louis Alderwoman Carol Howard is author of a 'Victims of Communism' resolution aimed at red-baiting local progressive activists. She's worked with the Victims of Communism organization to place a number of propaganda billboards around the city. | via Twitter

ST. LOUIS—The Board of Aldermen in the city of St. Louis recently passed a resolution honoring so-called “victims of communism.” As has been the case in other localities where similar resolutions and statements have been passed, the real goal has been to attack and undermine the grassroots coalition work carried out by communists, socialists, and other progressives.

The sponsor of the St. Louis resolution is Ward 14 Alderwoman Carol Howard, who narrowly held onto her seat in the most recent municipal elections by 52 votes. Howard deployed an intense red-baiting campaign against her opponent, local activist leader, Tony Pecinovsky.

Following the election, Howard has forged a relationship with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has flooded unions in the city with anti-communist letters and purchased several billboards around town.

The anti-communist campaign in St. Louis is not going unchallenged. Gerald Horne and Tony Pecinovsky, both authors of books dealing with the history of Communism and radical activism in the U.S., have spoken out against Howard’s resolution.

The efforts of Howard and the Victims of Communism group are not going unchallenged, though. Historian Gerald Horne and Howard’s election opponent Pecinovsky have both penned letters to the city paper, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, taking issue with the resolution passed by the Board. The letters are an initial response to what is expected to be a wider campaign against the rewriting of history and continued red-baiting on the part of Howard and allies.

Horne holds the Morris Professorship of African and American Studies at the University of Houston and is the author of many books, most recently White Supremacy Confronted: U.S. Imperialism and Anti-Communism vs. the Liberation of Southern Africa from Rhodes to Mandela, from International Publishers.

Pecinovsky is president of the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society and author/editor of two books on the history of the Communist Party in the United States, Faith in the Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the CPUSA and Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the CPUSA.

In his letter, Horne calls out the connections between anti-communism and racism and mentions the contributions of communists to the fight for democracy and equality in U.S. history. Pecinovsky challenges the resolution for its hypocrisy in ignoring the victims of capitalism over the centuries, including the millions who perished in the genocide of the Native American people and African Americans killed under slavery and Jim Crow.

People’s World reprints below the letters of Horne and Pecinovsky in full, with permission of the authors. They were written as responses to a Post-Dispatch article published on Nov. 6 under the headline, “St. Louis alderman pass resolution honoring victims of communism after lengthy debate.”

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(Originally published Nov. 13)

I read with interest “St. Louis aldermen pass resolution honoring victims of communism after lengthy debate” (Nov. 6, 2020). It is said resolutions are symbolic. If the sponsor Alderwoman Carol Howard’s goal was to symbolically align with red-baiting stereotypes reminiscent of the Cold War, then mission accomplished.

This resolution does nothing to address atrocities, like the assault on Black lives or the 250,000 deaths associated with COVID-19. Of course, addressing atrocities isn’t the goal.

Communism is a specter called forth when those in power feel their grip erode. Recall, Howard narrowly held her Aldermanic seat by only 52 votes (March 2019). Her opponent, a Communist, was endorsed by Howard’s Ward organization. Perhaps, Howard’s motives are less than altruistic?

Anti-communism is a tool of repression designed to stifle dissent and weaken civil liberties. Unfortunately, the tragic logic of this resolution inevitably leads to political inquisitions.

Conversely, Communists—members of the Communist Party, USA, or those aligned with it—have championed expanding democracy, African American equality, workers’ rights, etc. One only has to mention Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis to get a sense of the positive impact of Communists.

In the article Alderwoman Marlene Davis is quoted as saying the resolution “recognizes an organization that is making sure the history is not forgotten.”

If this is the goal, I suspect Alderwomen Howard will sponsor resolutions in honor of Robeson, DuBois, and Davis. I would be happy to provide biographical information for such a resolution when it is introduced.

Sincerely,

Gerald Horne

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(Originally published Nov. 20)

The Board of Aldermen’s resolution honoring “victims of communism” (Nov. 6) does more to confuse than to clarify.

One study, published by the American Anthropological Association and Harvard University, noted that many of the so-called “victims” of communism were in fact Nazis.

Indeed, the figure of 100 million “victims” of communism used by the sponsor is a wild exaggeration unsupported by documentation. This number comes from the largely discredited Black Book of Communism, a book that includes Nazi soldiers killed during World War II by our then ally the Soviet Union.

Does the Board of Alderman mean to honor Nazis as “victims”?

Do not misunderstand me. Human rights abuses take place under all social-economic systems, including our own, and should be condemned equally.

The hypocrisy on display with this resolution, however, is embarrassing.

Where is Alderwoman Carol Howard’s outrage at human rights abuses committed by the United States or our allies like Saudi Arabia? Are the deaths, beheadings, human rights abuses of a religious theocracy not worthy of condemnation?

Additionally, where is her outrage regarding the genocide of the Native Americans? Or of the millions of African Americans who perished under slavery and Jim Crow?

As Americans, as people who believe in Democracy, we have a responsibility first and foremost to account for the sins of our nation. Until we do so, we lack the moral authority to condemn others. This seems to be lost on Alderwoman Howard.

In solidarity,

Tony Pecinovsky


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

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