No surprise Florida Republicans pair voting restrictions with anti-communist indoctrination
Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger shake hands at a meeting in the 1970s. The two were key architects behind the anti-communist Operation CONDOR. | Public Domain

In early April, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill requiring all schools in the state to teach students about “communism and totalitarianism” and the ways that “communism” supposedly stands in contrast to the “American principles of freedom and democracy.” The new law was passed at a time when state governments across the U.S.—including Florida—are actively trying to limit freedoms and democracy with a wave of new voter restriction laws. Apparently, Florida state legislators lack a sense of irony.

This law has little to do with education, and everything to do with indoctrinating Florida’s children with the dangerous ideology of anti-communism. The bill was lobbied for by the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation,” or the VOC, an organization whose sole purpose is to spread anti-communist ideology and rewrite history to demonize socialist states. The VOC never let facts get in the way of its mission.

Anti-communism has plagued the world for over a century now and has long been a bedrock of U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic. Anytime that extreme anti-communism has been allowed to shape and control policy, it’s brought nothing but repression, and at its worst, death and destruction.

At home, the Red Scare investigations and blacklists of the early Cold War days saw lives ruined, careers destroyed, and left-wing organizations and trade unions destroyed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Wall Street’s anti-communist crusade. Many articles have been written about the parallels of the domestic anti-communist campaigns of the Cold War days to what’s been happening the last few years.

Internationally, the consequences were even greater for people on the receiving end of the U.S. government’s campaign to “contain” the Soviet Union and the influence of socialist ideas. Millions of people, most of them civilians, lost their lives during the 20th century in the name of such anti-communist policies and military misadventures. Given the current escalation of anti-communist rhetoric and democratic suppression tactics, it’s important for Americans to re-familiarize themselves with the results of anti-working-class, imperialistic, and neo-colonial ideologies such as anti-communism on the world stage.

One could fill volumes, but for the sake of brevity, we will just take a look at a few glaring examples.

The War in Vietnam

There were dozens of hot wars during the anti-communist Cold War, but the U.S. war in Vietnam stands out as one of the longest and bloodiest. During the course of this conflict (which the U.S. instigated through the false flag “Gulf of Tonkin Incident”), the U.S. lost over 58,000 soldiers, and the Vietnamese lost millions of lives, mostly civilians.

During this war, the U.S. employed the use of horribly cruel methods in their attempt to “stop the spread of communism,” such as chemical warfare, the use of napalm, and the destruction of civilian targets. These tactics spread destruction well beyond Vietnam’s borders as well, targeting the people of Cambodia and Laos as well.

The U.S. also supported a fascist puppet government in the South of Vietnam that oppressed its citizens based on religious and political beliefs. One of the leaders of the Saigon regime, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, was once asked who his heroes were, to which he answered, “I only have one, Hitler”. This was the kind of allies the U.S. chose to work within the name of anti-communism. Of course, this was not the first or last case of direct support of fascism in the name of this immoral ideology.

Operation CONDOR

In yet another example of the U.S. allying itself with fascist governments, there was Operation CONDOR. This was a clandestine affair in which the U.S. government supported a number of right-wing states across South America in support of their anti-communist campaigns. This operation lasted over two decades, from 1968 to 1989.

Due to the secretive nature of CIA operations, the exact numbers of those killed, tortured, imprisoned, and disappeared remain unclear to this day. According to some estimates, as many as 60,000 people were murdered in the region, and 400,000 imprisoned, many of whom were tortured.

Some of the declassified documents on Operation CONDOR show that many of the various fascist death squads and their leaders from across South America would brag to their CIA contacts about their activities. Argentinian leaders boasted about how they modeled their death squads on U.S. special forces units. They boasted about “eliminating Marxists,” trade unionists, and radical students.

Support of Apartheid South Africa

The apartheid regime of South Africa was set up to ensure white minority rule of the majority Black population in that country. It was one of the most universally condemned political regimes of the 20th century. However, because of the shared anti-communist ideology between South Africa and the U.S., the decision was made in Washington to befriend the white supremacist government in a policy decision that President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger called the “tar baby option.”

Being that communists had earned a reputation among the oppressed people of the world of fighting for liberation, it was only natural that many Black South African freedom fighters and their allies were communists or aligned with communists. Nelson Mandela, the famous South African anti-apartheid fighter and leader, was a member of the South African Communist Party at various points of his life. This was enough to label Mandela and the African National Congress “terrorists” in the eyes of the U.S. government.

In the 1980s, when almost the entire world was boycotting and divesting from South Africa to pressure it to end apartheid, President Ronald Reagan made the opposite choice. His administration decided to support the white supremacist rulers in South Africa because he still saw them as fellow anti-communists. So ardent was Reagan’s support of South Africa’s leaders that he vetoed congressional sanctions against the apartheid government.

Blockade of Cuba

In 1959, a successful revolution in Cuba, led by Fidel Castro, overthrew the brutal dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Almost immediately, the anti-communists in the U.S. government began plotting the downfall of the new Cuban government, despite having not been attacked or endangered in any way by Cuba.

The harshest step taken was placing a comprehensive economic blockade, officially called an “embargo” under U.S. law, on the island nation. In the name of anti-communism and halting Soviet influence, the U.S. has prevented Cuba from receiving vital products such as food and medicine.

Despite the blockade, the Cuban people have persevered, preserving their universal education and health systems against all odds. Unfortunately, the criminal blockade is still ongoing, and the people still face shortages of essential goods because of U.S. policy.

Is this the kind of ideology Americans want to be glorified in schools and taught to their children? History shows that being anti-communist puts you in the camp of fascists and white supremacists. Florida’s children and those of the rest of the country deserve better in their schools.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

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Amiad Horowitz
Amiad Horowitz

Amiad Horowitz studied at the Academy of Journalism and Communications at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics with a specific focus on Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. His articles have appeared in National Herald India, People's World, TRANSCEND Media Service, The Hitavada (India), Northlines, and The Arabian Post.