Welcome to the Age of Equivalency. Last Sunday (Aug. 1) The New
York Times published a full-page report about the Corcoran Gallery's
current exhibition. With a catalogue by its curator, Leah Bendavid-Val,
the famed Washington venue displays an "enormous and instructive
show of 232 images." The question, of course, is what kind
of instruction Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930's in
the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. intends to impart.
Since America's socialists feel they must conceal their true political
designation - as an alarmed Bill Clinton reminded the dangerously
sincere Prime Minister of Italy on April 25, 1999 - the need for
other means of identification has been with us for some time. This
column is an attempt to fill that need.
During the Great Depression of the 1930's, and especially during
the Spanish Civil War of 1936, glorifying the Soviet Union was quite
the thing to do in America. The alliance occasioned by World War
II went even further in portraying communism in a highly favorable
light. Who in America bothered to remember that only two years earlier
the natural embrace of National Socialist Germany and Soviet Socialist
Russia was concluded between Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin who celebrated
the treaty with a "which of us can kill more Poles?" contest.
But when the Soviet Union once again showed its true colors by
initiating the Cold War against the West and humanity in general,
it became much less popular for America's socialists to extol the
greatness of their masters in Moscow.
As the number of those killed in the name of socialism continued
to climb toward the hundred million mark, new approaches had to
be found - and were.
On the one hand, every effort is made to ascribe the abject failure
of the Soviet Union to Stalin's bestiality, even though it began
with Lenin and continued for nearly forty years after Stalin's death.
Also, by suddenly calling the Soviet system state capitalism, the
suggestion is that socialism has yet to be tried properly. The brochure
to the Corcoran exhibition comes up with yet another method: It
ascribes Soviet practices to a "Russian collective impulse
rooted in village life, rather than Marxism or Communism."
But deep down, socialists know that these are hard sells in America,
just as the socialist label itself. That's why Equivalency was invented.
The United States, they will have you believe, is not all that different.
In the present case, propaganda by the U.S. government is not all
that different. Where America is different, writes the curator of
the Corcoran Gallery, is that "Americans...believed that the
individual had a basic right to act aggressively on his own behalf."
(Decide for yourself which the curator finds more to her liking:
the collective impulse of the village, or aggressive individuals.)
The Age of Equivalency was ushered in by the authors of the so-called
National Standards for U.S. History, who portray the Cold War as
a "sword play between the United States and the Soviet Union."
For those who might have forgotten, the Cold War was initiated with
the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. In response, the United States
organized the airlift, supplying Berlin from the air in an historic
exercise of self control. Given the balance of forces at the time,
any other power would have flaunted its nuclear capability; the
United States did not even issue a threat.
But that, of course, did not impress the history department of
the University of California at Los Angeles, where most of the authors
of the overwhelmingly socialist National Standards draw their share
of the tax-payers' money. And since even they conceal their political
beliefs, we need the tools offered here.
This is how it works. It's a fair bet that anyone who seriously
suggests parallels between the U.S.S.R. and the United States is
a socialist since it can be done only by deliberately misrepresenting
the American side, and by legitimizing the Soviet side. It is another
fair bet that anyone who equates the blacklisting of the so-called
Hollywood Ten in America with the tens of millions killed on the
other side is also a socialist at heart.
Portraying the Soviet Union as a legitimate experiment with lofty
goals gone wrong provides the basic clue. But, to be on the safe
side, ask apologists for the Soviets whether they view the Third
Reich in a similar vein.
For there is your ultimate proof. A sure hallmark of a socialist
is the frantic insistence on separating twentieth century's evil
twins: National Socialism and Soviet Socialism. Like much else,
the practice was begun by Josef Stalin who ordered the misnomer
"fascist" to be applied to Nazi Germany to avoid the obvious
Perhaps, some day the Corcoran Gallery will give us an exhibition
of photographs portraying the 1930's in the Third Reich alongside
those from the Soviet Union. Then, a picture being worth a thousand
words, we will have cause to celebrate.
For the surest sign of socialist thinking is the shameless assertion
that, while the Third Reich was evil, the Soviet Union was benign.