On a recent Superversive SF, Peter Bradley recommended a book called School of Darkness by Bella Dodd, a woman who had been active in the Communist party in the 30s through 50s, before returning to the Catholic Church.
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I grew up in New York. My father came from the Bronx. My mental image of Labor Unions was quite a rosy one. I had been told that businessmen were greedy. Working conditions were terrible. Workers spontaneously rose up, of their own accord, and demanded better conditions. This worked.
I knew people who thought modern Labor Unions were corrupt, but I thought that, if true, it was something that had happened once they were no longer really needed.
In high school, one of the most chilling things I learned about was the Red Scare in Hollywood. I had a mental picture of Communists sympathizers as sweet helpful souls who wanted to help the less fortunate. I figured artists and actors are often taken in by such things, and thought that the blacklisting of Communists in Hollywood was one of the most terrifying things I had heard of…because I saw myself likely to be part of the blacklisted group.
Because I thought that the actors were just innocent dupes, I figured the other people targeted by the Senate UnAmerican Activities Committee were probably equally innocent or unimportant.
After all, it did not say otherwise in anything I read in school.
Later, I heard that when the KGB opened their documents, the people called before the Senate UnAmerican Activities Committee were actually Communist Party members, many in the pay of the Soviets—actually working for the downfall of America.
I guess, at some level, I had not actually believed it. Or I had pictured them as ineffective intellectuals with glasses sitting around a table somewhere discussing politics and accomplishing nothing.
When I thought of the Communist Party, I pictured, basically, the Libertarian Party. A small party of idealistic intellectuals, devoted to a cause on principle and tirelessly working toward it despite very little success.
I could not have been more wrong.
Bella Dodd was an Italian-born American (she was an American accidentally born in Italy, who grew up there until she was about six,) who went on to become a teacher. Influenced by the young free thinking teacher at her college (who later committed suicide, so empty was her life), Bella became interested in labor rights and was targeted by the Communists.
To my utter astonishment, at that time, the Communists were a huge, well-organized group with fingers in every single pie.
Because they had many of their members stay secret, not reveal that they were actually Communists, they could be members of every group. They formed Fragments, as I think they called them, in every political party, every labor union. Because if this they knew what all the different parties and groups were up to, and could organized coordinated attacks to get their policies across.
In the various teachers unions, their main goal was getting schools to 1) accept federal aid and 2) emphasize separation of church and state.
They had as an avowed goal: designing public schools so as to break up the family and make the children idea future Communists.
The Communists attacked the Church, demonized it, and tried to separate workers from their priests at every turn. Bella saw this over and over and gave some examples. She also admitted to helping over 1,100 communists get into the Roman Catholic Church, with plans to alter and destroy it from within.
They also attacked race harmony in America. Word came from the Soviet Union that America’s racial peace and its morality were its strength, so these things had to be destroyed.
All these things, these things we all complain about but think is just ‘part of life’, this highly-organized, secret group were deliberately attempting to orchestrate.
And they were really clever at it. Whenever anyone came up with a logical argument to make the bad thing sound like the moral high ground, they quickly shared it. Suddenly, that argument was the accepted view.
Here is another person, Mallory Millet, on the same subject.
It was 1969. Kate invited me to join her for a gathering at the home of her friend, Lila Karp. They called the assemblage a “consciousness-raising-group,” a typical communist exercise, something practiced in Maoist China. We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back-and-forth recitation, like a Litany, a type of prayer done in Catholic Church. But now it was Marxism, the Church of the Left, mimicking religious practice:
“Why are we here today?” she asked.
“To make revolution,” they answered.
“What kind of revolution?” she replied.
“The Cultural Revolution,” they chanted.
“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” she demanded.
“By destroying the American family!” they answered.
“How do we destroy the family?” she came back.
“By destroying the American Patriarch,” they cried exuberantly.
“And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.
“By taking away his power!”
“How do we do that?”
“By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.
“How can we destroy monogamy?”
Their answer left me dumbstruck, breathless, disbelieving my ears. Was I on planet earth? Who were these people?
“By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!” they resounded.
Of course, that failed. We haven’t seen any increase in any of those things…
But back to School of Darkness:
Many, many young people flocked to the Communist Party, because they were idealistic and wanted to help their fellow man. They were impressed by the idealism and lack of material goods of many of the inner circle members.
BUT…their goal was revolution. They thought that the Capitalist system had to be overthrown, so that the new better system could come, through violent war.
Everything they did was intended to disrupt America, to destabilize it, to break up the peace and cause discontent.
They caused strikes or lengthened them. They urged workers to join labor unions. American workers were fairly content. Their wages were rising. The Communists had to use propaganda to convince them they were unhappy.
And, boy, did they!
People all over the media and advertising were secretly Communists. They decided how America would see a whole series of things, starting with the idea that fascists and communists are opposites, when both sides were controlled by the same organization. During the Soviet-run Spanish Civil War, they spun the whole thing to make the Church look bad and the rebels look good.
And, they all…this entire movement, took all their orders directly from Moscow, and the moment Moscow said “Jump.” They jumped.
They courted the rich, and money poured into their coffers.
They courted the young and used them up. Bella reported that young people would come into the movement and pour their whole life into the cause in a desire to make the world a better place. The Party would encourage them, use them up, and spend their lives, without much concern for any of them.
Bella discovered that the same highly-organized group who put the Communists into power in Russia also helped support Hitler. At one period, during WWII but before Yalta and Bretton Woods, the Communists were told to make peace between the factions.
And, boy, were they effective!
They had a finger in every pie! They stopped all strikes, got the different unions and parties to work together. They had enough control in enough places that they became the go to power to get things done.
But then orders came from Moscow to go back to pushing revolution and business as usual.
This was where it all started to fall apart. These orders included turning on the man who had been running the party all this time in America. He was not necessarily a good man, he had had people beaten and killed, but he was organized and effective. After he was forced out, it began fracturing.
It wasn’t too much longer until Bella, who was a person who spoke up against some of their more foolish actions, was forced out, too.
She remained a long and lost for some time, her husband had left and her parents had died during her quest for Communism.
Eventually, however, she met Bishop Fulton Sheen and found her way back to the Catholic Church.
At the end, do you know what they did, even back then, to throw her out of the party? They called her a racist. They spread about that she was “against the Negro”. Considering that she had spent years living in Harlem among people of all nations and advocating for them, this was the worst blow to her.
It was eerie to see them doing then the exact same thing that crybullies do now: call people racists when they are not racists.
Every time I see this happen—the internet hoards descend on someone and call them out as a racist, someone who is not a racist, I think of all the real racists in the world. I think two things:
One, I think of the story of the man who is looking for a quarter under a street light, instead of where he dropped it, because the light is better under the lamp. They go for the easy targets.
The other is the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Every time anyone attacks a fake racist, they open the door a little farther for the real racists. Because, already, I notice people who have reached the point that they just shrug and turn away at the cry of “racist,” because, in their experience, it is always a lie.
The more people realize that “racist” is just a pejorative for “we hate you,” the more they ignore it.
Which means that the real racists—and there are real racists out there—when they come will be ignored and will get away with much more than they could have in a sane society.
The most horrible part of all, to me, is that this is not a new book. Not at all. In fact, it was written ten years before I was born.
Which means, my whole life, I could have known all this…but I did not.
In case you wish to listen to Bella Dodd speaking: