Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow at The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) authored Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (2019). She recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) on its Civics Alliance Model History of Communism Standards for high school students. The standards are meant to address a gap in history and social studies courses.

David Randall, Director of the Civics Alliance, and Director of Research at the NAS, remarked at the launch on May 1: “Too many of our children will cheer on quasi-Communist ideals and policies on this May Day. Too many unwittingly have embraced categories of Marxist thought, conveyed by vehicles such as Critical Race Theory or Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed,’ which divide humanity into Oppressor and Oppressed or regard the free market as fundamentally exploitative. They do so not least because they were never taught in school just what Communism is or what massive destruction it has done.”

Dr. Randall moderated the panel. In addition to Dr. Grabar, it featured Randall’s co-author, Mason Goad, Research Fellow at NAS, and contributors Sean McMeekin, Francis Flournoy Professor of European History and Culture at Bard College; and Ken Pope, Vice President for Academic Operations and Strategic Partnerships at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC). The discussion was held as college campuses across the country were being taken over by tent encampments that housed protestors calling for the “liberation of Palestine.”

Mason Goad described what he observed of the encampment at George Washington University: Marxist stickers and flags defaced the statue of George Washington; the library featured the writings of Marx, Lenin, Che Guevera, Ibram X. Kendi, and Howard Zinn.  Referring to a survey conducted by Victims of Communism, which showed rising favorability of his generation, Generation Z, towards Marxism, he provided an overview of the standards that dispelled “romantic notions” about Marxist ideologies.

Included in his presentation are the effects of the industrial revolution, Marx’s adversarial position to the Judeo-Christian tradition, the leadership by intellectuals, the effects of the First World War, treatment of dissidents, the Cold War, conflicts in Southeast Asia, and events after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, such as the rise of China, neo-Marxist movements, and Marxism under guise of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The hope, he maintained, was that school systems would follow the standards instituted by Florida’s Holocaust education standards.

Mary Grabar began by going back to her teaching days when she encountered college students who had never heard the word “communism” or equated it with a “red scare” about imagined enemies. Such profound ignorance of history makes students susceptible to the siren song of “sharing the wealth”—as Communism is often presented, she said. She praised the comprehensiveness of the standards, which go back to the story in Genesis about Adam and Eve (Benchmark Clarifications 3.1), the discussion of “the relationship of the Judeo-Christian tradition to Communism,” as a counter to the Marxist idea that human beings are malleable and capable of being perfected by a political system.

Emphasizing the need to read primary sources, she praised the inclusion of the Communist Manifesto, with Benchmark Clarifications 2.1 calling for at least seven ideas that students should be able to discuss, including “‘dialectical materialism’”—”that all history must be viewed through the lens of ‘class struggles’ between ‘oppressor and oppressed,’” and the need for violent revolution to overthrow oppressive classes. “I was glad to see the Communist Manifesto there in all its naked ugly truths about dictatorship and violence,” she said, adding that such teaching exposes the agenda of The 1619 Project, which divides Americans into the “‘oppressor and oppressed.’” Dr. Grabar has also written Debunking the 1619 Project: Exposing the Plan to Divide America (2021).

Section 9.2, “American Communism between 1917 and 1956,” discusses such “defectors” as Richard Wright and the case of the Scottsboro Boys. As George Schuyler, the subject of Dr. Grabar’s forthcoming book, revealed the Communists exploited the case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black boys and young men falsely accused of rape to raise money and propagandize for their cause. These facts run counter to the common narrative that the Communists saved the lives of the defendants when other organizations refused, ignoring the NAACP and church groups.

Praising the historical approach of the standards, Sean McMeekin revealed that he also has found an “astonishing ignorance among students which is getting worse each year.” When he taught a course on communism several years ago, he found that students seemed “hungry for the knowledge”; they were left “practically speechless” in learning about the genocide of the Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. Even the few hard-core Leninists had not read much and appreciated the course. A general decline in interest in the subject in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, when it was assumed that Communism was vanquished, has been reversed, however, especially after the Covid pandemic. McMeekin’s forthcoming book, To Overthrow the World: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Communism, presents a global view of communism and its enduring appeal.

Ken Pope pointed out that not only were students ignorant about the history of Communism, “the deadliest ideology that mankind has ever known,” but so were teachers. Marx is often seen as a great “visionary” whose ideas have been corrupted. But about 90 percent of Marx admirers, when asked, admit to not having read the Communist Manifesto. In fact, they often guess that the Manifesto, which is pamphlet-length, to be about a thousand pages long. Most of the social studies standards that Pope had been asked to review were very weak on the history of communism. One that was more than 400 pages long had not a single mention of Lenin or the Bolshevik Revolution. Stalin received a mere six mentions with half of those references to the city of Stalingrad. Marx was presented as an economist. Critical theory and race and equity issues provided the framework for discussion. Calling the standards a “great and welcome first step,” he called teacher training, such as that provided by Victims of Communism “vital.”

“I was honored to be asked to contribute to this great project,” remarked Dr. Grabar. “Students are vulnerable to communists’ appeals if they have never learned about Communism’s brutality, repression, starvation, and genocide. In reality, a communist economy is an economy based on the exploitation of the workers for the benefit and profit of the corrupt elite political class as my relatives in Communist Yugoslavia knew and as history tells us. Communists will exploit any situation at hand—from the Scottsboro rape case in 1931, to those suffering during the Depression, to the recession of 2008, and to anti-Israel protests of today. The NAS standards are coming none too soon.”