Right-wing turns to time honored tactic of red-baiting against #BlackLivesMatter movement

1965 documentary by the John Birch Society alleging the US Civil Rights movement was a communist plot.

Last month, prominent right-wing blogger John Hinderaker made a post bluntly titled “Communists Are Behind the Anti-Police Protests In New York” in which he strongly implies that ANSWER Coalition is behind the bulk of #BlackLivesMatter protests in New York City, apparently based on a single Tweet from the organization. Hinderaker writes:

A.N.S.W.E.R. is close to unique, in that it advocates for pretty much every form of evil in the world. Who pays for it, what masters it serves, remains unknown. But that evil infuses its every act, is obvious.

Genocide enthusiast Glenn Reynolds approvingly linked to the post and added his take that “communists are on the same moral plane as Nazis, just with better press relations.”


Put aside for a moment the merits of the ANSWER Coalition and its ideology, let’s put into historical perspective the use of red-baiting by white American reactionaries against black Civil Rights activists and their allies. It is amply documented that when overt white supremacy and Jim Crow advocacy were still considered respectable points of view, those who upheld the subjugation of black people in both the north and south never missed a chance to associate their opponents with the Red Menace. Pro-segregation signs read “Race-Mixing is Communism” and a 1957 piece in National Review was titled “Integration is Communization.” In retrospect, the accusation gives American communists a point in their favor and contains a kernel of truth.


It is indeed true that the radical left played a vital role in emboldening the struggle for black people’s human rights in the decades following WWI. It is also true that the American Communist Party at times promoted seemingly far-fetched ideas such as the establishment of an independent republic in the so called “black belt” of the southern US (this scheme remains a favorite horror story of modern day red hunters). Yet, by the time the Civil Rights movement emerged in its peak form in the mid-1950s, there was a broad array of groups and ideologies that endorsed the effort against de jure discrimination. So while it is fair to say communist and socialist activists played an important role in organizing the struggle against Jim Crow in its infancy and continued to serve as some of its most devoted activists in its maturity, it is also accurate to say that a majority of the movement was non-communist and a sizable portion of it outright anti-communist.


Despite this, the red-baiting against the Civil Rights movement never ceased. Indeed, it was one of the key ways southern reactionaries could appeal to the common fears and enemies of the entire nation. The narrative was simple as it was duplicitous: race relations in the south were just fine until those damn commies started getting people riled up. Often it alleged a massive conspiracy spearheaded through “front” groups designed to hide communist designs. On other occasions it hinted that the black population was being exploited by communist agitators, not because their disenfranchised social status made communism an appealing ideology, but because their purportedly “uneducated” and “primitive” mental and political conditions made them vulnerable to subversive organization.


Just something to keep in mind in case this modern McCarthyite/Bircher narrative against #BlackLivesMatter takes off.