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Posts Tagged ‘Communism’

In 2003, an alternate vision of Superman was released. The author of this mini series, Mark Miller uses the following prompt for the series: “What if Superman’s ship had crashed somewhere else in the world than in the USA?” What if Superman had ended up in Communist Russia instead of America? This series subverts everything that Superman stands for by taking him out of America. Superman stands up for stereotypical communist values “…as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.”

Lex Luthor is still the antagonist, but he fights for America in this version. An interesting comparison between the canon Superman and this alternate universe is that he is loyal to the government still. The series, by taking out the American aspect of Superman, highlights its importance to Superman as a character by showing it when it’s gone. Superman is also hesitant of open conflict with the United States in this version. He is provoked into attacking after Luthor’s schemes push him to the edge.

An ironic twist is that the depiction of the Cold War here changes from America as the good guys and Soviets as the antagonists to the opposites. The Americans are the antagonists, trying to violently expand and spread their ideology (called here Luthorism, a spoof of Stalinism). The Soviets are the one peacefully expanding.

Ultimately though, Superman is still shown as having a strong sense of justice, albeit tempered in a different culture. He sacrifices himself towards the end of the story for the greater good, saving the Earth and all of it’s inhabitants, American and Soviet alike. Superman still decides to live peacefully among humans rather than acting as a lord over them in the end.

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highnoonposter1Much of the thematic tension in Fred Zinnemans’s High Noon comes from the conflict between what the lead character Will Kane sees as his duty to provide for his community, and the obstacles preventing him from doing so. Released in 1952, the film has been interpreted as a cold war allegory, but a convoluted one, with Kane either representing anti-communism, or anti-blacklisting, depending the context in which the film is analyzed. From either perspective, High Noon, through its use of a genre so tied to our sense of national identity, asks us how much we, as Americans, owe to our country. Here, the southwestern town of Hadleyville, which built itself up from lawlessness to respectability, stands in for America, and Kane’s desire to protect the town is easily applicable to a much larger scale.

Kane is unflinchingly willing to sacrifice himself to protect the citizens of Hadleyville from returned outlaw Frank Miller, even as they refuse his help again and again. Early in the film, Kane has a conversation with his new wife Amy about his choice to return to town after leaving his position as marshal, convinced that the town needs him. Amy, a Quaker pacifist, tries to convince Kane that, since he no longer has an official responsibility towards Hadleyville, he doesn’t need to stay and confront Miller. Her argument does nothing to change Kane’s mind. He sees his responsibility to the law as extending beyond his official capacity—it’s about principal. This aligns neatly with the film’s cold war allegory, as in High Noon, the fight is as much to do with ideology as the threat of physical danger. To read the film as anti-communist, Kane positions himself as an ideological guardian, standing up to an encroaching threat to the way of life the townspeople worked hard to establish. This echoes cold war rhetoric about the need for the United States to protect democracy. To emphasize this point, the following scene consists of Kane confronting the town’s judge, who is fleeing. As he packs his bags and tries to convince Kane that he’ll never stop Miller and his gang, the judge folds away an American flag, visually demonstrating how un-American that statement was.

In the end, Kane is victorious. He manages to take down Miller, and perhaps even more importantly, he wins his ideological battle with his wife, who shoots one of Miller’s men to save her husband. Though the final confrontation doesn’t play out in High Noon the same way that it does in most Westerns, it demonstrates the importance of ideology to the film as a whole.

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burning flagpledge

Upon considering America’s personal meaning to me, I realized that I had stumbled upon yet another great contradiction. The first thoughts that came to my mind when thinking of America were images of the burning American flag during the protests in Ferguson and of the American Humanist Association’s recent protest against the Pledge of Allegiance. To me, these highly controversial “anti-flag” images really exemplify how I am living in a nation where disrespecting such an important symbol is not punishable by law (see: Texas vs. Johnson 1989). This freedom truly upholds the power of our First Amendment, and, to me, illustrates the level of freedom here in America.

Yet, it occurred to me that even though it is my right as an American to rebel against the pledge or the flag, we as a nation still have a pledge of allegiance set as a social norm in the first place, thus creating the contradiction. We are given the freedom to do what we want (within reason) yet there is an expected way to behave when it comes to patriotism. Sure, we have the ability to sit out the pledge of allegiance, but why should such a free country need to instate a pledge in our schools and courts in the first place? To demonstrate what I mean, I will provide a hypothetical example; for instance, if it were broadcasted on the news that North Korea had implemented a pledge of allegiance in which all citizens were expected to stand and chant out an ode to their nation in a cult-like fashion, many American’s would deem this a “commie thing” and lambast North Korea for it. However, is that truly any different from us pledging to a piece of cloth to show the world that we are not a godless nation? In my personal experience, not saying the pledge will not get you killed, but there is certainly backlash to go along with this act of civil disobedience. While I never sat out the pledge myself, I have received criticism merely for omitting the “under God” portion even though I am given the right not to say any or all of it. Similarly, the image of the burning flag can practically reignite the Red Scare, and lead the burner to be deemed godless, communist, or savage (just look at the video description of the video linked below or any of the angry comments). Yet, both of these actions are one hundred percent legal according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ultimately, I am extraordinarily thankful for the amount of freedom given to me as an American citizen. I can voice my unpopular opinion without having to fear for my life. However, it becomes evident that there are a set of cultural norms here in America and they define my vision America. While I have never burned a flag, nor would I ever desire to do so, I am happy to live in a nation where if I were to choose to do so, I would be protected by our Constitution. America is a nation in which everyone is given a vast amount of personal liberty, yet one must truly be daring to take advantage of this liberty to its fullest extent.

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On June 21st 1957, Rudolph Ivanovich Abel was arrested in Brooklyn, New York, charged with spying for the Soviet Union and sentenced to 45 years imprisonment. Few know that Abel was born William Fisher (July 11th 1903) in Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK to German parents who had emigrated from Russia due to political circumstances. After spending his early life in the North East, Fisher had acquired a respectful education in Whitley Bay, returning to Russia in 1921 after the revolution – his parents strong supporters of communism and claiming links to Lenin himself.

Fisher worked as a translator for the Comintern during WW2, being fluent in five languages. In 1946 he joined the KGB and trained as a spy, arriving in the United States in 1948. He was tasked with smuggling nuclear secrets to Russia although his success is disputed; much information having already been passed on by his predecessors. Following betrayal by a drunken associate Fisher was uncovered and captured. His arrest was hugely significant at the time due to east/west cold-war paranoia.

Fisher was later traded for captured US spy plane pilot Gary Powers in 1962.

Fisher’s case highlights the common fear of communist aggression held by the US and UK in the immediate post war years. It was that same fear that led to the U-2 spy plane overflights from which Powers was later shot down. It also shows the willingness of both countries to embrace immigrants and many would argue that this has been a weakness exploited by our common enemies.

 

 

Sources

Kahn, Jeffrey, ‘The Case of Colonel Abel’, Journal of Nation Security Law & Policy, Vol. 5, 2011

Whittel, Giles, Bridge of Spies, A True Story of the Cold War (UK: Simon & Schuster, 2011) pg. 17

FBI: Famous Cases and Criminals, Rudolph Ivanovich Abel (Hollow Nickel Case), (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/hollow-nickel) Accessed 18th Feb, 2014

 

 

 

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The Red/Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare/The Red Scare.
This political cartoon accused President Truman of protecting “traitors and queers”. President Truman’s loyalty board refused cartons like this from appearing in the Washington Herald Times. The picture is an anecdote to Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy depicting President Truman.
Around the same time the ‘red scare’ was taking place in the United States fronted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He used Communism to exploit homosexuals in government positions. A Senate report branded these people (homosexuals) with; ‘the lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of the foreign espionage.’ (http://diogenesii.wordpress.com/tag/the-lavender-scare/ ). It was thought in the 1950’s that homosexuality was a mental condition therefore these people would be more susceptible to becoming a spy or they could be blackmailed if they worked for the government. Richard Hofstadter refers to this type of propaganda as the ‘paranoid style’, playing on people’s fears and seeing the fate of conspiracy in ‘apocalyptic terms’ with the threat of nuclear warfare. Eric Foner points out that anticommunism was a form of self defence against Republican charges of disloyalty and became ‘ at tool wielded by white supremacists against black civil rights, employers against unions, and upholders of sexual morality and traditional gender roles against homosexuality., all allegedly responsible for eroding the country’s fighting spirit.’ (Foner, E (1998). The Story of American Freedom . New York : W.W. Norton . pg256.)
Anti-Communism was a means of keeping the minorities within American society under control and prevented them from mobilizing through exploitation and oppression in order to maintain capitalisation in America.

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American Communism

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This image is from the website http://msct.ucps.k12.nc.us/ncdesk/Espiranza/Depression%20Era%20Photos.htm and is a poster from 1924 designed by Hugo Gellert. The poster calls for votes for William Z. Foster as President, and the end to race oppression, imperialist wars and recognition and defence of the Soviet Union. This image is striking because it shows that the USA indeed had a communist party, candidates for President and Vice-President and crossed the boundaries between farmers and industrial workers through the Farmer-Labour Party as well as Blacks and Whites. 

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'Better Dead Than Red'

For this week’s assignment we had to find a striking image of American ‘Anti-Communism’. I Google searched and this was one of the first images in found. I found this picture remarkable as it shows how the level of propaganda in the US had almost brainwashed its people into thinking that death was worse than communism; now there are no doubts that in some instances this maybe was the case, but it was not the case all of the time. I found this picture on a website called ‘Les Anglonautes’ (http://www.anglonautes.com/hist_us_20_cold_war/hist_us_20_cold_war.htm), which is a blog with lots of pictures relating to in this particular section, the Cold War. Along with these pictures there are descriptions of what those pictures are, where they were took and in some instances they are accompanied by articles from the ‘Times Online’, for example. The picture that I have chosen that has been taken at an Anti-Communist Rally in Hollywood Bowl in 1961 by the photographer Ralph Crane.

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