The leadership of the Mt Olive Jr High School Republican Club, in Morningside Heights, New York, have ‘shocked’ their sponsor, the Young Republican Federation of New York, by posting a photograph of a Socialist poster on their website. The club’s current president, Christopher Fields, says: “This association is totally unacceptable. I am so upset!”
Why, you might ask, would a state-sanctioned club who keeps a blog, distribute fliers about the state Republican Party, and elect a state auditor and mayor become so offended by a poster hanging in a local high school? For one thing, the poster appears to have been created and had been hanging in the school for at least three years. For another, it deals with politics in terms which middle-class children of the recent New York–to-college-graduation generation are familiar with from the popular and sometimes conservative media.
The poster in question is a traditional socialist-type poster of socialist ideas, but enclosed by a Guy Fawkes mask, its prominent figure is Alex Caballo, a current student at Mt Olive who, according to his parents, has embraced the socialist tradition, and who has, quite a few times, been arrested for his political beliefs. They have also said he appeared at his trial fully equipped with his student identification card and even his student map of the city, listing “NYPD” and “Secret Service” (a clear reference to his previous arrest for weapons possession).
“I am so angry,” Christopher Fields said. “I feel so betrayed. The best thing to do is remove the poster. However, it has been up long enough that we have to remove it now, immediately.” Other students have threatened to burn down the school.
Fields wrote on the club’s Facebook page: “We failed. We fell short. We failed to correct the misperception that this club supports violent action. This is not the club’s purpose.” He later apologised for his initial tone and said the club intends to “no longer tolerate violence or threats towards people of any political beliefs or backgrounds.”
I searched “murder” in the google dictionary and located a world for Manana-esque campaign posters, and found this one in the US: “I’m DEAD, enough is enough, its time to go socialist NOW!” On a similar theme: “No more murders, now, send me to union prison!”
Far out! Indeed. The main difference between “murder” and “socialism” in this world is that, in socialist republics, murder is the primary threat to the entrenched evil. But either way, what is “murder”?
For all his acrimony, Fields has turned the table on his teachers, who have gone into action. Their argument seems to be: “Why should we just allow your club to endorse socialist ideas, and not communism?”
First, consider the fact that the Socialist Party has received four grades of, for example, A from the Communist League of America (1960), also has been endorsed by Young Americans for Freedom (1980), Young People’s Revolutionary Party (1984) and the Young Communist League (1990). Second, consider that the Young Communist League (lately one of the US Democratic party’s most proactive and energetic movements) endorsed Adam Malik, now a Republican candidate for mayor, in his political race. Third, consider the fact that there are, in the US, 4,000 schools that receive federal support to teach American history according to the historical account developed by the US department of education in 1980. How is any classroom of schoolkids taught to be against violence on all accounts, not just because of socialism, but because of communist tyranny?
The answer is something different. Some may reply that violence and communism have been around in America since the 1920s. But it is unlikely that John and Robeco, the original founders of the Young Communist League, would have come to appreciate the value of violence if they had known the impact a little violence could have on a dictatorship.
Just how hot a topic this poster will become is an open question. As the old go-to chant used to be “Once you learn to piss against the wall, some people come. There’s so much to see in us – we’re seeing it ourselves!”