DURING HIS 2016 CAMPAIGN for Congress, New Hampshire candidate Chris Pappas wore a shirt with a picture of a clenched raised fist with the word “Resist” on it. If you’re a student of history you’ll recognize the symbol. It’s the badge of the Italian communist students’ group that called themselves the Red Brigades.
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The same symbol was adopted by the German communist students who called themselves the Meinhoff-Bader Group, also known as the Red Army Faction.
These two groups kidnaped people for ransom.
What is the message Congressman Pappas is sending to New Hampshire voters by wearing a shirt with the raised clenched fist of the communist party? Is it meaningful or just stylish?
In 1970, I was working in Milan, Italy for an American-Italian joint venture manufacturing company. The Italian Red Brigades had kidnaped a member of the wealthy Agnelli family and held him for 2 weeks chained in a basement prison until a ransom was paid. The growth of violence by students for the purpose of intimidation and money was part of the communist strategy.
Nikita Khrushchev, who took power after Joseph Stalin died, told Western ambassadors in 1956, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!”
In response to that threat the free nations of France, England, Italy, Holland, and Belgium, plus West Germany, joined with the United States in making the Treaty of Rome, which came into force in 1958. That treaty produced NATO, a defensive block of countries, and the European Economic Community, a common market, to hold back communist expansion in Europe.
To achieve its strategic goal, Moscow financed student communist parties in these countries. But despite Russian efforts, economic prosperity flourished between NATO member nations.
It is hard to understand why New Hampshire voters would favor a congressman who appears to support communism and wears a communist threat — the clenched fist — on his shirt.
I have done business in several countries inside communist-controlled Europe (Hungary, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia) and visited the free area of West Berlin. Those who benefit from that communist economic system were the 5% of the population that were dedicated leaders of the communist party. The balance of the population were unhappy worker bees who had better do as they were told. If you disagreed with your communist bosses, you could be imprisoned or worse.
Communism didn’t work out well for Ukraine. Before Stalin and the communists, the country had been the breadbasket of Europe, with many small private farms producing large surpluses of wheat. In 1930, Stalin nationalized those farms and formed large communist-run agricultural collectives. As a result, wheat harvests plummeted and 8 to 10 million Ukrainians, who had once worked their own land, died in a famine.
When I was in high school much time was dedicated to American History, where learning about our excellent U.S. Constitution and its amendments was a required curriculum. Our history teachers understood and explained the separation of powers of our three equal branches of government and that they prevent a strongman from taking over as dictator.
Our constitution makes it difficult for a thug like Castro, Pol Pot, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Chavez, or Maduro to take over and run our country as their own private business.
I wonder to what extent the study of American History, our constitution, and its amendments, along with the benefits of our free enterprise system, has diminished in our public schools, leaving students to think only in terms of the latest slogans.
A threat by a candidate for public office in the form of a clenched fist with the words “Resist” runs counter to compromise or civility. It should be rejected by residents of New Hampshire, particularly those who serve, like Congressman Pappas.
(Originally published in the Union Leader)