On May 13, only two weeks after the New York Times ran a sentimental op-ed by Vivian Gornick about the good old days of American Stalinism (which we looked at yesterday), the editors of the Newspaper of Record – which has spent the last few months comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, Mussolini, and every other fascist it can think of – decided it was time for another piece eulogizing Communism.
Under the headline “Thanks to Mom, the Marxist Revolutionary,” Peter Andreas, a professor of political science at Brown, served up a cozy Mother’s Day tribute to his mom, “a 1950s Mennonite housewife from Kansas who became a 1960s radical promoting the overthrow of patriarchy and capitalism.” (The contributor’s note identifies him as the author of Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution, and presumably this piece is an excerpt from the book.)
Andreas informs us that during the years when he was of elementary-school age (it isn’t clear exactly much time he actually spent in school), his mother took him to Detroit, to “a Berkeley commune,” to “a socialist collective farm in Chile,” to “the coastal shantytowns of Peru,” and to the slums of Ecuador. She let him “play with a loaded gun” because it was “good training for the revolution.”
And, for her, that’s what it was all about: “the revolution.”
At some point, she divorced his dad, and after “a bitter court battle”– the particulars of which Andreas doesn’t go into – the dad won sole custody of him, which at the time was so extremely unusual that she must’ve really been one hell of a lousy mother. Andreas also mentions in passing her dodging of “arrest warrants,” but doesn’t go into detail about them, either. What crimes did she commit? One offense he does tell us about is that after losing custody of him, she defied the judge’s order and took her son out of the country.
She “joined street protests and picket lines, and wrote passionately about the oppression of the poor and powerless. With me by her side, we battled the bad ‘isms’ (imperialism, fascism, sexism and consumerism) and we fought for the good ones (communism, feminism and egalitarianism). When we secretly returned to the United States, we lived in hiding in Denver, where my mother changed her name so that my father could not find us.”
He admits that all this running around and living in hiding took its toll on him. Though he “enjoyed feeling like I was part of a cause, even if I had only a vague sense of what that meant,” he “hungered for stability.” When he didn’t grow up into a radical, she grieved over his “betrayal of class struggle.” As for her parenting skills, she thought she was a terrific mother – she was bringing her son up to be a servant of the revolution, and if she had let him grow up with his father in a more stable environment she’d have been, in her mind, exhibiting disloyalty to the revolution. As Andreas puts it, his mother “saw her rejection of traditional ‘good mothering’ – constrained by the nuclear family and the creature comforts of capitalism – as proof itself that she was a good mother.”
Andreas admits that he is raising his own daughters “very differently” from the way he was raised. “And yet,” he concludes, “I would not trade my life with her for a thousand ‘normal’ childhoods. My mother’s approach to parenting was deeply rooted in her commitment to transformative social change.” She exposed him to “the world’s enormous inequalities” and gave him “a passion for politics” and a “devotion to creating a more just world.” A commitment to transformative social change; a devotion to creating a just world: such is the twisted language that so many Times contributors and academics routinely use to describe a fanatical dedication to a totalitarian system that killed more people than Nazism.
Who exactly was Peter Andreas’s mother? Curiously enough, he doesn’t mention her name in the article. But her name was Carol Andreas, and we’ll learn more about her tomorrow, from sources other than her son.