The Real Ronald Reagan

The Bush administration is using former President Reagan’s death to boost Bush’s failing campaign. They gave Reagan full honors: with a federal day of mourning and an official state funeral. The TV was saturated with commentaries about how great a President Reagan was. In fact, many are saying he was the greatest president in modern times. Frankly, nothing could be farther from the truth.

So much of what they said were personal stories and political generalities wrapped around right-wing ideology. They eulogized the man and his politics because they want to win people to both. They hope to win back support for George W. Bush and the right-wing Republican agenda. Through all of the chatter, Reagan’s real policies and real beliefs are not coming out. He was presented like he was the second coming of FDR, when as a president he was really like the ghost of Herbert Hoover.

He was called the great communicator. But the issue is not how good his speeches were but rather how bad his policies were. It’s not how he said it, it’s what he said. That’s what was left out and distorted by the media. They wanted to put a happy face on a very negative presidency.

The real Ronald Reagan was a right-wing reactionary most of his life and was one of the most anti-Communist, pro-imperialist presidents in US History.

He started his career as a conservative by informing on his fellow Hollywood actors during the McCarthy witch-hunts.

After he became governor of California, he ordered his state police to carry out the most violent attacks against the Civil Rights and Student Free Speech movements.

He fired Angela Davis from her teaching position at UCLA for her political views: because she was a member of the Communist Party USA. He carried out a bloody suppression against the Black Panther Party, which was born in his state.

We have to ask: Where was the greatness?

He was a master demagogue who knew how to present extremist right-wing policies in a simple and common sense way. He fooled a lot of voters. He also promoted a lot of cynicism among democratic-minded voters many of whom stopped voting. He won the presidency always with a minority of the electorate. Where is the greatness? He was one of the most anti-labor US presidents in history. He started his first term by destroying the air controller union (PATCO) and was out to crush the entire labor movement.

He was one of the most active presidents against racial equality in modern history. He was elected using the fictitious welfare queen to convince millions of white voters that Black women on welfare were the reason for high taxes. He consciously and maliciously used racism to promote division and animosity. To send a message, he started his reelection campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the place where three civil rights workers were killed by the KKK in 1964. Under his watch the Republicans developed their southern alliance, which was an alliance with Dixiecrat racist, including the KKK. Throughout his two terms in office he staunchly supported the South African racist regime and opposed any effort to boycott them. He consistently opposed affirmative action and all attempts to seriously enforce civil rights laws. He was elected on racism, and he ruled with racism.

The crack cocaine epidemic that so ravaged Black and Latino Communities happened and progressed under his watch. The victims of that genocide were probably in the tens of thousands. I ask again, where was the greatness?

His so-called supply-side economic policies started a 20-year Republican campaign to completely destroy the social safety net. Millions of low-income working-class families fell tragically into deep poverty, hunger and homelessness. He attacked Social Security, laid off tens of thousands of federal employees and shut down many vital government programs.

Davis Stockton, Reagan’s budget director, after he left office admitted that Reaganomics was basically a Trojan Horse designed to drastically cut social spending including public education and heath care in order to give huge tax giveaways to the very rich and in effect raise taxes on working families. And that is what they did. In other words his basic economic programs were based on a big fraud. Again, where was his greatness?

Reagan, they proclaimed, won the cold war. But did he? When the USSR and other socialist countries collapse, millions were driven into poverty. So where was the victory? Military spending actually stayed high, depriving our people of billion that should have be spent on schools, housing and healthcare.

The former socialist countries are now suffering mass unemployment, homelessness and hunger for the first time since the war against Nazism. They called it freedom, but the US imposed gangster capitalism on the people of Eastern Europe and they suffered more. Where was the victory? Today the streets of Russia are not safe at night. Our government has helped promote right-wing movements that push anti-Communism, racism and anti-Semitism as weapons of divide and rule the people. These countries are today wracked with poverty, bloody wars and ethnic division and strife; tens of thousands have perished. This is what Reagan and Bush call freedom?

Today, the average life span in the former USSR (once the second largest industrial nation in the world) has plunged to the level of a developing country. Public schools have been trashed and replaced by high-priced private schools for the new rich capitalist. This is their idea of freedom? Free healthcare is being eliminated and replaced by high-priced private hospitals and clinics. The children, who used to be a privileged class, and the women, who broke world records in terms of the achievements in the professions and sports, are being victimized, exploited and enslaved by criminals through the international sex trade. This is supposed to be freedom.

So, who won the cold war? Who benefited from the collapse of the socialism? Not the people. Imperialism! Global capitalism; particularly US global capitalist.

Today the world is a far more dangerous place thanks to Reagan’s policies. We must not forget the invasion of Grenada and the murder of Maurice Bishop. And isn’t the military aggression and occupation of Iraq today a part of Reagan’s legacy. The thinking behind star wars and the one-superpower empire building policies of George W. Bush where a basic part of Reagan’s ideology as well. Today most of the world’s people now face a new more emanate threat of war because of we so-called won the cold war.

If the cold war had truly been won, we would have peace and justice for all, not increasing war and aggression in this world.

Bush’s eulogy at Reagan’s funeral in Washington was a big campaign speech. As I said, the Republicans are using Reagan’s death to promote their right-wing agenda and Bush’s reelection. We should not be discouraged by this or by the statements of Kerry and some Democrats. This is another reason to step up the struggle to defeat Bush and company this November so that we can begin to move our country in a better direction.

The US people have suffered through a quarter of a century of intensified right-wing attack. It’s time for change. Defeating Bush and the Republican majority in Congress and the US Supreme Court will set the stage for new gains for the people.

--Jarvis Tyner is national vice chair of the Communist Party USA.

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