Politics & Policy

Tennessee’s Commies

Red in the antiwar movement.

Peace can make for interesting bedfellows, as citizens of Nashville and environs have recently discovered. Indeed, the state’s most revered and self-congratulatory peace activists have been exposed, by talk radio, as being deeply in bed with the Communist party.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

#ad#The fun began when local talk-radio sensation Phil Valentine (familiar to NRO readers for leading the anti-state income-tax movement in Tennessee) decided to have a look at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center’s website. The group has been sponsoring peace rallies in the area, and is also trying to send a delegation to see Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Valentine wanted to find out exactly who’s who in the center’s pro-peace coalition.

Many of the members were hardly a surprise. The center is affiliated with clergy and laity concerned about war, so one would expect to find religious organizations on the roster. There are, including the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, Church Women United, the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation, the Interfaith Alliance of Middle Tennessee, and the Social Concerns Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Nor did some of the other members seem out of place. Common Cause is listed, along with the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation, LA CASA, the War Resisters League, the United Nations Association and Tennessee Peace Action. Not to be left out, the United Nubian Congress has joined up, along with BURNT (Bring Urban Recycling to Nashville Today).

What caught Valentine’s eye, however, was the acronym CPUSA — the Communist party. Holy cow. What are the commies doing there? After all, about the only peace they’ve provided is the peace of the grave. Valentine’s antennae were twitching as he went to the CPUSA’s main website, scrolled down to the “contact the CPUSA” section, and found the listing for the Middle Tennessee Chapter.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Valentine. “The street address for the Tennessee chapter of the CPUSA is the exact same address as the Nashville Peace and Justice Center.” Sensing his readers might benefit from this information, Valentine took the story on air last Friday. Not everyone was happy he did so.

“Matt Leber, the peace center’s director, called in,” Valentine told me. “At first he denied any affiliation with the Communist party. He said they weren’t any Communists within ten miles of him. I pointed out they have the same address as his organization. There was stunned silence. Then he admitted that the CPUSA is a member organization, but said that didn’t mean anything.”

Leber’s position didn’t fly too well. Not only were listeners outraged. Officials at the CPUSA tried to cover their tracks. A visitor to the CPUSA site now finds the street address for the Middle Tennessee Chapter of CPUSA has been dropped. Only an e-mail address is given. Anticipating a cover-up, Valentine made printed copies of the original page for those interested in pursuing the link.

Valentine’s grilling duties were not finished. Next target was the Jewish Federation. “Their spokeswoman initially denied any association with the Communist party,” he says. “When I presented the proof, she admitted they were members but said the peace committee was a ‘big tent’ large enough to include different points of view. From my perspective, a big tent would include Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Reform-party members. The CPUSA is trying to destroy the tent.”

Valentine asked the spokeswoman if the Jewish Federation would remain a member of the peace committee if the American Nazi party joined. “She said, ‘Of course not.’ So I asked why she would refuse to associate with an organization that’s known to have killed six million Jews, but has no problem associating with an organization which, at last count, has butchered over 170 million people worldwide.”

Valentine’s listeners won’t let the story drop. “I try to talk about the war, but most of them want to talk about the Peace and Justice center. I’m finding out something new about the center every day. One listener pointed out that the Methodist Women, who are part of the peace coalition, own the building in which the CPUSA/Nashville Peace and Justice offices are. I’ve gotten tons of e-mails and phone calls from lay Methodists who are outraged that their tithes are going to this.”

Despite its highly interesting and somewhat amusing nature, this story took a bit of time to find its legs. “The Fox affiliate looked into the situation and came to the same conclusion I did,” says Valentine. The Tennessean (the local Gannet rag) was several days catching up.

Valentine ended the interview on a philosophical note. “I’m not saying that everybody who is against this war is a Commie. But I know that around the country the Communist party is behind many of the protests. [See Byron York for more on this.] So if you’re going to protest the war you need to know who you’re in bed with.”

Dave Shiflett is a member of the White House Writers Group.

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