The Corner

Black and Red, Same Color

Today, we continue our series “Freedom Fighter,” about János Horváth, the Hungarian (and American, and Hungarian again). Like his country at large in the 1940s, he experienced both Nazism and Communism. (Communism, needless to say, lasted a lot longer.) He fought each of them: and was imprisoned by both Nazis and Communists (sentenced to death by the former).

I said to him, “I’m going to ask you an unfair question — a very unfair question, even a dumb question: Which was worse, Nazism or Communism?” He gave me one word: “Same.” He repeated it: “Same.”

He went on to say, “We could discuss this question for a long time, and analyze it from different angles. But, when all is said and done, both Nazism and Communism are tyranny. Murder. Murderous people decide to murder others, just because those others see the world differently.”

I’d like to share a personal memory, here on the Corner. I was a sophomore in college, I think, and I knew of a professor whom others didn’t like. They said he was weird, right-wing, a nut. I figured there must be something good about him — because I didn’t respect his detractors very much.

He was a German who had been through the war, and he was a great scholar. (This was evident to me later.) In his office, I talked to him a bit about world affairs — the Sandinistas and so on. He said something I’ve never forgotten: “If the boot is stomping on your face, it doesn’t matter whether it’s black or red [i.e., fascist or Communist]. It’s still a boot, stomping on your face.”

As I look back, this was a simple, elementary statement — hardly worth stating. But in that time and place, it struck me as daring, radical — and, of course, true. (Not long after, I was to encounter Orwell and many others. I was to encounter, and embrace, alien ideas, thanks mainly to Commentary and National Review.)

At New York City’s mayoral inauguration last week, there were hearty supporters of the Castro dictatorship. One of them gave the opening remarks: Harry Belafonte. And the new mayor, Bill de Blasio? He was admiring enough to spend his honeymoon in Cuba (when he was in his 30s). He thought the Sandinistas were swell. I do not think he has “evolved,” as they say.

And José Serrano and Charlie Rangel (good ol’ “Chollie”)? Were those New York congressmen there?

I am talking about people who love Fidel Castro more than they do their own mothers, probably. They don’t care about boots stomping on human faces, so long as those boots are red. As for me, color makes no difference (in more senses than one). Same with you, I bet.

Definitely same with János Horváth (who ran for Congress but didn’t make it — but who made it to the Hungarian parliament, in the 1940s and now).

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