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John Lenczowski discusses “Understanding Communism” in video series

Dr. John Lenczowski, Founder and President of The Institute of World Politics, participated in the BL’s “In Great Mind” series called, “Understanding Communism.”

In Part 1, entitled “Do You Know What Communism Really is?“, Dr. Lenczowski referenced life under the Bolshevik regime which gave rise to the Soviet Union. The party had ultimate jurisdiction over all matters, making it increasingly difficult to exercise free choice. Dr. Lenczowski stated: “Communism killed more people than all of the wars in the 20th century.” Under the Bolshevik regime, those who did not conform were punished or killed, as was the case under other communist regimes. This is representative of an attack on one’s human dignity.

In Part 2, which focused on arms control treaties and communist strategies, Dr. Lenczowski elucidated the Soviet Union’s policy of undermining and violating any arms control treaties established with the United States for both military advantage and to test U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities. As an example, Dr. Lenczowski noted that the first major arms control treaties between the United States and Soviet Union were the SALT and ABM treaties of 1972. Between 1972 and 1979, Dr. Lenczowski explained, the United States deployed no new nuclear intercontinental nuclear delivery systems, while the Soviets deployed 5-7 different examples of such systems. Dr. Lenczowski noted that the Soviets violated both the technical limitations of the aforementioned agreements, but also the spirit of the pacts. He further recalled that the Soviets violated or circumvented “…every one of the treaties we signed.” Ultimately, Dr. Lenczowski explained that the arms control process caused the United States to restrain itself unilaterally from acquiring arms, while the Soviets would continue to build up their weapons. Dr. Lenczowski noted that the idea of arms control itself resulting in peace between the United States and Soviet Union was a “…complete illusion.” Dr. Lenczowski elucidated that arms control attempts to create peace and strategic ability by addressing a symptom of tension, rather than its root cause. Dr. Lenczowski finally revealed that the only way ultimately to reduce tensions is to reduce political concerns.

In Part 3, which uncovered how communism imposes self-censorship in the U.S., Dr. Lenczowski first described how the ill-advised policy of détente with the Soviet Union forced U.S. presidents, scholars, and the media to engage in self-censorship, by forcing them to avoid mentioning the brutalities of life under the Soviet system. This included Soviet human rights violations, slave labor camps, military buildups, espionage, and other malign and reprehensible activities. Dr. Lenczowski summarized the forbidden topics at the time as the military, the secret police, and human rights violations. Dr. Lenczowski noted that the Soviets would use visa access, the threat of deportation, and other measures in an attempt to coerce journalists into providing favorable coverage of the country. Dr. Lenczowski revealed that the Soviets would go even further than this game of carrots and sticks: the Soviets would sometimes even recruit agents of influence in our media, either witting or unwitting, a tactic the U.S. learned about from Soviet defector Stanislav Levchenko. Levchenko was the head of the KGB’s “active measures” program in Japan. Upon his defection, the operative disclosed to U.S. authorities that he had recruited multiple journalists as agents of influence, including the Editor-in-Chief of the largest conservative newspaper in Japan, illustrating an archetypical Soviet strategy. Dr. Lenczowski asked, “If he could do this in Japan, do you think they could do it in the United States? The answer is yes.” Ultimately, Dr. Lenczowski explained that the overall effect of the policy of détente was the insidious anesthetization of the American people, and an increase in the perceived power of the Soviet Union. 

In Part 4, Dr. Lenczowski discussed the history of deep communist infiltration in the U.S. He first recounted the case of Whittaker Chambers. Mr. Chambers was a senior editor of Time magazine who worked as a part of a spy ring for the Soviet Union. Mr. Chambers would later turn back to the cause of freedom and expose Alger Hiss, the State Department official investigated for being a Soviet spy, in a 1948 investigation. Dr. Lenczowski said that the media “…all vilified Mr. Chambers and protested the innocence of Mr. Hiss,” despite the fact that Hiss was not only a spy, but an even more dangerous agent of influence. Hiss accompanied President Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference, after he was recommended to the President by other secret Soviet spies in the Roosevelt administration. Dr. Lenczowski then explained that there were ultimately “…deep, deep roots of Marxist influence in the government, in the universities, in the media, and in popular culture…” Dr. Lenczowski briefly summarized how Marxism grew in influence in the United States during the 1930s and 40s, while there were “still very strong influences of Marxism” in the United States even during the 1950s. Dr. Lenczowski then stated that Joseph McCarthy underestimated the number of Soviet spies present in the U.S. government during the time of his investigations, stating that, while McCarthy claimed there were some 240 Soviet spies in the government, records show it was actually more like 514. Dr. Lenczowski ultimately explained that U.S. society developed a philosophy of “anti anti-communism,” over time after McCarthyism, and that this sentiment was part of the opposition to Ronald Reagan.

In Part 5, Dr. Lenczowski addressed the question, Can the President of the U.S. successfully defeat communism?” Dr. Lenczowski began by reflecting on President Ronald Reagan, noting that one of the most important and dramatic steps President Reagan did was to “tell the truth” instead of censoring himself like other leaders. Reagan called the Soviets an “evil empire” that would be left to the “ash heap of history.” Lenczowski says that these comments were both strategic and decisive. Dr. Lenczowski recalled that Reagan’s comments were broadcasted throughout the Iron Curtain through services like Radio Free Europe and that they were important in revealing the truth of communism to the world, while supporting the people trapped inside communist countries. Dr. Lenczowski noted that Reagan’s Administration, of which he was a part, would send out “truth squads” to alert the media and public about Russian disinformation campaigns. Dr. Lenczowski also directed the intelligence community to begin compiling information on Russian propaganda activity. Dr. Lenczowski criticized the policy of détente, because he believes it was a policy of addressing the symptoms of conflict with the Soviets, not the root cause. He stated that ideas, and the juxtaposition of Judeo-Christian values against the “end justifies the means” duplicity of communism, were core features in the Cold War. Dr. Lenczowski reflected on how Reagan instituted a military arms build-up that put tremendous pressure on the Soviet military economy, created a strategic concept that would help the U.S. escape from Soviet nuclear blackmail, worked on sabotaging Soviet technologies, and took many other steps to successfully undermine the Soviet Union.