MIT Press has unleashed a wave of conservative outrage over the publication of Communism for Kids, a children’s guide that seeks to explain the ideas of anti-capitalist thought to a younger generation.
Voices in conservative media, from Alex Jones to Washington Times, are outraged that MIT Press has published a book called ‘Communism for Kids,’ a fairy tale that seeks to explain alternative economic and political philosophies to capitalism.
Using the format of a children’s story, author Bini Adamczak has created a group of “lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening” to break down the core tenants of communism and divorce it from figures like Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot. While MIT Press’ description sounds more like a fable than a pamphlet, it seems that the actual work is a little bit of both.
“Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true? This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism.”
Though its subtext is academic, Communism for Kids appears to be every inch a fairy tale. Heroes and villains, princesses and peasant, talking chairs and Ouija boards — the 112-page book has carefully chosen just enough common tropes to be accessible to a young audience.
While the book may be rocketing to the top of the “communism and socialism” section of Amazon.com, it’s getting a heavy push back from conservative media. One particularly scathing article from Washington Times ranted about how Communism for Kids was more than just your “regular red-minded, communist-loving, theory-driven drivel.”
“Oh, how nice, leave it to the intellectuals to once again, make lemons out of lemonade — freedom out of Communism… MIT Press, that supposed bastion of scientific thought, the place where the brainiacs flock and fly… has just put out a new book aimed at the kiddie market… But what’s the sequel, you think — Dictatorships for Dummies?”
Another write-up, titled “Brainwashing Shocker,” from conservative site New America, took a more direct approach by discounting the theory of communism itself. The publication suggested that Karl Marx’s poor hygiene was a sign that he was mentally ill and disconnected from reality. Later, it levies other common charges against communism (man’s nature is to be lazy), before closing with a list of possible titles for MIT press to publish in the future: Nazism for Kids, Genocide Made Easy and Ten Steps to Running a Really Cool Gulag.
Most of the articles also took the opportunity to discredit Bini Adamczak by noting the author’s work in queer politics.
The disproportionate amount of attention being paid to Communism for Kids in conservative media seems to have doomed its Amazon.com rating. Nearly 80 percent of its current reviews rate the book with one star, including one titled “Communism is a social CANCER.”
“Every time someone says they ‘perverted the theory’, or that ‘this is true communism’, I load my gun and hide my wallet. Communism is social CANCER. It was made to fail, it was designed to be perverted. If you think a government should have enough power to take people’s possessions and ‘redistribute them’, congratulations, you’ve just supported an autocratic dictatorship, as it ALWAYS HAPPENS, EVERY TIME AND EVERYWHERE IT WAS IMPLEMENTED.”
While MIT press may be getting attention for Communism for Kids at the moment, melding revolutionary politics and children’s literature is far from a new fad. A Is for Activist and A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy have also tried to create simple narratives that introduce the ideas of leftism to a young audience.
Beyond the world of children’s literature, interest in understanding left-wing politics has also grown steadily in the United States among adults. Between the candidacy of social Democrat Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald Trump, advocates of revolutionary politics have been vindicated by a resurgence in far-left ideals. Patrick Iber penned an article for The Nation analyzing the trend.
“Sanders’s success with young voters reveals a bimodal distribution of socialist enthusiasm. The old guard that came of age in the 1960s, like Sanders, has now been met by a growing influx of organizers from the ranks of those born after 1980, people who have entered the workforce during years marked by varying degrees of capitalist crisis. The ABCs of Socialism, edited by Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara, and The Future We Want, edited by Sunkara and The Nation‘s Sarah Leonard, offer us some insights into the ways in which this new generation is attempting to redefine the socialist tradition for the 21st century.”
Communist and socialist thought has existed in the U.S. since at least the 19th century, but did not develop as rapidly as it did elsewhere in the first world. While leftism was prominent in the struggle for worker’s rights, it faced heavy repression during World War I and the Cold War. Perhaps the most notable opponent of American socialism was Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led a campaign to blacklist public figures with links to far-left ideologies.
For $12.95, you can purchase Communism for Kids directly from MIT Press or wherever books are sold.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]