The Floyd Riots Mark a Century of Communist Agitation

By Jack Cashill

On the evening of June 10, in the midst of an impromptu desecration festival in Portsmouth, Virginia, the statue of a Confederate soldier was yanked off its pedestal and crowned the unfortunate Chris Green, who stood underneath.

Green, now in a medically induced coma, coded twice on the way to the hospital.  He may not survive.  Erasing the past is a dangerous business.  It has been since the communists got involved in rewriting history a century ago.

As it happens, George Floyd died exactly 100 years and 40 days after Alessandro Berardelli and Frederick Parmenter were shot to death in a payroll robbery in Braintree, Massachusetts.  These men have little in common with Floyd save that none of them deserved to die and that their respective deaths set off worldwide demonstrations orchestrated out of the very same playbook.

In the 1920s, communists had to erase some immediate history — namely, the fact that a pair of Italian anarchists murdered Berardelli and Parmenter in cold blood.  The evidence that the anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, killed the pair was overwhelming.  They were convicted soon after the murders.

In 1924, as the appeals process wore on, Sacco and Vanzetti caught a break of sorts.  Lenin died, and Stalin replaced him.  Always the realist, Stalin had no illusions that the Soviet P.R. arm, the Comintern, could inspire an American revolution.  He focused his American efforts instead on defamation.

With Stalin’s blessing, the Comintern set out to find a case that would undermine the idea of America, which at the time held great sway throughout the world.  America was widely perceived as the land of opportunity, the ever beckoning home of the free and the brave.  For the Soviet experiment to prevail, the American experiment had to yield.  The world had to see America through fresh, unblinking eyes, not as the great melting pot, but as a simmering stew of xenophobic injustice.

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In 1925, the Comintern came looking for Sacco and Vanzetti, glass slipper in hand.  Almost immediately, “spontaneous” protests sprung up throughout the world.  Europe’s great squares filled with sobbing, shouting protesters, declaiming the innocence of the immigrant martyrs and denouncing the vile injustice of their persecutors.  These protesters donated hundreds of thousands dollars to the cause, almost none of which found its way to the real Defense Committee.

In America, the Comintern created theater and allowed the actors to find their way to the parts.  The casting call for the Sacco and Vanzetti protests attracted a who’s who of literary leading lights.  Prominent American authors Upton Sinclair, Katherine Ann Porter, John Dos Passos, and Edna St. Vincent Millay not only protested the seeming injustice, but also created literary works around it.  Scores more picketed, protested, or signed petitions.  International luminaries joined in as well.  George Bernard Shaw and Albert Einstein wrote letters on behalf of the anarchists.  French Nobel Prize–winner Romain Rolland sent a telegram to the Massachusetts governor.

As the August 1927 execution date approached, the Comintern went to work.  Its Berlin office arranged for material declaring the pair’s innocence to be reprinted and distributed throughout the world.  Protest movements swelled in major American cities and European capitals.  On the night before the execution, five thousand militants roamed the streets of Geneva savaging everything from cars to movies that smelled of America.

On the night of the execution, August 22, an outpouring of rage and grief swept the world and left common sense buried in its wake.  The French communist daily Humanité published an extra edition with one word on the front cover, “Assassinés.”

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Reacting to the news that the pair had, yes, been “assassinated,” crowds swarmed through the streets of Paris on the way to the American embassy, ripping out lampposts and smashing windows.  Only the tanks that ringed the embassy stopped them

In London, masses of people surged around Buckingham Palace, shouting and singing “The Red Flag.”  Germany, meanwhile, witnessed a series of demonstrations and torchlight parades more intense than any the volatile Weimar Republic had yet seen.  A half-dozen German demonstrators were killed during the course of them.

The Comintern had pulled all the right strings in this international puppet show.  True, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, but it had never been its job to save them.  In her memoir, The Never-Ending Wrong, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the pair’s execution, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Katherine Ann Porter relates how she first came to understand this.

As the final hours ticked down, Porter had been standing vigil with others artists and writers in Boston.  Ever the innocent liberal, Porter approached her group leader, a “fanatical little woman” and a dogmatic communist, and expressed her hope that Sacco and Vanzetti could still be saved.  The response of this female comrade is noteworthy largely for its candor:

“Saved,” she said, “who wants them saved?  What earthly good would they do us alive?”

In George Floyd, our neo-communists found their own Sacco and Vanzetti, but much better.  As a black American, his death had much more frightening moral power.  It was caught on camera.  The offending officer was white.  In 2020, these were all essential variables.  Had any of three other officers at the scene — two Asians and a black American — been the one kneeling on Floyd’s neck, the story would never have left the twin cities.

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The puppeteers were shrewd this time.  They passed on the Georgia shooting of Ahmaud Arbery a month earlier, as it lacked the elements of high drama.  Floyd made for a much more appealing victim, the most appealing since Rodney King, but the Rodney King riots, destructive as they were, never left Los Angeles.

No, the response to this one was planned.  I would love to know who green-lit the decision to go worldwide with George Floyd.  As with Sacco and Vanzetti, scores of people have been hurt and killed in the demonstrations on Floyd’s behalf, the unlucky Chris Green just one of many.  As with Sacco and Vanzetti, too, many donations have not gone where the donors intended.

Unlike with Sacco and Vanzetti, however, the Floyd protests will keep on killing.  After Ferguson, the police withdrawal from active policing resulted in literally thousands of black deaths].  This time, the withdrawal will result in many thousands more.

For the organizers, it’s all good.  They don’t care about the collateral damage.  They didn’t even care about George Floyd. After all, what earthly good would George have done them alive?

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