Why is there a State of New Hampshire historic marker commemorating the life of an unrepentant Stalinist in Concord right now?
One reason, and one reason only: Because Gov. Chris Sununu hasn’t taken it down.
Not everyone believes he should, of course. According to headlines in both The Boston Globe and Associated Press, a state-installed marker to the memory of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn sparked “GOP outrage” and no other kind.
Really, New Hampshire Democrats? You’re OK with an official government shout-out to Gurley Flynn?
When Flynn joined the Communist Party (in either 1936 or ’37, depending on the source), Stalin’s murderous “Great Purge” was already underway. The deaths and disappearances of loyal Communists were so disturbing many party members in the West bailed, including then-Communist spy Whittaker Chambers.
Not “The Rebel Girl.”
Two years later, the Soviet Union signed a deal with Adolf Hitler — the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — paving the way for Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II. What did “civil libertarian” (as she’s described on the marker) Flynn do?
She stuck with Stalin.
Flynn fought for the Communist Party and its beliefs all the way through the Cold War. When Russian intercontinental missiles were first pointed at the U.S., she was on Team Moscow. When Soviet ships were steaming toward Cuba during the Missile Crisis, she was the head of the Communist Party USA.
Also of note: Flynn’s socialist fans unveiled her marker on May Day (of course) in the year sane people are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Gulag Archipelago. It tells the story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Communism’s most famous victims, who spent 20 years living right here in New England.
In 1945, about a decade after Flynn joined the party, Solzhenitsyn was sent to the gulag, just one of thousands of Stalin’s political prisoners. The gulag system was no secret, nor was the Soviet policy of shipping political dissidents to this hellhole to work in temperatures that sometimes fell to 50 below zero.
To call the treatment of Soviet gulag prisoners “torture” is too kind. As Solzhenitsyn wrote, “Prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath . . . that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the ‘secret brand’); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot.”
He was released to internal exile inside the Soviet Union in 1953. Flynn would agree to become the leader of the Communist Party in the U.S. in 1961, a position she held until her death.
And now her life is commemorated with a historic marker in downtown Concord? Why?
In part because the Bernie Sanders base of the New Hampshire Democratic Party still has a soft spot for the old Soviet Union. Sanders infamously honeymooned in Moscow, and as late as 1988, he was still traveling behind the Iron Curtain to praise the glories of the socialist paradise.
Socialist Sanders would happily take a 10-hour flight to Moscow, but he never drove the two hours from Burlington to visit the man who bravely condemned the Soviets’ violence and cruelty.
Mounting a marker to Flynn was clearly a mistake, and mistakes happen — though it is a bit distressing that nobody in the Sununu administration’s Division of Historical Resources knows enough history to flag a monument like this.
The question is, why is it still standing? The only person who can answer that question is Sununu.
In a radio interview last week, Sununu said he wants the marker removed.
“I wrote a letter to Concord and said, ‘Hey, just tell us to take it down! We’d love to take it down!’ I’m all for taking the thing down; I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Wrote a letter to the Concord? The city didn’t put it up. The city doesn’t have the authority to post a State of New Hampshire (note the state seal at the top) Historic Marker.
Gov. Sununu, if you really don’t want this marker displayed, if you find it as disgraceful as you say you do, then Take. It. Down.
There are more pressing issues for the state of New Hampshire, of course. And most historic markers barely rate more than a passing glance. And if Vladimir Putin can’t revive the Soviet Union, a handful of Granite State socialists certainly can’t.
But this is a “basic government competency” test. If a state government can’t competently handle a small matter like this, why trust it with education policy or Medicaid expansion?
The state made this mess. It’s the job of the state’s governor to clean it up.