Lawrence W. Reed: A museum worth every minute

Column by Lawrence W. Reed
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
More than 150 years ago Karl Marx predicted that communism was inevitable. History, he claimed, was marching toward a communist paradise.
In hindsight it would appear that if anything about communism was inevitable, it was that it would sooner or later be relegated to the status of museum relic. In the capital city of a formerly communist country in Eastern Europe, that’s exactly what has happened.
Visit Prague in the Czech Republic these days and there’s a spot you won’t want to miss. It’s the Museum of Communism, amidst the city’s main shopping district and just a five-minute walk from the foot of beautiful Wenceslaus Square.
The man behind the museum is not himself a native Czech. He is Glenn Spicker, an American entrepreneur who was attracted to Prague’s new business opportunities after the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” expelled the communists from power. He introduced bagels to Prague and opened a jazz club and several successful restaurants.
It soon struck him that what was missing in the city was any vivid public reminder of what life was like before 1989. So he spent several months and $28,000 searching flea markets and junk shops for almost a thousand bits and pieces of memorabilia — including busts of Marx and Lenin, textbooks, posters and samples of the shoddy merchandise that once adorned dingy state-owned storefronts all across the country. The museum opened its doors in December 2001.
Exhibits that explain the communist “dream” greet the visitor upon entering. Slogans, propaganda and all the paraphernalia of promises made to be broken remind one of the wildly utopian vision once offered by Marx and his followers. Communist theoreticians boasted that they would produce a “workers’ paradise” of happiness and abundance, but nothing of the sort came to pass in anywhere the system was tried.
In Spicker’s museum the reconstruction of an interrogation room used by the secret police provides a chilling refresher in state terror. Records show that under communist rule Czech political dissidents were executed by the dozens; more than a quarter million were imprisoned. The secret police employed no fewer than 200,000 spies paid to keep watch over their fellow citizens.

In another corner of the museum sits a replica of a grocery storefront, shabby and unattractive because that’s the way storefronts looked under communism. Shelves were often bare or stocked with goods few people wanted. Shoppers had to endure long lines to secure the most basic of commodities.

Spicker’s museum does have a sense of humor. To help raise money to pay the bills, the museum gift shop offers postcard reproductions of communist-era propaganda photos but each with an added caption. One depicts a peasant woman holding aloft in the breeze a piece of cloth. The caption reads, “You couldn’t get laundry detergent, but you could get your brain washed.”

Communism was one of history’s most infamous lies. The truth demands that its record be documented and displayed. Glenn Spicker’s museum does precisely that, for which men and women everywhere should be grateful.
..........................................................

(Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, N.Y., and Atlanta.)



More Local

Alleged flasher banned from all Walmart stores

A 69-year-old man was charged with public indecency Wednesday afternoon after he was caught by Walmart security officers exposing himself ne ... Read More


Teen injured in shooting on Glover Circle

A 17-year-old man was injured in a shooting Thursday night, and is now recovering at Atlanta Medical Center. Around 5 p.m., authorities with ... Read More


Easter Sunrise Services

McClain to preach at grandfather’s church

Easter is a day of resurrection. Christians celebrate the rising of their Savior, Jesus, from the grave on Easter. Sunrise services are held ... Read More


Voter registration deadline Monday

Monday is the voter registration deadline for the May 20 general election primary and nonpartisan election. You must be at least 17 1/2 to r ... Read More


PSC Forum

Candidates spar over the role of lobbyists

The three Republican candidates for Public Service Commission came to Newnan for their first forum – with lines clearly drawn between ... Read More

S.C. wreck victims improving

Times-Herald staff writer Bradley Hartsell will not need to undergo any more surgery, and his girlfriend, Hannah Latimer, had a successful s ... Read More