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

Coco's Cupboard

Partnership works to find service dogs for veterans

Dog trainers Suzanne Aaron and Tara Cotton saw many clients who had dogs they just couldn’t handle. They would help the owners find do ... Read More


250 students affected

Homelessness ‘vicious cycle that’s going to continue’

The economy has bounced back from the lows of a few years ago. The housing market is healthy, and the jobless rate has improved. But, for so ... Read More


Annual Sunrise on the Square Road Race a success

The annual Sunrise on the Square included ideal weather and a first-time winner who actually pushed his baby in a stroller. The race, hosted ... Read More


HealthSouth facility scheduled to open Dec. 2

Progress for HealthSouth’s new facility is on track for a Dec. 2 opening, which will add to the town’s growing collection of hea ... Read More


Subsidized medical center proposed for Senoia

Palmetto Health Council is applying for a grant to bring a subsidized medical clinic to Coweta, proposed for the Senoia area. The non-profit ... Read More

Economic Impact

Ports hit new record

The Georgia Ports Authority moved more than 3 million 20-foot equivalent container units in fiscal year 2014 – and set a new record fo ... Read More