“Red Diaper Baby” is the term for those born in the United States to parents who were members of (or sympathizers with) the Communist Party. My parents were lifelong trade unionists, fighters for social and racial justice and staunch believers in socialist ideology. Mom was indeed a member of the United States Communist Party. This was something I learned early on not to share. McCarthyism was at its height is the 1950s and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed two years before my birth in 1955. I remember the FBI coming to our home and how scared and outraged mom was.
Although mom grew disillusioned with communism and the party she never swayed from her commitment to social justice and equality. I came of age in my mother’s home. She proudly encouraged my teenage involvement in anti Vietnam War protests, the Black Power Movement and even my attendance at “Love Ins” (yes, I’m that old!). As an adult whenever I attended a protest rally or peace march, she always wanted to go along, even when she was wheel chair bound. I am truly Muriel Crowe’s daughter and most of her ideals and values remain in me today.
So it was with a high sense of idealism and expectations that I entered my first socialist country, Vietnam. I felt a deep sense of reverence for all the lives lost in the war here and for the terrible devastation this country has experienced. Vietnam is still a very poor country. I can clearly see, even from our brief time here, that it is far from a socialist utopia (if such a thing even exists). There are great inequities between rich and poor, extreme pressures from foreign powers and corruption. But it is a country that is healing, growing and thriving. I have been missing mom so much this month. I would have loved to have seen Vietnam with her and to have heard her impressions. I like to think of her in the ancestral realm in strong debate with Ho Chi Minh and her hero, Paul Robeson.