"As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever." - Reagan, January 20, 1981

"In Vietnam, we tried and failed in a just cause. No More Vietnams can mean we will not try again. It should mean we will not fail again." - from No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Out-of-Class venting - Communism and Hollywood

I'm getting the expected bellyaching about the Hollywood reds in the 50s. Let's set the record straight

From a BigPeace interview with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor at Grove City College, author of Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century


Big Peace: You’ve given a plug to Big Journalism. Related to this point, you also have something for our colleagues at Big Hollywood. Tell us how Hollywood liberals and communists alike abused these terms.

Kengor: This, too, goes way back. When the Hollywood screenwriters—accused of being communists loyal to the USSR—were called to testify before Congress in October 1947, they lied to their celebrity friends. The PR campaign of the communists, led by the Daily Worker, was to smack the congressmen on the investigating committee as (you guessed it) “fascists,” “Nazis,” “racists.”

An excellent case in point, where all this came together, was the October 29, 1947 cover of the Daily Worker, which trumpeted the words of the screenwriters who had just testified: John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Albert Maltz, and Alvah Bessie. All four, unbeknownst to their liberal friends, were hardened communists. They didn’t dare admit this to their Hollywood pals—Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, and a bunch of other duped liberals—who flew to Washington to publicly defend them.

Lawson was an angry man, known as “Hollywood’s commissar.” He informed Congress that it was behaving like “Hitler’s Germany,” “trying to introduce fascism in this country.”

Dalton Trumbo lectured the committee: “You have produced a capital city on the eve of its Reichstag fire. For those who remember German history in the autumn of 1932 there is the smell of smoke in this very room.”

Albert Maltz accused the congressmen of “carry[ing] out activities in America like those carried out in Germany by Goebbels and Himmler.”

By the way, as Maltz was saying this, the Soviets, led by devils like Lavrenti Beria, who Stalin boastfully called “our Himmler,” were taking over Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald, which they renamed Soviet Special Camp No. 2.
...


Big Peace: You say that when Congress presented piles of irrefutable evidence of the communist loyalties of these screenwriters, the screenwriters responded not by trying to refute the evidence but by calling the congressmen fascists and Nazis.

Kengor: “Hitler Germany!” yelped John Howard Lawson, when faced with irrefutable evidence, “Hitler tactics!”

Dalton Trumbo screamed as he was escorted from the hearing room: “This is the beginning of an American concentration camp!”

Big Peace: For any doubters, in Dupes you document the actual Communist Party numbers of these supposed “innocent” screenwriters.

Kengor: Here you go: Albert Maltz, Communist Party no. 47196. Alvah Bessie, Communist Party no. 46836. John Howard Lawson, Communist Party no. 47275. Dalton Trumbo, Communist Party code name “Dalt T.”

You won’t learn those inconvenient facts from your liberal history professor. At our universities, the anti-communists are the demons; the truth must be repressed.


Funny that Trumbo was calling anyone a Nazi, because it was Trumbo who collaborated with the Nazis during the Nazi-soviet pact. From Allan H. Ryskind, who researched communism in Hollywood

I’ve read a lot of Trumbo and combed through his files at the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison. Yet I’ve never found a paragraph, or even a phrase, where he ever publicly condemned Stalin’s Soviet Union, certainly not when this most tyrannical of rulers was murdering folks by the millions, egging Hitler on to invade the Western democracies and eagerly devouring countries not his own.

Dalton was a party member, with a party card, and the party, as he well knew, was controlled by Moscow. Its purpose was to crush America’s liberties and make us a Soviet colony.

He was not a brave and good-hearted American, as the “documentary” pretends, but a serious un-American, in that his hero was Lenin and his loyalty was to the Soviet Union. 

Is this just reckless Red-baiting, as my liberal friends might say? The evidence of his Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook. He told Cook he joined the party in 1943 (there is evidence he joined earlier), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier. . .” He suggests he didn’t pay dues to the party for several years after his HUAC appearance, but he never turned his back on communism.

In his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954”—the year he returned to Los Angeles from Mexico—the experience, one supposes, having been so exhilarating the first time around. He claims to have quit the party for good in 1956.

So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet-controlled CP for nearly a quarter of a century, when Joseph Stalin was in his prime killing years.

Like so many of his comrades, he was all opposed to Hitler—until the Soviet-Nazi pact in 1939. Under this devils’ agreement, the two totalitarian countries divided Eastern Europe, with Hitler turning his guns against the West the following year.

After vanquishing Western Europe, the Nazi ruler then attempted to dispose of England, initially leveling its cities with saturation bombing. How did Dalton exhibit his deep devotion to those freedoms the film insists he championed? He sided with the Fuehrer. To ward off potential American assistance, Dalton unleashed his polemical fury against the British—the last major European people still willing to resist the Nazis.

England was no democracy; it had a “king,” he argued. FDR was guilty of “treason” and “black treason” for his pro-English policy. No drop of American blood should be spilled for the British imperialists. Yet when Germany turned on his angelic Stalin in June of 1941, ah, finally, there was now a compelling reason to confront the Nazi warlord! Rescuing Russia was now worth flinging young Americans onto foreign battlefields.

Many of Dalton’s Red activities were chronicled in 1947 by HUAC. The committee disclosed that he had joined, spoke for or contributed to dozens upon dozens of Communist causes, before, during and after World War II. There seemed to be no Red activity he wouldn’t embrace. He was raising money for the Daily Worker, campaigning for Communist candidates, propagandizing for Red labor leaders and (pre-pact) encouraging the shut-down of U.S. defense industries.

Earl Browder was deposed as Communist Party chieftain in 1945 (for saying America and the USSR could cooperate after the war). Dalton, obeying Stalin’s new hard line, gave two thumbs up. When Winston Churchill warned against Soviet imperialism, Trumbo compared him to Hitler.

When editing the Screen Writer in the mid-’40s, Trumbo turned this influential Screen Writers Guild publication into a virtual Red propaganda organ. When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, guess which side Trumbo took? In an unpublished play, his heroine proclaims the North is the nation really fighting for freedom. (For those who doubt me, I’ve got the script.) His support for the Soviets and American communism never quit.

When the Hollywood Communists put on their horror show before HUAC in 1947, screaming at committee members and refusing to respond to legitimate questions, the studio executives laid down a rule: Those who refused to say whether they were Communists, that is those who wouldn’t state whether they were conspiring with our enemies in Moscow, could no longer work in Hollywood. Those who turned against our Soviet foe were welcomed back with open arms. Trumbo stood with Stalin. No one deserved to be blacklisted more.


Does that last part sound a little harsh? Well, according to a Frontpagemag review of Ron Radosh and Allis Radosh's book, Red Star Over Hollywood, Trumbo secretly agreed with Ryskind's analysis

...in the end Party-members paid dearly for belonging to a secret organization. The hard fact is that there would have been no “naming of names” if the Party had not been a secret organization in the first place. This was later ruefully admitted even by prominent Party-member Paul Jarrico--and this turns out to have been the private opinion of the famous blacklistee Dalton Trumbo as well. Trumbo’s bitter remarks on Party secrecy have not been known before, and the bringing to light of material that for 50 years has lain unnoticed or ignored in Trumbo’s private files is a major scholarly contribution from the Radoshes.
"The question of a secret Communist Party lies at the heart of the Hollywood blacklist," Trumbo wrote in a 1958 memorandum which the Radoshes have now rescued from obscurity (pp. 219-222). Trumbo argued that there had been no need for the Party in the United States to maintain the rule of secrecy, since Party-members were not living under a despotic regime such as Czarist Russia, under the threat of torture and death, but were working for change in America’s open political market-place. Yet this was a distinction the Party refused to make. Party-members in the U.S., Trumbo said, "should have all been open Communists, or they should not have been members at all." What happened instead was that secret membership ultimately "destroyed them". The reason was that the moment of conscious choice whether to openly join an openly revolutionary party (with admitted risks to one’s career) was never permitted people; and when the illusion of secrecy collapsed and Party-members were then called before HUAC, "the quality of choice was radically changed for the worse. Instead of voluntary choice between party and career, they now faced compulsory choice between informing and the blacklist."


Ryskind even crushes the myth of the other symbolic "victim" of the topic: Lillian Hellman

I hate to break the news, but Hellman admitted she was a Communist in a letter to her own lawyer, Joseph Rauh.  I have a copy of the letter, but anyone can secure his own by going to Joseph Rauh’s papers at the Library of Congress. 

In her undated letter to Rauh (circa April 1952), she says:  “I joined the Communist Party in 1938…”

She lied even to Rauh about the number of years she was a CP member, insisting she left in 1940, but HCUA, whose tactics McCarthy mirrored, as Kessler would have it, managed to worm it out of her in a most interesting and amusing way.

When Hellman was called in May 1952 before HCUA, she was asked whether Martin Berkeley, an ex-Communist screenwriter, was accurate when he testified that she had attended the first meeting of the Hollywood section of the party in Berkeley’s home in June 1937. 

Hellman took the Fifth, meaning she refused to say on the grounds that to do so could incriminate her. 

Asked if she was currently a party member, she said, “No, sir.”  But was she ever a member? Her reply:  “I refuse to answer.”  Chairman John Wood then had a splendid time trying to pin down when she would claim she was no longer a member  Five years ago? 
Three years?  She took the Fifth each time.  How about “two years ago at this time?” 
Hellman: “No, sir.” 

So even Ron Kessler might conclude that Hellman was a Communist from approximately 1937 to 1950 and that HCUA had not treated her unfairly.  Hellman, of course, was not just a party member, but a loud and longtime shill for Stalin, defending every twist and turn in the Stalinist line.

Even after she said she was no longer a party member, she turned on Nikita Khrushchev for “exposing” Stalin at the historic Twentieth Party Congress. “When Khrushchev gave his famous speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin’s crimes, Hellman condemned Khrushchev for turning on the very leader who had been responsible for Khrushchev’s career,” writes Carl Rollyson in his authoritative, friendly biography of Hellman. 


The final word on this rant will come from the Frontpagemag article sighted above

Readers who are well-acquainted with the story of the Hollywood Ten and the subsequent blacklist of Hollywood Communists and leftists will find much that is familiar here--but also much that is new and important. The Communist Party as it operated in Hollywood was NOT just another political party. This was true for three profound reasons: (1) although it was a legal party operating in a democracy, its membership was secret; (2) its central function was to further the interests and policies of a foreign country and great power--namely the Soviet Union; and (3) it operated, as did all Communist Parties around the world, on the Soviet Union’s own totalitarian model, where all independent thought was forbidden in the name of revolutionary discipline. What is so striking and disturbing about this last point is that the Hollywood Party was made up solely of creative artists.
 
Let us turn first to the issue of secrecy. At its height there were about 300 Party-members in the film industry. Party-membership in Hollywood was secret, and the Party was essentially a revolutionary conspiracy. It was precisely this aspect of Party functioning that allowed secret Communist militants to take control of non-Party organizations, organizations which possessed innocent-sounding public names and involved hundreds of people who were not themselves Party-members but only liberals (or radicals) who thought they were working for good causes: peace, economic justice, anti-racism, civil rights. These are the famous “front groups;” and later, in the blacklist period, many Hollywood individuals who had innocently joined such front groups got into trouble with HUAC or the blacklist (the actor Edward G. Robinson is perhaps the best example).[1] But those victims of HUAC and the blacklist within broader Hollywood society (they were victims of the Party, too, of course) are not the Radoshes’ topic; the Radoshes focus sharply on the actual Party, and especially the hard-core Communist militants who made up the Hollywood Ten.
 
The secret Party-members gained control of these front organizations because (under Party orders) they worked the hardest for them, and so they got elected to the chairmanships and executive boards by people who did not know that they were voting Communist Party-members to positions of leadership and control. Through these “front groups” of mostly non-Party members the Party greatly multiplied its power, and came to exercize far more political power and influence in Hollywood than would have been the case if the Party had been a simple, open but small institution of 300 members.
 
The two most famous front groups were the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League of the 1930s (to which even John Ford belonged), and the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions of the 1940s (to which even Ronald Reagan belonged). Such organizations funnelled great sums of money (mostly from innocent dupes) into causes the Party particularly favored (for instance, the Leftist side in the Spanish Civil War), while preventing any criticism of, say, the policies of the Soviet Union. Thus when Ronald Reagan, who thought he was merely associating with like-minded idealistic friends, sought in July 1946 to get some criticism of Soviet foreign policy as well as American foreign policy onto the agenda for HICCASP, he suddenly found himself in a ferocious shouting match with both John Howard Lawson (the secret head of the Party in Hollywood) and another secret Party-member, Dalton Trumbo. Reagan soon left the organization in disgust (pp. 115-116). Trumbo was the most talented and later the most famous of the Hollywood Ten.[2]
 
The other purpose of secrecy was, of course, to have secret influence over Hollywood films themselves. Both Lenin and Stalin had asserted the centrality of popular film as a weapon for “educating” the masses in proper thinking, This is precisely why the Hollywood section of the Party was so important ideologically and functionally that it was run directly from the New York headquarters of the CPUSA, and was never a subsidiary unit of the Los Angeles CP or even the California CP. To be sure, secret Party-members were rarely successful in getting their propaganda into the films being made by the studios for which they worked (though many Party screenwriters boasted of attempts). The problem was that studio moguls edited out any material they thought might offend any possible audience of viewers: after all, they were in the movie business to make money.
 
The Hollywood Party did have a single spectacular success in this regard, however: the film Mission to Moscow, made by Warner Bros. in 1943, at the height of the Second World War. The Radoshes devote a full chapter to this story. The film was in good part the product of the same creative crew that had just finished the masterpiece Casablanca: screenwriter Howard Koch and director Michael Curtiz. Its theme—astoundingly--was that the Moscow Purge Trials of the mid-1930s were justified, that all the accused (despite being elder statesmen of the Revolution of 1917 ) were guilty of treason with Nazi Germany and/or Japan, and that Stalin was a democrat. The Radoshes demonstrate conclusively what has long been denied, especially by apologists for the Party such as Victor Navasky: that Mission to Moscow was a Communist Party secret project. The film’s screenwriter Howard Koch was not “apolitical” (Navasky’s characterization) but a pro-Stalin intellectual, and his very influential “technical advisor” for the film, Jay Leyda, was a Communist operative. The Party never had another success like this; the film, however, did not do very well financially.[3)


Just venting

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