Tearing Down the Façade
Today’s Baltimore Sun features an LA Times op/ed by Richard Schickel biographer of Elia Kazan. Kazan directed On the Waterfront, the film that launched Marlon Brando’s career. Kazan was also the same director modern Hollywood’s useful idiots booed at the Oscars in 1999 while receiving a life-time achievement award. Kazan was booed for having the temerity to tell Congress what he knew about communist subversion in the film colony. Kazan was lucky he only lost friends, others who told what they knew about Stalin’s paradise got far worse just ask Juliet Stuart Poyntz Schickel strikes another blow to the anti-anti-communist façade that those blacklisted in Hollywood were not innocent liberal martyrs , rather they were full-throated supporters of Josef Stalin and his murderous Soviet regime. This was the lie that Kazan exposed in his HUAC testimony in 1947, and for which he was booed by clueless and callow celebrities in 1999.
As a lifelong liberal, I am quite naturally and obviously a lifelong anti-Stalinist; a liberal cannot support totalitarian ideologies no matter how persuasively they are presented. That’s especially so when the true face of Soviet communism was so early and often visible. As early as 1931, there were public rallies protesting the Russian prison camps. The mass exterminations(through managed starvation) of Russian peasants were widely reported in the same era. Then there were, in 1937, Stalin’s parodistic show trials of old Bolsheviks, followed by the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact and the invasion of Finland in 1939. Yes, the Soviet Union was our vital ally during World War II, but its essential nature did not change, and those who continued to support it cannot be excused…
Eventually, everyone – the remnants of the communist left included – took to ritualistically denouncing Soviet communism before joining whatever argument was going on later. But at the same time, those victimized by McCarthyism, in particular the Hollywood Ten and the rest of the show-business blacklistees, were elevated to heroic status. In the years that followed the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that led to their dismissal from the movie industry (for a First Amendment absolutist like me, a very bad idea), they have been celebrated in an endless series of books and tributes. As if by magic, the unapologetic defenders of a deadly doctrine have been transformed into martyrs to liberal belief – which none of them embraced in their day.
This is a massive, apparently unresolvable disconnect, and communism’s one lasting American triumph. Frankly, it makes the anti-communist left crazy. Mountains of new documents – notably the Venona transcripts, records of the cable traffic between Soviet spies and Moscow – prove beyond doubt the conspiratorial nature of American communism. But still its apologists stand beaming on the heroic heights, mere “dissidents” who paid an awful and unfair price for expressing their opinions.
One of these expressions of opinion was an obituary tribute to Stalin when he died in 1953, signed by 300 American communist intellectuals. It said, in part: “Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.” I don’t really want to defend to the death anyone’s right to that kind of insanity. Maybe we can afford to leave poor old Pete Seeger in peace – but not, I think, his co-religionists.
Today’s progressives MoveOn, Kos, FSP et al. are the heirs of the anti-anticommunists, in fact they called themselves progressives back then as well.
For some on the radical left, this is a literal inheritance. The next time you see Sean Penn foaming at the mouth about George Bush and the war, just remember it runs in the family. His father Leo Penn was one of those “innocent liberal” directors blacklisted by evil anti-communists. In reality, this “innocent liberal” was a card-carrying member of the CPUSA, unequivocally supported Stalin, and opposed American entry into World War II during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact.