The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Opinions and opinion makers in the USA

As the German-Russian War Begins on June 22, 1941, in the 22nd month of World War Two, an event occurred as important in the history of the United States and its relations with the rest of the world as the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a little less than six months later. This was the invasion by the German armies of Hitler’s National Socialist Germany of the portions of Eastern Poland occupied by the armies and political machinery of Stalinist Communist Soviet Russia, and then on deeply into Russia itself.

Upon this act most of that portion of American opinion ranged to the left of center joined in the war psychologically and emotionally, and spent much of its energy from that point on in trying to induce general American sympathy with the cause now heavily weighted in the direction of the interests of Stalinist Communism and its global satellites and sympathetic forces and concerns. A vast sea of printer’s ink and a galactic volume of radio babble engulfed the U.S.A. upon the outbreak of formal hostilities between Germany and Russia, most of which concerned whether or not this country should aid the forces of Josef Stalin against those of Adolf Hitler. Eight years of towering and unremitting anti-Hitler propaganda in the U.S.A. had resulted in reducing the pro-German elements in the land to a minority so small as to be, in modern parlance, “statistically irrelevant.”

One of the factors which conditioned this discussion was the persistence of a powerful and probably dominant body of opinion opposed to becoming involved in the war as a belligerent. It included an enormous contingent of those who had always been hostile to Soviet Communism and which now were more firmly convinced than ever before that abstention be demanded of the national policy makers. Also included in the citizenry which had a rigid position against collaboration with the Soviet Union were various sects of the Left, particularly the Socialist Party, and the Social Democratic Federation, the inheritors of the anti-Bolshevik faction of Russian Marxists known in the time of the upheaval in Russia as the Mensheviki. Their company was augmented by the anarchists and syndicalists, such as the I.W.W., tiny fragments of the radical spectrum in the U.S.A. implacably opposed to Stalinism on ideological, not nationalistic, grounds.

Still another source of anti-Red sentiment stemmed from those of all persuasions who had been affronted by the diplomatic revolution performed in August 1939 by the joining of Russia and Germany at that time, which wrecked almost a decade of fatuous, simple-minded gabble, both oral and printed, that such an event was the most unlikely thing ever to take place. And yet another sector of anti-Stalinism derived from the war fought against Finland by Stalin’s legions in 1940-41, many of whose camp having also become incensed at the division of Poland between the Germans and the Soviet in September/October 1939, a fourth partition of that unhappy land. It required substantial powers of forgetfulness on the part of sentimental partisans of the Poles, however, whose belligerence and sabre-rattling, mainly with real sabres, had preceded for a decade and a half their sudden and humiliating collapse before the forces of two flanking lands. Polish warmongers had long predicted that both could be beaten simultaneously by Polish arms, to be followed by the recreation of a Polish state with boundaries close to those which allegedly prevailed in the (earlier) days of glory.

Had Russian Communism’s friends been as few in America as were those of German National Socialism, there would not have been much of a story to tell, and granted American entry into World War Two in the same manner it eventually took place, the ultimate fighting of the war would have been considerably different and an outcome and postwar consequence would have ensued which would coincide with very little the world has seen in the last 40 years.

However, the Soviet Russian state enjoyed the support of a large and growing contingent of admirers, well- wishers and lovers in America, including, here as in most other countries in the world, an element so enamored of Bolshevik Communism that they customarily and consistently placed Soviet welfare and interests ahead of those of the land in which they lived. The unique aspect of this mountainous propaganda in behalf of the welfare of a foreign state was not the call for military cooperation with it to overcome a common enemy but the widespread promotional efforts on behalf of its internal programs, its domestic system and its philosophical and psychic foundations. The Second World War was the high water mark of this phenomenon, unmatched by anything similar in the history of the national state system, and still a factor in world politics well over 60 years after the Russian Revolution.

During World War Two, the scope and impact of this immense multitude of “loyal Russians” living elsewhere than in the Soviet Fatherland added up to results of such immensity that their full effect still remains to be chronicled properly. Part of what happened in the U.S.A. is the subject of this book.

Hitler’s attack on Stalin occurred at a moment when most of the politicians in the U.S.A. were enlisted emotionally on the side of the British and French, at war with Hitler since September 1939. Along with them were the largest part of the management and those employed in the newspaper, magazine and book publishing industries, motion picture production, and radio broadcasting (television was in its infancy in 1941, confined mainly to brief local broadcasts weekly in New York City.) Arrayed with them were an overwhelming majority of the American populace, although their sentiment in favor of a victory over the Germans did not extend to participation in the hostilities to the same degree, over 80% indicating unwillingness to join in the war as belligerents at about the time of the outbreak of the Russo-German phase of the war. Stalin’s involvement in June 1941 brought to an end a period of neutrality which extended back to the outbreak of the war, preceded by the incredible diplomatic pact of “non-aggression” between him and Hitler which heralded the outbreak of hostilities between the Germans and Poles by a week and a half. Committed to come to the aid of Poland by a clumsy bit of diplomatic adventurism dating back to March 31, 1939, the British demonstrated an incompetence which was outmatched only by their French collaborators in declaring war on Germany, the succession of British defeats being dimmed by the calamitous collapse of the French in June 1940, following which their country was partially occupied and the remainder governed by a regime subservient to German policies.

The Communist regime in Russia had always looked forward to a general war in Europe which would find them playing the role of spectators exclusively. The events of September 1939 to June 1941 were cut precisely to their specifications. The principal price paid for this comfortable situation was a sharp decline in the esteem of the countries involved against the Germans under Adolf Hitler, not only the Franco-British belligerents, but also in militarily uninvolved but emotionally enlisted America. After 15 years of diplomatic isolation, the U.S. had recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, and there followed a spectacular blossoming of pro-Communist propaganda and special pleading, especially in American intellectual centers.

Beginning in 1935, the Stalin regime encouraged the creation of a political alignment called the Popular Front, a sidling up to any other country or to political forces in that country which would advance with the Reds a common anti-German position. The local Communist parties in lands other than Russia made this their principal enterprise, though the scope of the Popular Front would have been exceedingly small had it not been for the sympathetic collaboration of a substantial number of formal non-Communists whose exploits and contributions to the Communist cause dwarfed those of the formal Party activists. Many of these were deeply offended by discovering on August 23, 1939, that the Popular Front was not the beginning of a perpetual political alliance presaging the eventual triumph of the planetary proletarian state, but a temporary phase in Russian foreign policy. As a consequence, zeal for the protection of Communism in Stalin’s Workers' Fatherland cooled perceptibly between September 1939 and June 22, 1941. A very large part of those previously involved went over to an anti-German position based on British and French interests, a few joined the anti-interventionist cause, a tiny handful continued to support Stalinism, which now espoused strict neutrality, but many were so paralyzed by the betrayal represented by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pakt that they ceased involvement in politics. Four years later a New Republic editor, Malcolm Cowley, disclosed, “Psychiatrists tell me that in some circles there was almost an epidemic of nervous breakdowns after the Russo-German pact.”

Virtually the only analysis of and literature on World War Two from Communists which merits any attention is that produced during the period of Stalinist neutrality, between September 1939 and June 1941. Prior to that time it is mainly a crafty and carefully cultivated alarmist hysteria, calculated to produce panic among the “democracies” and encourage alliances with Soviet Russia in the “popular front” against the anti-communist states. After 1941 it was mainly florid patriotic Soviet raving. But in both instances the Stalinist ploy gathered a rich harvest of “conservatives” (nearly fifty years after Munich, essentially an anti-communist action engineered by Chamberlain and Daladier, right wingers were still mouthing the communist derogation of it as “appeasement,” one of the most successful dupings of the Right by communist propaganda in seventy years.) It is significant that the only sustained period of conservative criticism of communists during 1939-45 occurred in the 1939-41 lull when the latter chose to stand back and watch what they correctly interpreted as a civil war among the capitalist powers. All this ended with the entry of Stalinist Russia in the war. Most of Communism’s friends rapidly recuperated and were back at their familiar stations, pleading for American involvement on Russian lines, a matter of serious embarrassment to the Anglophile and Francophile warrior elements, in the same way the Red sympathizers as neutralists had been an exasperation to the anti-war and anti-involvement people between September 3, 1939 and June 22, 1941.

Though Americans had been carefully nursed in their Germanophobia for more than eight years by the radio, movies and the printed word, as well as by pedagogical oratory from coast to coast, the job of making them belligerents was not as easy as it might have appeared to be. Only in the areas most heavily settled for three centuries by British stock, New England and the South, was the eagerness for combat at the side of Britain preponderant.(2) Elsewhere a vast selling job had to be done, and it was never successful. The attack on Pearl Harbor and not intellectual conviction brought the overwhelming mass of Americans into World War Two.

In essence then the Anglophile and Russophile warmongers were minorities, but very active and persuasive ones, though their main impact was felt after December 7, 1941. The former concealed their impatience for immersion in the war behind calls for “defense of democracy” and “the democratic way of life,"(3) in every enterprise available to propaganda, including a flood of books. In the late summer such works as Professor Edward Meade Earle’s Against This Torrent (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press(4), Francis Hackett’s What Mein Kampf Means to America (Reynal -Hitchcock) and Henry R. Luce’s The American Century (Farrar and Rinehart) characterized the outpouring from this camp. But it was being matched by a similar flow from leftists and pro-Communists, now that Hitler and Stalin were at war, of the likes of Pierre van Paassen’s The Time is Now! (Dial Press), Ralph Ingersoll’s America is Worth Fighting For (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill), and Max Werner’s Battle for the World (Modern Age Books).

Luce and his formidable publishing empire of Time, Life and Fortune was by far the most influential interventionist voice favoring teamwork with Britain, and his American Century proposal for a joint straddling of the world with Anglo-American power indefinitely had already had a dress rehearsal before American readers months before Soviet Russia entered the war. Where the sentiments and loyalties of many of his writers, reporters and editors lay was another matter, as will be examined at length.

Still another stream of pro-war literature, sometimes subtle, and at other times not so subtle, was represented by such massively promoted and widely read works as William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary (Knopf) (Shirer’s political affections were not frankly laid out for some time), Douglas Miller’s heated tract, You Can’t Do Business With Hitler (Boston: Little, Brown), and the now disenchanted former pro-Soviet publicist Louis Fischer’s Men and Politics (Duell, Sloan and Pearce). These three titles had been given top billing and frenetic praise in the house organ of the interventionist Council on Foreign Relations' quarterly, Foreign Affairs, in the early fall of 1941.

In the meantime, probably the oldest of the literary calls to war, the output of refugees, continued its steady representation in U.S.A. bookstalls with such examples of leftist anti-German central European journalist output as A Thousand Shall Fall, by Hans Habe (Harcourt Brace), and The Darkest Hour by Leo Lania (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).

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