The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

The Roosevelt administration and press supporters lean toward aid at the time of the August 1941 Atlantic Conference

While this agitated clash of opinions on the subject became more heated and pointed, it grew more obvious that the Roosevelt regime had made up its mind in favor of sustained and substantial material and military aid to Soviet Russia. The creep in that direction became a lope by mid-August 1941, a short time before the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting. The first dramatic signal was the attention given to the flight to Moscow from London by Harry Hopkins, much scrambled by the pro-New Deal press but ultimately admitted to have been in the interests of seeking out Stalin’s advice on how U.S. goods might be expedited to the Soviet.(58) It took place at about the same time Soviet Ambassador Oumansky led a Soviet military mission to an audience with FDR on the same subject, presumably with the behind-the-scenes guidance of Welles, the subject of a Time cover story on August 11, and credited with having virtually assured Oumansky that his Red regime could depend on a substantial supply of military assistance from America, “in its struggle against armed aggression."(59)

Time’s lead story a week later, “Aid to Russia,” pinpointed FDR as responsible for the expediting of arms and planes to Stalin, presumably responding impulsively to a horror story of Russian desperation from his “analysts in the White House.” The account was graced by pictures of such Roosevelt confidants as Sam Rosenman and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau.(60)

David Lawrence’s U.S. News presented a somewhat similar story of the President’s personal initiative in forwarding substance to Stalin, as well as draping the Hopkins mission to Moscow in even more colorful and romantic prose than others.(61) Though addressing himself to U.S. businessmen, Lawrence demonstrated utter unconcern over Communism or Communists, saw nothing to worry about should Stalin win in Eastern Europe, and apparently thought the latter would retire modestly behind the Curzon Line once having repelled Hitler, to allow a joint- Franco-British politico-military experiment once more to mismanage Central Europe and the Balkans.

U.S. News August 8 featured a genial portrait of FDR and summarized his press conference, less than 24 hours after Oumansky “had led a Russian military mission to his desk.” The article went on to say: “The President in his press conference authorized reporters to quote him as saying with regard to Russian resistance:

'It is magnificent and frankly better than any military expert in Germany thought it would be.'” As to the payment problem, Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Russia was “on a strictly cash basis” with American suppliers, and that there was no sign that this would change, when he was questioned as to Russian qualification for Lend Lease largess. On the subject of how Hopkins got from London to Moscow, however, FDR was not talking to reporters.

For Hopkins the U.S. News saved special space a week later, exclaiming to its readers that his perambulations from Washington to London, then to Moscow and back once more to London, were part of an assignment to bring about a five-power “iron ring” around Germany, consisting of staggering population and resources preponderance. “U.S. collaboration with Russia” was already a fact, and Hopkins had gone there to extend it. The latter’s sensational rise from an obscure social worker to a world figure was explained as a consequence of Roosevelt’s “unusual confidence” in him.(63)

U.S. News acted as a mere entity floating on this approved “wave of the future.” In its sampling of press editorials around the country it found already a “large majority of the editors favoring U.S. aid to Russia.” In its reproduction of nine major newspaper editorial turnarounds an Russian policy in less then two months in Lawrence’s businessman-oriented weekly, it could be seen that not one even imagined the possibility of Red victory. None looked a particle beyond victory over the Germans, or had the faintest idea of what might follow, nor did any imagine what kind of regime they expected to follow what they wanted to destroy. The nearest one could discern was some kind of sentiment that a vast desert of suspended animation would prevail indefinitely among the defeated nations and the numerous areas sure to be “liberated” from their control and influence.(64)

And in its extended spread on the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting a week after, on August 22, U.S. News called attention to the tidbit in the proceedings redounding to Stalin’s welfare, though he was not there, his contribution being brought there from Moscow by Hopkins. It was divined by Lawrence and his editorial assistants that American businessmen could expect American “large-scale help” to the Soviets, supplied “on the advice of the British Government.” Stalin was supposed to have been notified of this by letter at the conclusion of the Atlantic Charter meeting at sea. They were assured that there would be no problem of payment. Russia had $40 million on deposit in the U.S. and of course had “a large annual gold production which she can use in international trade."(65) The cash registers were ringing in the ears of all putative American suppliers to this unnamed Operation Life Raft for the salvation of Russian Communism by the more than two-decades- execrated “capitalists.” It promised to serve a similar purpose to segments of major American industrial and commercial enterprise, beginning to emerge from over a decade of economic slough under the aegis of a national government which was abandoning saving the domestic scene and about to embark on the far more exciting and encompassing task of saving the world. It was not long however before U.S. News amended its earlier advice on Russian payment procedure as furnished by the Administration to let its business subscribers know that the Soviet Union had been made the beneficiary of a $50 million “initial fund” provided by the Defense Supply Corporation under the U.S. Commerce Department.” In September and October 1941 a succession of stories im- pressed all concerned that the Reds were all that prevented the Germans from sweeping over the world, and they were in the field only if “U.S. and British supplies come."(67) The change in emphasis on the part of the spokesmen for intervention in the first two to three months of the war in Eastern Europe was quite spectacular, in view of the essentially Anglophile substance of what had preceded it for several years.

The partisanship in behalf of Stalinist Russia not only added a new dimension to pro-war propaganda, it intruded into the American scene a competing loyalty which served to disturb the tenor of the war sentiment once the U.S.A. became a belligerent, and added an ingredient which soured and alienated the various “Allies” to such a degree that when they fell out almost upon achieving “victory,” the situation never did right itself.

A good example of events overtaking established positions was laid out in Time’s monthly cousin in the publishing empire of Henry Luce, Fortune. As a releasing point for combinations of the materialistic and the messianic-moral, it was a source which was almost impossible to top. It was the ultimate organ expressing the view that the future belonged to an Anglo-American combine, with the major decision-making power sure to lodge in the hands of the latter of this team. The Soviet as a major factor in a world victorious over the Germans and Japanese was unmentioned even as a dim possibility. Even in the pretentious and portentous position paper by Russell W. Davenport finally published in August, “This Would Be Victory,"(68) with its talk of a grandiose world “Area of Freedom” dominated by an “International Party,” the possibility of having to come to terms with the world Communist apparat was airily dismissed. Once the adversaries East and West were overcome (Davenport assumed U.S. entry into the war was inevitable and would soon occur), this “International Party” would “make common cause with all peoples willing and able to be free,” and “The advent of the USSR to our side, and other irrationalities of the European Walpurgisnacht, do not alter this essential principle.” Davenport believed the correct course was just to proceed serenely as if it had not happened.

The version of this vision intended for the common citizen was that of Hopkins the previous month in the four-million-circulation American Magazine, a breezy and confident outline of eventual British victory, with the help of America and with two-thirds of the rest of the world also helping out. In this rather extended account, Hopkins managed to mention the Soviet Union only once, as a likely puppet of Hitler should the latter succeed in defeating the British.(69)

In his next American Magazine article, December 1941, Hopkins expatiated on his new job as Lend-Lease Administrator and his personal encounter with Stalin in Moscow. His narrative was an unbroken account of praise of Communist correctness, faithfulness and dependability. He described how Britain became Stalin’s partner in June in this way:(70)

With the courage that is Churchill's, he pledged Britain to Russia’s cause. And he did it boldly, without consulting anybody, without stopping to consider any possible political consequences. At Chequers [Churchill’s estate] he told me of it.

But the emphasis now was on Russia, not England. Published just before U.S. involvement in the war via the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan, Hopkins realized he had a public relations job on his hands, knowing of the intimidating majority against direct involvement in the war, and his concluding rhetorical query to a readership he knew wanted no part of the ineffable regime in Russia apparently was supposed to rouse a sense of horror upon contemplation of the alternative: “Ask yourself whom you want on the west shore of the fifty miles of sea which separates Asiatic Russia from Alaska. Whom do you want-Stalin or Hitler?” (No one commented that Hopkins was parroting the Fight for Freedom Committee word for word). Probably a majority of Americans had already make up their mind, under the constant pounding of the newspapers, radio and tireless Administration orators and their legions of auxiliaries in Academe and public affairs. The pro-aid- to-Russia position seemed to have swept the field at least three months before direct U.S. entry into the war. Fortune’s poll the last week of September 1941 found 73.3% favoring assisting the Communists, but still showing only a small minority actually supporting a war declaration: 10.7%. Despite the sinuous prose of the most persuasive war-peddlers, Americans confronted by the various poll-takers were no more interested in full shooting involvement than they had been two years earlier.

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