American Communists as a complication in the Soviet aid debate

To be sure, there were serious aspects of the domestic Communist issue for the war-bound involvement elements and the Administration, as well as for the Workers' Fatherland. The salvation of Russian Communism did not rest with the CPUSA, whose only product was words, but with the producers of tanks, planes, guns and food, as well as a thousand other items useful in Stalin's “war effort.” Any U.S. Communist activity of a propaganda or agitational nature that interfered with this undoubtedly would draw a prompt frown of disapproval from the Kremlin. The U.S. Communist press swing from peace to war overnight after June 22, 1941, was a most ludicrous lurch. The conversion of all their peace fronts to violent pro-war mobs, the return of “appeaser” to indicate the genuine peace forces remaining of 1935-39, and the disappearance of “warmonger” as a description of the Anglophiles still breathing belligerence, all hardly went unnoticed on the American scene. With the Daily Worker by the end of the third month of the Russo-German war praising West Point and glorifying army life, it was easy to note what was on their mind.

For the elements which had been for war all the time, it was now their time to watch for Communists “boring from within,” as it had been the problem of the “isolationists” and non-involvement committees and organizations between August 23, 1939, and June 22, 1941. The former had obstacles in going ahead with their goal of fighting a nice, clear-cut Anglo-American vs German war, with no Reds in it. The Fight For Freedom Committee was one of the first warrior civilian groups to put its members on the alert as to this difficulty.(78) Newsweek told all on September 22 that the FBI was “still carefully checking on U.S. Communist activities,” though this must have been hard to do and not run afoul of the FDR camp's involvement proclivities which dealt with generous pro-Stalinist assistance plans, all vigorously championed by domestic Reds as well.(79)

The real mess however was in the ranks of labor. Communist strength in the roughly 7-year-old Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) promptly flexed its muscle. By mid- September 20 CIO unions were already demanding the U.S.A. go to war against Germany. And a curious arabesque was performed internally. The elements led by Sidney Hillman, pro-war and pro- FDR, known down to June 1941 as “the old right wing,” as U.S. News put it, and confronted by labor led by John L. Lewis, anti- war and anti-FDR, “the old left wing,” had by September 1941 changed identities.(78) Lewis and his cohorts now were assembled under the “right wing” tag, and Hillman and his the contrary designation. The Communists in the CIO and the Daily Worker were now both berating Lewis as an “appeaser” and “isolationist” after having praised him for the identical stands during the period of Stalinist non-involvement in the European war. Labor-watchers now were of the view that the Communists were now trying to cuddle to Hillman, who was formally rejecting a working alliance with them, though finding their support of war policies comforting.

In mid-September 1941 also, Stalin obviously had far more on his mind than Anglophile American warmongers unhappy over the CPUSA infiltrating their simon-pure pro-war fronts. But Newsweek informed its readers at that moment that Stalin had “in- directly asked” the USCP to “quiet down,” and might even “publicly request it to dissolve formally,” in the interests of relieving “the strain which CP activities put on U.S.-Russian and British-Russian relations.” Hopkins was supposed to have suggested this course to Stalin.(79) And in truth there really was no need for an American Communist Party now. Its chores were performed by many magnitudes beyond its capacity by the majority of the conventional press and radio in the U.S.A., bellowing mightily for support of Stalin in all ways, promotional assistance to a national administration already involved in massive planning toward the achievement of this goal.


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