The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Time, corporate America, and 'culture' contribute to the confusion

In toting up the score of the forces favoring Russian Communism in its showdown with German National Socialism, one could not leave out the American industrial system as represented by its corporate giants, and their dramatically-swelling labor forces. There is a direct correlation between the steady decline of the energy and support of the non-interventionist position on the war during the last 15 months before direct American involvement, and the corresponding increasing economic stake of more and more Americans in the “defense” boom, during that same period. It was remarkably obvious in the last six months of that time span. The steady drifting away of supporters for neutrality can be less understood by reading their specious moralizing on why they had changed their minds than by noting the simultaneous stunning full page color advertisements of scores of major corporations hawking the new martial hardware being made within their walls. The wonder is that such an immense percentage of those polled in opinion surveys still opposed a declaration of war during this spell.(80) If psychic and spiritual enlistment in the war could be dated from June 1940 and de facto involvement in the war as a belligerent from March 1941, it took the vast industrial mobilization in the period after the Russians joined the war to cement down this American participation. As the summer wore into the fall in 1941, the necessity of maintaining a scrupulous distinction as to which of the anti-German belligerents one was favoring steadily eroded away, and the American hand to Stalin began to stretch in every direction it might reach there. One could understand that Stalin was risking no palpable damage in ordering the CPUSA to scuttle its profile in this critical moment. Their help really was not needed, and the function of their press could easily be confined to echoing what was broadcast from Moscow. The pro-Soviet forces of non-Communist origin were demonstrating that they could handle the job of assistance to the Kremlin and the spreading of the positive virtues and the noble attributes of Stalinism all by themselves.

It was not, therefore, in the tiny editions and limited distribution of the Stalinist press in America that one read the cheering, dramatic story of the first string of tankers arriving in Stalin’s Siberian port of Vladivostok with immense cargoes of high octane gasoline from the U.S.A. for “battling Russia.” It was rather in the front pages of the millionaire-run three-quarters-of-a-million circulation Time on September 15, 1941. A week earlier its opinion-saturated “news” columns had declared that the U.S.A. was in “a virtual alliance-with Russia against Germany,"(81) and with China against Japan, though the latter did not specify whether we were allied with Chiang or Mao. With the gasoline delivery, Time assured its readers that “If not actively fighting Fascism, the U.S. was helping to fuel the fight against it.” No New Masses editor could have stated it any better.

In fact, Time had begun printing material directly supplied by the Soviet newspaper Red Star weeks before, without the slightest warning that it might be the purest propaganda. And it expressed general sympathy with the Soviet stories of their massive destruction of Russian communities and industry, 90% of the area in some claims, as its armies retreated in the face of the advancing Germans, thus making possible propaganda exploitation of this scorched-earth policy, with a future claim being lodged for other self-serving purposes later, of charges that the same amount of damage had all been done by the Germans.(82) It was one of many aspects of the war which found the eventual victors working both sides of the street with singular success. Though physically impossible, this contradictory story did wonders for pro-Stalinist sympathizers in the U.S.A.

For sure, the intense season of “heroic Russia” was nearly upon the American imagination, to be propelled at an increasing tempo shortly, until well after the Anglo-American and Stalinist “allies” had fallen out. And no facet of the cultural or psychic world was to be neglected in the accentuation of this campaign against the English-speaking sensibilities, music included. Late in September, Time told all that the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich had related that he was writing his Seventh Symphony, which would “'attempt to depict the battle of Leningrad and tell the story of the city’s Home Guards.'”(83) This endeavor was billed as the equivalent in this new war to Tschaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, though subsequent critics were to find the former an essay in subdued trash-can bashing by comparison with the celebrated Tschaikovsky composition.

Previous Page | Contents | Next Page