The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Continued annoyance from influential anti-Soviet liberal personalities, while pro-aid forces gain in academe

And there were a few towering holdouts among the predominantly war-bound liberal opinion-makers adding their discordant notes to the swelling chorus of Soviet tributes to be heard on the American scene. Notable was Villard, mainly reduced to a platform with the anti-war Christian Century, though Common Sense and the Progressive were still open to views such as his. He was deeply resentful of interventionist liberals now insisting that the “aggressor” nations had to be defeated “even if it meant the ruin of the whole world,” though he thought that there was even less chance of the U.S.A. entering the war by way of a formal declaration than “before we became partners of the unspeakable Stalin."(94) Of the growing emphasis on Russianism instead of Communism in the Soviet Union Villard remarked, “It is a tribute to the skill with which the Bolsheviks have pumped nationalistic and patriotic doctrines into the Russian people that they are so willing to bleed to death for a government that has murdered, exiled and imprisoned innumerable Russians for the sole offense of opposing Josef Stalin’s rule."(95)

Another redoubtable fixture in the anti-war liberal fold who stuck in the collective craw of the interventionists, when it came to the subject of enlisting their sentiments behind Stalin, was John Dewey. His consistent coolness toward Stalin and his unwillingness to indulge in encomiums to him as a result of the exigencies of the European war drew him repeated scoldings, but his cautions about the dangers in idealizing Stalin due to an excess of uncritical enthusiasm continued for several months after U.S. entry into the war. He was sure this would lead to Americans having to pay “too costly a price for Russia’s cooperation."(96) Dewey’s antagonist on the faculty of Columbia Teacher’s College was Prof. John L. Childs, who uttered the standard liberal reproach to Dewey, fearful that such an attitude would affront the Reds. Childs was one of the eloquent exponents of sustained long-term pro-Soviet relations. He urged Americans to “Let’s cooperate with the Reds during and after the war,” and above all, he implored, “Let’s not adopt a policy of isolating Russia once the war is over."(97) Dewey’s courage in sticking to his views was all the more remarkable in that the organization with which he was most prominently identified, the 10,000-member Progressive Education Association, had early in July 1941 become the first organized group of American educators to support an outright declaration for full American participation in the world war, a manifesto which was also signed by 12 of the 14 editors of its journal, Frontiers of Democracy.(98)

The only sector of the academic and educational world comprised of students which matched their mentors in belligerence were the newspaper editors of the Ivy League and other elite colleges. In the twelve schools selected for examination by Time in the early fall of 1941 they were deeply gratified to notice a much more aggravated call for gore in their college newspaper editorials, though this martial posture was hardly to be reflected in the undergraduate enrollment or in any other level occupied by those in age brackets which were likely to end up in the front lines.(99) This social fact is what so incensed the intellectual leaders of the administration’s budding propaganda machine, especially the likes of the new Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, a fervent and eloquent voice for world war, and the performer of probably the most spectacular intellectual somersault achieved by any American intellectual on the subject of war participation in the short six years between 1935 and 1941. There certainly was no one trying to square the strident warrior MacLeish of 1940-41 with the MacLeish who answered a questionaire of the Modern Monthly in June 1935 in these words: “I should do everything in my power to prevent the United States going into war under any [MacLeish’s emphasis] circumstances. There is only one possible position against the menace of militarism: absolute hostility. Any other is romantic.” But MacLeish, in the eyes of the stubborn remnant of anti-war liberals the outstanding intellectual turncoat of the pre-war period, was just one of a legion who did much the same, to be rewarded with lush posts, handsome remuneration, continuous fulsome praise and sustained promotion into a succession of even more prominent post-war careers.

While the small, quiet steps announcing each steady move toward cultural totalitarianism took place, while the pretense was maintained that the “democracies” and their new Communist “ally” were trying to overcome it, the announcements of growing technical and industrial mobilization in its behalf were to be found far closer to the front. Early in October 1941 Time devoted a substantial account to an English Midlands tank factory whose labor force stood and sang the Communist Internationale at the unveiling of a goodly batch of tanks built for the Soviet Union, bearing the names of Marx and many more recent Red bureaucrat “heroes of Soviet labor.” Even Time was a little abashed to report that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcasts “sounded like Moscow radio” in its bawling propaganda announcements of tanks and munitions output in the just-concluded “Tanks-for- Russia” week in Great Britain.(100)

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