Culture, big names, and the well-placed lend their assistance to the building pro-Soviet bandwagon
October, the symbolic month of the Bolshevik revolution, was memorialized in many ways in America. The main feature of an assault on the citizenry in behalf of Russia was the glamorization of Stalin in interventionist organs. On the 27th Time ran a long and ludicrously sentimental portrait of the Red chief. This piece was accompanied by a cover portrait of “Good Old Joe” by the artist Artzybasheff, and an ingenious attempt to whitewash Stalin for his diplomatic coup with Germany in August 1939.(123) Time’s political retouching of that event credited it to his “peasant cunning,” though granting that he was rudely upset by Hitler in June 1941 “before he was ready,” which suggested that Hitler had anticipated a Russian attack on Germany by his action Meanwhile, the publishing world that same week quietly mulled over the news that still another effort in behalf of the USSR by a millionaire lay in the offing: a book by ex-ambassador Joseph E. Davies, in which the latter was said to have extolled Stalin as a predictor of “singular accuracy” on current events,(124) while advancing an apology for and explanation of the 1936-38 purge trials which was guaranteed to stun the world of political analysis.
While the big-ticket items relating to overall Communist comfort and welfare were being handled and arranged by upper-level capitalist opulents, the New Masses brought up the rear in the culture department. The day after Time’s cover story on Stalin, the Communist weekly published a cable from Shostakovich in which he announced that he was still at work on his Seventh Symphony “in the midst of battle."(125) And the whole period was fittingly climaxed by a stirring Russian War Relief Benefit (126) staged at New York City’s Madison Square Garden which managed to include elements of almost the whole spectrum of pro-Sovietism in the neighborhood. Among the speakers were Walter Duranty, whose genial pro-Soviet cables had long been featured in the New York Times, the fervent French “anti-fascist” refugee, Genevieve Tabouis, Andrei Gromyko, Soviet charge d'affaires in the city, and Clark Eichelberger, national chairman of the fiercely pro-war Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. The principal attraction however was ex-Ambassador Davies, delivering his first public address since returning from Moscow. Speaking to this overflow “Testimony for Unity,” Davies delivered a stirring pro- Soviet speech which among other things defended the Soviet on the recent religious issue. Particularly impressive was his vindication, according to the New Masses report, “of much in Soviet policy that has been distorted and vilified in recent years."(127)
Even the lavish resources of the Luce publishing empire’s upper-level business-oriented Fortune magazine were mobilized in this month to advancing a nation-wide pro-Sovietism. Its October Survey was devoted to trying to prove that Americans at large were swallowing their fear and dislike of Communism, and that a great majority were in favor of aiding the Reds against Hitler, and asserting that 20% were already willing to accept the USSR “as a full partner.” The poll, conducted as others before by Elmo Roper, concluded that in general the U.S. was “incurably conditioned against Communism,” and that even the Red military performance as reported in America had not deterred 35.1% of the respondents from replying in the affirmative to the poll statement, “The Russian Government and the German Government are equally bad,” and that 4.6% had said that the former was worse. But 32% were of the opinion the Stalinists were “slightly better” and 8.5% declared they were “far better” than the Hitlerites. Despite all this, nearly 30% were in favor of deporting or jailing “Communist sympathizers” here in the U.S., and 54% were for close surveillance of same, recommending prohibition of pro-Communist “agitating and organizing,” preparatory to rounding them up “if necessary.” But at the same time, 73.3% were willing to help the Soviet bring about the defeat of Hitler, with 22% of this group willing to accept Stalin “as a full partner” with Great Britain in this fight. It was deplorable that Roper did not include a question dealing with American response to the likely outcome of a Communist victory in Europe, which such a commanding majority of those polled obviously were voting for.
It was significant that Roper, in discussing socio-economic status, indicated that the percentage of the “wealthy” was somewhat more in favor than the general average when questioned as to “cooperation with Stalin and for accepting him as a partner.” And once more that part of the populace located in the South Atlantic states, the consistently most belligerent sector of the country since the outbreak of the war in 1939, demonstrated their zeal for gore by exceeding all other regions in their enthusiasm for joining with Stalin, 32.7%
The rush to join the pro-Stalinist bandwagon on the part of the opulent and well-placed in the U.S. in the fall of 1941 involved an impressive number of people, with perhaps the best known of their persuasion, the defeated Republican standard-bearer in the 1940 election, Wendell Willkie, not endorsing this choice. However, having swiftly abandoned his campaigning oratory in favor of non-intervention for exactly the opposite within weeks of defeat, his enthusiasm for defense of the enemies of the Germans indicated to critics that sooner or later he was sure to accompany the others in climbing aboard the Moscow Express. William Henry Chamberlin summarized the moral problem facing Willkie in a curt piece in the non-interventionist Christian Century:
We cannot, so Mr. Willkie tells us, maintain the American way of life unless we also maintain the British way, the Chinese way, the Greek way. So far as I know, Mr. Willkie has remained silent on the somewhat delicate point of whether the American way of life is also dependent on the maintenance of the Stalinite way … or the Chinese brand of Communism (129)
Chamberlain and the others studying Willkie got their answer a little over a year later with the publication of the book by Willkie, One World.