British propaganda diversions, and related American Anglophile support for the growing enhancement of Stalin
Almost everything seemed to be favoring pro-Stalinist moves and gestures in the last five or six weeks of formal American neutrality in the late fall of 1941. The only obstacle, and a very large one, continued to be the persistence of large popular majorities against American involvement in a shooting war outside the continental U.S., and the stubborn front against involvement in the war on any terms waged by the America First Committee. Here, however, the major opposition was being furnished not bar Soviet partisans of American nationality but the large British secret intelligence apparatus, about which few Americans knew, and even fewer talked. Newsweek in July had published a quiet tid- bit, remarking that there were “more British in Washington than captured and burned it in 1814,” but the real center of British espionage was New York, lodged in the Rockefeller Center, from which they created false pro-war organizations, sabotaged American antiwar political leaders, and even murdered enemy espionage agents also in the U.S. Over 40 years after the war broke out, Americans were aware of just a part of the story of British espionage work in the U.S.A., 1939-1945. Its principal cover prior to Pearl Harbor and American belligerence was a totally cooperating Roosevelt administration and its own massive amateur spy organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which through its head William J. Donovan, worked smoothly in harmony with the British Security Coordination (BSC) headed by the Canadian millionaire, William Stephenson. (It was Stephenson who quoted Roosevelt with some relish over 30 years after the end of the war as saying in mid-1940, “I'm your biggest undercover agent.")(135) But in 1940-1941 no U.S. printed source even breathed the slightest hint that the troubles of such prominent America First speakers as Senator Burton K. Wheeler (D.-Mont.) and the globally-famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh (136) were partially the work of undercover sabotage by British intelligence in the U.S.A. Time gloated when Sen. Wheeler was denied the right to speak in Atlanta in July l941 (137) when he was to argue for a neutral course for the U.S.A., which made embarrassing accompanying copy to the hypocritical groans over the suspension of free speech in Germany, Soviet Russia and Vichy France. Time did print Sec. of War Stimson’s apology to Wheeler in August after Stimson had referred to Wheeler’s public views as “near-treason,"(138) but it was back the following month with a subliminal vote of approval when Lindbergh was similarly denied the right to speak on the same subject as Wheeler in Oklahoma City.(139) Its subsequent reaction to the Lindbergh speech in Des Moines in early October 1941, when Lindbergh was reported as “charging that the British, the Administration, and Jews [the Time story contained no article “the” before “Jews"] were pushing the U.S. toward war,"(140) had much to do with singling out Lindbergh for contumely on a scale rarely experienced by any other American, and which was still accruing to his memory nearly 60 years after his famous solo airplane crossing of the Atlantic in l927. (141)
In the meantime the millionaire and Communist press pursued their joint though uncoordinated adulation and idealization of Stalin and Red Russia. One especially influential campaign was carried out by Ralph Ingersoll, editor and publisher of Chicago tycoon Marshall Field’s New York City tabloid, PM, an urgent voice of belligerence. He authored a sensational series in November 1941 for three weeks, on his return from the Soviet after a visit of less than a month. His articles were widely syndicated in other U.S. cities and in Canada, and reached hundreds of thousands of readers. Time imperturbably described it all as “the first uncensored first hand report on fighting Russia by a capable U.S. journalist,"(142) thereby adding another to their string of breath-taking whoppers, in view of already published testimony by Harriman that Soviet censorship exceeded in tightness that of any nation on earth by a very wide margin.
To some, Ingersoll’s writing sounded like Daily Worker fare though somewhat toned down. In actuality, Ingersoll described no battle scenes, which no other Anglo-American reporter in Russia ever did either, and was obviously much curtailed in his movements, despite his Stalinophile fixations. The Communist press received his work warily, gratified by his contribution to their cause, but not quite yet sure that what they were seeing was not a hoax or trap being sprung on them by the “capitalist gutter-reptile press.” A.B. Magil’s cautious reaction in the New Masses was typical, not thoroughly sold by Ingersoll, but willing to concede that the latter had “brought back more of the truth about the Soviet Union than any American capitalist journalist in years” Magil was especially pleased with his portrait of Stalin, and that he had made his interview with the Red premier “exciting and dramatic, radiant with the greatness of the man.” No Communist in America wrote anything later more influential among Americans about Stalin than did Ingersoll in this last month before U.S. entry into World War II. But in that same period two other affluent Americans, Harriman and Davies, tried, only to be outdone by the British mogul, Lord Beaverbrook.
Harriman’s glorious tribute to Stalin during his October 12 radio address broadcast from London was matched by that of Beaverbrook that same night, but was well surpassed by Beaverbrook’s speech at Manchester the following month, in which he testified, “I put my faith in Stalin’s leadership,” though Time thought his audience a few paces in advance of him in ardent emotion toward the Soviet. “When the Beaver mentioned Russia,” its story noted, “the applause was violent.” Harriman was quoted by Newsweek as saying of Stalin, “He is a human fellow to deal with. He has a keen sense of humor, which he allowed full play even in conference."(143)
Davies specialized in tributes to Stalin’s acumen retroactively, mainly substantiating Party explanations for the purge trials of 1936-1938, when most of the Old Bolsheviks and half of the Red Army’s officer corps were killed or hustled to concentration camps. His testimony supporting the official Stalinist line was quoted and requoted by American Reds and their sympathizers, and appeared at times in the Communist press in columns parallel to the identical line being launched by Earl Browder, the CPUSA chief in the fall of 1941.(144) Liberal enemies of the American CP, who had been foremost in vociferous denunciation of the trials when they took place, now were much discomfited by what the new political expedience called for, and were further anguished that now that they were on Mr. Roosevelt’s war wagon, they had to keep quiet during this latest tribute to Stalin’s probity. That the ex-Ambassador to Moscow should appear in Stalin’s corner in such good voice simply made the entire affair that much more unbearable. But the season of profound Stalinophilia had just begun.