The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Fellow travelers — domestic and foreign — add their bit

Serenely contemplating all this from the pages of the New Masses was Corliss Lamont, scion of the famed Wall Street banking family, but hardly its courier in his role as America’s most famed Communist fellow traveler. In his long-quoted article of November 11, “What Americans Are Learning,” Lamont proclaimed, “I believe that there has been a favorable turn in public opinion concerning Russia much more far-reaching and fundamental than the unfavorable one that took place subsequent to the Nazi-Soviet pact.” Everyone had been misled about Russia between 1935 and 1941, said Lamont, and now were being set right again: “The American people were sold a false bill of goods on Russia by writers, tourists, diplomats, newspapers, and all sorts of commentators whose anti-Soviet prejudice was so bitter that they could not and would not recognize a fact when they saw one.” He still was not sure that things might not deteriorate again, and though predicting that “in the future there will again take place an organized attempt to mislead public opinion in this country concerning the Soviet Union,” he was convinced it would not succeed “if we as a people are able to learn sufficiently from the lessons of the recent past."(145) Ultimately it became a matter of what “lessons” were to be taught and learned, and how “recent” the era was to be from which these “lessons” were to be derived. In just a little over four years Lamont’s worst fears had materialized with a vengeance. But at this moment he rode on a magic carpet of purest good will toward Stalinism.

The best was yet to come: the hushed eulogies of Stalin on the occasion of his Moscow speech on the 24th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolutionary assumption of power. Time’s account was set in tones which might have been used to describe a movie actress, if not in the style made familiar in the Worker. This major four-page piece was accompanied by a two-page color map of the Soviet, and included a panegyric by none other than Churchill himself, quoted from a speech at Sheffield, wherein the Red chief was hailed by the British prime minister as “that great warrior, Stalin.” The account included the introductory paragraphs of Stalin’s speech. (146)

The New Masses did not like Time’s treatment of Stalin, though their “news” story might easily have graced the Masses' editorial pages. However, the latter had run their own tribute to the great man and great event a week earlier,(147) featuring stirring accolades from ex-Ambassador Davies, the refugee French Marxist former minister of aircraft production in France, Pierre Cot,(148) the one- time Moscow propaganda magazine editor, Lion Feuchtwanger (about whom more later), and the American luminary H.W.L. Dana, along with selected Communist Party functionaries. Davies was quoted as saying, “I find the greatest satisfaction in the courage and idealism of the Soviet government and the Russian people in resisting Hitler” (the millions of Russians who had gone over to Hitler were not news in these days), while Cot relieved himself of the opinion that “Soviet Russia is actually the best fighter for the defense of civilization,” by which he must have meant a more primitive one than prevailed among their German enemy.

Feuchtwanger elected to broaden the historical frontiers by claiming, “The fight of the Soviet Union against Hitlerism is the natural continuation of all the wars for freedom that the United States of America ever fought,” though the most flattering encomium was delivered by Dana, the grandson of the American literary giant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. A veteran of 14 visits to the Soviet in as many years, Dana terminated his fulsome declamation by quoting from the famous words of his grandfather which had been recently quoted as well by Roosevelt and Churchill, and in the line which read “Sail on, O Union strong and great!” Dana capitalized the word “Union” in such a way that no one might be confused as to which one he was referring.

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