The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

The dimensions of the propaganda war as waged by the authors and publishers

In examining the respective tasks facing American public opinion shapers and war propagandists, it becomes apparent that the selling of fear and hate of the enemy via negative messages (181) was vastly more simple than the chore involved in creating favorable and positive visions of an ally, especially in case that “ally” enjoyed the largely critical stance which had been the experience of the Soviet in the U.S. in its more than two dozen years of existence down to mutual belligerence in late 1941. Concerning the Japanese, the job could be done largely on the visceral level, and insulting and taunting songs were a very visible example of what might be employed. There was no corresponding mode for the salesmanship of devices productive of warm and appealing dispositions toward the USSR. There the processes demanded mainly rational discourse, at least for an introductory intermission, after which emotional messages might become employable after a time of commonly shared wartime hardships. It is for this reason that the earliest efforts and gestures had a warily exploratory flavor, for the most part, and acquired a confident and positive content some time later.

The book world trailed well behind that of magazine and newspaper journalism in the sales campaign in the West in behalf of Stalinism, a matter of timing and the nature of their different operational methods. The decade or more of heavy pro-Soviet salesmanship among authors which came to an end roughly about the time of the Russo-German pact in 1939 was followed by a confused interim of much contradictory effort and a strong tendency to shy away from more Stalinist accolades except among the devoted Party regulars and their most devoted and ardent fellow travelers, still a healthy contingent. The opening of the Russo- German phase on the war in mid-194l caught the industry unprepared to take full advantage of the situation. Only a handful of outright pro-Stalinist tracts were able to hit the market before Pearl Harbor, and they had to share the spotlight with tomes which were anything but friendly. The six months after Pearl was a time for reversing the gears and eventually launching a flood of pro-Communist volumes, which reached successively higher land-marks in each of the three years of war still remaining.

The two most blatant pro-Soviet tracts which managed to get produced and marketed early by major publishers were those by veteran Bolshevik adulators, Maurice Gershon Hindus' Hitler Cannot Conquer Russia (Doubleday) and Anna Louise Strong’s (Mrs. Joel Shubin) The Soviets Expected It (Dial). These hurry-up jobs caught reviewers by surprise, and they were obviously not ready for them yet, even such committed ink and paper warriors as Clifton Fadiman of the New Yorker. He allotted both works very cool and skeptical reception, identifying Strong as a “well-known apologist” for the Soviet, but not Hindus, who was just as prominent in this category.(182) Foreign Affairs was rather quizzical about Hindus, while mildly calling attention to Strong’s work as mainly a justification for Soviet foreign policy, contrary to the momentary consensus which thought Stalin’s line had turned out to be an incalculable disaster. A weak and uninformative review of her book by Elizabeth Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune was delayed until early in January 1942, but it was fiercely dissected in the same paper six weeks earlier by Isabel M. Paterson, and a few days later by William Henry Chamberlain in the Saturday Review of Literature. Chamberlain, like Lyons a disaffected former admirer of the Bolshevik “experiment,” called attention to Strong’s party line interpretation of everything, remarking that hers was the least critical study of Russia and apology-for-Stalin since that published some years earlier by the “Red Dean of Canterbury,” Hewlett Johnson, which indeed was in a special class by itself.

Chamberlin, who had just become the editor of a new magazine, the Russian Review, did not deal as harshly with Hindus' book in the New York Times as had Lyons in the American Mercury, but was reserved as to the outcome of the war in Eastern Europe. Like everyone else who wanted Hitler defeated without Stalin taking advantage of the consequences, Chamberlin was caught in the same bind. Doubting Hindus' cheerful confidence that there was no fear that Stalin would as Chamberlin put it, “exploit a victory to spread his brand of dictatorship over a great part of Europe beyond Russia’s proper ethnological frontiers,” he held up further judgment on Hindus' pro-Red tract. At the moment it did not appear that Stalin was in any position to defeat Hitler without immense help from the capitalist nations, so it did seem to be excessive to worry about this matter.

Another reviewer who did not handle Hindus too kindly was the Council on Foreign Relations regular Philip E. Mosely, in the Yale Review, though he fell short as well of Lyons' critical level. Hindus received the warmest treatment in the New York Herald Tribune, the alleged organ of New York plutocracy. His 300-page book, published less than three months after the outbreak of the Russo- German phase of the war, was hailed by Joseph B. Phillips, who added, of Hindus, “Of all the authors who have written about the Soviet Union, Mr. Hindus has been the most consistent and thorough investigator of the changes which the Bolshevik state has made in the mental and social makeup of the Russians,” and was further commended by Lewis Gannett in the same newspaper a week later as the author of a new volume to add to his previously published Red Bread “and other good books on Russia.”

Other major pro-Soviet books bearing 1941 imprints were too late to be paid much attention until the following year: Walter Duranty’s The Kremlin and the People (Reynal and Hitchcock), Lucien Zacharoff’s “We Made a Mistake"-Hitler (Appleton- Century), and the prize winner of the early era, Davies' Mission to Moscow (Simon and Schuster), a book so unabashedly Stalinist that the even-worse moving picture based on it drew chuckles from Stalin himself when he first viewed it. Billed by Foreign Affairs the following spring as “one of the best informed books to appear in recent years on Soviet Russia,” the book was already profiting from the time lag and American belligerency since its publication. Duranty’s book was heavily attacked by Louis Fischer, still another defectee from the pro-Red claque among the literary men. Though it was not as unsophisticated a piece of special pleading as that of Zacharoff, who tried to turn the Red Army’s pell-mell retreat across Russia in the closing months of 1941 into a great victory, as had an earlier lot of writers who similarly succeeded in converting the British disaster at Dunkirk, in the late spring of 1940, into a stirring triumph.(183)

To be sure, there were works praising Stalin and Russian Communism coming out in 1941 that nearly matched the “Red Dean,” but they were being published in England, and were unreviewed and unavailable in the U.S.A., such as the British Communist Party’s spokesman Pat Sloan’s How the Soviet State is Run (Lon- don: Lawrence), Maurice Dobb’s Soviet Economy and the War (London: Routledge), and the Austrian Marxist refugee Erich Strauss' Soviet Russia (London: Lane), which Woolbert in Foreign Affairs a year after publication called “one of the better informed and more thoughtful books on Russia."(184) But Americans were exposed primarily to British war writing in the form of speeches and journalism emanating from much better known public figures such as Julian Huxley’s Democracy Marches (Harper), John Boynton Priestley’s Out of the People (Harper) and the now Churchill- cabinet-minister Ernest Bevin’s The Balance Sheet of the Future (McBride), all of whom seemed pre-occupied with the postwar consequences of the war, with their talk of future “world union” and “community of nations” in a “security club” as well as the opening the war was providing for advancing their own variety of a British welfare state soviet.(185)

A more stealthy kind of pro-Sovietism was always the negative line of attacking its enemies (the favorite cover of all Communists was the generalized mantle “anti-fascist"), one of 1941’s prizes being Men of Europe by “Andre Simone,” the pseudonym of one of Europe’s most tireless and ubiquitous Comintern agents, Otto Katz. Well known in the U.S.A. for his Communist-line book on why France collapsed in 1940, his latest work, issued by the quasi- Communist publishing house, Modern Age Books, was a generalized attack on virtually every European politician not in the pro-Soviet orbit. An occasional reviewer such as Fadiman identified its firm Stalinist line, contradicted a few days later by the Herald Tribune’s Joseph Barnes, who struggled manfully to disabuse the potential reader of the idea that “the political line of the book” was Communist. Barnes went along with the general position of not exposing the writer’s real name and Comintern affiliation, which actually was not done until the following year in the U.S.A. But in the meantime he stretched the credulity of the people with any sophistication about foreign politics at all by pleading that Simone’s bitter attack on all the critics of Stalin and his “appreciative” chapter on the Red dictator could not be interpreted as “in the Moscow line."(186) Once more a moneyed influential capitalist organ was supplying a service no openly Communist paper could ever have expected to make possible.

The release in America of books hostile to Communist Russia had slowed almost to a halt before the mid-1941 reversal of the trend of world politics in Eastern Europe. Only Lyons' Red Decade, more a report on pro-Soviet sympathizing by non- Communist Americans in the 1930s than an anti-Soviet work, drew much attention in the closing months, with major and mainly non-critical reviews by Bruce Bliven in the New Republic, Niebuhr in the Nation, Max Eastman in the New York Times, and Chamberlin in the Saturday Review, as well as Woolbert in Foreign AJnairs.(187) The serious attacks on Stalinist Russia in book form were limited, and mainly the work of non-Americans who had been there, voluntarily or otherwise, as well as being very hard to come by in the U.S.A. Notable among them were Anton Ciliga’s The Russian Enigma (London: Routledge), a book which actually had been issued in 1940 and comprised the hostile impressions of a Yugoslav Communist who had resided in the USSR from 1926 to 1935. An even more inimical book was Joseph Ameel’s Red Hell (London: Hale), the author’s account of two decades' residence in the Workers' Fatherland, much of it in prison and penal gulags, which affronted the Foreign Affairs reviewer, about the only one in the U.S.A. His account was looked upon as “too lurid and prejudiced to be taken at face value,"(188) but no amount of luridity or prejudice in the many books by escapees from Hitler Germany was considered warranting a caveat in their cases: the sky was the limit in derogation of Nazi Germany.

About the only book generally available in the U.S.A. in the above class was Lilian T. Mowrer’s Arrest and Exile (Morrow), the story of Olga Kochanska, one of the Poles deported to Russia after occupation of the eastern two-thirds of Poland by the Red Army in the fall of 1940. The review by Katharine Woods in the New York Times stressed Mme. Kochanska’s scathing contempt for Russian Communism after experiencing it for awhile, though one might have questioned her dismissal of it all as insignificant. But even here an anti-Hitler lesson was inserted in the estimate, as it was the subject’s opinion that Hitler should never have been allowed to “grow great” as a result of fear of Russian Bolshevism.(189)

Still another class of escapee literature regaling the American public in 1941 were such sagas as Arthur Koestler’s Scum of the Earth (Macmillan), an account of his residence in French concentration camps for those who fled Spain after the demise of the Communist-led resistance against Franco,(190) and Lion Feuchtwanger’s The Devil in France (Viking), a similar story of incarceration in French concentration camps after apprehension as an enemy alien in the summer of l940.(191) Still another was the German refugee Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom (Farrar and Rinehart). The former Frankfurt-born psychoanalyst, descended from a long line of rabbis, seemed to be interested, in this book, which became immensely influential in America, primarily in why people would abandon their “liberties” and “take refuge in a totalitarian regime” only in Germany,(192) choosing to ignore Stalinist Russia, many magnitudes more totalitarian than authoritarian Germany. The war call in all these was mainly subliminal, for the most part, however.

The forthright appeals to sally forth came mainly from American newspapermen and were more oriented toward a pro- British position, indicating that they had been in formation some time before mid-1941. The most influential of these were Leland Stowe’s No Other Road to Freedom (Knopfl, a turgid brief by this Chicago Daily News foreign correspondent, known best for his later admissions of having fabricated the stories of Norway’s fall in 1940 as the work of internal traitors, as well as his flustered post-war pro-Communist apologetics, and that of Joseph C. Harsch, Pattern of Conquest (Doubleday), the Christian Science Monitor’s Berlin correspondent for the previous 18 months. More generalized was Pierre van Paassen’s That Day Alone (Dial), a collection of semi-fictional yarns highly praised by leftist reviewers, especially Hindus, and bearing the main message of the unavoidability of a generalized postwar planned economy.(193) More strongly Anglophile-oriented were Forrest Davis' The Atlantic System (Reynal and Hitchcock) and H.R. Knickerbocker, Is Tomorrow Hitler's? (Reynal and Hitchcock). Davis, the one time New York Daily News rewrite man, was most appreciated by the well-entrenched elite Anglophile establishment, while Knicker- bocker, known even better as a radio than a newspaper journalist, became particularly involved in incensed attacks on American opponents of the Roosevelt war drive, heaping ferocious abuse on Lindbergh in particular. Still others concerned specialized attacks on external German programs, such as Smash Hitler’s International (Greystone), by the improbable team of the psychological war specialist Edmond Taylor, the liberal economist Eliot Janeway, and the ardent apologist for both Russian and Chinese Communism, Edgar Snow.(194)

By comparison with all this, the publishing world exposed Americans to little literature involving a strategic war concept dealing with Japan. Nothing rivaling the Taylor-Janeway-Snow recipe for Germany came out in 1941, the last such being the New York Times cable editor Robert Aura Smith’s Our Future in Asia (Viking) of the previous fall, an explicit summary of how Washington, London and Wall Street viewed the Far East, with its exhortation for a swift and presumably easy war against Japan to preserve the British colonial status quo especially in Southeast Asia. The 1941 fare varied from the breezy tourist-style Honorable Enemy (Duell, Sloan and Pearce) by Ernest O. Hauser to the bitter denunciation of Japan by the ancient Korean, Syngman Rhee, the “president of the provisional Korean Government in exile” since 1911, Japan Inside Out (Revell). In between there were the stiff establishment treatise by Paul M.A. Linebarger, The China of Chiang Kai-shek (Boston: World Peace Foundation), an idealization which Chiang himself was to obliterate with his own two books two years later, and a pair of volumes by supporters of China’s still almost submerged-from-view brand of Communism. The message of T.A. Bisson’s American Policy in the Far East, 1931-1941 (Institute of Pacific Relations) and Nym Wales' China Builds for Democracy (Modern Age Books) was anything but obscure. The latter author, in reality Helen Foster Snow, the wife of Edgar Snow, idealized “industrial cooperatives” in the Red- occupied areas of northwest China, while Bisson, a veteran apologist for Chinese Communism in both liberal and Communist papers, summarized much earlier writing for a Communist- dominated organization which was to become nationally known only after the anti-Communist reaction of the early Cold War set in a half dozen years later.(195)

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