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Articles pertaining to political and economic history.

Groucho Marx And Duck Soup: No Sacred Cows

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Eighty-four years ago, the Marx Brother’s film, Duck Soup (1933), premiered and despite being considered their masterpiece today, flopped. Its anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-politician message (if there can be a message in a Marx Brothers’ film), flew against the zeitgeist. Leader-worship was in vogue in 33, from Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany (both countries banned the film) to even FDR’s America. Satire and criticism, rampant in the 20s, which was really the Marx Brothers’ decade, was considered politically incorrect in “let’s pull together” ethos of New Deal America. Literally in Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers, un-plugged, un-policed, refuse to close ranks. There is no loyalty to any country. Chico only joins Groucho’s side because “the food is better over here.” Harpo switches sides constantly from spying on Groucho to recruiting soldiers for him. Groucho himself switches uniforms from scene to scene (Napoleonic one minute, Confederate General the next—there was no feverish debate of banning the Confederate flag in those days) as if to say it doesn’t matter who he represents.…

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Kurt Vonnegut: Eternal Optimist

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One of the oldest sayings is that there are “no atheists in foxholes.” But for those soldiers either wounded or hit with the body parts of their exploding friends, the more apt expressions were caught by Paul Fussell, forty-percent disabled World War II vet and the most articulate historian of war. Before combat, Fussell catches the mindset of the virgin soldier: “It can’t happen to me. I’m too clever/agile/well-trained/good-looking/beloved/tightly laced etc.” Then after combat, the realization hits: “It is going to happen to me, and only my not being there is going to prevent it.” Kurt Vonnegut, definitely “there,” amazingly, emerged from the war more optimistic and, although not believing in God, saw such faith as necessary.

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Orwell And Trotsky: At Odds

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During his lifetime, British writer George Orwell was characterized as a follower of exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky. H.G Welles dismissed Orwell as “a Trotskyite with big feet.” On a more lethal note, the Spanish secret police, on orders from Moscow, hunted Orwell during the Spanish Civil War for the crime of”Trotskyism” because he fought in a Marxist military unit at odds with Stalin. His “Trotskyism” even affected his livelihood; Orwell’s submission of Animal Farm to the publisher Faber and Faber was rejected by poet and employee T.S. Eliot for expressing “Trotskyite” views. At first glance, the literary evidence seems to bear this out. In both novels, Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Trotsky figure is the victim of the Stalin one. In Animal Farm, Trotsky appears as the pig “Snowball,” who initially rules the animal republic with the Stalin pig, aptly named “Napoleon” (in real life, Trotsky, exiled by Stalin, labeled the Soviet dictator and his military-style methods as the “Napoleon” of the Bolshevik Revolution); but “Napoleon,” craving power,…

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Politics Over Humor: Donald Ogden Stewart

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Robert Benchley, humorist and member of the famed Algonquin Round Table, once said of writing for the New Yorker in the 1920s, “you could write anything you liked, as long as you did it in evening clothes.” Benchley, no radical, was likely referring to the magazine’s toleration of him skewering everything and anything with his lethal wit.

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More Alike Than Not: Richard Nixon And Alger Hiss

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A cliche so overused it is at ad nauseam level is the one where villains tell heroes that “we are not so different, you and I.” But occasionally this rings true. A prime example is Richard Nixon and Alger Hiss. Despite then-Congressman Nixon being the one who, probably more than any other figure at the time, exposed former State Department official Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy (later re-confirmed by declassified Soviet documents), Nixon and Hiss, as the years rolled by had more in common than not.

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The Assassination Of JFK: Losing The Last Conservative Democrat

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Attached to the Kennedy Assassination has always been what was lost when the President was murdered. For some, it was America’s innocence; for others, it was the center, which would no longer hold. Perhaps the most peddled of these answers comes from the Camelot camp. For them, what was lost when Kennedy died was the opportunity to end the Cold War, and thus, avoid the quagmire of Vietnam. In their history lesson, Kennedy, chastened by the Cuban Missile Crisis, became an American Gorbachev, attempting to normalize relations with Castro and withdraw troops from Vietnam.

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Frank Mankiewicz: Not Following In Dad’s Footsteps

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Herman Mankiewicz, who, according to all evidence was the chief writer of the screen classic, Citizen Kane, was unusually well-informed politically for a Hollywood screenwriter in Golden Age Hollywood (and, given, the Meryl Streeps of the world, even more so, today). His huge library was composed almost primarily of political books, and his research on the thinly-veiled subject of Kane, William Randolph Hearst was impeccable. Although taking “progressive” stands, (he supported the ACLU, labor leader John L. Lewis, and despised conservative president Calvin Coolidge) Mankiewicz blasted born-again Communists in Hollywood as uninformed idiots, whose information came solely from The New Masses. A former member of the Algonquin Round Table (famed for its diners, George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker among them, trying to top each other in the wit category), the screenwriter/producer unleashed his lethal wit on them. Reds, he asserted, thought Woodrow Wilson “was someone who founded a high school in Glendale.” And four years before Reds “discovered” Hitler was a threat he was peddling a script attacking…

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Conquest At 100

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Asked before his death about his proudest achievement, liberal actor Paul Newman stated, “making Nixon’s enemies’ list.” And that is a view shared by many 70s-era liberals (their counterparts today are probably hoping that Trump keeps such a list and that they will soon be on it). But to my mind, the more dangerous list, given their penchant for overseas’ liquidations, at least during the 30s and 40s, would be that compiled by the Soviet Union. And the person who made the top of the list, a title he held from 1968 to 1989, from the Brezhnev era to the collapse of the Soviet Union, was not a Trotskyite, or a KGB defector but a British historian/poet.

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Edward Lansdale: The Lone Voice Of Reason In The Vietnam War

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In Oliver Stone’s wildly conspiratorial JFK, the chief plotter behind the Kennedy assassination, identified as “General Y,” is obscured by the shadows, and is identified with enough letters visible on his nameplate on the desk to reveal the identity of “Y.” “Y” is General Edward Lansdale, a counter-insurgency expert who, unfortunately for Stone’s thesis that Kennedy was killed by “Y” and his cohorts because the president was about to withdraw the American advisers from Vietnam, was actually less of a hawk on Vietnam than Kennedy; indeed, the more one looks at Lansdale the more apparent it is it that, among the hawkish Cold War establishment, he was a voice of reason.

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Defending Dad: Allen Ryskind And The Conservative Blacklist

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Children of the blacklisted are usually associated with the Communist—if they bother to admit that—Left. From the undoubted suffering visited upon their parents by the red-hunting climate of the 1950s (but it should be noted that that their parents lost in effect their swimming pools, while the truly persecuted in the Soviet Union, the country the blacklisted defended, lost their lives), children like the late Christopher Trumbo, son of the Stalinist screenwriter who toppled the blacklist, strum the violin and attack all forms of anticommunists. But there were other children of the blacklisted, largely ignored by the mainstream media, because they and their parents don’t fit the Leftist agenda; indeed, they represent a danger to the standard liberal blacklist narrative by showing that their anti-communist parents were blacklisted by the very leftists who years later cloaked themselves in the Bill of Rights when it was their turn to be persecuted.

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Using Everything And Anything: A Historian’s Attack On Reagan

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Historian Rick Perlstein has been criticized by historians and reviewers for using the internet for sources. But the real criticism ought to be directed at Perlstein’s method of editing out competing information, slanting the treatment toward a leftist agenda, and relying on dubious sources that bolster his side of the spectrum. This is never truer than with Perlstein’s treatment of Ronald Reagan.

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Navasky And Hiss: Holding On

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Former Nation editor and anti-anti-Communist Victor Navasky may, with a few pathetic exceptions, be the last hold-out on the innocence of exposed Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Unconvinced to this day, despite the release of declassified Soviet documents from the 1940s describing Hiss in detail, Navasky has championed Hiss with a fervor bordering on the religious, and has used dated arguments, going back to the time of Hiss’ 1950s trial, that show a mindset trapped in the past.

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David Irving: Back On The Lecture Tour

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Holocaust-Denying historian David Irving has been activated into a lecture tour by the new film, Denial, which depicts his 1996 lawsuit against U.S. historian Deborah E. Lipstadt for charging him with denying the Holocaust. Even though Irving lost the case when the judge agreed with Lipstadt and deemed him a “Holocaust denier,” the far-right historian is nevertheless embarking on a month-long lecture tour to once again combat this accusation. In the past, he has stated that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was greatly exaggerated, that Hitler was not involved in the Holocaust, and that Auschwitz did not employ gas chambers.

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Patriotism Versus Science: George Orwell On H.G. Wells

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One of the reasons conservatives feel a kinship with British socialist writer George Orwell is that he was not afraid to embrace concepts of patriotism over cold empiricism or dialectical thinking. A good case in point was his taking to the woodshed Fabian Socialist writer H.G.Welles in a remarkable essay written while the Nazi bombs were blitzing England.

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Lester Cole: Hater

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When I was a graduate student, my mentor of sorts, John Patrick Diggins, told me of an incident he had with blacklisted screenwriter Lester Cole, who along with nine others, testified before Congress 70 years ago, in 1947. Both were watching the Watergate hearings, when Cole exploded to Diggins, “See, it has to be done like Castro—democracy doesn’t work!” Whether true or not, this moment certainly fit Cole’s character. For, as the only member of the Hollywood Ten who remained a Stalinist, Cole hated till his dying day.

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Mailer And MacDonald: Rescuing The Warren Commission

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For 50 years, critics of the Warren Commission have usually been associated with the Left. From Khrushchev to Oliver Stone (hardly a leap) have obviously sought a more politically satisfying sniper than the grubby deadbeat Oswald. With regard to the Warren Commission, it is merely a cover job designed to misdirect attention from the true conspirators onto Oswald. But not all leftists attacked the conclusions of the Warren Commission. Two writers, a former Trotskyite, the other a former Communist supporter, came (sometimes reluctantly) to the conclusion that Oswald indeed acted alone.

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Big Government Turf War: Stone Vs Schlesinger

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Dwight MacDonald, defending the Warren Commission, once made the valid point that if rightists did kill Kennedy, the liberal Lyndon Johnson would have been delighted to expose them for political gain. Such an argument was ignored by Oliver Stone in his ultra-paranoid JFK, in which he accused “fanatical Cold Warriors” of killing JFK because he was seeking to end the Cold War; and of particular importance to the Vietnam-obsessed Stone, ending the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.

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Alvah Bessie: Fighting On Most Fronts

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Psychiatrists who deal with returning military veterans note that those who have seen almost constant combat have trouble switching off, and search for an outlet to satisfy their martial needs. This was never more true for Spanish Civil War veteran and Communist Party member Alvah Bessie. Whenever his Party needed a rigid enforcer of the Party line toward revisionist members, and a fighter against the “fascists,” represented by HUAC, Bessie was front and center.

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Taft: Principles Over Emotional Satisfaction

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John F. Kennedy’s 1957 book crediting a bi-partisan group of politicians who, as the title stated, exhibited “Profiles in Courage,” would later be revealed not to have been penned by the then-senator, but by his chief speechwriter (and later, Camelot spear-carrier Ted Sorenson). But that makes the inclusion of uber-conservative Republican Senator Robert Taft all the more remarkable. For Kennedy (actually more conservative than has been portrayed) was already strategizing how to garner support from the much-needed liberal groups in order to run for president. Taft was a hard swallow for liberals, who remembered the Senator’s initial support for Joseph McCarthy.

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American Cold War Culture: Liberal’s Favorite Boogeyman

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Liberals today smirk at American Cold War culture of the late 40s to early 60s with their typical moral vanity. Unable to avoid the failures and horrors of communism, they nevertheless try to salvage 1960s’ era views of American culture as hysterically misinformed about a superpower that had missiles pointing at the U.S. But upon examination, it is apparent that the Left has done considerable editing by halting history around 1970, thus skipping whole decades of Venona revelations, the Berlin Wall falling and workers in Red Square toppling Lenin’s statue, resuming it. Hence archaic terms like military industrial complex can seem fresh and applicable.

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X-Rating The Holocaust: Dalton Trumbo’s Night Of The Aurochs

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“I fear I am writing pornography.” So said former Communist and blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo about his on-again off-again attempt to address the Holocaust through the first-person narration of a concentration camp officer. When Auschwitz was liberated (ironically by the Red Army, which would soon institute a pogrom against Jews), a variety of writers tried to grapple with the Holocaust. Various interpretations of the Holocaust have been offered though out the years: Marxist (the Final Solution was the logical culmination of heartless capitalism and the fascism inherent in it); the banality of evil, the we-are-all-responsible school, etc.ect. ad nausaem.

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John Wayne: Stalin’s Target

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Asked once toward the end of his life about what he was proudest of, liberal activist and actor Paul Newman cited his appearance on Nixon’s “enemies list.” The flip side to this occurred with conservative actor John Wayne making it onto Stalin’s enemies list, with much more lethal consequences than anything Nixon had at his disposal. According to those close to Wayne, Stalin ordered Wayne liquidated after learning of the outspoken conservative actor’s popularity and anticommunist beliefs from a Russian film-maker who visited New York in 1949.

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David Ferrie: Fulfilling The Seedy Side Of The JFK “Assassins”

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Whenever the Grassy Knoll crowd needs a figure to represent the repellent seediness of JFK’s “actual” killers, they trot out David Ferrie. Dead for fifty years, the wigged, eyebrow glued macho homosexual has lived on in Kennedy conspiracy lore, memorably portrayed by a hyper-manic Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone’s laughable JFK, and is the pivotal figure that finally convinces Oswald to fire from the Texas School Book Depository at a president Oswald cannot muster up any feelings of hate toward in Don Delillo’s more sober Libra. Called in typically bombastic style by the headline grabbing, paranoid Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans who brought the case to court, “the most important man in history,” Ferrie was in point of fact a rather pathetic figure, who, without Castro, and Oswald would have been only a locally important figure in the New Orleans Mafia and the city’s homosexual underworld.

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Walter Krivitisky: Outing Stalin

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Of all the events that triggered mass defections by communists from their party, the military partnership between Hitler and Stalin in 1939 may have been that caused the most. Hitler and Stalin’s joint invasion of democratic Poland registered shock waves among the communist faithful who joined the Party out of the perception that the Soviet Union was against Nazism. Arthur Koestler, Jr. spoke for many when he documented his disgust with the agreement: “I remained in that state of suspended animation until the day when the swastika was hoisted on Moscow airport in honor of Ribbentrop’s arrival and the Red Army band broke into the Horst Wessel Song. That was the end, from then onward I no longer cared whether Hitler’s allies called me a counter-revolutionary.”

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Truman’s Spine

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One of Ronald Reagan’s more obvious fallacies was his location of the date “the Democratic Party left me” as 1948. For this was during the reign of Harry Truman, a liberal anticommunist par excellence; indeed, Reagan’s strategy for causing a Soviet implosion in 1989 was partly traceable to Truman’s containment policy begun in 1947 (Reagan did contribute to this policy the crucial strategy of forcing the Soviets to compete in a costly arms race that assured the implosion courtesy of their flawed economic system). One could trace the Cold War, at least on the American side, to Truman’s meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, 50 years ago, two weeks after he became President upon FDR’s death. At Yalta, Roosevelt believed that if he gave Soviet Premiere Josef Stalin everything he wanted–in effect, undisputed control over the Eastern Europe he “liberated” from the Nazis–then the Russian’s notorious paranoia would be appeased and he would honor his promise to hold democratic elections in Poland. American officials at Yalta were disgusted…

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Morrie Ryskind: Communism Not Funny

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Groucho Marx, a reluctant petitioner for the Hollywood Ten, once lamented that the 1947 HUAC hearings into Communist influence in Hollywood, had not been used as source material for a Marx Brothers’ film. The brothers’ unique brand of surrealist comedy would, he believed, found an ideal setting in the question-answer format and the perfect set of foils with the career politicians of HUAC. In a sense, one of the brothers did participate, and there was comedy, but not from him, nor of the intentional kind.

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Edward Dmytryk: Paying His Dues

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One of the charges lodged at Hollywood communists who voluntarily revealed their politics to Congress during the blacklist period was that said volunteers did it to avoid jail or get back on the studio payroll, or both. Director Edward Dymytrk has always been hard for them to spin. Originally one of the Hollywood Ten, the first set of communists in 1947 to testify, or in their case, not to testify by refusing to answer direct questions from Congress, Dmytryk, although having left the Communist Party two years before, nevertheless went to jail with the other 9 in order to prove that his future cooperation with Congress would not be to avoid jail time. Although not agreeing with the Ten’s legal strategy of refusing to directly answer questions from Congress but appearing to, Dymtryk closed ranks with them.

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Isn’t “The Nation Of Immigrants” A Bit Offensive?

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We are now currently two months (or thereabouts) into the Trump administration. As you have probably noticed, the putsches and death squads and concentration camps and secret police that President Trump was supposed to enact have not really come around yet. And nor will they ever—for all of the “Literally Hitler” talk, bear in mind that Hitler’s goals were explicitly enumerated in Mein Kampf (in all of its 800+ page denseness), whereas Trump has never expressed any desire to be a fascist dictator (And you’d think he would have done so in the four New York Times Bestselling Books he’s written). Regardless of Trump failing to be Literally Hitler, the Left continues to howl about how “racist” and “xenophobic” the man allegedly is, saying that any control over America’s borders is “not who we are as a country”—with the implication there being that, of course, America is a “nation of immigrants”/”proposition nation”, and thus the very idea of even temporarily halting immigration from any nation on is a vast affront…

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The Conflicted Nature Of Robert Oppenheimer

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In many ways, the father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, has long been portrayed by liberals as a figure horrified about what he unleashed on the world, particularly with regard to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, in one film, Fat Man and Little Boy, he was portrayed as conscience-striken from the get-go. But the reality was different. Initially Oppenheimer approached the project as a purely technical problem. It was only after the experiment worked that he allowed the moral dimension in. His background in literature—the choice of “Trinity” was his, after a John Donne poem that he liked—made Oppenheimer recall a verse from the Hindu bible: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

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H.L Mecken: Pro-German Rather Than Libertarian

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H.L Mencken’s reputation as an independent-minded journalist rests on his lampooning of American politicians, his championship of, but not political sympathies with dissidents prosecuted and deported by the American government during World War I, and his public role as a defender of Scopes during the Evolution vs Bible Monkey Trial in 1925. Conservatives today claim him for his libertarian opposition to the New Deal, his fierce commitment to civil liberties, and his denouncement of collectivism in all forms. Liberals adopt him for his attacks on Christian fundamentalism, his faith in science, and his opposition to World War I. But what powered all of the above was his less attractive traits, all traceable to his fervent support of Germany. Despite being born in America, Mencken did not consider himself an American and regretted that this was his homeland: “My grandfather, I believe, made a mistake when he came to this country [from Germany]. I have spent all of my 62 years here, but I still find it impossible to fit…

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Islamic Ties To Hitler

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In his last great battle in a lifetime of dust-ups, the late Christopher Hitchens in the aftermath of Sept. 11th, coined the term “Islamofascists” to describe and denounce the Muslim world. Linking it to 20th-century fascist movements, Hitchens elaborated: “The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. (“Death to the intellect! Long live death!” as Gen. Francisco Franco’s sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to…

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I.F. Stone: More Dupe Than Journalist

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In our era of mainstream media journalists, masquerading under the easily penetrable guise of objective reporting, it is refreshing to find a journalist upfront about their politics. Such a figure was I.F. Stone who made no bones about his Soviet sympathies. Despite this, or more likely, because of it, mainstream media journalists laud Stone as the investigative journalist par excellence. Stone became a radical early, joining the Socialist Party before the age of 18, and after that, doing public relations for Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas. Even earlier, Stone became a journalist, joining a liberal monthly at the age of 14.

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Robert Taylor: Accurately Naming Names

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Toward the end of his life, liberal actor Orson Welles reported being told by Nikita Khrushchev on a Hollywood visit by the Soviet premiere that Stalin had once targeted conservative actor John Wayne for liquidation. Although not reaching this height and honor on Stalin’s “enemies’ list,” conservative matinee idol Robert Taylor was able to have the distinction of having his films banned in Communist Hungary and in Czechoslovakia. And, depending upon your point of view, Taylor had the distinction of organizing Hollywood anticommunists into a political group (The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals), and being the only major star to name names during the 1947 Congressional investigation into communism in the film industry.

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Was George Orwell A Neocon?

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Every decade or so pundits return to the question of whether George Orwell was a conservative. The answer is dependent on the questioner’s ideology. Norman Podhoretz claimed him as a neoconservative. Christopher Hitchens, still in thrall to socialism, stated that Orwell “was conservative about many things, but not politics.” By and large, this bodysnatching relied on the same facts, and thus spin was required. However, the recent publication of Orwell’s letters and diaries bolsters the conservative interpretation while also showing how hard it was for the writer to let go of socialism. For example, Orwell, still promoting socialism, albeit a libertarian version (which to my mind is a contradiction in terms), had a yin and yang attitude toward money, or to be more precise “the Money God” as he put in one of his novels. in which this commodity disfigured the human personality.

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Another Wall

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Fifty-six years ago, the Berlin Wall was erected and gave the West the ultimate propaganda victory in the Cold War. JFK certainly viewed it as such. While he enraged some of his military advisers by refusing to green-light an invasion (supply lines would have been impossible to maintain), he nevertheless pronounced the images of people fleeing with literally their clothes on their backs. (By August 1961, an average of 2,000 East Germans were escaping into the West every day.) While guerilla-faced East German guards batted and drug the slower back to the East as “a failure of communism.” He told his aides to release this footage to the networks. Escapes were still attempted despite the barbed wire now extending to thirty miles. Perhaps one of the starkest images of the Cold War, and another propaganda victory for the West, was provided when Conrad Schumann, a 19-year-old East German soldier, was photographed leaping over the barbed wire to freedom.

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Ernest Roehm: Nazi Dissident

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In an example of him desperately trying to retain even a molecule of his collegiate Marxism, the late Christopher Hitchens refused to accept that Soviet communism was equivalent to Nazi Germany. One of his broadsides against this comparison was that, unlike the Soviet Union, whose government figures accused Stalin of betraying the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany had “no dissidents…risking their lives on the proposition the Fuhrer had betrayed the true essence of National Socialism.” But in his rush to make this point, Hitchens had not done his homework, for there were dissidents in the Nazi Party who accused Hitler of betraying the Nazi revolution. The perfect case in point was SA leader Ernst Roehm.

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The Optimism Of George Orwell

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Upon receiving the manuscript of what would be George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, publisher Frederic Warburg considered the novel the most “depressing” and “pessimistic” thing he ever read. Many Orwell scholars, sharing this view, attributed the novel’s bleakness to Orwell dying by inches during the composition of the novel. But despite the novel’s depiction of a broken Winston Smith, Orwell’s hopes never wavered, which must have been considerable when viewing the world of 1948-49. The Soviets had Eastern Europe and an atomic bomb. China would soon go Communist. Time was running out, but Orwell didn’t rule out that the English could be awakened: “The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else and that totalitarianism, if not fought against (italics mine), could triumph anywhere.” This wake-up call was no easy task. As far back as 1938, Orwell was complaining about the British being a “sleep walking people” and only Hitler’s bombs would wake them up.…

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Raymond Chandler: Hardly A Proletarian Writer

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When Hollywood Communists Adrian Scott, a producer, and Edward Dmytryk sought material that was both entertaining and capable of making their anti-capitalist points, they searched no further than noir writer Raymond Chandler. Chandler’s hyper-cynical portrayal of a murdering, drug-taking upper class, corrupt brutal cops and all of the above’s business relationship with LA’s criminal element must have seemed perfect for communist agitprop. The result of Scott and Dymtryk’s labors was Murder My Sweet (1944), an adaptation of Chandler’s second novel, Farewell My Lovely. In it, an unshaven and punch-drunk Dick Powell weaves through a maze of quacks capitalizing on neurotic rich women, former showgirls murdering to retain the position they’ve married into, and ex-cons duped and then framed because of their romanticism.

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Close Call: 1948 Presidential Election

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Historians locate a decisive moment in the Republican Presidential campaign of 1940: The nomination the internationalist Wendell Wilkie, and in essence forever said goodbye to its isolationist wing. For the Democrats, their decisive moment was 1948. That year, Democrats engaged in an inner-party debate, a battle for its soul, between the accommodationist policies of FDR toward the Soviet Union and the containment faction. Truman was truly besieged on every possible side of the political spectrum. Across the aisle, Republicans were seeking to capitalize on the President’s low poll numbers and the public’s exhaustion with 16 years of Democratic rule. Within his own Party, he faced threats on both right and left in Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats Party, who opposed Truman’s civil rights program. Then there was Henry Wallace, FDR’s former Vice President, who opposed his hard line toward the Soviet Union.

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Himmler: Soldier Wannabe

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When war was declared in 1914, a failed painter and bum named Adolf Hitler fell to his knees with joyful tears running down his cheeks and promptly signed up. While others were miserable in the trenches, Hitler enjoyed his role as trench runner. Equally ecstatic about World War I, Heinrich Himmler never got his chance to bear arms, and this disappointment explains, perhaps even more than any anti-Semitism, his feverish service for Hitler as head of the secret police: Himmler was overcompensating.

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Jay Lovestone: Americanizing Marxism

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During the early years of the Great Depression, where a considerable number of American intellectuals threw in with the communist candidate for president in 1932, William Z. Foster, literary critic Edmund Wilson urged American Communists to take Marxism away from the Russians and “Americanize it.” But this advice went unheeded and from 1932 onward, American Communists took their cues from Russia, a country with no democratic traditions. What may have been a lost opportunity, depending upon your point of view as to whether communism could be applied at all to American democracy, was briefly provided by Jay Lovestone, who helped found the American Communist Party (along with John Reed) in 1919. Lovestone then moved to Editor of The Communist, the Party’s newspaper. By 1927, he was the CPUSA’s national secretary.

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FDR’s Death And The Cold War

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During the Cold War, the Right attacked FDR for his appeasement of Stalin, which assured the Soviet empire. In the words of moderate Republican Senator Ralph Flanders, the Soviet aggression America was faced with during the early Cold War period came about because Roosevelt “was soft as taffy on the subject of communism.” The flip side to this came from the communist Left, who asserted that FDR was a progressive for peace and a better world along with Stalin, and with his death, the opportunity for peaceful co-existence was lost because of the “fascist” president Harry S. Truman. Faced with capitalist encirclement, Stalin had no choice but to assume a purely defensive posture.

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We Can’t Be Friends

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We will never forget 2016. A new Star Wars came out. Several celebrities passed on. Clemson upset #1 Alabama in the national championship game (still happy about that happening). The Cubs, for the first time since 1908, won the World Series. A great year all around. However, 2016 was most remembered for Donald John Trump’s victory for President. You see, the night of November 8, 2016, the third famous American political dynasty died — The Clinton Dynasty. Even I was stunned. However, while the world was seemingly being turned upside down, one thing remained: the hypocrisy and selfishness of the Left. My conversion towards libertarianism begin in 2012 when my Uncle Gandalf (yes, that’s really his name) exposed me to Ron Paul. Ron Paul was saying things that begin to make sense for me. He was single-handedly smashing the Left and the Right on their sky-high lies and deception of the Amerian people. I was shown in that moment that the majority of the Right and Left didn’t care…

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Children Of Stalin

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Today, under former KGB spook Vladimir Putin, the older generation pines for Josef Stalin (and may have found him in the form of Vladimir). The proclaimed reason for wishing Uncle Joe was back is that Koba gave the populace a supposed sense of security. But what kind of security? For the older generation, it probably means a time when Russians were not besieged by the burdens and consequences of personal freedom and the free market; where today the older generation scowl at entrepreneurs and the Russian mafia and a youth more interested in their iPods than social justice.

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Charlton Heston: The Democratic Party Left Him

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When that rare celebrity moves from liberalism to conservatism, pundits like to cite Ronald Reagan’s move from New Deal Democrat to Goldwater as pioneering such movement. Reagan claimed in his famous phrase that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; it left me.” But the year he cited for this parting of ways, 1948, doesn’t hold up. In 1948, the Democratic Party had shifted from Grand Alliance partnership to Communist containment. Reagan’s chronology of a Democratic Party becoming too leftist only works if their presidential candidate that year had been Henry Wallace, not Harry Truman.

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Masochism: The Left After Camelot

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On November 22, 1963, Left and Right came together briefly in an awful contemplation. A hostile mob surrounded the headquarters of Barry Goldwater, the prospective Republican nominee against John F. Kennedy in 1963, chanting “Murderers!” On the other side, the Eastern Republican establishment also got into the act. Immediately after Kennedy’s assassination, Richard Nixon phoned FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and asked, “Was it one of the right-wing nuts?” Even in the Goldwater camp, there was suspicion that Kennedy had fallen victim to a right-wing assassin. Denison Kitchel, the manager of Goldwater’s senatorial campaign, muttered, “My God, one of the Birchers did it.”

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Joseph Davis: “This Book Will Last”

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When George Orwell first heard about Josef Stalin’s Purge Trials, he immediately believed them to be rigged. It wasn’t so much the inconsistencies and fantasies of the prosecution (one of the charges lodged at these supposed Russian conspirators with Hitler to overthrow the Stalin regime had the traitors meeting with Nazis at a hotel that didn’t exist anymore) but the heavy-handed propaganda voiced by the regime. Even though the accused “admitted” their complicity with the Trotsky/Hitler cabal–it was later discovered that they were drugged and tortured into confessing–Orwell astutely saw them as a monstrous frame-up because he “felt” it in the crudeness of the language. But an American lawyer sitting in the audience during the Trials, supposedly well-versed in logic, was fooled, or wanted to be. Joseph Davies, FDR’s ambassador to the Soviet Union during the height of the Trials defended the verdict despite accepting that some of the testimony of the accused was not true. Nevertheless, Davies hewed to the overall verdict that even Lenin’s Old Bolsheviks, along…

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Was George Orwell a McCarthyite?

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In 1996, it was revealed that George Orwell gave a list he compiled of suspected Communists to a representative of MI-5. Since then, Orwell has been decried as a snitch and McCarthyite by the Left. This name-calling if nothing else, does open a fruitful historical inquiry about Orwell and the Cold War–namely, was George Orwell a McCarthyite? Premature might be a better description since Orwell died before McCarthy emerged as a national phenomenon in the early 1950s. But the comparison is still potentially fruitful. For Orwell survived into the postwar years, the dawning of the Cold War, functioning as a writer until a tubercular attack in 1949, dying in 1950 and it is this period that provides the answer to Orwell as a McCarthyite. By contrast, examining Orwell in the 1930s and war years, when he fought a lonely battle against the prestige and popularity of the Stalinists would not draw out as useful a comparison as when the tide turned in Orwell’s favor after 1945. Did he take…

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Sputnik At 60: More Than Just a Rocket

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Already jittery from nuclear drills and the threat of “reds under the bed,” America in 1957 could still find solace in the comforting illusion that the Soviets, while dangerous, were hopelessly backward. “If the Russians built a dam,” an Army officer stationed in Berlin was quoted as saying, “the water would flow backwards.” True, the Soviets had the bomb. But the perception, from the halls of government to John Q. Citizen, was that they had acquired atomic capability not through honest research but through the efforts of American traitors like the Rosenbergs. The launch of Sputnik, the world’s first space missile, on October 4, 1957, changed all of that. Panic spread across the land, encapsulated perfectly by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson’s avowal that the Soviets now possessed the capability to drop nuclear bombs on the United States “like rocks from a highway overpass.” Soviet science was suddenly seen as a formidable threat. American engineers and test pilots, soon to be labeled astronauts, now had as much importance as bomb makers…

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Mencken’s Last Hurrah

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By 1948, H.L. Mencken was sixty-eight years old and had covered twelve presidential elections. The commonly accepted view of him was that his glory days as an attack dog on the cant that politicians spewed out were over. From being the most read newspaperman of his day, the 1920s, he was, by the 1930s, largely forgotten because of his anti-New Deal views. His opposition to the “Good War,” further alienated him from audiences and compelled him to spend the war years writing nostalgic memoirs. But there would be one more great moment before the end. Mere months before a stroke would disable him, he covered the 1948 Progressive Party Convention that would nominate former Vice President Henry Wallace.

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