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.

Allen Ryskind, the son of anticommunist screenwriter Morrie Ryskind, is a perfect case in point in how unwelcome such children are who expose that there was a blacklist against anti-Communists.

Upon testifying in 1947 against communists in the film industry, Morrie stated he never sold another script ever again, despite being nominated previously for two Academy Awards.

With his example, Ryskind is a testament to the blanket and hypocritical generalizations Hollywood Communists trafficked in. Despite being Jewish, Hollywood reds labeled Ryskind an anti-Semite. Despite belonging to the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, the Screenwriter’s Guild, and was a two-time voter for FDR, Hollywood reds branded Ryskind an anti-Semite.

But Allen, a conservative journalist, was able to reveal that it was the Hollywood Communists who defended Hitler. Ryskind showed that it wasn’t just their endorsement of the same kind of repression practiced in Russia that also occurred in Nazi Germany. By examining Hollywood Communist behavior during the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact in 1939, he showed that they were actual supporters of the Third Reich.

When Hitler and Stalin formed a military partnership, jointly invading Poland and beginning World War II, the word from on high for the American Communist Party was to keep America out of this war that would involve fighting the Soviets as well as the Nazis. Ryskind revealed that the Hollywood branch wasn’t biting their lip when parroting the Party line; the very zeal that industry Reds brought to supporting this line and attacking its enemies reveals that their passion for Stalin overlapped into one for Hitler.

While the Nazi war machine was conquering other countries and began housing captors into concentration camps, Party members at a Writer’s Conference attacked FDR’s aid to a bombed out Britain as “imperialist,” even “treasonous.” Party members spent so much time denouncing England as fascist that screenwriter Emmett Rogers (later to be accused by Hollywood Communists as being pro-Hitler when he testified against them before HUAC a decade later) noted that there was not one word uttered against Nazi Germany. He asked the British-bashers whether there was “any nation in the world today so low in the estimation of any man or woman in this hall tonight that he or she would want to see that nation conquered and destroyed by Hitler and Nazism?” Dalton Trumbo dismissed such reports of Nazi repression by stating “To the vanquished all conquerors are inhuman.” Beyond even those who were pre-equipped for such anti-anti-fascism after years of defending Stalin’s Hitler-like repressions, there were those who shared with the Nazis Hitler’s guiding racist sentiments. In this period, fellow-traveling novelist Theodore Dreiser expressed such extreme anti-Semitism that the Daily Worker criticized him for it.

By the example of Morrie’s anti-Communist friends and writers, it was readily apparent that Stalinists were waging their own form of blacklist several years before the “official” one waged against Hollywood Communists. In the form of the eventually blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, this reverse blacklist is readily apparent. Trumbo bragged about how he and his friends were able to prevent anti-Communist films from being made during the high tide of Communist influence in World War II Hollywood.

Instead, Hollywood reds that had ascended up the studio ladder steamrolled over conservatives and churned out pro-Soviet propaganda moves.

Party member Richard Collins penned a portrait of dancing, nail-polished Kulaks in Song of Russia. Lillian Hellman turned their villages littered with corpses years before the Nazi invasion by Stalin into a more prosperous version of the Walton’s. The most notorious example, and one that galvanized Ryskind’s father into assembling anti-communists into a group, was Mission to Moscow (1943), which supported the rigged verdicts of the Purge Trials as a needed antifascist action against such “Nazi-loving fifth columnists” as Leon Trotsky. Perhaps the most high profile of anti-anticommunists, Victor Navasky, mocked the anticommunist use of this film by stating that its screenwriter, Howard Koch, was not a Party member.

Perhaps the greatest gift Allen Ryskind gave to his dad and those blacklisted by Communists was his spotlighting those who refused to answer more telling questions than “are you now or have you ever been” a Party member. For those today who argue that being a Communist then did not disqualify oneself from American patriotism, Ryskind counters this with the testimony of screenwriters Waldo Salt, Micheal Wilson, and Abraham Polonsky in the early 1950s. The committee presented them with the question of whether they would defend the U.S. if attacked by the Soviet Union. As with the Ten’s evasion of answering while still appearing to, all three refused to answer yes; and instead split hairs by saying such a question was not “simple,” and they would instead “fight for peace.” With these three cases, conducted during the Korean War, and when there was a very real possibility there would be war with Russia, Ryskind challenged quite powerfully the accepted wisdom that the blacklisted were the real patriots.

Even among such studied topics as Hollywood Ten member Dalton Trumbo—well-plowed by conservative writers and by an admiring Hollywood (who is currently producing a sympathetic film about him)—Ryskind found new damning, material. In a period, when Trumbo would later claim he was moving away from the Soviet Union, Ryskind finds un-filmed scripts he wrote defending both Stalin and North Korea in the early 1950s.

While children of Hollywood Communists are admired by the mainstream media for using time and considerable energy to defending their parents, those like Ryskind are ignored, mainly because, as I suspect, they harm the liberal narrative.

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Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.