Communism is responsible for more deaths in the 20th Century than both world wars, yet liberals have defended it for decades. A new book by Grove City College professor and top Reagan scholar Paul Kengor – Dupes – documents this, showing how Communists used liberals to further their efforts in the U.S. This book masterfully documents dupes in the U.S. from the Hill to (my focus here) Hollywood.
Kengor’s strength is research (the book’s introduction alone lists 35 citations), and Dupes authoritatively identifies both dupes and true Communists in Hollywood, documenting them down to their Communist Party USA registration card numbers and how many times they wrote for Communist publications.
Take playwright extraordinaire Arthur Miller, for example. It is widely accepted that “The Crucible” is about McCarthyism. Beyond that, today’s educators have allowed what Senator Joe McCarthy and his “witch hunts” found to blend with the work of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In reality, they were entirely separate.
Kengor points out that the falsely titled “HUAC,” (a recent New Yorker article, which gives a good review of former Communist Elia Kazan, used the “HUAC” abbreviation too) which suggests the committee was the actual un-American organization, was chaired by Democrats for much of its existence, and it was attacked for its work by Communists regardless of who was in charge.
Finally, among the most famous witnesses called by the House Committee on Un-American Activities were the “Hollywood Ten,” a collection of industry workers suspected of being Communists. Claiming they weren’t Communists, these Communist sympathizers and actual Communists convinced liberal actors and actresses to come and defend them in Washington, D.C. Kengor points out, “It is interesting that while many liberals have been concerned about the reputation of Communists…those same Communists had no qualms about tarnishing the reputations of the liberals they preyed upon – even when the liberals were friends and relatives.”
Humphry Bogart was among those who was duped into testifying, and after the testimonies, he was anything but happy about it. The truth is, the Hollywood Ten were not clean. Kengor said in an e-mail, “From the very first day that the main four members of the Hollywood Ten were called to the stand, in October 1947, we’ve known their actual Communist Party numbers, which were published at the time, in all the newspapers, and which I’ve been forced to re-publish in the book – such is our ignorance. John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Alvah Bessie, Albert Maltz. All were Communists and pro-Soviet patriots, period.”
Few remember the truth of the hearings – only the “horror” that the Hollywood Ten were blacklisted afterward. Perhaps they were blacklisted more for lying to their would-be defenders than they were for being Communists. If someone stabs your back, you generally don’t pat theirs in return.
Director Elia Kazan new the truth. He was once a Communist, but was kicked out of the Party after refusing to follow orders. He testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and was attacked for it. He wrote in his diary, “I’d hated the Communists for many years and didn’t feel right about giving up my career to defend them.” Unfortunately, many in Hollywood held it against him for years.
And Arthur Miller, who portrayed these trials as witch hunts? He applied to join CPUSA, and admitted to helping Communist front groups.
I find it interesting that the left continues to use one of the favorite strategies of Communism – name-calling – on a regular basis. Kengor quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald on this: “The important thing is that you should not argue with [Communists],” Fitzgerald said. “Whatever you say, they have ways of twisting it into shapes which put you in some lower category of mankind, ‘Fascist,’ ‘Liberal,’ ‘Trotskyist,’ and disparage you both intellectually and personally in the process.” Liberals use this strategy today when dealing with social conservatives or with Tea Partiers.
“One of the greatest successes of the left…has been its ability to discredit anti-Communism and anti-Communists,” Kengor said. “They stereotype and broad-bush anti-Communists, trying their best to push every new stalwart anti-Communist into their ever-widening category of ‘another Joe McCarthy,’ of which there were far more than Joe McCarthy. Long before Joe McCarthy, the left was smearing liberals like Woodrow Wilson’s attorney general, Alexander Mitchell Palmer, Wilson himself, and Democrats in Congress like Martin Dies, the first head of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, all for the unforgivable sin of strident anti-Communism. Believe me, that’s a short list of the anti-Communists that the left crucified.”
Kengor’s non-partisan approach to looking at Communist influences in America led him to defend many liberals, and also hold conservative-loved dupes accountable. Take Ronald Reagan for instance. He was a duped liberal before he became a staunch anti-Communist and then a conservative.
“Reagan was very candid about this,” Kengor said. “I’ve tried to be honest in this book, highlighting even political heroes of mine – like Reagan – who were once duped. But it was what he learned from that experience that helped convert him into arguably the greatest anti-Communist. He became first a chastened liberal, which was part of a deeper, wider awakening.”
Speaking of Reagan, I asked Kengor about the status of the Reagan film that will be based on his books. “We’re plugging away,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was a great, inspiring historical figure. The man merits a major, serious ‘bio-pic’ that accurately represents what he did and how he helped change the world for the better. This is another area of history that we can’t leave to the extreme left.”