This is the most recent installment of exclusive interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, as he continues to share snippets from his latest book revealing how communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, have long manipulated America’s liberals/progressives. Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century is a veritable buffet of never-before-published morsels on the American left. Fred Barnes calls Dupes “an enormously important book.” Big Peace’s own Peter Schweizer calls it the “21st century equivalent” to Whittaker Chambers’ classic Witness.
Big Peace: Professor Kengor, last week you shared examples of how American communists, from the very start of their party’s founding in Chicago in 1919, exploited the language of the American Founding to advance their goals and philosophy in the United States. They also did so in order to dupe American liberals/progressives. Among others, you gave the stunning example of Clarence Darrow, the famous lawyer from the Scopes Monkey Trials. This week you have more examples.
Kengor: I have examples from Hollywood in its golden age and also from Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis.
Big Peace: Let’s start with Hollywood. Tell us about the Committee for the First Amendment, a major focus of your book.
Kengor: That was the biggest group of duped liberals/progressives ever to appear in Hollywood, so much so that the Committee for the First Amendment would later be officially classified as a communist front-group–that’s how badly the liberals in this group were suckered by the Reds. Here’s what happened:
By October 1947, our Congress had learned the obvious: There were influential communists trying to infiltrate the motion-picture industry, particularly among screenwriters. The accused communists, men like John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Alvah Bessie, Albert Maltz, told their liberal friends that they weren’t guilty, and that these mean congressmen investigating their blatant loyalties to Stalin’s Russia were a bunch of “fascists.” Naturally, the liberals believed them, as liberals reflexively take the side not of anti-communists but pro-communists.
So, the accused communist screenwriters rallied the liberals to their side in a PR campaign to frame the congressmen as Nazi storm-troopers and the accused communists as the embodiment of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.
Big Peace: You’re not exaggerating. In the book you give example after example.
Kengor: That’s right. Madison and Hamilton, incidentally, would have been put up against a wall in Bolshevik Russia and shot in the head without hesitation.
Big Peace: You write, “And so, Hollywood’s communists looked to liberals in the movie industry for support. They would do so in the name of good old-fashioned American civil liberties, wrapping themselves in the American flag.”
Kengor: Specifically, in October 1947, a group of high-profile actors, writers, and producers planned a major public-relations trip to Washington to defend their accused leftist friends, who were being summoned to testify to Congress for their clandestine work for the Soviet cause. After consulting on tactics with the accused communists, they changed the group’s name from the confrontational “Hollywood Fights Back” to the commendable “Committee for the First Amendment.”
This was a savvy PR move, signifying the high road to be taken: the communists’ case would be based on the American Constitution and venerable First Amendment; in other words, on the antithesis of the USSR that the comrades secretly saluted. The Constitution lovers at the Daily Worker were happy to join in, headlining the campaign as a “Bill-of-Rights Tour.”
Big Peace: Tell us some of the suckers among the celebrities.
Kengor: The liberal stars enlisted in the cause ran into the hundreds, including Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Myrna Loy. From the committee, a group of roughly two dozen lent more than their signatures; they actually set sail for Washington. That troupe included some huge faces: Danny Kaye, Ira Gershwin, Judy Garland, John Garfield, Sterling Hayden, Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, John Huston, Philip Dunne, Billy Wilder, and, of course, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
The two dozen huddled with Dunne and Huston, their leaders, to coordinate and ensure they spoke from the same script. There was an agreed-upon understanding that Congress’s questions did not merit the dignity of a response.
Of course, the liberals assumed that their accused friends were not communists. Their friends assured them they weren’t. The liberals had convinced themselves–or allowed themselves to be convinced–that the deceivers were sitting in Washington, not Hollywood. Remember, for liberals/progressives, it’s always the anti-communists who are the bad guys. As the great James Burnham unforgettably put it, for the left, the preferred enemy is always to the right.
Big Peace: And when the liberals got there to Washington, they got quite a surprise.
Kengor: Yes, contrary to the false narrative you learned from your scandalously expensive university education–where you paid outrageous amounts of money to be brainwashed by leftist nonsense–the accused were unmistakably, unequivocally guilty. Congress had literal stacks of evidence it publicly presented: Communist Party registration rolls, news clips, Daily Worker articles, New Masses‘ bylines, front-group memberships, party applications, party forms, party cards, party, and even numbers. In Dupes, I list the five-digit Communist Party registration card numbers of all of them.
And as the congressmen presented this irrefutable evidence, the left did what it always does when it has nowhere else to go. They called the Congressmen “fascists.”
“Hitler Germany!” yelped John Howard Lawson, also known as “Hollywood’s commissar,” when presented with irrefutable evidence, “Hitler tactics!” He had to be escorted out of the room he was so out-of-control.
Big Peace: What was the reaction by the liberals in the Committee for the First Amendment?
Kengor: They were stunned and betrayed, especially Humphrey Bogart, who snapped: “You f—ers sold me out!”
The Committee for the First Amendment fell silent, withered, and died.
Needless to say, these American communists weren’t apostles of the U.S. Constitution. No, they exploited the language of the Constitution to advance the principles and aims of Stalin’s Soviet Union, which, of course, was the utter antithesis of the American Founders’ constitutional republic.
Big Peace: There’s one more example you’d like to share–the best for last. This concerns Frank Marshall Davis, Hawaii mentor to a young man named Barack Obama in the 1970s. In Dupes, you show at length that this man was a communist, a party member even, and quote dozens of his columns.
Kengor: That’s Frank Marshall Davis, CPUSA no. 47544–see page 507 of Dupes for the page from his FBI file that lists that party number.
A common tactic of Davis was to invoke the Founders. Here I’ll give just one example from one column he published in March 1950, where he claimed to be indentifying his own politics. He disingenuously referred to his politics as “left of center in the best American tradition.” He identified with Thomas Jefferson in particular. He quoted Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure…. I hold that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world, as storms in the physical.”
Well, that’s a bunch of manure.
Again, we saw this in our Q&A last week, where I noted this common communist tactic of identifying with the revolutionary spirit of our American revolutionaries of 1776. Of course, that was a phony identification, but it was the kind of deceptive thing American communists did all the time to try to win naïve liberals/progressives to their side, which they did with stunning success.
Big Peace: And this gets even worse. If Davis and these other Communist Party members were the self-anointed modern incarnations of Madison and Jefferson and Hamilton and Jay, then who were the enemies?
Kengor: That’s key. The enemies, the “un-Americans” as the communists ludicrously portrayed them, were the anti-communists in groups like the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was allegedly smearing and defaming great modern patriots like Davis, Lawson, Trumbo, Maltz, Bessie, and other closet communists.
As Frank Marshall Davis put it in his column, “[W]e have descended to such a low level in our history that a person becomes cannon fodder for the un-American committees merely by repeating the words of Lincoln and Jefferson.”
Now, this would be just fine if Davis’s comrades were battling for the ideas of Federalist 10, but, quite the contrary, they were battling for the ideas of Marx. They had other revolutionaries in mind–Bolshevik ones rather than those of 1776.
Big Peace: Needless to say, Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson had nothing in common.
Kengor: That’s right. For years, I’ve heard people mutter, “If you read the Communist Manifesto, you’ll see it’s not a bad book. It talks about sharing, caring.” What nonsense. When I hear that, I know they haven’t actually read the Communist Manifesto, where Marx states flatly: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
That’s the essence of communism.
Of course, on this point alone, a first grader–let alone a grown adult–ought to immediately recognize that Marxism can’t work. Abolishing private property is completely contrary to human nature, violating the most innate precepts of all peoples, from the cave to the courthouse. Only a fool would not instantly, intuitively realize that implementing this vision generates mass bloodshed.
It’s obviously completely contrary to the vision of our American Founders.
There was no greater mass murderer of civil liberties than communism. And to imagine that the communists and their dupes would invoke these same Founders? It’s obscene. But, again, they did it all the time.
Big Peace: Professor Kengor, thanks for the history lesson this week.