The View From 1776

Tim Robbins Two

Stalin recognized that movies in the 1930s had become the most powerful propaganda tool for influencing mass opinion.  That’s why he ordered the Communist Party USA to organize Hollywood screenwriters and crafts workers into Communist dominated labor unions.

Labor Unions: Double-Edged Blade described the affinity of actor-director Tim Robbins for Communist labor unions in Hollywood of the 1930s.  The message Mr. Robbins conveys in his film “Cradle Will Rock” is essentially the original Communist Party USA (CPUSA) propaganda line at the time setting of the movie.

Seeing the great success of Leni Riefenstahl’s movies in creating public approval for the Nazi regime in 1934 and 1935, Stalin directed that Hollywood be organized to propagandize for the Soviet Union and the Communist cause.

V. J. Jerome, the CPUSA cultural commissar at party headquarters in New York City, sent Stanley Lawrence to Hollywood for that purpose in 1935.  The aim was to create a single, industry-wide union that could shut down any Hollywood studio that balked at filming scripts approved by the CPUSA. 

Standing in Lawrence’s way was the biggest Hollywood crafts union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IA).  Roy Brewer, the IA head in 1947, was a Democrat and a self-described liberal.  His letter to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, dated October 28, 1947, describes the continual harassment, often violent, by Communist unionists to destroy the IA and replace it with the Communist-organized Conference of Studio Unions (CSU).  Mr. Brewer wrote:

I shall present evidence which I think will conclusively establish the fact that there is and there has been a real Communist plot to capture our union in Hollywood, as part of the Communist plan to control the motion picture industry as a whole…With a Communist-controlled union representing all Hollywood technical labor supporting a Screen Writers Guild, through which only pro-Communist writers could get into the industry, we believe that the screen would have been effectively captured, notwithstanding the good intentions of the producers of motion pictures.

Richard Collins was an official in the Hollywood Communist Party branch and a leading member of the Screen Writers Guild.  On of his best known scripts was Song of Russia, of which the Wikipedia notes:

“Song of Russia” is a pro-Soviet propaganda film made and distributed by MGM Studios in 1944. .... the credited screenwriters were Paul Jarrico and Richard Collins. The film starred Robert Taylor, Susan Peters and Robert Benchley.

“The picture was a major studio release, and an unabashed pro-Soviet propaganda film. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would later use “Song of Russia” as one of the three noted examples of pro-Soviet propaganda films made by Hollywood, the other two pictures being Warner’s ” Mission to Moscow” and RKO’s “The North Star.”

Collins later repented his years in the CPUSA.  He unburdened himself in Confessions of a Red Screenwriter, published in the October 6, 1952, issue of New Leader.  He wrote:

A Communist is always prepared.  He, or rather his party, has an answer for everything.  When I joined the party, I was handed ready-made: friends, a cause, a faith and a viewpoint on all phenomena.  I also had a one-shot solution to all the world’s ills and inequities….Suppose our Comrade keeps up with all the twists and turns of party policy, what is his reward?  Why, peace of mind, of course.  Since he has an answer for everything, he has a great sense of personal security; the world is safe; everything is explained ? his history and the future; and everything is also simplified ? into black and white….

The party member, on the other hand, has to make only one effort.  He must be “flexible.”  “Flexible” means that you cheer for Earl Browder [former CPUSA head] on his birthday and the next day you despise him as a “betrayer of the working class”...

Although denying religion, the Communists need it and express it in zealotry in relation to the party.  This charge of religiosity angers the Communists a great deal.  They answer that their position is based on reason.  This is similar to their constant reiteration that Marxism is a science.  If it is a science, it is a science without a provable body of facts, a science which has been incapable of correctly predicting anything within its field ? history ? ever since the Bolshevik Revolutions.  The Communists, for all their talk of reason and science, proceed on faith….It’s the old story ? a glorious end justifies despicable means.

In expression that sounds remarkably similar to the things that Tim Robbins and many other Hollywood actors have said in recent years, Richard Collins continued:

The Communists [today, liberals] insist that the United States today is like Nazi Germany of the Thirties.  Many of the Communists before the House Un-American Committee see themselves as Dimitrov defying the Nazi court.

Today the Iraq war engenders liberal hysteria.  In 1937, when Richard Collins joined the CPUSA, the Spanish Civil War was raging.  Socialists, liberals, and Communists denounced Generalissimo Franco, whose forces received military support from Hitler’s National Socialist Germany.

Mr. Collins wrote, in that regard:

The Communist party presented itself and the Soviet Union as the great enemy of Nazism and the friend of the democracies….Many of us had no idea that we were embracing, in whole or in part, another tyranny.  And we were helped in making that mistake by a section of American liberals who unwittingly became an aid to the American Communist party because they overtrusted the Communists.

The liberals were then, and remain today, what the Soviet Communists called “useful idiots,” people whose utopian theories blind them to political reality.

For voluminous details regarding the foregoing, read Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley’s Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s.

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