If I Had a Hammer (and Sickle....)

David Boaz muses on the old, but still interesting, topic of why the modern press gives commies better press than they give Nazis, hooked to the New Yorker's recent Pete Seeger profile. He details a wonderful isolationist-interventionist flip-flop the old folkie performed in the '40s, in lockstep with the shifting Communist Party line as the Hitler-Stalin pact was formed then later abrogated. Seeger

and his group the Almanac Singers put out an album titled Songs of John Doe that called Franklin D Roosevelt a warmongering lackey of JP Morgan.

Franklin D, listen to me,
You ain't a-gonna send me 'cross the sea.
You may say it's for defense
That kinda talk ain't got no sense.

Then within months Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. The album was pulled from the market and reportedly destroyed. The Almanac Singers quickly produced a new album, Dear Mr President, that took a different view of FDR and the war:

Now, Mr President
You're commander-in-chief of our armed forces
The ships and the planes and the tanks and the horses
I guess you know best just where I can fight ...
So what I want is you to give me a gun
So we can hurry up and get the job done!

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  • ||

    Seger is a first class dirtbag. The flip on war is just the begingin of a career of mendacity and hypocrisy. Another Seger classic is "Tiny Boxes". The song makes fun of the new suburbs that were being built in the 1940s and 50s. Of course Seger and his Stalinist cohorts screamed for the U.S. to build "affordable housing" in the form of the big ugly horrible apartment complexes that dot the eastern block and helped destroy our innner cities. Pete could never quite forgive the middle class for taking the houses the market provided over the cement cell blocks the party wanted to provide.

  • Ed||

    He needed a word to rhyme with "forces" and he chose "horses"?

    Which war was he singing about: the Crimean?

  • ||

    I wonder if I will be the first to point out to Ed that horses were widely used by many armies for transport during the Second World War, and that some armies employed cavalry units.

  • Jammer||

    IIRC, only the US Army was truly fully mechanized (at least by D-Day). "Mechanized" of course, in the sense that horses were not needed to move artillery, supplies, etc. The PBI still had lots of slogging to do.

  • ||

    As for the larger question, American Communists were at the forefront of many positive movements during the middle of the last century, from ending Jim Crow to gender equality to due process protections. Compare this to American Nazis, who (thankfully) accomplished exactly nothing in this country. Perhaps the Reds get kinder treatment than the Browns because they earned it.

    And, btw, I'd need both hands and both feet to count the anti-Communist movies produced by Hollywood just in the mid-80s.

  • ||

    Joe, do I get credit for being at the forefront of the positive movement in train scheduling?

  • ||

    And, btw, I'd need both hands and both feet to count the anti-Communist movies produced by Hollywood just in the mid-80s.

    Joe, are you refering to 'Rambo' and movies of that ilk where we go back and win the Vietnam War?

    When people talk about the lack of anti-communist movies made by Hollywood, I think of something like Scheindler's List, only set in a Gulag.

  • ||

    Seger is a first class dirtbag.

    The creator of Popeye? (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elzie_Crisler_Segar)

  • ||

    Lurker Kurt,

    Just off the top of my head, "Red Dawn" and "White Nights" come to mind.

  • ||

    I often hear people yakking about "Red Dawn," but the true anti-communist film masterpiece of the 1980s is "White Nights." Isabella Rossellini was so beautiful, it is breath-taking.

  • ||

    Oh God,

    Joe, you really can't be serious can you? Give me a break. Obviously the suburbs were a success because of some evil corporate plot to put down labor unrest. It had nothing to do with people being tired of living in the city and wanting a place of their own and a sense of normalcy after the depression and second world war. No, couldn't have anything to do with that. Moreover, it wasn't too hard to figure out that the suburbs were what people wanted. Seger didn't care what people wanted, he wanted them to do what the party told them to.

    As far as your defense of communists. First, even if they were insturmental in ending Jim Crow, which they weren't, that would not make up for the fact that they were apologists and advocates of the most murdurous and oppressive regime in history. Second, had it been up to them, Jim Crow would have been replaced with something a hell of a lot worse. Working to end Jim Crow, while normally a laudable goal, isn't so laudable when your goal is to replace it with the gulag.

    Pete Seger and the other Stalinists of the 30s, 40s and 50s were just an evil people. There is no way around that.

  • ||

    Brian is pretty quick on the draw... I had to go check how to spell "Rossellini."

  • ||

    A good anti-communist movie is The Inner Circle. It stars Tom ??? (the guy who played Amadeaus and was Pinto in Animal Houst) as Stalin's personal movie projectionist during 1941. It is a powerful and amazing.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Boy, I always thought the greatest Hitler-Stalin-Pact polevault was the one performed by Dalton Trumbo (from Johnny Got His Gun to 30 Seconds Over Tokyo with plenty of air over the bar!), but this takes the cake.

    Mega-dittos on The Inner Circle. Great, forgotten, make-you-wanna-kill-yourself movie.

  • ||

    I suspect John doesn't base his opinion of how good an anti-communist movie is on how good-looking the lead actress is.

    Wasn't there some thing with John Malkovich as a U.S. journalist going back home to Greece, where the Reds had split up his family or something during the Greek Civil War?

  • ||

    I suspect John doesn't base his opinion of how good an anti-communist movie is on how good-looking the lead actress is.

    Wasn't there some thing with John Malkovich as a U.S. journalist going back home to Greece, where the Reds had split up his family or something during the Greek Civil War?

  • ||

    Why is no one stating the obvious? Pete Seeger fucking sucks. That shit he produced is utterly unlistenable, the kind of crap you put on the CD player when you want people to leave.

  • ||

    Sure you do, Benito. We'll weigh that against the invasions of Ethiopia, Albania, Greece and Egypt; the deportation of Jews to German concentration camps; and the suppression of civil liberties and rampant violence by your security forces.

    Which is just like Pete Seeger, whose good works need to be weighed against all the dead bodies he left in his wake...

    John, you can look up Levitt and the body of work around this subject if you want. But you won't, as your ill-informed rantings seem to be more emotionally rewarding for you.

  • ||

    "Working to end Jim Crow, while normally a laudable goal, isn't so laudable when your goal is to replace it with the gulag."

    You must hate the Abolitionists, then, most of whom wanted to either deport all the Africans in American, or force them to live without civil liberties. People do the best they can with the intellectual frameworks available to them. Some push the ball forward, and others move it back.

  • ||

    Joe,

    I don't think you are lying. I have no doubt Levit said it. I am just saying it was rediculous. It was rediculous for him to think suburbs were going to quell labor unrest and rediculous for anyone to take him seriously and object to suburbs on that basis. My point is the real reason Seeger and his ilk objected to suburbs is because the people liked them and they were provided by the market not the government. Levitt may have given them another excuse but it was a pretty rediculous one.

    Lolita Davidivich is the female lead in The Inner Circle and she is not to hard on the eyes.

  • ||

    Thanks, Joe. Invading stuff was part of the intellectual framework that was available to me.

  • ||

    Joe,

    First, the abolitionists generally get an I think undeserved bad rap in history as fanatics (how could you not in good conscience be a fanatic about ending slavery?). Beyond that, saying that we should ship slaves back to Africa or even supporting Jim Crow, while wrong, I don't think is morally on the same level as supporting Stalinism.

  • ||

    IMO, no political party (no matter the color of their stripes) has ever been at the forefront of anything except riding the coat-tails of what INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE were already thinking and acting upon.

  • ||

    Ugh... look the reason the Segers of the world feared the coming of the burbs was because it was new and there seemed to be something very anti-communal about them. Poeple would be disconnected from the cities where they worked (look at NYC, NYS leeches billions from the city and gives NOTHING back), it would continue the braking apart of the American family (anyone around here stupid enbough to srgue with that?), it would lead to sprawl and and environmental degredation (again, anyone?), and on and on. It wasn't just a knee-jerk reaction against private development. That all said, his position early on in WWII was common among many people - especially on the Right - but also on the pacifistic Left, which was a huge movement prior to that war if any of you actaully know your history.

    JMJ

  • ||

    I third The Inner Circle -- great anti-Stalinism/Communism movie. Unfortunately it's not available on DVD, just VHS. Here's the plot synopsis from Amazon.com:

    The true story of Ivan Sanchin, the KGB officer who was Stalin's private film projectionist from 1939 until the dictator's death. Told from Sanchin's view, the sympathetic but tragically flawed hero maintains unwavering faith in his "Master" despite the arrest of his neighbors and his involvement with their daughter, his wife's affair with the chilling State Security chief Lavrentii Beria and her tragic decline, and the deadly political machinations within the Kremlin he witnesses firsthand.

  • ||

    Please do not feed the trolls. Being a Communist apologist on reason.com makes about as much sense as defending NAMBLA on freerepublic.com.

  • ||

    As for the larger question, American Communists were at the forefront of many positive movements during the middle of the last century, from ending Jim Crow to gender equality to due process protections.

    That is when they weren't trying to assinate MLK, or funding racist white-wing groups (as well as militant black groups). The head of the American Branch of the KGB still proudly claims he was responsible for the assasination of Martin Luther King.

    The goal of Communism was to destroy "Capitalism" and the United States was the symbol of capitalism at the time. Specificly, the KGB would support militant groups, and extremists, of all political bents. The idea was simply to sow turmoil and destroy the country within. If they incidentally helped people in some noble cause, it was not part of the explicit goals of Communism or the Soviet Union.

  • ||

    Thanks for the history lesson Mitch. I think donkeys and sheep were used as well. By the Polish. But just for one day.

  • ||

    the actor in Amadeus and Animal House is Tom Hulce.

  • ||

    Thanks Darren. I can't believe that movie is not on DVD. It is great.

    Joe,

    One question, are you as forgiving of anti-communists who fell in with McCarthy are you are of communists who defended Stalin? Not that McCarthy was a good guy, but he was a hell of a lot better than Stalin, of course nearly every person who has ever lived is. If it was only regretable for leftists to get to cozy with Stalin, then it must not be that big of a deal for the right to have been too cozy with McCarthy, right?

  • ||

    I'm waiting eagerly for Hollywood to come out with that big docudrama about the Venona Project.

  • ||

    An interesitng comment on the "why so few anti-communist movies" meme:

    "For Billingsley, the Red legacy continues to influence Hollywood, which habitually peddles movies sympathetic to Communism; pictures like The Front and Guilty by Suspicion, prove the success of the conspiracy. This is patent nonsense. During the height of the Cold War, dozens of overtly anti-Communist movies, like My Son John and Big Jim McLain were produced, most big money losers. Though he desperately tries to argue that "the legacy of Hollywood Stalinism explains the dear th of movies about Communism," (p. 282; Jane Fonda is gratuitously mentioned in this context) films like Ninotchka, The Manchurian Candidate, most science fiction of the 1950s, Dr. Zhivago, the James Bond series, Red Dawn, White Nights and countless others suggests that Billingsley's own politics has occluded his judgment." http://www.eh.net/bookreviews/library/0141.shtml

  • ||

    One other point about the subject of alleged double standards: a lot of the obituaries of the famous architect Philip Johnson passed rather lightly over his pro-Nazi politics in the 1930's...

  • ||

    John,

    Communists who actively supported Stalin, with full knowledge of what he was up to, are lower than McCarthyites in my book.

    But even among McCarthyites, we have to draw distinctions. McCarthy himself, for example, was never about making a good faith effort to find actual communists and addressing espionage, so much as exploiting the issue as a partisan cudgel. But he had many followers who were genuinely motivated by a desire to stop Soviet espionage, as were mislead by him.

    And of course Stalin was worse than McCarthy. McCarthy just gets more bile from Americans because, unlike Stalin, he was an American, and a political leader, and his initiatives were subject to the oversight of the American people and his representatives.

  • ||

    David T,

    Interesting info about the anti-commie movies in the 50's and 60's. I knew that a lot of the sci-fi movies from that period were anti-commie alagories. Didn't know about the serious anit-red movies. BTW, didn't most of the Sean Connery/Roger Moore James Bond films have SPECTRE as the villain?

    I based my previous post on my own movie viewing memory, roughly 1977 to the present. I have seen quite a few movies with Nazis or Neo-Nazis as villains or a noble protaganist caught up in the frenzied hysteria of the McCarthy period but in the past 3 decades, I have seen very few that portrayed Communism in a bad light.

  • ||

    Benito Mussilini (If that is your real name),

    If you can find me an abolitionist or an American Communist who carried out, say, 1% of the violence you are responisble for, I'll be interested in continuing this conversation.

    You'll let me know, right?

  • ||

    Fair enough Joe. The irony about McCarthy was that he was chasing a problem that had already been solved. There really were communists in the government during the 1940s, but thanks to the Verona intercepts they were rooted out long before McCarthy ever got involved.

    David T,

    What about Mission to Moscow and the other Stalinist whitewash movies in the late 30s and early 40s? But overall, I agree, I don't think there was a derth of anti-Communist movies during the Cold War. Not all of them were bad either. The Hunt for Red October was good. The Inner Circle I already mentioned. There was another one with William Hurt as a Moscow police inspector investigating a murder that leads to a sable smuggling ring. It was good portrayed Brevnev's Russia as a pretty depressing and oppressive place. HBO made a pretty good made for cable movie about Andrie Sokerov in the mid 1980s as well.

  • ||

    It's true that the James Bond movies softened the anti-Sovietism of Fleming's novels in some cases, especially by making SPECTRE rather than SMERSH the main villain. For exemple, in the novel *Goldfinger* Auric Goldinger was the foreign treasurer of SMERSH and was going to be taken by a submarine to the Soviet Union after the Fort Knox job; this is dropped in the movie. OTOH, in the movie he has a Red Chinese scientist working for him, is explicitly stated to be in league with the Chinese (he wants to boost the value of his gold reserves; they want economic chaos in the West), and in the final scene he is planning to take the plane to Cuba. So the movie may not be as anti-Soviet as the novel but is still anti-Communist.

  • R C Dean||

    in the past 3 decades, I have seen very few that portrayed Communism in a bad light.

    Indeed, many bad guys are post-Communist Eastern European criminals. I'm thinking one or more of the Die Hard movies, Peacekeeper (that George Clooney flick where he's chasing loose A-bombs around), that kind of thing.

  • ||

    Re: horses
    Horses were used extensively by Germany and Russia for supply, especially in areas that were too torn up for trucks to navigate. You'll even see horse wagon units heavily represented in Avalon Hill WWII tactical games like Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader.

    Re: commies done some good things
    Horseshit. The commies hummed a good egalitarian tune, but they always danced an exclusionist dance. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Irish, Jews, Am-Indians, gays, women, and non-party members were welcome to help protest, but they need not apply when it came to the spoils of success.

  • ||

    Avalon Hill WWII tactical games like Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader

    Wow that is a blast from the past. Yes, the Germans did not have near the number of trucks the U.S. had. Ultimately, the U.S. won the war because of huge numbers of unglamorous but reliable and useful machines like the Higgens boat, the 2 1/2 ton truck, the bulldozer, the Jeep and the DC3 as much as anything. Thank you Detroit.

  • ||

    The irony about McCarthy was that he was chasing a problem that had already been solved.

    John, I find that a fascinating point with parallels to many Senate or House investigations. I guess the current example would be baseball and steroids.

  • ||

    "You'll even see horse wagon units heavily represented in Avalon Hill WWII tactical games like Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader."

    Heck, there's even a Winter War scenario in Advanced Squad Leader, also by Avalon Hill, that features reindeer-drawn sledges (used by the Finns), IIRC.

  • ||

    Tender Comrade, with Ginger Rogers, was an openly communist film, as I recall. Must have been made in the 40's, since WWII was the theme.

  • ||

    Indeed, many bad guys are post-Communist Eastern European criminals.

    A lot of people are ticked that on 24 the villains this year included a large contingent of Chechen separatists. They wanted the villains to all be from the Middle East. A few years ago they were ticked when the villains were Serbian warlords.

    And you can imagine the outrage in season 3, when the head villain was an insane British guy. Certain people considered it PC nonsense.

    They've only done one season of 24 where the head villains, from start to finish, were fanatical suicide bombers from the Middle East. And the season was so incredibly boring, because there was no intrigue when the characters were single-minded fanatics. They finally had to outsource the intrigue to some Chinese actors, who did their best to create a good side plot.

  • ||

    Oh, that same season had an episode where Jack Bauer's main adversary was a human rights lawyer from "Amnesty Global." The lawyer didn't want Jack Bauer to torture a mercenary that they had in custody.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Tender Comrade, with Ginger Rogers, was an openly communist film, as I recall. Must have been made in the 40's, since WWII was the theme.

    Tender Comrade was another of Dalton Trumbo's Stalinoid specials. Trumbo had an incredible forties-starting out by circulating a pamphlet that argued aggressive Finland deserved to be invaded for picking on the poor Soviet Union, and ending up by becoming a shahid for free speech. The fact that Trumbo was one of the Hollywood 10 means we can never say HUAC was completely unjust.

  • ||

    Tim,



    Did Trumbo make "Mission to Moscow"?

  • ||

    The fact that Trumbo was one of the Hollywood 10 means we can never say HUAC was completely unjust.

    No kidding. Any time I start feeling any sympathy for the blacklistees NPR goes and does a fawning interview with one. They have to be one of the most self-righteous, smarmy, arrogant gangs that ever existed.

    I had always thought America's entry into WWII was opposed by the isolationist right and Nazi sympathizers like Lindbergh,...

    While Lindbergh admired the Germans for their discipline and technological progress, he was not a Nazi sympathizer. His opposition to the war was based on his belief that it was a European matter.

  • ||

    On the issue of the films made by Communists during World War II: Tender Comrade, despite its title (derived from Browning, incidentally) and despite the communal living arrangements it portrays was not really specifically pro-Stalinist propaganda. The only film that really fits that bill was Mission to Moscow which explained that the defendants in the Moscow trials were guilty, and that the Soviet-Finnish war was all the fault of "Hitler's friend Mannerheim." A few other Red-made movies like North Star did praise the Russian part in the war effort, but this was nothing exceptional--*all* our Allies were whitewashed in movies by Communists and anti-Communists alike. You would, for example, get the impression from movies of that era that the Chinese people were totally united and Chiang Kai-shek was their George Washington.

    Indeed, one of the more interesting criticisms of the Hollywood Stalinists' wartime movies is precisely that they were so *un*-subversive. William L. O'Neill in *A Better World: The Great Schism: Stalinism and the American Intellectuals* (p. 243) quotes an article ("Mealy-Mouthed Martyrs") from the Trotskyist magazine *New International* condemning the Hollywood Ten's films for containing

    "a ton of chauvinism, jingoism, hate-incitement, anti-internationalism and flag-waving imperialist propaganda--propaganda of a kind without which the Thomas Committee [HUAC] itself could not exist. If there is today a spiritual climate of intolerance, suspicion and hatred, are not these writers themselves partly responsible?"

    O'Neill remarks that "Without accepting the Trotskyist view that whatever furthered American interests abroad was imperialistic, one may still take the point. War films, on which Hollywood Communists labored enthusiastically, did foster chauvinism and hatred of national enemies. One could say, then, that by encouraging patriotism the Communists had contributed unwittingly to their later downfall. Even so, this was more a matter of symbolic irony than of anything else. If there had been no Communists in Hollywood , war pictures would have been made in much the same way, because they were what was wanted."

  • ||

    Perhaps if Arthur Levitt (the creator of Levittown) hadn't bragged about developing a form of housing that lacked common areas in which working people could

    Hate to be a nitpicker, but I'm from Levittown and I was in school, elementary or middle, during the 50th anniversary of Levittown, it was William Levitt who created Levittown. His brother was Alfred, and their father was Abraham, so you may have been thinking of one of them. Abraham founded the company, Alfred designed the houses in Levittown, but William is considered the creator because it was his utilization of techniques he learned in the navy that allowed for such quick building.

    Here's a quote attributed to W. Levitt at wikipedia, maybe this is what you are talking about Joe?
    "No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist. He has too much to do." (1948)

    He doesn't really seem to be bragging there, I dunno, but a lot of people dislike Levitt because he forced the buyers to sign a contract stating they would never sell their home to a non-white family.

  • ||

    My Czech wife knows all to well about those ugly boxes that the Communists built having lived in one till her teen-age years. She always called them rabbit cages.

  • ||

    cOsmO,

    We only put our inner city poor in rabbit cages, but Seeger had had his way, a whole lot of us would have been in them.

  • ||

    This thread has gotten pretty far off the original topic, but I was impressed, reading the original dead-tree article (my mom buys me a subscription, I swear, I don't spend my own money on it) by the part that said that Seeger was "a Bill of Rights absolutist, on every one." (Not the exact phrasing, but pretty close.) I wondered how he reconciled that with some of his other beliefs, but evidently the author of the piece didn't.

  • ||

    JD,

    "Bill of rights absolutist". God I don't know whether to laugh or cry. What is really sad is that the reporter was so dumb he probably believes that. Bill of Rights absolutist as long as you don't count any of the rights that deal with free speech or property rights.

  • ||

    Yeah, PanzerBlitz/Leader might have had horse units. And they were about as effective as a unit of goats, and had about as much effect on the outcome. As for Squad Leader, all the mention of a finnish reindeer does is remind me of the fetish-status level of detail in that series did it in.

  • ||

    "While Lindbergh admired the Germans for their discipline and technological progress, he was not a Nazi sympathizer. His opposition to the war was based on his belief that it was a European matter."

    Not to be rude you need to read a little more about Lindbergh.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    John,

    Sadly, Trumbo cannot be blamed for Mission to Moscow, which was adapted from Joe Davies' book by Howard Koch and is one of the few truly lousy directing jobs by Michael Curtiz (at least in Curtiz' golden age). Koch was a pretty good screenwriter who, interestingly, wrote the pro-intervention Sergeant York while the Nazi-Soviet pact was still on. He also landed on the blacklist, largely on the strength of Mission to Moscow, but I suspect he was not an active and knowing tool of Stalin the way Trumbo was. Jack Warner, who largely escaped blame (in part because Warner Bros. turned out reliably anti-commie material like I Was A Communist for the FBI, Big Jim McLain, and Miracle of Fatima throughout the postwar period), has an interesting passage about FDR's support for Mission to Moscow in his book My First 100 Years In Hollywood.

    The best line about the Hollywood 10 was Billy Wilder's: "Only three of them had any talent."

  • ||

    "The irony about McCarthy was that he was chasing a problem that had already been solved."

    Actually, the problem he was chasing was Democrats in the government, not Communists, and that "problem" was still quite active during McCarthy's years.

    You really think someone who accused George Marshall of being a communist agent working for the downfall of the United States was acting in good faith to address espionage?

  • ||

    Imagine you're driving through Montana with a gay and a black person in your car. You see a bunch of guys on motorcycles with swastikas all over them. You would probably be a little nervous. Now imagine the same motorcycle guys wrearing hammer and sickle insignia. Would your reaction be the same? I doubt it. Communists in the U.S. are associated with labor unions and the civil rights movement. Nazis are associated with lynching and gay bashing. In Poland it's different, but here, who's afraid of communists?

  • ||

    So far as I can tell, no one has mentioned the best anti-communist folk song ever. Too bad it ended their career:

  • ||

    Damn it! Sorry, wrong thread.

  • ||

    Jacek - Neither of those groups of scares me, regardless of the company I'm travelling in.

    But I can understand how a biker gang might make some folks scared, regardless of whether their colors include hammers & sickles or swastikas, so I think either way your point is moot. My grandma was once scared by a Veterans Against Drunk Driving biker rally until I pointed out what their colors actually meant to her.

  • ||

    Pete Seeger was, and is, a Stalinist scumbag; Bruce Springsteen is a useful idiot.

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