Fight the Memory Hole

Never, Never, Never Forget

This week will bring much attention to May Day celebrations. Those too young to remember Soviet Communism don’t understand that May Day has historically been a world-wide celebration for International Communism, and its step-brother International Socialism. When the Soviet Union still existed, May Day showcased extensive military processions in Communist regimes around the world.

It has only been 20 years since the Soviet Union disintegrated, and already the Memory Hole has begun to swallow up the past 100+ year history of the International Socialist movement. There are many, many people who wish to forget. Many want to bury the history of their own role in the movement over the years. Others simply want to protect the movement from its long and ugly history of being on the side of evil decade after decade.

Most of the liberal elite of the 20th Century worked hard to down play the evil of Communism. Today, the average college professor or liberal writer will dismiss Communist evil as a given–as if it had always been categorized as such. This is the “Memory Hole.” The truth is far more sinister.

On May Day, remember the 100 million men, women and children who were murdered or starved to death by a world-wide movement that many well-known American citizens supported, encouraged, defended, and fought for. Never forget the screams of the vanished. They are the legacy of collectivism. Those screams are an indictment of many who would prefer to bury the past. There is no rug big enough to sweep the truth under.

In 1997, a brave French publisher released The Black Book of Communism, a 757 page history of the crimes, terror and repression of this 20th Century movement. According to Gerard Alexander of The Weekly Standard:

It’s no coincidence that the [Black Book] has been received with what [editor Chris] Kutschera describes as a ‘chill’ by the French commentariat, and has been ignored by the reviewers in the leading French newspapers–Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Liberation… This is the real virtue of the Black Book and other volumes like it. They offer the details that most news media and college classes won’t….The pattern is plain: Over and over again, perceived abuses by Western societies-colonialism, the Vietnam war- are revisited in conversation and thought until they are part of our mental furniture. What happens to the crimes of others is very different. Some of them get sucked down the memory hole.

In May, 2006 John J. Miller of National Review wrote that Bard College in New York has an endowed chair named after one of the most notorious traitors in American history-it’s called the Visiting Alger Hiss Professor of History and Literature. Ironically, the man who currently holds the position is actually trying to expose the crimes of Communism, but he’s getting a lesson in “The Memory Hole.” Jonathan Brent calls himself a registered independent and says he’s never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. In 1984, after meeting writers from Eastern Europe he started publishing their work in a quarterly journal called Formations. According to Miller:

“Formations didn’t start out as anti-Communist, but it became that way over time,” he says. “A lot of our writers were critiquing Communism.” He also began publishing material on dissidents. Before long, several bookstores refused to carry Formations. “They just wouldn’t stock it,” says Brent. “It taught me about a sickness in a certain kind of left-wing politics – the notion that someone could accuse me of retrograde views simply because I was trying to defend the civil liberties of artists who were being oppressed by the state.” He may have made some enemies, but he also made friends on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

That experience led Brent to begin publishing a series of books called the Annals of Communism based on access others had gained to Soviet archives:

Their [first] book, The Secret World of American Communism, came out in 1995 – and it generated headlines around the world. The book’s 92 documents contained smoking-gun evidence that the CPUSA [Communist Party of the United States of America] was deeply involved in espionage against the United States. Furthermore, it buttressed the controversial claim by Whittaker Chambers, the man who originally accused [Alger] Hiss of spying, that Washington, D.C., was home to an elaborate network of clandestine agents in the 1930s. Other revelations included proof that billionaire Armand Hammer laundered money for the Soviets and that Edmund Stevens, a prominent Moscow- based reporter, was on the Soviet payroll. Vitally, The Secret World of American Communism reproduced documents rather than merely summarizing them.

The two items that most often end up in The Memory Hole are:

1. The extent of Communist depravity throughout the 20th Century; and
2. The details of how many famous Americans in Hollywood, the literary world, the media and politics who were fellow travelers of the movement denied or downplayed the reality, made excuses, or actually worked to undermine American influence in the world.

What is the Memory Hole? By that I mean these facts are seldom acknowledged publicly, certainly not dwelled on and actively ignored by today’s elites–often because they had friends or relatives who played a part in that history.

How come you never hear much about the history of Communism in China or the Soviet Union? Why aren’t films made about that period? It’s not an accident.

How do we put a face on the estimated 40-60 million who died in Mao’s China? Here’s just one story:

Frightful deeds were done against people called “class enemies,” including a girl and her grandmother buried alive. “Granny, I’m getting sand in my eyes,” said the child. “Soon you won’t feel it any more,” replied the old lady as dirt rose to their necks. (MacFarquhar and Schoenhals)

The recent German-made movie The Lives of Others is a rare example of a film that deals with life under communism. It is quietly considered one of the best films in years, but organizers of the Berlin Film Festival refused to accept it as an official entry in 2006 and the filmmaker, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck struggled to raise the $2 million he needed to make it in the first place. According to John Podhoretz:

…you can count on two hands and a foot the number of major motion pictures made since the dissolution of the Soviet Union that have attempted any kind of reckoning of the human cost of communism in the 20th century. Among the cultural cognoscenti across the world, there seems to be a hunger to let this subject simply slide down the rabbit hole….

I think there may be another reason for the reluctance of the makers of pop culture worldwide to reckon with communism, and that is shame. The ideological struggle against leftist totalitarianism was something that did not arouse the interest or enthusiasm of cultural elites in the West during the Cold War. Far from it; from the 1960s onward, the default position of the doyens of popular culture was a presumption in favor of the Communist struggle, as personified by Mao, the Viet Cong, Castro, the Sandinistas, El Salvador’s guerrillas, and the so-called African liberation movements.

This was not a reasoned, or thought-through, view. It was little more than fashion. And rarely, if ever, has history rendered a more devastating verdict on the wrongheadedness of fashionable Western groupthink than it did when the walls and statues came down, and Lenin was removed from his unholy pedestal.

They got it wrong. And though they may not know it, they are ashamed of it and do not wish to be reminded of it.

The list of well-known Americans with blood on their hands is shockingly large. From the arts, playwriter Lillian Hellman, director Leo Penn (Sean Penn’s father), director Herbert Biberman and author Dashiell Hammett to name just a few.

FDR’s administration had quite a few communist spies including Alger Hiss, Vice President Henry Wallace, Asst. Sec. of the Treasury Henry Dexter White, Ambassador to the USSR Joseph Davies, Frank Coe of the International Monetary Fund (who later fled to China and became a top advisor) and many others.

Famous reporters includes Soviet agent and American columnist I.F Stone (influential during the 1950s and 1960s) and Time Magazine Vietnam War correspondent Pham Xuan An (a North Vietnamese Spy). Both men are still celebrated by the Left. These are just a tiny percentage of the fellow travelers and spies from the Cold War.

Here is just one story of how fellow travelers aided evil: Actor Paul Robeson is probably most famous as “Joe” in the film Showboat (1936). He was also a dedicated communist. According to Author Mona Charen:

In 1948 Robeson traveled to the USSR after having said publicly that if there were ever a war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, American “Negroes” would not fight for the United States….

At the time of Robeson’s journey, rumors had begun to circulate that Stalin was preparing a new pogrom against the Jews. Robeson announced publicly that while in Russia he would meet with Itzhak Feffer, a Jewish Communist poet who had visited the United States during World War II as a member of Stalin’s Jewish Joint Anti-Fascist Committee. Feffer and Robeson had become friends. At the start of Stalin’s anti-Jewish campaign, Feffer had disappeared….

When Robeson asked to see Feffer in Moscow, he was told he would have to wait, that Feffer was “vacationing in the Crimea.”

In fact, Feffer had been in prison for three years and was so emaciated that he was near death. While Robeson waited, Feffer was released and given medical treatment. He was fattened up for several weeks, and only then permitted to meet with Robeson.

According to author David Horowitz:

The two men met in a room that was under secret surveillance. Feffer knew he could not speak freely. When Robeson asked him how he was, he drew his finger nervously across his throat and motioned with his eyes and lips to his American comrade. “They’re going to kill us,” he said. “When you return to America, you must speak out and save us.”

After meeting with the poet, Robeson returned home. When he was asked about Feffer and the other Jews, he assured questioners that reports of their imprisonment were malicious slanders spread by individuals who only wanted to exacerbate Cold War tensions. Shortly afterwards, Feffer, along with so many others, vanished into Stalin’s Gulag.

It was not that Robeson had not understood Feffer’s message. He had understood it all too well. Because it was Robeson, near the end of his own life and guilty with remorse, who told the story long after Feffer was dead.

Stories of betrayal, treason, and duplicity by prominent Americans such as Robeson are legion…if you are only willing to do your homework.

When you see May Day marches and rallies this week, remember the true cost.