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.


    Communism is a proven failure……………eventually the people of Venezuela and Bolivia will find it out the hard way!

    There is no real good forms of government but at least in a democracy (or at least ours) you have the right to voice your opinions.

    Tony Blair: “You can measure the worth of a country by the amount of people who want to get in as opposed to those who want to leave”

  • je

    Remember, Communism is Socialism by another name.

    Also, the truth is that the left side of the Democratic Party is very closely related to and sympathetic with Socialism.

    How can these people come down hard on Communism when their own Socialism animates their policy solutions to this very day.

  • Sassy

    Hi steve,

    What does Mayday mean to you?

    • Administrator

      (steve’s comment has been removed.)

      • Sassy

        My calendar says that May 1st is Holocaust Rememberance Day. I agree that we should never, never forget.

        Thank you for getting involved.

    • steve

      child abuse?

    • steve

      Mission Accomplished?

  • Anon

    Having lived in the Communist Block for 3 years, in the late sixties and then again the mid-seventies, May Day was a big deal. We had parades and protests, sang songs (We shall overcome; Death to America, etc), and shouted slogans like “Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains”.

    Reminds me of the past when I see the unions and Portland 40 years later, singing, protesting, and marching for the very same things.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Actually if you think about it, McCarthy is considered a bigger black mark on American history than the shame that should accrue those who supported this, the worlds most murderous form of government.

    Try it some time – Accuse someone of McCarthyism, its considered a pretty big charge.

    Accuse someone of being a socialist, many will say “well yeah, but what’s your point?”

    Its astonishing that the death toll of world socialism is so underplayed. This is especially so in that, unlike the Nazi’s, socialists have committed many of their mass murders within most of those alive today’s lifetime.

    Who was around for Cambodia? Don’t like that? How about Castro? How about China? North Korea anyone?

    Its really pretty astonishing. And for those that are interested, I would strongly recommend the Black Book mentioned in the article. It is probably one of the seminal works about the evils of Socialism. When I found out it was banned from the polite intellectuals’ coffee table in France upon its publication, I knew I had to have it. Considering how many of the more murderous of the socialists got a major part of their early training in France, I knew the authors must be on to something. I was not disappointed, you wont be either. This book really lays it out and is an acknowledged as a well researched authoritative work, quite grudgingly, by even the more leftist book reviewers.

    So the next time someone tells you “well, unlike you, I care so much about the underprivileged, that’s why I’m a socialist” just pipe right up and ask them “really? so tell me, do you prefer your underprivileged worked to death? or starved to death? under whatever socialist utopia you envision”

    Yes – Rupert in Springfield gets quite a few drinks thrown in his face across the hor’s d’ouveres table.

  • John Fairplay

    What’s incredible is that this stuff is still going on today – China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela. And people defend these regimes as though they have some legitimacy or can provide some example of how to treat human beings – just as they did the Soviet Union. Reds, Pinks, fellow travelers – they are all still with us.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      So true JF. Those who try and defend these regimes they always tend to focus on things like “well, at least Cuba has health care” or something like that. I always ask them “yes, but what about the torture, gulags, and mass killings that tend to go along with it? I mean its sort of like “Yeah, Hitler was a really great guy he got Germany out of the depression, too bad about the ovens””

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Actually though, now that I think about it, there is one Socialist nation that does come in for occasional criticism, China.

    The fact that the criticism comes in the most vapid of forms – “Free Tibet” – is a little disheartening however.

    “Hey, Free Tibet Guy, I have a map here, can you point to Tibet?”

    “OK, tell you what, can you point to India on a map? I mean that’s where the Dalai Lama hangs with all his buds chilin isn’t it?”

    “No? ok, can you just point me to a decent Indian restaurant and we will just call it good, nice Che shirt by the way, the Hitler one was dirty?”

  • Anonymous

    Oh come on,,the only reason communism and/or socialism hasn’t wokred out so well is because smart people like dean haven’t tried it yet. But boy how he would like to with sweeping increased powers of the central planners.

    • cc

      Please don’t summon up the troll here.

      • dean

        “Troll” is a Scandanavian term for elf. Sometimes they are described as being hairy and ugly, although they are able to change their shape into anything they please. They are said to have lots of treasure, and live in beautiful palaces.

        This description only partly fits me.

        Au contraire…I would say “democratic socialism” has worked our pretty darn well if imperfectly in Scandanavia, with variations across Western Europe. We don’t have to wait on further experiments.

        But speaking of former communists…its Pete Seeger’s 89th birthday tomorrow. Rupert…I’ll strum a few banjo chords with you in mind, while counting up my treasure and enjoying my palace and valley views.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Yeesh, is Seegar even still alive? I had no idea. Is he a former communist? I frankly was unaware he had renounced it.

    Yes, at least with Socialism in Europe they don’t seem to have the mass killings that marked so much of Socialisms horrendous history. European countries do have the benefit of having abdicated their defense to another nation though, us. Guess that makes for lots of nice goodies.

    • dean

      Yes…Pete is still kicking at 89. He was a member and activist in the communist party, as was his father apparently. Served in the military in WW2 but only saw banjo combat (like Reagan, he was used as an entertainer). He denounced Stalin around 1950 but remains a committed socialist to this day. He has admitted he blew it in his younger days by not digging deeper into what Stalin was up to, and allowing the wool to be pulled over his eyes when he visited there in I think the late 30s.

      My favorite Pete Seeger quote:
      “I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it. But if by some freak of history communism had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in jail.”

      At this point, who are we defending the Europeans from exactly? And why?

  • Anonymous

    “”Troll” is a Scandanavian term for elf…”

    That’s nice, dean. Do you really think I was using the Scandinavian term here on this blog. Just to ease your confusion and thank you for so consistently validating the correct definition, here’s a link:

    Oh, and BTW, the post wasn’t about current European “democratic socialism”, as I’m sure you know.

    • dean

      No (on defining troll). I was using irony.

      Yes…I know what the post was about. I was responding to the responses on the post, which conflated all socialism with failed communism. In particular, Rupert stated that “…communism and/or socialism hasn’t worked out so well…”

      That is the statement I took issue with. Communism clearly has not worked out. But socialist policies have.

      For what it is worth to you (probably squat,) I view communism and capitalism as the “yin and yang” of political economy. They are complimentary opposites, and one cannot be understood or exist without the presence of the other. Neither can be a successful model for a society.

      Democratic socialism as it exists in Europe, or “welfare capitalism” as it exists here in the United States, are democratically evolved systems that recognize the need to include both sharing (socialism) and self-interest (capitalism) in order to have a functioning society that is not in serious disequilibrium. The trick for a society is to find a happy median and a good process (democracy) for maintenance and adjustment over time. By and large I think the Europeans are closer to a happy median than we are, based on the totality of well being of their citizens compared with ours (health, wealth, crime, violence, security, etc.)

      But to complicate matters, life and societies are not static, thus there can be no permanently happy median. We need opposing political parties that keep tension on each other to pull policies this way or that depending on circumstances that arise. At the moment in America, we appear to be at a point where the yin (sharing side, or Democrats) is about to gain against the yang (capitalist side). If and when this happens, it will be temporary, lasting until there is political overreach or various circumstances push things back the other way.

      We are trapped in a dance with a partner we don’t like, and the music never ends. But sometimes one gets to lead, sometimes the other. And there are rest breaks now and then (the Eisenhower years perhaps)?