Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

Inheriting Northern Problems

The South after 1865 not only became an economic colony for Northern interests, but also fell prey to the vices associated with the relentless and unbridled pursuit of profit inherent in the Northern culture.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Inheriting Northern Problems

“During the decade of the twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

Of German and English parentage, Lincoln’s chief of staff Henry W. Halleck married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and in early 1861 was worth $500,000 from a career in railroads and banking. He predicted that the North “will become ultra anti-slavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile war to that of a civil war.” While Halleck directed the propaganda war and often withheld casualty figures from the Northern press, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H. Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries to fight against Americans struggling for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

“Politically, Old Brains served Lincoln well. When the President decided to fire a general he had Halleck sign the order; thus the general’s supporters blamed Halleck for the dismissal. Lincoln liked to assume a pose of weakness and simplicity and to give the impression that others were controlling him. When friends enquired about a military move, Lincoln would say, “I wish not to control. That I now leave to General Halleck,” or “You must call on General Halleck, who commands.”

To Horatio G. Wright, commander of the [Northern] garrison at Louisville, Kentucky, Halleck clarified the issue: “The Government seems determined to apply the guillotine to all unsuccessful generals.” Ruefully he added: “It seems rather hard to do this where a general is not in fault, but perhaps with us now, as in the French revolution some harsh measures are required.” Halleck’s realization demonstrated his growing insight of the necessary interrelation of war and politics in a democracy.

[Halleck] struggled for efficiency against [an] entrenched and powerful enemy, the [Republican] politicians, who wanted to include the army in the spoils system.

Writing to a civilian who was active in army reforms, Francis Lieber, Halleck expressed a fear that the governors would build up a “northern States rights party that would eventually overpower all Federal authority.” He had cautioned Lincoln, but “no heed [was] given to the warning,” and now “approaching danger is already visible.”

Since the North was in legalistic confusion during the war, there were other areas where Halleck needed [Prussian liberal Francis Lieber]. The government’s official policy that the Southern States had not withdrawn from the Union, meant that the Confederate armies were mere rebellious mobs and were therefore not protected by established rules of civilized warfare.

But Union generals could not slaughter every captured Confederate, or their own men would receive similar treatment when they were seized. The Northern populace needed a heavy diet of propaganda to sustain their fighting spirit and the government had to cater to them. The Confederacy’s inadequate prison camps . . . were the soup de jour on the propagandists’ menu.

Halleck contributed his share of atrocity stories. In his annual report for 1863, he said that the North treated Rebel prisoners with “consideration and kindness,” while the Confederates stripped Union officers of blankets, shoes even in winter, confined them in “damp and loathsome prisons,” fed them on “damaged provisions, or actually starved [them] to death.”

Others were murdered “by their inhuman keepers,” and the “horrors of Belle Isle and Libby Prison exceed even those of “British [floating prison] Hulks” or the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Southerners [he claimed] applauded these “barbarous” acts as a “means of reducing the Yankee rank.” Laws of war justified retaliation and the “present case seems to call for the exercise of this extreme right,” he concluded.

[Halleck’s] General Orders No. 100 were entitled] “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” [and] Southerners denounced it for legalizing crime [committed by Northern forces]. [Lieber, like Clausewitz] believed that total war could not and should not be limited [and] said that restrictions on violence – such as General Orders 100 – were “hardly worth mentioning.”

(Halleck, Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1990 (original 1962), pp. 65; 88; 102; 104; 128-131)

Incendiary Raids Over Japan

General Curtis LeMay expressed surprised at using the atomic bomb against the Japanese as he felt no military targets remained – his incendiary bombing had already destroyed nearly everything. The use of the bomb is explained by Truman’s desire “that the bomb would provide diplomatic benefits by making the Soviets more tractable” in postwar negotiations, despite civilian deaths.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Incendiary Raids Over Japan

“Army Air Force General Curtis LeMay ordered the American strategic bombers to begin night incendiary raids on Japanese cities rather than attempting daylight precision bombing of industrial centers. The [B-29] Superfortresses honed their skills in three raids against Tokyo. A single bombing raid in February [1945] destroyed at least 25,000 buildings. But the most devastation attack of the war, more deadly perhaps than both atomic bombs together, occurred on March 9, 1945.

Two hundred seventy-nine Superfortresses, sortieing from Guam, Saipan and Tinian, dropped firebombs from 7,000 feet on Tokyo’s residential areas. The paper and wood city erupted in inescapable flames. Sixteen square miles were completely destroyed.

During this single raid, approximately 100,000 Japanese civilians were killed. Many died from being scalded as they tried to save themselves by crowding into the city’s canals, which boiled. By comparison, 100,000 civilians died in the Hiroshima nuclear attack, while 35,000 died at Nagasaki. The raid lasted three hours. American Superfortress pilots and crews in the last wave vomited in their aircraft from the stench of burning flesh carried to their mile-high altitude.

Over successive days, the B-29s progressed to other Japanese cities. The United States burned Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, then Kobe. Then the bombers moved on to the lesser cities. As Japan had few [anti-aircraft] guns left, the B-29s could strike with impunity.

Citizens were warned with leaflets that their neighborhood would be razed. But few had anywhere to go. By the end of the war, nearly 400,000 Japanese civilians would be killed, mostly in American bombing attacks.

[From] April 1 until mid-June 1945, less than three divisions of Japanese held out in Okinawa, without support . . . Fourteen Japanese divisions and five . . . brigades protected Kyushu. President Truman later claimed, and many American sources agreed, that an invasion of Japan could have cost a million American casualties. This is far from accurate.

General Dwight Eisenhower said that he felt that the atomic bombing was unnecessary from the point of view of saving American lives. Admiral William Leahy, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, and Army Air General Henry “Hap” Arnold, all thought that dropping the bomb was unnecessary. Japan was broken and would have surrendered without an invasion.

The Japanese had no fuel, fewer than 10,000 trucks, almost no ability to manufacture weapons or ammunition, nor to transport supplies to Japan. They had almost no tanks left and remained wholly unable to defend themselves from air attack. Famine and disease threatened most of the population. Millions of Japanese civilians remained homeless. One by one, their cities were being razed. Japan’s air forces had been ruined, her navy wrecked. The bulk of Japan’s army was withering away in South Asia.

Nevertheless, on August 6, the first atomic bomb, dubbed “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima. [Three days] after that, the second atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” was detonated over Nagasaki.”

(Danger’s Hour, The Story of the USS Bunker Hill, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 195-196; page 443)

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

Colfax's Myth of Saving the Union

Americans in the South had no reason for repentance after being crushed militarily, and in no way did the radical Republican party which destroyed the Founders’ union of 1787 recognize the principles of that Declaration which it did all in its power to subvert.  Had there been no Republican party, the Union would indeed have been saved, peaceful Christian charity and time would have ended slavery, equality under the law would have reigned as provided in the United States Constitution, and no Northern citizens and editors would have been imprisoned in American bastilles for opposing Republican Jacobin political hegemony.

Grant’s vice-president “Smiler” Colfax would be brought down by the Credit Mobilier scandals which bribed high government officials with cash and stocks; he was replaced as vice president in 1872 with another corrupt Republican, Henry Wilson.  Colfax went on to further infamy as a political boss whose expertise was rigging elections.  Below, he accepts the 1868 nomination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Colfax’s Myth of Saving the Union

Letter of acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination, National Union Republican party, 29 May, 1868:

“The debt of gratitude [my acceptance] acknowledges to the brave men who saved the Union from destruction, the frank approval of amnesty based on repentance and loyalty, the demand for the most thorough economy and honesty in government, the sympathy of the party of liberty with all throughout the world who long for the liberty we here enjoy, and the recognition of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, are worthy of the [Republican party] on whose banners they are to be written in the coming contest.

Its past record cannot be blotted out or forgotten. If there had been no Republican party, Slavery would to-day cast its baneful shadow over the Republic. If there had been no Republican party, the free press and free speech would be unknown from the Potomac to the Rio Grande as ten years ago. If the Republican party could have been stricken from existence when the banner of rebellion was unfurled, and when the response of “no coercion” was heard in the North, we would have no nation to-day.

But for the Republican party daring to risk the odium of tax and draft laws our flag could not be kept flying on the field until the long-hoped for victory came. Without the Republican party the Civil Rights bill – the guarantee of equality under the law to the humble and the defenceless, as well as to the strong – would not be to-day upon our national statute book.

With such inspiration from the past, the example of the founders of the Republic, who called the victorious General of the Republic to preside over the land his triumphs had saved from its enemies, I cannot doubt that our labors with be crowned with success.”

Very truly yours, Schuyler Colfax”

(The Republican Party, 1854-1904, Francis Curtis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, page 507)

Hustling Northerners to Save the Union

Without resorting to financial trickery, propaganda and suppressed casualty reports Lincoln could not have sustained his destructive invasion of the American South. Unconstitutional paper money and financier Jay Gould provided the money for war — the latter used whatever means necessary to sell war bonds and demonstrated that indeed patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hustling Northerners to Save the Union

The Credit Mobilier scandal . . . brought on, or at least hastened, the panic of 1873 and turned the greatest American financier of the era into a bankrupt. This was Jay Cooke. At the time of the crash he was engaged in financing the second transcontinental railroad, the Northern Pacific.

[In the past he] showed fine judgment in his promotion of canals, then of railroads. He did well with loans to the government during the Mexican War. Then the Civil War gave him his big chance and he took it famously. In 1861, the State of Pennsylvania wanted to sell a large bond issue to finance its war effort. No banker but Jay Cooke would touch it. He sold the issue quickly, with a rousing appeal to patriotism. It was the first bond issue ever sold in that manner in the United States.

Noting his success, the federal government asked Cooke for his help. Moving his office to Washington . . . Cooke organized a spectacular country-wide campaign to sell federal war bonds to the public. He engaged brass bands. He hired spread-eagle speakers. He caused hundreds of thousands of flags to be displayed at bond rallies.

His salesmen worked on commission and were not turned loose until they had been thoroughly indoctrinated with the equivalent of pep talks and had learned at least ten ways of making non-buyers look and feel like traitors. Jay Cooke, in short, set the American, or rather the Union, eagle to screaming for money. He disposed of the bond issue of 1861, and of many more that followed. They amounted in four years to nearly three billion dollars.

What Cooke had done was to invent and bring to the management of national finance a wholly new technique – the drive. With little modification it has been used ever since. The boys in blue must be supported by fighting dollars.

From his immense commissions on bond sales and his many other activities, Cooke emerged at war’s end as the greatest banker in the country. “On the day Richmond fell, Cooke marked out the lines of a pretentious country house that was to cost one million dollars [with] an Italian garden facing a wall built to resemble “the ruined castle of some ancient nobleman.” This was the fifty-two room palace named Ogontz. Here he entertained, among others, President Grant, on whom he showered fine cigars and a plentitude of whiskey and wine.

Cooke dazzled Grant as he dazzled most contemporary Americans. He exemplified, said a critic, all of the substantial upper middle-class virtues of a people “newly given to the worship of a sterile money economy.”

One might call him also a vulgarian of money; placed in his own era, being a rich vulgarian merely made him a genuine great man. More than once, editorial writers and speakers coupled Cooke’s name with Lincoln and Grant.”

(The Age of the Moguls, Stewart H. Holbrook, Doubleday & Company, 1953, pp. 51-52)

 

No Effective Political Opposition

From its inception the Republican party was focused on power and profit for its northeastern industrial supporters who sought protectionist tariffs at the expense of the rest of the county. After the war cemented Republican political hegemony, the Gilded Age marriage of government and business begat repeated scandals of political corruption and bribery unknown to the republic of Washington and Jefferson. Today the scandals and bribery continue unabated as both parties share the spoils.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Effective Political Opposition

“With a Third World President busy destroying the future of your and my American descendants in favor of foreign invaders, there has never been a greater need in American history for a real opposition party. But in fact, there has not been a real opposition party in US politics since Mr. Jefferson sent Colonel Hamilton and His Excellency John Adams heading back north.

In the 1830s, when there was a bitter conflict of opinion and interest between a prohibitive tariff and free trade, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren wafted into the White House by declaring themselves stalwart supporters of a “judicious tariff,” whatever that might mean.

In 1840 the Whigs beat them at their own game. They announced their bold program to fight the depression: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” (I omit the War for Southern Independence, in which massive and unprecedented government force was employed to “solve” the principled opposition of Southern communities and their citizens.)

It is a fact that a firmly equivocal and nice-sounding blandness has always been one of the greatest keys to success for American politicians. When was the last presidential election in which any real issues were contested? One celebrity historian has promoted the idea that the lack of opposition in politics is one of the great virtues of the American regime.

This avoidance of ideas and principles has always been the Republican stock in trade. The Republican Party has won office claiming opposition and immediately abetted and institutionalized whatever revolution has been imposed. Whenever the party leadership has been challenged, money, electoral expertise, and cunning deceit have been employed to defeat the usurper.

In 1964, when the grass roots rose up, the leaders torpedoed their own candidate. In 1980, when there was a potential threat, the candidate was quickly co-opted. When George Wallace showed the potential of social-conservative voters, Republican leaders held their noses and successfully gathered the harvest, at least for a time, without ever having the least intention of pressing any of the issues.

When conservative Christians became politically active, giving great hope to many, they, too, were swiftly invited into the party and neutralized. For some time now the party has rested on the votes of conservative Christians and Southerners. It has never had any intention of giving these voters anything, never has given them anything, and never will give them anything.

To do so will not be respectable, would invite calumny from the press, and would interfere with the real objective: power and profits.

When George W. Bush launched an unnecessary war of aggression on the basis of lies to the American people and Congress, there was no effective opposition. The Founding Fathers would have instantly recognized this as treason – the most unquestionably impeachable offense ever committed by one holding high office.

No effective political opposition – although Bill Clinton could be impeached for a bit of ambiguous verbiage. Then both parties colluded to subsidize the financiers so that their immense wealth would not be threatened by their evil acts against the people. No opposition.

There is no reason to think that the illegal immigration juggernaut will be any different. In the future, intelligent observers (if there are any) will judge that the years of George W. Bush marked the de facto end of the American experiment in freedom and self-government.”

(The Missing Opposition, Clyde Wilson; Chronicles Magazine, November 2014, excerpt pp. 18-19)

Farmer Smith and Modern Farming

At the end of the nineteenth century the American landscape was undergoing great change as mechanization transformed the independence and self-reliance of the ordinary farmer. The tractor and combine enabled him to plow, seed and harvest more fields than before, but it came at great cost.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Farmer Smith and Modern Farming

“John Smith was a frugal farmer, and raised enough feed – corn, oats, and silage – to supply his work stock and brood mares. He never bought feed and he rarely bought a horse or mule.

John Smith first bought a car, a Ford, to take the place of his saddle horse and buggy. Next he bought a tractor, and then a trailer for use as a truck. He bought a tractor because the International Harvester Company proved to him that horses have to be fed whether they work or not. The agent showed him striking pictures of horses “eating their heads off” on rainy days when there was nothing to do, and he saw pictures of [tractors] in farm magazines.

The farmer was taught to begrudge the feed for his idle horses and mules. Moreover, the tractor and its gang of plows could turn the 130 acres in half or a third or a fourth of the time that the mules could do it. The Country Gentlemen [magazine] published beautiful pictures of tractors at work and wrote simple articles that John Smith, or his boy, could understand.

John Smith finally drove out the tractor, and the demonstrator taught him how to use it. John Smith was now using as much horsepower as before, perhaps more, but he was getting it on quite different terms.

He was buying horsepower in Detroit and Chicago and mortgaging the future to pay for it. The tractor came covered with a thin coat of paint and several coats of protection. It was protected by a series of patents that made it impossible for more than a few competitors to supply him. It was protected by a tariff that made it impossible for England or Germany or Canada to get into his field.

Moreover, the tractor was never known to have a colt tractor, even a “mule.” On top of this the tractor carried a series of profits extending from the steel mills right on up to the gates of John Smith’s farm, and John Smith had to pay for the paint, protection, and profits.

Now, in contrast to the tractor, the mule colt stood in the meadow lot and gazed at the strange contraption in awe and astonishment. The colt represented horsepower just as the tractor did, but the colt cost practically nothing to begin with. Nobody had a patent on him and he carried no tariff. He represented nobody’s capital except John Smith’s and no wages or interest were tied up in his shiny skin.

He would start paying for himself at the age of three, increase in value for six or seven years, and would continue to give good service for twelve or fifteen years and service only a little less valuable after fifteen. He was so perfectly constructed that he would never have to have a spare part, not even a spark plug. He was a self-starter and self-quitter when quitting time came.

Both the tractor and the mule had to have fuel to go on. The mule’s fuel was corn, hay, cane, straw, or what have you on the farm. John Smith raised all these things and never had to go off the farm to get fuel for this hay-burning horsepower. He raised mule fuel with his own labor, or nature gave it to him from the field and the meadow.

Unfortunately, John Smith could not raise feed for the tractor. It had to have gasoline and oil, as well as batteries and parts. All these had to be purchased in the town from the northern corporations. In short, John Smith now buys his horses in Detroit and Chicago; he buys the feed for them from John D. Rockefeller in New York.

In the meantime something else has happened. The mule that cost so little has grown up, but there is no work for him to do. When John Smith offers him for sale, he finds that nobody is willing to pay a fair price for him, perfect as he is. The neighbors too . . . are going to Chicago for mules that deteriorate rather than improve, and to New York for feed which will never be converted into fertilizer.

Though John Smith is still raising feed, he has little use for it. The brood mares have died, the mules have been sold; there is nothing left to eat the corn, cane and grass except a few cows. When John Smith tries to sell his surplus feed, he finds that there are no buyers . . . The neighbors are not using that kind of feed. They prefer the feed that comes out of pumps.

John Smith no longer raises feed. He is now planting the 130-acre farm in cotton or in wheat, thereby wearing out the soil that supports him.

Something fine has gone out of John Smith, something of the spirit of independence and self-sufficiency that was present when the mules were pulling the plow and the colt that had not yet felt the collar was frolicking in the meadow.

In reality, he has become a retainer, and might well don the uniform of his service. He raises wheat and cotton for a world market, unprotected by tariffs or patents, in order that he may buy mechanical mules, feed, shoes, and everything that he needs in a market that has every protection of a beneficent government.”

(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., pp. 137-140)

Confiscating Symbols of American Liberty

The graves of Raleigh’s Southern dead were not safe from Sherman’s army of thieves in 1865; the Northern commander of that city was no better as he ordered the graves removed lest the remains be thrown into the street. Also, anyone possessing symbols of the late Confederate States risked confiscation and arrest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Confiscating the Symbols of American Liberty

“The Ladies Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there. It was but a short while after the Federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested the Confederate dead, and ordered that they be removed at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, [with] Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made president . . . A resting-place was selected for the re-interment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there were scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures; so it was a sacred trust, most religiously kept by the young men and women, to visit these graves almost daily to see that they were kept in order.

The association grew in numbers and the interest increased. Many Confederate dead from the country were moved to this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound.

After the death of Gen. Jackson the 10th of May was selected as Memorial Day, when the citizens were to repair to the cemetery to participate in the services there. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory, every legitimate means was resorted to by the association.

This was not done without risk, as it was reported that contraband articles were for sale, such as Confederate flags, a strand of General Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general: so there would be the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran Magazine, May 1898, page 227)

CPUSA Discovers Hollywood Clout

By 1936 FDR had communist-infiltrated labor unions supplying campaign money through Russian communist Sidney Hillman’s CIO-PAC, the first political action committee in the United States. By that date the Democratic party platform differed little from that of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), and FDR’s running mate, Henry Wallace, helped attract collectivist votes to the Democrat party.  Today, Hollywood’s virtual reality programming continues its vital agitation and propaganda role.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

CPUSA Discovers Hollywood Clout

“The Communist Party [in the United States] enjoyed great success with “front groups,” organizations they controlled without that control being publicly recognized. One of the major front groups, the League of American Writers, had been an outgrowth of the American Writer’s Congress, an affiliate of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers, headquartered in Moscow. During the 1930s, at the height of its success, the League even managed to enlist Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States.

The founders of the [Soviet Union] were fascinated with the cinema because they recognized that it allowed limitless alteration of reality, the very goal they that they were attempting to achieve in real life. “Communists must always consider that of all the arts the motion picture is the most important,” said Lenin, who sent cinema trains into the Russian countryside during the 1920s. [Stalin explained in 1936 that] “The cinema is not only a vital agitprop device for the education and political indoctrination of the workers, but also a fluent channel through which to reach the minds and shape the desires of people everywhere.”

In 1926, Sergei Eisenstein, the USSR’s premier cineaste, made Battleship Potemkin, a film about a sailors’ mutiny. The Soviets used the movie as part of their labor-organizing efforts. Joseph Goebbels praised the picture and said it should be the model for Nazi cinema. French actor Yves Montand, who was born to communist Italian parents who fled France from Mussolini’s Fascist regime, said it was the dramatic Potemkin, not the turgid Das Kapital, that stirred his loyalties to Marxism and the USSR.

In 1933, at the nadir of the Depression, impoverished New Yorkers paid $89,931 in four days to see King Kong, at the time a record draw for an indoor attraction. Party cultural officials, eager as Stalin to influence people “everywhere,” duly took notice of Hollywood’s clout . . . and even Stalin enjoyed American gangster movies.

The implications of such influence were staggering to those who were seeking to extend this major movement of their time. Stalin reportedly claimed that he could easily convert the world to communism if he controlled the American movie industry.

“One of the most pressing tasks confronting the Communist Party in the field of Propaganda,” wrote [Communist International] boss Willie Muenzenberg, “is the conquest of this supremely important propaganda unit, until now the monopoly of the ruling class. We must wrest it from them and turn it against them.”

By the mid-1930s the tectonic shifts of history, and certainly the social and political conditions of the time, were all favorable to the Party, which was then moving from triumph to triumph. Hollywood loomed as one of its easier targets.”

(Hollywood Party, How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry, Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, Prima Publishing, 1998, pp. 20-21)