Placing Hollywood's "Martyrs" in Context
The recent beatification of the "Hollywood Ten" on the 50th anniversary of the HUAC hearings confirms once again how people of good intentions end up on the wrong side if they fail to consider the proper historic context.
The anniversary could have been a great opportunity to reexamine that context, rather than to perpetuate the myth of "victims of a witch hunt."
What was the context?
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Anglo-American philosophy of looking at the world as it is, and trying to make the best of it, was challenged by a passionate new school of thought. Instead of accepting the world as it is, this new school began to define how the world ought to be. It called itself "Socialism" and, soon, it became determined to tell everyone, everywhere how the world ought to be.
Right around 1920, Socialism split. For the most part, Russian Socialists called themselves "Communist;" German Socialists called themselves "National Socialist" ("Nazi" for short). Both formations were lead by one of Lenin's two prize disciples, Stalin and Hitler respectively. Initially, these two collaborated, knowing perfectly well that the eventual showdown between such deadly rivals could not be avoided.
(Mussolini in Italy staged a sideshow he called "Fascism" - not of global significance, except for the appellation which is widely misunderstood and erroneously applied today.)
From the American point of view, there was little difference between the branches. Both looked upon the United States - the English-speaking world in general - as their mortal enemy.
But first things first. Stalin and Hitler staged a dress rehearsal for their eventual showdown. The occasion was the Spanish civil war of 1936 and, for the first time, Americans were duped into believing that in a confrontation between two versions of Socialism there could be a "good side." Hollywood fell for it big-time, so did Ernest Hemingway and others.
Yet the case could be made that, in 1936, the more immediate internal threat to America came from National Socialists because they represented not just an ideology, but a military power with ambitions to dominate the world. National Socialists everywhere received their orders from Nazi Germany. Thus, especially between 1939 and 1945, Nazis in America were not "citizens exercising their first-amendment rights." They were agents of a hostile foreign power, and as such traitors to the country.
With Germany annihilated in 1945, the communist branch won the battle of supremacy among Socialists. It was now Communists who posed an internal threat because they represented not just an ideology, but a military power with ambitions to dominate the world. Communists everywhere received their orders from the Soviet Union. Thus, especially after the Berlin blockade of 1948, Communists in America were not "citizens exercising their first-amendment rights." They were agents of a hostile foreign power, and as such traitors to the country.
Foreign agents are hardly martyrs or heroes. Mounting evidence from books and news items confirms that America's Communists were directed from Moscow, and that they made conscious decisions to place greater trust for their (and our!) future in the Soviet Union than in the United States. Why many have done so, given that often they or their parents had to flee Russia or Germany while America offered safety and a new home, no one will ever know. Why they presumed to have a mission to alter the nature of the country that was the savior and "the last best hope of mankind," no one will ever know.
Some might excuse the adolescent enthusiasm that Socialism has always been able to evoke by promising what it calls "social justice." But there comes a time when adults have to accept the dismal reality they actually see, as opposed to the paradise agitators promise. If they do not, there is a price to pay. Blacklisting seems rather mild compared with their support of a cause which at that very moment was imprisoning half the world in a black cloud of starvation, torture, and wholesale murder.
It is neither here nor there that some of those accused 50 years ago are said to have been gentle fathers or gifted artists. Nor does the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union absolve them of the service they rendered to Socialism. The consequences of their actions live on. Here is why.
"Socialism-The Idea" is far too powerful to be seriously affected by temporary setbacks such as the defeat of the Third Reich or the collapse of the Russian Empire. For the time being, it lives on in many governments of the Western world, albeit without an official domain. America is the home it has sought for the longest time. By anointing the Socialists of yesteryear, yet another generation in Hollywood is offering to carry its torch.
This particular torch carries flames of destruction. Claims of good intentions have a long history of stoking those very flames.