Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lillian Hellman and Stalinism

Modern revisionists and those influenced by them, like Professor 1 in Ludwik Kowalski’s Hell on Earth, don’t seem to know that Stalin was guilty of mass murder and a variety of other crimes – crimes of the sort that German leaders on trial at Nuremberg were hanged for, crimes of the sort that the Iraqis executed Saddam Hussein for.

Let us consider, for the purpose of reference, Lillian Hellman. She lived from 1905 to 1984 and has a certain cachet as an American playwright. If you read the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Hellman ) you will see her described as being “linked throughout her life with many left-wing causes.

“Hellman appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. At the time, HUAC was well aware that Hellman’s longtime lover Dashiell Hammett had been a Communist Party member. Asked to name names of acquaintances with communist affiliations, Hellman instead delivered a prepared statement, which read in part: ‘To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group.”

Collier & Horowitz on pages 205-6 of Destructive Generation, Second Thoughts about the ‘60s, write, “the [last sentence above] was much quoted by admiring reviewers, who either ignored or were ignorant of the fact that for many years Hellman had willingly cut her conscience to fit the brutal style of Stalin’s fashions. She postured in retrospect as an innocent and a naïf, someone who might have been in Moscow during the worst moments of the purge trials but knew nothing about them. But she was not so ill-informed that she couldn’t sign an ad in the Communist Party’s New Masses defending Stalin’s atrocities shortly after her return from the U.S.S.R. The ad appeared a few days after the Hitler-Stalin pact and denounced the Congress of Cultural Freedom for spreading the ‘fantastic falsehood’ that the U.S.S.R. was no different from other totalitarian states.

“The problem with this revisionism is that it ignores the central fact about Hellman and other self-styled ‘progressives’ – that if they had not earlier served Stalinism or maintained a disgraceful silence about its homicidal and subversive nature, there would not have been a field on which a McCarthy could have played. In the current effusion of Leftist nostalgia and propaganda, this is never acknowledged. The realities of the Fifties are not only ignored but purposely mislaid, chief among them the fact that practically all those called before the McCarthy committees were Communists – and hence members of a fifth column directed by Moscow – and that, as Partisan Review founder William Phillips has noted, ‘what one was being asked to do was to defend their right to lie about it.’”

Interestingly, not everyone has been as kind to Revisionists as modern scholars. Referring back to the Wikipedia article, Mary McCarthy “famously said of Hellman on The Dick Cavett Show that ‘every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”


Ludwik Kowalski said...

I did not know who Lillian Hellman was. On the basis of information given above, I suppose she was one of many who believed in Soviet propaganda. In the late 1930s, the scale of Stalinist brutality and violence against Soviet people was not widely known to Western intellectuals, even to those who visited the USSR.

The present situation is very different; documented information about horrors of proletarian dictatorship is widely available. Marxism is said to be a theory based on experimental data (historical facts). Those who defend Marxism today must confront such data. What mistakes were made by Lenin and Stalin? How should the old ideas be changed to prevent repetitions? That should be their main preoccupation. Calling Soviet experimental data, such as horrors of collectivization, as "greatly exaggerated" and "cold war propaganda" is not acceptable. Soviet history, and the history of other communist countries must be studied, not ignored.

Lawrence Helm said...


I wrote another post on this subject. I don't intend to disagree with you. I agree that Soviet History and the history of Soviet activities in Communist-block countries should be studied. I don't mean to say it shouldn't. But I believe our own American history vis-a-vis Communism and the Radical Left should also be studied. It is still alive and well in the U.S. and the better we understand it, the better the chance that we might do something to curtail it. Our own revisionists are as active as their Russian comrades.