It is an index to the ideological chaos among America’s fashionable elite, Hollywood annex, that Tinsel Town would come forward with a film defending one of its Communist writers.
It’s become ever more fashionable to justify the betrayal by large numbers of former stars during the period leading up to and after World War II. The rationalizations proliferate: being a Communist was simply indulging in a little progressive activity. Denying that Communist affiliation before the Congress and the public was just a little moral indiscretion. Suggesting, as in the new film about James Dalton Trumbo, his Communist affiliation had only tangential ties to the Soviet Union, is perhaps the greatest lie of all.
With any kind of objective hindsight, we now know that Soviet espionage during the 1930s and 1940s was an important part of the world struggle leading to World War II. Even more important was the penetration of Communist ideological views of how to create a just society by abandoning rules of righteous behavior. Whatever the excesses of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in short-circuiting civil rights – and they have been vastly exaggerated; no one died of “McCarthyism” nor indeed were many careers shattered permanently – they in no way vitiate the immorality of those who took up the cudgels for Communism.
Nor was it any kind of personal betrayal for that small minority of Hollywood notables who did risk their reputations and their very careers before an onslaught of calumny when they publicly disclosed what and whom they knew as part of the Communist conspiracy. In fact, many, if not most, of the Hollywood little Stalins refused to acknowledge their Communist identities or worse still lied about it. Or, perhaps even worse still, when they garnered millions by masquerading under other names to avoid the Communist label – as Trumbo did — still amassed fortunes.
It’s a laughable concept that none of this had anything to do with the horrors of the Soviet regime and its 20 million victims, the most efficient political repression ever known before it transferred its talents to Communist China. One look at the twists and turns of “the line” – that is support of the Kremlin’s political zigzags in pursuit of Josef Stalin’s domestic and foreign policies — disproves this insinuation that American Communists had little if anything to do with the Kremlin. Communist publications and their loyal readers made the same twists and turns, even when they became ridiculous – for example, accepting Hitler as an ally of Stalin’s in 1939, enabling the outbreak of World War II, but overnight, going from calling the outbreak of war “an imperialist struggle” advocating American isolationism to pushing for enthusiastic entry to “the peoples’ war”.
Trumbo and others, safely ensconced in their lavish lifestyles in the Hollywood Hills, could ignore the atrocities of the Soviet Union – and its openly avowed aim to foist its ghastly regime on the rest of the world. But the murder of hundreds of thousands of rebellious workers and peasants in concentration camps from 1918, the 1921 man-made famine in Russia causing the death of five million people, and then the deaths of another six million Ukrainians during another man-made famine of 1932 and 1933, the Great Purge from 1937 which killed almost 690,000 people, the deportations of Poles, Ukrainians, Moldavians, Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars from 1939 to 1945, were all ignored or excused by Communists the world over, not excluding U.S. members of the faith such as Trumbo.
We haven’t seen the film, and probably won’t. For in addition to everything else, this phony tale of idealism and suffering is undoubtedly a great bore. Only the excess of loose change in the Hollywood coffers and a demented view of world politics suggest why it would be made at all.