Communists Given Unearned Sympathy


What is gross and, actually, quite shameful is when, say, The Los Angeles Times assigns the task to one of its staff writers, Susan King in this case, to do a very friendly write-up of someone who reportedly had been an avid supporter of everything Soviet and communist in his life but has, of course, done a thing or two in the movies that may be quite admirable. In this case, Mr. Dassin'who is now 92 and planning to visit the USA from Greece to attend an event at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in his honor, titled unabashedly, 'Written and Directed by Jules Dassin''was a communist and also directed some good movies.

Whenever I see this sort of thing done for old commies, I am always thinking, would the same kindness be extended to old avid supporters of South Africa's apartheid regime or of Nazi Germany. And the answer is, 'Of course not.' Nor would NPR be featuring conductors of symphony orchestras who have worked for the Nazi regime, as they do without apology those in the Soviet era. Nor would SkyMall catalogs feature little Nazi caps with swastikas as they now sell those with the Soviet Union's red star adorning them.

Why is there this ridiculous nostalgia in the USA and probably many other places for a regime that murdered some 20 million human beings and that betrayed all of its own ideals of equality and compassion toward the downtrodden of the world? The Soviets were a fraud from start to finish, and even the principles to which they gave totally phony lip service are mainly impossible ideals that turn out to do much more harm than good''From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.' Yeah, sure'and who will engineer that one for us all?

Now, there is that famous explanation from Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation and author of Naming Names, the book about blacklisting, in which he claims that unlike the Nazis, the intentions of the Soviets were nice. "[There is, he says] the profound difference between Marxists, who identified with the weak and spoke the language of social justice, and fascists, who identified with an elite and spoke the language of racism and violence." (p. 411)

What a crock! The Soviets had their totally irrational hatred for the bourgeoisie, inspired by Karl Marx, who himself identified the Jews as the quintessential capitalists and thus worthy of total contempt, in his famous essay, 'On the Jewish Question.' They had no interest in 'the weak,' only in the loyal, and their 'language of social justice' concerned a push for a new man who would be nothing like anyone you and I know or care about but some science fiction fantasy, an intelligent member of a bee hive or ant colony.

At any rate, both the Soviets and the Nazis were a horrible bunch, murderous as all get out, and there is no reasonable excuse for either of them, none at all. Yet so many people and institutions still find it easy to sympathize with badly treated pro-Soviets while quite properly doing no such thing for badly treated pro-Nazis. What's the reason?

Maybe it's that the Nazis had a short life and did things more crudely as they tried to advance their vicious cause. The Soviets went about it all, initially at least, with a bit of finesse, producing their murderous results by means of starving people to death, executing them on trumped up charges of disloyalty, and so forth, thus managing to obscure a bit just how vicious they really were all along. Even their Gulags had the appearance of large prisons, with something of a cover story there that had quite a few people bamboozled.

But this may not explain enough, since many of those who still have a kind attitude toward the Soviet tyrants aren't stupid people. More likely they simply share some of the perverse 'idealism' of the Soviets and to admit that the latter were a bunch of out and out thugs will amount to what amounts to self-implication. And no one likes to implicate oneself in the kind of horrors the Soviets practiced for 70 odd years.

In any case, one need not disparage the films of Jules Dassin'I especially liked his famous French flick, Rififi'to nail him for his stupid, vicious politics. When we chase down Nazis who have managed to hide after their perpetration of horrible deeds against Jews, we do not care about how nice they may have been otherwise, be this in some science, art, or business. We recognize that none of that exculpates them, not a whit. So, let's be as just as we can about this and show no kindness and acceptance toward pro-Soviets either.

Your rating: None
Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.