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Blacklisted Hollywood Traitor Whitewashed Stalinism

by Bradley Matthews

Dalton Trumbo

Purchase your copy of Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler on Amazon today!

Hollywood is at it again, promoting shady, disloyal figures whose anti-American ideologies line up with those of Hollywood. Trumbo, a new movie starring Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame, paints Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten group of blacklisted, Communist screenwriters, not as a Stalinist but rather as a victim of government oppression. We asked Allan Ryskind, author of the book Hollywood Traitors, for his thoughts on the film.

Q: The cinema world is abuzz about the new film, Trumbo, celebrating the life of  controversial screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.  Why?

A: Hollywood made this movie because Dalton Trumbo was the first Communist screenwriter to break the blacklist.  Trumbo was blacklisted in the 1940s by the film industry—meaning he couldn’t work in Hollywood—because he refused to tell the House Un-American Activities Committee whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party. He, along with nine others (who became known as The Hollywood Ten), insisted that posing the question was a violation of their First Amendment rights.  For refusing to respond to the question, each was convicted of contempt of Congress and served time in prison.

The movie Trumbo portrays him as a fearless enemy of  the blacklist who tenaciously fought the Hollywood producers and “right-wingers” who enforced it—and finally won the battle when he received credits in 1960 for two films without ever having to answer the question as to whether he had been a party member. His removal from the blacklist paved the way for other unrepentant Stalinists to get back to work in Hollywood.  Trumbo has long been viewed in Hollywood as a cultural icon who struck a major blow against oppression and on behalf of the First Amendment.

Q: Conservative critics, however, say that Hollywood is making a hero out of a dedicated Stalinist who fought covertly to bring about a Red America.  Was he, in fact, a member of the Communist party?

A: There is no question about his CPUSA membership. In the 1947 hearings, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) submitted massive amounts of material proving he was a party member, though Trumbo refused to respond to questions about his membership.In an unpublished memo among his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Trumbo writes, after his prison term and a lengthy sojourn to Mexico, that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954” and then “in the spring of 1956, I left the party for good.”

1956 is significant as the year when Nikita Khrushchev, as leader of the USSR, repudiated Stalinism altogether, suggesting that Trumbo left specifically because Stalinism was no longer in vogue. His papers in Madison also suggest that he remained an apologist for Stalin until his death, insisting that whatever his defects, Stalin’s most important historical contribution was to have advanced the cause of Socialism worldwide.

Q: What did Trumbo actually do to support Stalinism?

A: Trumbo was an eloquent defender of American and foreign Communists, and a conspicuous backer of the notorious Civil Rights Congress, a group that unleashed vicious and provable falsehoods against the American government and publicly embraced such men as Gerhart Eisler, a prominent German member of the Stalin-controlled Communist International.

From mid-1945 until the winter of 1947, he was the editor of The Screen Writer, the official publication of the powerful Screen Writers Guild, transforming that publication into a virtual Red propaganda organ, with the aid of CP members Gordon Kahn (managing editor) and Harold J. Samuelson (editorial secretary).

The Screen Writer  championed Moscow’s war aims, hailed Red screenwriters and their movies celebrating Stalin, lavished praise on Hollywood’s Red guilds and unions and launched scathing attacks against the anti-Communist community.

Q: But didn’t Trumbo prove his patriotism during World War II by vigorously supporting the war effort and writing such films as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, which highlighted the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid on Japan?

A: The CPUSA embraced patriotism only after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Stalin, as well as Communists worldwide, recognized that Russia needed America’s financial and military aid to have a chance of defeating Nazi Germany. Trumbo himself posed as a devoted patriot during the war, but he was clearly fighting for Stalin’s Soviet Union rather than the United States of America.

Once Russia came under attack, he called for massive sums of assistance for Moscow and, by 1942, echoing Stalin, demanded that the U.S.  open up a “second front” to relieve the military pressure on Russia.  Trumbo was now urgently calling for the U.S. to immediately pour American boys into German-occupied France, even though U.S. generals insisted we were not yet prepared for such an undertaking and that such a move would result in a military disaster.

Q: Where did Trumbo’s sympathies lie in the post World War II period?A: Trumbo fully sided with Stalin against America.  He supported Stalin’s military takeover of Eastern and Central Europe and he opposed every effort by the U.S. to save Western Europe from Soviet aggression and subversion.  In the 1948 election, he backed Moscow’s favorite presidential candidate, Henry Wallace, whose third party campaign structure was riddled with American Communists.  As editor of The Screen Writer from the middle of 1945 through December 1947, he ran editorials and articles favorable to Stalin and assailing those who were opposed to both foreign and domestic communism.

Nothing so underscores his devotion to the Stalin than his post-WWII unpublished screenplay discovered in his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society.  The script supports North Korea’s 1950 invasion of South Korea, whose country was eventually saved by American combat troops.

Trumbo titled his script An American Story and the heroine, Catherine Bonham, is said by her ex-husband to be an unfit mother because she has become intensely enamored of North Korea’s political system and would like to see people rise up and create more North Koreas across the globe.  She also favors North Korea’s swift and brutal invasion of South Korea, insisting the invasion, with the help of major military support from Stalin, was completely justifiable, for this is “Korea’s fight for independence, just as we had to fight for our own independence in 1776.”


Purchase your copy of Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler on Amazon today!


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