In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

And that, of course, is when we made our biggest and most stupid blunder, one that cost us most of the respect we had won. —Paul Jarrico, 1997 The Popular Front groups had effectively united liberals, Socialists, a few conservatives, and all Communists in a series of organizations to elect progressive candidates, organize unions, and fight against fascism and Nazism. But the fronts had been constructed on an unstable foundation: non-Communist adherents treated it as a permanent bloc; Soviet Communist leaders treated it as a tactical arrangement. At the height of its success, in late summer 1939, a seismic jolt radiating from a Soviet foreign policy decision razed the edifice. Front groups had already come under attack from two newly formed liberal antifascist groups: the Committee for Cultural Freedom and the League for Cultural Freedom and Socialism. They conflated fascism, Nazism, and communism and branded them as totalitarian doctrines. They also questioned the commitment of Popular Front groups to the maintenance of peace. In reaction to this charge, four hundred “supporters of democracy and action” sent a letter to the Daily Worker on August 14, ridiculing the notion that Stalin would make a deal with Hitler and proclaiming the Soviet Union “a bulwark against war and aggression.”1 Ninedayslater,GermanforeignministerJoachimvonRibbentrop flew to Moscow to sign a nonaggression treaty with the Soviet Union. 3 World War II, 1939–45 He and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, “guided by their desire to strengthen the cause of peace” between the two countries, agreed “to refrain from any act of force, any aggressive act, or any attack against each other, either individually or in conjunction with other powers.” Eight days later, Molotov told the Supreme Soviet that the treaty “served the cause of universal peace.”2 On September 1, the German army invaded Poland, and two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. In the weeks following the announcement of the nonaggression treaty, Communist Party leaders all over the world desperately tried to find a way to meld the collective security tactics of the antifascist fronts with the treaty and the start of a new European war. Finally, in October, the CPUSA Political Committee announced, “The present war is an imperialist war for which the bourgeoisie of all belligerent powers are equally guilty.” It also stated that the world was no longer divided between the “camps of democracy and fascism.” Rather, the main camps were now “the anti-imperialist , antiwar, anti-monopoly camp of the working class and its allies” and “the camp of the imperialist bourgeoisie of all capitalist countries.”3 Party leaders prepared a series of educational papers arguing that the Soviet workers’ state had to protect itself from the warmongering conspiracies of other states. Party members were ordered to transform the antifascist and political organizations to which they belonged into institutions that would urge the United States to remain neutral. The National Committee declared in October that the main party task was to “keep America out of the imperialist war!” The Communists succeeded in these transformations, but at a high cost: virtually all non-Communists resigned from the Popular Front organizations, and many Communists left the party. The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League was renamed the Hollywood Peace Forum, and the Motion Picture Democratic Committee was renamed the Hollywood League for Democratic Action. In his autobiography, Dore Schary wrote, “What irritated us [liberals] was that so many of our [Communist] associates touched their fingers together and spoke piously of peace,” instead of admitting it was a temporary tactic.4 Similar chasms opened within labor organizations. 46 SCREENWRITING The exodus from Popular Front groups fed the stream of anticommunism in the United States, which had weakened between 1925 and 1938, and a new red scare commenced. In a June 1940 Fortune magazine poll, 43 percent of respondents supported some form of “drastic action” against Communists in the United States. And polls during the next eighteen months showed that most Americans believed that Communists were the greatest single menace to the American way of life.5 Echoing the Committee for Cultural Freedom and the League for Cultural Freedom and Socialism, one contributor to an academic symposium on totalitarianism labeled the Soviet Union, fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany as totalitarian states.6 Eugene Lyons, in his lengthy polemic The Red Decade: The Stalinist Penetration of America (1941), included an indictment of Hollywood in which he provided a long list of “Communist” organizations and the names of people affiliated with them.7 The...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.