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Yesterday, a diary lauding the life and accomplishments of Paul Robeson was published, and it remains on the Recommended Diary list today. I posted an extended comment objecting to Paul Robeson's unyielding support for Joseph Stalin. My comment received a number of replies, criticizing various aspects of my argument, and I feel compelled to respond at length. In my view, the historical evidence shows that Paul Robeson willfully chose to ignore the horrible crimes of Joseph Stalin, many of which were documented in Robeson's lifetime, and remained an ardent supporter of Stalin to the end of his life.

First, no one--no one--denies the brutal racial oppression under which African-Americans lived in the Jim Crow-Apartheid Era. Robeson's moral outrage against this was not only perfectly understandable, it was completely justified. But he made one of the worst mistakes an advocate of human freedom can make: he took as an ally and supporter in his struggle an enemy of human freedom even more vicious and more destructive than the enemy he was fighting.

Some of the arguments with which I have been presented are curious. It has been argued that other figures were deceived by the Potemkin Village tactics of the Soviet Communists. To this I would reply: the more thoughtful and insightful ones weren't. Bertrand Russell was initially enamored of the Bolshevik Revolution, but after a trip to civil war era Russia in 1920, he returned disillusioned. He later wrote, in an essay entitled Why I Am Not a Communist, the following:

The dictatorship of the proletariat thus came to be the dictatorship of a small committee, and ultimately of one man - Stalin. As the sole class-conscious proletarian, Stalin condemned millions of peasants to death by starvation and millions of others to forced labour in concentration camps. He even went so far as to decree that the laws of heredity are henceforth to be different from what they used to be, and that the germ-plasm is to obey Soviet decrees [rather than] that reactionary priest Mendel. I am completely at a loss to understand how it came about that some people who are both humane and intelligent could find something to admire in the vast slave camp produced by Stalin.

And yet Robeson always found much to admire in Stalin's slave camp regime. The farcical, horrible show trials of 1936-38, in which the Communist Party's surviving founders and many of the USSR's top military leaders were destroyed, were obvious travesties, utter caricatures of justice. The robotic testimony given by the defendants, implicating themselves and confessing to ludicrous charges, had obviously been wrung out of them by torture and threats against their families. Robeson's reaction to these grotesque proceedings?

From the testimony I read at the time, I believe that justice was done to these men on the whole. In the critical struggle then going on, some innocent men might have suffered, but as to the general fairness of these trials, even reliable American observers like Raymond Robbins (sic) testified.

In other words, lynching when done in a good cause is defensible. Disgraceful. Totally disgraceful. Inexcusable.

Some who questioned my comment of yesterday said that Robeson could not have known about Stalin's depredations. However, the idea that Robeson had no way of knowing about Stalin's evils is a falsehood. Despite the grotesque lies of Walter Duranty in the New York Times, denying that there was any hunger in the USSR (when in fact a horrible famine was raging), there were accurate reports coming out of the USSR (in The Chicago American, for example, and in the reporting of Malcom Muggeridge). There was the book Russia's Iron Age [1934] by William Henry Chamberlin which laid out in stark detail the horrors of Stalinism in the 30s. There was Assignment in Utopia [1937], based on Eugene Lyons' first hand reporting. And there were already other accounts coming in from people who had seen the barbarism of Stalin first-hand. Robeson ignored all of this. It contradicted his worldview, and therefore had to be discounted.

Another commenter pointed out that Paul Robeson received a postage stamp in his honor. My response: So what? The USPS made an egregious mistake in honoring such a man. And yes, the Postal Service HAS made other such mistakes. Not often, I will grant, but sometimes. It honored James Buchanan, defender of the Dred Scott decision and the worst president in U.S. history, with a stamp. Slave-owner and Native American killer Andrew Jackson was honored. Confederate traitor Robert E. Lee was honored. (And for that matter, John Wayne, Ozzie Nelson, and Rudolph Valentino were honored.) In short: what on Earth does getting a stamp have to do with anything?

Still another commenter, in response to my assertion that no one would forgive someone who had supported Hitler as fervently as Robeson defended Stalin, pointed out that Charles Linbergh, Joseph Kennedy, and Prescott Bush had done so, without damage to their careers. Point taken. Well, Lindbergh WAS ruined by his views. Joseph Kennedy was more anti-English than pro-Germany and was a genuine isolationist (which does not excuse him). And Prescott Bush should have ruined, but was not. My point remains: why should ANYONE who loudly and ardently supported Stalin or Hitler NOT be ruined? Why should they NOT be condemned?

Robeson cheered for Stalin's pact with Hitler, and then, like the rest of the Communist world, did a 180 degree reversal on 22 June 1941, the date Germany invaded Russia, and demanded all-out aid to the Soviet Union. But I guess principles are disposable, and I guess intellectual and moral consistency are for the weak.

Robeson played a concert in Prague in 1949, celebrating his good Soviet friends. His good Soviet friends were then in the process of crushing Czech democracy into the dirt, but this didn't detract from Robeson's celebration. Robeson just didn't give a damn about it.

Robeson remained a fervent Stalinist, even AFTER the following events:

The crushing of national independence and democratic movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and elsewhere in eastern Europe, by Stalin.

Stalin's attempt to strangle the people of West Berlin into submission through an illegal blockade.

The insane post-war purges inside the USSR and the preposterous worship of Stalin that accompanied them.

The Communist invasion of South Korea.

And most damningly, even AFTER Nikita Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" of 1956. Robeson could STILL not bring himself to denounce Stalin. Even then. Even then.

Robeson's "defense" of civil liberties depended on who was being threatened. From the socialist political journal New Politics (1998):

When a few years later it was the Stalinists who were persecuted by the same provisions of the Smith Act, a Conference to Defend the Bill of Rights was hastily convened in July of 1949, largely under Stalinist initiative, to solidify a defense movement. In preparation, the Daily Worker printed an editorial warning in advance that the Communist Party would not allow the forum to defend the civil liberties of "Trotskyites." Those with scruples, like I. F. Stone and Professor Thomas I. Emerson, were put on notice that such support would be considered disruptive. Nevertheless, endorsement of the Minneapolis defendants and the related case of the veteran, James Kutcher, who had lost both legs in the very "peoples' war" which the Communists invoked with such religious fervor, was not short in coming, having been proposed by none less than the chair of the conference, Paul J. Kern. Kutcher had lost first his limbs and then, due to his membership in the "subversive" Socialist Workers Party, lost his clerical position in the Veterans' Administration, his disability pension and finally his public housing. Paul Robeson, a leading World War II sentimentalist, (after Hitler unilaterally and violently destroyed his Pact with Stalin) then took to the platform and in a sordid display of Stalinist solidarity denounced adherents of the Socialist Workers Party as "allies of fascism who want to destroy the new democracies of the world. Let us not be confused. They are the enemies of the working class. Would you give civil rights to the Ku Klux Klan?" Kern's resolution was defeated.

Robeson also turned a deliberately blind eye to the vicious anti-Semitism of Stalin. Again, from the same New Politics piece:

Earlier that year [1949], Robeson arrived in Moscow while Stalin's "anti-Zionist" campaign was in full swing, a response, it was officially maintained, to an alleged plot to kill the beloved Soviet leader which was in fact nothing but a pretext for a nationwide pogrom and recognized as such by all but those too blinded by Stalinism to stare directly into the abyss. Yet, even for many Soviet sympathizers it had an unsettling effect. The famous actor-director, Solomon Mikhoels, had disappeared, and the poet Itzak Feffer was rumored to be missing. Both were familiar to Robeson as members of the "Jewish Joint Anti-Fascist Committee," which the Kremlin had launched as an emissary to its wartime allies in the West. After Mikhoels "mysterious" death was reported new questions were raised. It was to quell these disturbing rumors, that Robeson undertook his mission to Moscow.

Feffer had in fact been in prison for a year, and Robeson's original plans had to be delayed while Feffer was being fattened for the arranged meeting. Although their meeting room was bugged, Feffer, through gestures and a few written notes, let it be known to Robeson that he faced imminent execution, that other prominent Jewish cultural figures were under arrest and that a massive purge of the Leningrad and Moscow parties was underway. Robeson responded, not by canceling any further performances in Moscow, but by proclaiming his friendship for Mikhoels (who he surely knew had been murdered) and for Feffer (in prison, awaiting execution) at a Moscow concert program. That proclamation, emanating from an esteemed artist, only added to the confusion and dismay of the beleaguered Jewish community. On his return to the United States, denying rumors of rampant anti-Semitism, he announced to a reporter from Soviet Russia Today that he had "met Jewish people all over the place... I heard no word about it." He was at pains to instruct the skeptical that the Stalin regime "had done everything" for its national minorities.

The common and wholly unacceptable rationalization for Robeson's denial of Soviet anti-Semitism when he was clearly aware of its prevalence is that his silence actually served the interests of the victims. In the case of Feffer, it extended his life until 1952 when he was executed. But even if one were to give some credence to this pathetic excuse, how can one explain away Robeson's silence after Stalin's death? Ilya Ehrenberg had been given the Stalin Prize in 1952 for services rendered, above all, as a Jewish front for Stalinist pogroms. But after Stalin's death, he, unlike Robeson exposed the cruelties of Stalinism including its virulent anti-Semitism. Robeson, by contrast, not only maintained his silence about Soviet anti-Semitism but continued as a staunch public supporter of Stalinism for the rest of his life.

Look at the historical sources. Even after the full depth of Stalin's hatred of the Jews had been revealed. Robeson was STILL defending Stalin and turning a blind eye to his violent anti-Semitism. And you want to tell me that Robeson was a great man?

Upon Stalin's long-overdue death in 1953, Robeson wrote a glowing, and utterly nauseating eulogy to him. Excerpt:

Today in Korea - in Southeast Asia - in Latin America and the West Indies, in the Middle East - in Africa, one sees tens of millions of long oppressed colonial peoples surging toward freedom. What courage - what sacrifice - what determination never to rest until victory!

...Colonial peoples today look to the Soviet Socialist Republics. They see how under the great Stalin millions like themselves have found a new life. They see that aided and guided by the example of the Soviet Union, led by their Mao Tse-tung, a new China adds its mighty power to the true and expanding socialist way of life. They see formerly semi-colonial Eastern European nations building new People's Democracies, based upon the people's power with the people shaping their own destinies. So much of this progress stems from the magnificent leadership, theoretical and practical, given by their friend Joseph Stalin.

They have sung - sing now and will sing his praise - in song and story. Slava - slava - slava - Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

In all spheres of modern life the influence of Stalin reaches wide and deep. From his last simply written but vastly discerning and comprehensive document, back through the years, his contributions to the science of our world society remain invaluable. One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin - the shapers of humanity's richest present and future.

What vomit. What groveling, lying hero worship of Stalin. What a pack of God-damned lies. PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACIES in Eastern Europe? That's an obscenity. Absolutely disgusting.

Many people, repelled by the injustices and inequities of modern capitalism, embraced Communist ideas for a period. But most of those people woke up and realized that had they had been duped and misled. Betrand Russell woke up. Richard Wright woke up. Many others who had been Communist sympathizers in the 20s and 30s woke up. But Paul Robeson never did. It never occurred to him, evidently, that anyone who holds total and unlimited power, as Stalin effectively did from December 1927 to March 1953, is a dictator and an enemy of freedom. Robeson was one of the few Communist sympathizers who clung the Soviet delusion right to the very end. In my view, the true heroes of the time were the liberal anti-Communists, people who were pro-civil rights, pro-labor, and fighting for working people: Paul Douglas, Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Truman, Arthur Schlesinger, and others like them. Not Robeson. By God, not Robeson.

I should give James Baldwin the last word:

It is personally painful to me to realize that so gifted a man as Robeson should have been tricked by his own bitterness and by a total inability to understand the nature of political power in general, or Communist aims in particular, into missing the point of his own critique...

Originally posted to Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:09 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  A bit on the brusque side (8+ / 0-)

      but I too know people who escaped the influences of Stalin's grip on Eastern Europe, barely with their lives, many of them with numbers tattooed on their arms from the other evil they had just endured.

      I was troubled by not having the full discussion about the nature of how evil can flourish, perhaps even in the hearts of men who should know better. I left one comment, and was not correct to simply leave what I did in that diary - it clearly is more of a complex issue.

      While I'd like to think that Paul Robeson knew better, we'll never know that. We can learn something from these historical lessons.

      Tipped and recommended, within that spirit of learning, and trying to understand.

      •  As a Socialist I reject Communism (5+ / 0-)

        as an evil, like capitalism as capitalism truly functions.

        But you create an interesting dilemma: Robeson is bad because he praised the Soviet Union. So what of Sergei Prokofiev, who was exiled from the Soviet Union, and then later won his way back into Stalin's grace by creating this piece of propaganda music, for a propaganda movie--the propaganda movie of the Soviet Empire?

        1. Prokofiev is one of the great composers of the 20th century
        1. His contributions to the musical canon and undeniably tied to Soviet politics.

        So then, what is Prokofiev's work, and what its value?

        Corporations have been enthroned and an ERA of corruption in high places will follow -- Lincoln. -9.38, -5.18

        by Nulwee on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:16:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  if it helps at all... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yosef 52, Eiron, charliehall2
          1. The battle on the ice as described in the movie never happened, prince Alexander was a collaborator with the occupying army of the Golden Horde.
          1. Sergei Prokofiev was on the government shit list for a large part of his life.
          •  The people rec'ing your comment (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kalmoth

            ...seem to take it as some sort of victory for their part.

            The battle is far from the only inaccuracy. The movie carefully manipulates many historical facts in a dishonest way. At the very beginning of the movie, a loss by Novgorod to the Mongols is carefully shown with skulls on a battlefield, but disguised by a triumphant Prokofiev chant suggesting a Russian military victory.

            Although the Mongols were really the great terror, or at least conqueror of the time, the introduction of the Mongols for one scene is only for the slightest touch of reality. The Mongols are whisked away like yesterday's paper so that the barbaric Teutons (Germans) can be set up as the punching bag for the movie.

            Corporations have been enthroned and an ERA of corruption in high places will follow -- Lincoln. -9.38, -5.18

            by Nulwee on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:37:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  yup... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Nulwee, tardis10

              The movie carefully manipulates many historical facts in a dishonest way.

              Big time.

              the very beginning of the movie, a loss by Novgorod to the Mongols

              Never happened. Novgorod was never taken.

              •  You're right. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kalmoth

                Novgorod was not under Mongol yoke. I forgot the exact details of the battle's portrayal in the movie, and it was probably meant to be somewhere near Novgorod's backyard. What I remember is that it was a definite Russian loss almost portrayed as a victory through Prokofiev's magician skills.

                Corporations have been enthroned and an ERA of corruption in high places will follow -- Lincoln. -9.38, -5.18

                by Nulwee on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:46:28 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  "manipulates historical facts" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Nulwee

              Well, manipulates an already distorted history... Consider the source of most of the information about Nevsky, which is already propaganda, albeit in different service.  

              However, I do have to correct one thing you've said here: the film doesn't show or imply Mongol subjugation of Novgorod but, according to the opening intertitles, of Rus'.  The opening scene takes place near Yaroslavl', not Novgorod, and the Yaroslavl' region was indeed trounced by the Mongols during the 1237-8 invasion.  As for the music, I can only recommended re-viewing the movie.  Prokofiev's music in no way presents the Mongol defeat as heroic: it's melancholy and brooding.

              As for how the film treats the Mongol thing otherwise, it's a strange bit of negotiation between Eisenstein's fast-and-loose history and the propaganda needs of the state.  Remember that Nevsky was sainted for collaboration with the Mongols (his 'negotiation for peace'), so it's both the reason he's historically significant and the last thing that can be granted him by the Soviet authorities.  His bold posturing in the movie is an outright lie.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 10:44:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Leni Riefenstahl (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          auapplemac, Eiron, pico, charliehall2

          was a great film maker. But in the service of what? D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation was a ground-breaking film. But in the service of what? An artist's entire life needs to be considered in assessing his or her work.

          If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

          by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:23:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Prokofiev was utterly clueless (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kalmoth, pico

          about politics. He never understood what the Bolshevik revolution was about.

          And in one of history's greatest ironies, he died the same day as Stalin.

        •  There's all sorts of moral dilemmas presented, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nulwee

          when one deals with absolute power, tyranny, what I'd call "evil".

          There was a big dust up in Israel when Zubin Metha wanted to play Wagner in Israel, as well in the 80s. But it's interesting that Carl Orff and Chopin who were vicious in their hatred of Jews never got singled out: it was Wagner really went over the top with the rhetoric.

          And yet still, in Israel they find a way to get past this, at least most of the folks .. they got through it somehow.

          •  don't be so sure about Orff... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nulwee

            he was a supporter of the White Rose (although in the critical moment chickened out).

          •  Congratulations! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            James Allen

            You actually dealt with the comment, rather than rebounding and posting some mildly relevant comment of your own!

            I wish that other people deciding the judgment of human beings were so skillful!

            Corporations have been enthroned and an ERA of corruption in high places will follow -- Lincoln. -9.38, -5.18

            by Nulwee on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:38:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Well, part of the reason Wager gets singled out (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nulwee

            is that unlike Chopin and his ilk, Wagner wrote, extensively, about the evils of the Jews: it's impossible to get through half a dozen pages of Opera and Drama without him digressing into a passage about how Jews are ruining his culture.  Whatever the anti-Semitic leanings of, oh, the majority of European artists in the 19th century, very few took it as far, or as explicitly, as Wagner did.  

            That doesn't make Chopin a saint, but it explains in large part why Wagner gets the special treatment.

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 10:21:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  not to poop on your parade... (8+ / 0-)

      but Stalin had quite a few very smart people fooled - from H.G. Wells to Lion Feuchtwanger.

    •  true words, for which you took massive shit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yosef 52

      the comments on this diary are amazing.

      Robeson was by his own words, and those - apparently - of history, a Stalinist.

      You're being beat up from here to there and back again because of mentioning it, without presumably having enough footnotes to show either a) that Stalin killed millions of people; and/or b) Robeson didn't seem to care.

      We come well armed with... tempeh.

      by VeganMilitia on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:18:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I stand with Stalin's victims. (7+ / 0-)
    To HELL with Stalin's admirers, collaborators, supporters, and enablers.

    If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

    by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:13:02 PM PST

  •  Noticed you have no links to (15+ / 0-)

    your quoted material.  Given the hostilities between the SWP and the CPUSA at the time  I think there is quite a bit of bias in what you have offered in your attack expose on Robeson.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:16:28 PM PST

  •  pretty much (7+ / 0-)

    worst diary of the new year.  It is early though, something might trump this POS

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:18:59 PM PST

  •  His support for civil rights in the US mattered. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eiron

    His support for tyranny in the USSR didn't matter.  So he's still a heroic figure, just one with a big blotch.

    •  Supporting one the worst tyrants in history is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maxnyc, charliehall2

      merely a "big blotch"?

      Robeson gave ammunition to the racist reactionaries who claimed (falsely) that the Communists were behind the civil rights movement. It did matter. And even if it didn't, what does it say about someone who turns a blind eye to the suffering of so many?

      If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

      by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:28:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Stalin? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMarshall, Nulwee, sturunner

        worst Tyrant in history?  Where did you learn history?  Stalin was a tyrant, true, but history is long, a second tier actor by the standards of the long march of time.

        why the hyperbole?

        Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

        by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:53:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you don't think he was one of the worst (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yosef 52, kalmoth, pvlb, Mariken

          i have no idea who would be. He was responsible for the deaths of millions -- more even than Hitler.

          •  I've noticed that the people who charge (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BMarshall, sturunner

            death in the Soviet Union and surroundings from 1923 to 1945 soley to Stalin's personal account, which you have to do to reach this talley, generally have a political, virulently anti-left agenda for doing do.

            A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)

            by Boreal Ecologist on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:13:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Is evil to be measured strictly in numbers? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yosef 52, kalmoth, Eiron

              Pol Pot not quite as bad, because there were less people killed? Idi Amin? The horrible deaths in Rwanda, are these arguments?

              So yeah, Stalin systematically arranged the murder of millions, but more slowly over a longer period of time.

              Does this somehow make him less evil?

              If Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Stalin had reversed places, would any of them be more or less evil to lives of those who suffered? Do you think Pol Pot and Idi Amin killed all those people by their own hands?

            •  Huh? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yosef 52, kalmoth, satanicpanic

              death in the Soviet Union and surroundings from 1923 to 1945 soley to Stalin's personal account, which you have to do to reach this talley, generally have a political, virulently anti-left agenda for doing do.

              Stalin was in charge of the for most of the period and I believe that he set the policies that resulted in most of those deaths.  It's hard to see how you could say he's not responsible.

              Yes, anti-communism is something that pops up frequently on the right but that doesn't mean that communist governments didn't enact horrors on a truly epic scale during the 20th century.

              •  And one of those policies was expending (0+ / 0-)

                millions of lives to fight Hitler . . .

                Lives that the western allies were thereby spared, I suppose one could argue.

                The gratuitous killing of millions more of his subjects out of spite or worse, of course, is hard to justify no matter what color the sky is in one's world.

                •  This is complete BS (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Yosef 52

                  Stalin didn't decide to fight the Nazis. How do you otherwise explain the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the fact, that Stalin was taken by surprise, when we (I'm German) attacked them?
                  The policy goal of the Nazis was to kill more or less every single Russian. There was no alternative to fight, no possibility to capitulate and survive. If the Soviet Union had lost the war, roughly the same would have happened to Russians, what happened to the Jews before.

                  If there is a person, whom you should thank for the fact, that it were eastern Europeans and not Americans, who died in the double digit millions, it is Neville Chamberlain.

                  •  Stalin and Hitler always "planned" to (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    stlsophos

                    fight each other - I learned that from the History & Military Channels (which have about 27 hours of Nazi-related programming on each day . . .).

                    And they often have narrators with British accents to give the presentation just that much more gravitas - so, I'm quite certain they know what they're talking about.

            •  when i get *ad hominem* attacks leveled (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yosef 52

              against me I know I have won the argument.

              The facts are simple, there for all to see: Lenin ran a brutal police state. Trotsky was his right hand man. But neither engaged in mass slaughter of millions. Stalin did. His rule in the Soviet Union from the mid 1920s until his death in 1953 was personal and total. Would that Trotsky had been a bit more brutal; he could have marched the Red Army on Moscow and overthrown Stalin.

              Why are you defending him?

              I'm not virulently anti-left. I'm virulently anti-communist. And I make absolutely no apologies for it. And if you dispute me I'll have you explain to some people I know who escaped communist tyranny.

              •  Would that Trotsky had. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BMarshall, Deoliver47

                However, this is not an ad-hominem attack, Charlie. It was an expression of dismay that we here need to rehash this history one more time.

                My reading is that Stalin's rule was not as personal and total as people assume....of course this is true of every large modern state.  

                The diarists hatred of Stalin is so extreme that he is bent on charging countless deaths inflicted by the Germans to Stalin's account, for instance, because of military treaties. One could as reasonably charge those deaths to the victors of WWI or to the architects of the Treaty of Westphalia.

                As for the Ukraine and he kulaks, let's discuss the tens if not hundreds of millions who have starved in the past century because of protectionist agricultural policies pursued by the western europe and the USA. Who do we personally blame for those? That's the kind of thing I am objecting to. The people directly killed by Stalin's orders add up to a plenty big enough pile.

                I am not defending Stalin, except in the trivial sense of pointing out that people who insist 80yrs later on his transcendent evil typically have an agenda. As for instance, virulent anti-communism. Which for decades, up until the present day, has been and is still used to bash any vaguely leftist policy. I am sick of it. Maybe you don't do this, charliehall2 (I don't think you do) but thousands have.  Including the diarist, who just can't leave it alone.

                A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)

                by Boreal Ecologist on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:38:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Main Stream historicans disagree with you (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Oh Mary Oh

            Usually for Hitler all the 50-55 million victims of WWII are counted. For Stalin "only" roughly 20 million people are counted as victims.
            Perhaps you mean communism, not just Stalin. Mao is often made responsible (in my opinion correctly) for considerably more dead people due to policies, that produced extreme famine (and ~80 million dead).

        •  I said, "ONE of the worst". (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shpilk, Mariken, hpchicago, charliehall2

          As for where I learned my history, it was at Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

          Stalin's forced collectivization campaign, which he himself casually noted killed more people than the First World War, probably devoured the lives of 12-14 million people, including 5-7 million victims of famine in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the Don River basin of Russia. The GULAG camps, which devoured, at minimum, 4 million lives (Andrei Sakharov believed the figure to be much higher) killed people through overwork, starvation, shooting, exposure, and torture. In the period 1936-39 more than 800,000 suspected "enemies of the people" were murdered OFFICIALLY, and many more unofficially. You can find the mass graves of shooting victims all over western Russia, Belorus, and Ukraine. The Soviet secret police used every method of barbaric torture they could think of, including drilling teeth with a dental drill, breaking backs with a sledgehammer, whipping genitals with wet towels, and cutting out eyes with knives.

          In 1939, Stalin cynically made a deal with Hitler, and eventually forced the Germans to hand over 20 million non-Soviet citizens to his control. The USSR helped butcher Poland in 1939, and more than 1 million Poles were murdered either in Poland itself or in the Soviet GULAG. As the Nazis pushed into the USSR in 1941, the NKVD massacred whole prisons rather than let their inmates fall into German hands. In 1943-44 Stalin uprooted whole communities of "disloyal" nationalities, such as the Chechens, and had them moved en masse to the east. Those who resisted were burned alive. After World War II, more than 1.5 million repatriated soldiers and civilians, handed over to Stalin by gullible Western authorities, were massacred. Stalin's secret police fought a long-running guerrilla war in both the Ukraine and the Baltic States, the details of which are still sketchy, to crush independence movements there. After the war Stalin waged all out war on all cultural elements displeasing to him, and was preparing a mass deportation to Siberia of Russia's surviving Jewish population.

          Oh, and I should mention the crushing of the east European states and Stalin's green light for the Korean War.

          I call that a first tier tyrant. Wouldn't you?

          If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

          by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:11:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yosef 52, kalmoth, ybruti, charliehall2

          worst Tyrant in history?  Where did you learn history?  Stalin was a tyrant, true, but history is long, a second tier actor by the standards of the long march of time.

          why the hyperbole?

          Estimates put Stalin's victims at something like 10-20 million.  That's about on par or more than the Holocaust which had between 11 and 14 million victims. So yeah, I'd say Stalin counts as one of the worst tyrants in history.

        •  In the top 5 of the 20th Century in anyone's book (3+ / 0-)

          I would hope .. does it really matter "the worst"?

          It's sort of like arguing if GWB is Worst President Ever.

        •  Who beats Stalin ? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kalmoth

          http://users.erols.com/...

          MEDIAN: 51 million for the entire Stalin Era; 20M during the 1930s.

          AVERAGE: Of the 17 estimates of the total number of victims of Stalin, the median is 30 million.

          "brutes have risen to power, but they lie!" Charlie Chaplin

          by indycam on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:18:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Here's the thing: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, sayitaintso, kalmoth, Nulwee

    The man died, it was a eulogy and tribute on this site.

    Usually in a eulogy you don't denigrate and point out people's flaws, but celebrate their contributions.

    This diary and your comment, viewed in that light, are in bad taste.

    "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

    by ranger995 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:38:33 PM PST

    •  What? Robeson just died? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ranger995, valion, Mariken, charliehall2

      And here I thought he died in 1976. Yes, 25 years is enough time to grant anyone. I immersed myself in the study of Stalin and his millions of victims. I will not betray myself by staying silent.

      If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

      by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:44:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, I guess I got confused by the title of that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh

        diary.

        I had not ever even heard his name before I read that informative diary.

        OK, then. Ignore that last comment and get back to your arguing about Stalin.

        "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

        by ranger995 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:22:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hmm...I don't know (10+ / 0-)

    In my opinion, everyone who turned a blind eye to what the Bush administration did is pretty complicit in a lot of things.  Should we start going door to door and questioning our neighbors to see who voted for Bush?

    Your diary has a certain McCarthy-like tone to it.  Was he a perfect man?  No, but who is?  Did he stand up against some pretty tough odds at an important time in history?  Yes he did, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of my fellow citizens in this country.

    I'd rather die than give you control ~ Trent Reznor

    by JustJennifer on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:40:23 PM PST

    •  It's a long way from not being a perfect man (0+ / 0-)

      to this:

      They have sung - sing now and will sing his praise - in song and story. Slava - slava - slava - Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

      Now picture it this way:

      They have sung - sing now and will sing his praise - in song and story. Ruhm - Ruhm - Ruhm - Hitler, Glory to Hitler. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

      No, the person who stood up to tough odds was the survivor of the Vorkuta forced labor camp I interviewed in 1981. He had been brutally tortured by Stalin's secret police, and then sent to one of the worst penal colonies in the USSR. He personally witnessed 300 people being gunned down in 1953.

      You know, the same year Robeson was eulogizing Stalin.

      If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

      by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:50:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  and you are claiming (5+ / 0-)

        what exactly? That Robeson knew, or should have known about Vorkuta?  And knew you would interview a survivor?  

        Your point escapes me, sorry

        Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

        by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:56:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eiron, as I pointed out, there were important (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Oh Mary Oh

          pieces of evidence available about Stalin's barbarism IN THE NINETEEN THIRTIES. Yes, Robeson should have known (at least in general) about these things. And as for the point about the Vorkuta survivor...you utterly and completely don't get it, so why should I even try?

          If the Democrats won't fight for me, why should I fight for them?

          by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:32:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There was evidence (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ivan, esquimaux

            of fascist Germany persecution of german Jewry in the '30s , as well.  What did elected, empowered, informed national leader do?

            Robeson, was a big opponent of Fascist Germany and a supporter of the cause of Jewish persecution in Europe.  He donated proceeds from his concerts to European jewry.  

            He was right about that, and wrong about Stalin.  Call it a draw.  But folks weren't rushing to support civil rights for African Americans, while Soviet Russia proclaimed civil equality, and the US practiced Jim Crow.

            Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

            by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:04:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  i wasn't aware (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RonV, Eiron, satanicpanic, nosleep4u

        that we could only admire one person at a time.  I thought we could admire many people, for many different actions, and for many different reasons.  And last I heard a person didn't have to be perfect to be admired either.

        I'd rather die than give you control ~ Trent Reznor

        by JustJennifer on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:19:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped (10+ / 0-)

    because I don´t believe in overlooking troubling sides of a person/story we otherwise value.

    I don´t in all ways share the judgement made by the diarist.

    Counting down to DK4, Febr. the (1.st) 4th.

    by Mariken on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:45:39 PM PST

  •  I won't argue what Robeson said, (10+ / 0-)

    I do think people need to be aware of what he said. I seriously doubt Robeson knew the details of the ugliness of Stalin. He may have deluded himself as to the aspects of the true nature of Stalin.

    God knows, one can point to any number of cases where people are fooled by leaders in recent history, lead to believe propaganda and accept horrible things done in their names.

    Need I say more than just look at recent history?  

    I found J&Ks diary quite good: but I do think he should have included what you did, I was familiar enough with parts of the eulogy.  

    People can actively choose to blind themselves to part of truth to accept evil, history is loaded with cases of this happening. Robeson's life is simply more complex than either J&K or you have presented separately.

    •  An exactly what did Robeson lead? (0+ / 0-)

      what, movement, faction?  

      Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

      by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:49:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, I'd suspect Robeson had heard... (11+ / 0-)

      ...a lot about Stalin's unsavoriness.  The left was pretty much divided over this issue in the late 1930s, and it played out in the pages of several periodicals of the time.  What the diarist has not sufficiently considered is the place that being African-American could have held in Robeson's choice to remain committed to the CP.  The CP was one of very few entities that took up the cause of opposing the injustices against African-Americans that were pandemic in the US.  Many blacks affiliated with the CP because of that stronger solidarity with their struggle.  The period of the 1930s-1950s was not as clear-cut for those of a leftist leaning as has been presented in this diary.

      •  It was not a pleasant time. (9+ / 0-)

        People were being burned alive in their homes, hung from trees, denied the dignity and rights that any person should be allowed here in the US. So of course you are correct: the facts about Stalin were not know as well in those times, as well.

        And ironically, the Stalinsts that are emerging in Russia today are vicious racists who are doing the same types of things that we did in the US. [Not that Stalin and his supporters were anything but thugs, but at least back then xenophobia was not apparently a primary motivating factor].

        What Robeson would say today about these horrors would be most interesting. If one tries to overlook evil, it always comes back to bite you, somewhere.

        Irony abounds.

        Lessons can be learned, if we are willing to look at all of the truth, all of the facts.

    •  Paul Robeson can be embraced for who he was... (8+ / 0-)

      ...in all of his complicated history. He was a big big man in a tumultuous complicated time and, like all Americans of heroic proportions, he was complicated.  

      I'm a Rutgers grad and Robeson is celebrated everywhere in all of RU the campuses - a statue, the Paul Robeson Library, the Paul Robeson Student Center, a little theater, etc. There's a very complex, important story in Robeson the man, as American hero and as a complex story in a complicated and utterly insane time.

      Radicals never seem to get their due in history but given he was a target of a relentlessly fierce FBI we're forced to guess what was Paul Robeson and what was propaganda and libel.

      This isn't it, but Paul Robeson's story should be told in its entirety, often.

      "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning how to dance in the rain." (unknown)

      by kck on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:12:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It needs to be the complete story, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catesby, kck, Pris from LA, Oh Mary Oh

        with all of the complexities ..

        •  Right (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ivan, shpilk, nosleep4u

          Neither a diary pleading a prosecution nor a hero worshiping mythology suit Paul Robeson. This diary asks:

          My point remains: why should ANYONE who loudly and ardently supported Stalin or Hitler NOT be ruined? Why should they NOT be condemned?

          Suggesting that readers condemn Mr. Robeson, the man, for his position on Stalin, stated in the words of others, certainly is not embracing all of the famous and infamous aspects of Paul Robeson.

          I'm no expert, not a historian, but the life of Robeson the radical is nearly covered enough here much less the rest of such a multifaceted person, one held in contempt by people for just his skin color at the time, much less this or that political phase or quote. So this diary fails IMO. I'm not particularly judgmental by nature but generally condemnation seems a bit out of bounds when putting anyone under a microscope of critical historical review.

          "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning how to dance in the rain." (unknown)

          by kck on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:00:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  cxn (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ivan

            "...the life of Robeson the radical is not nearly covered enough here much less the rest of such a multifaceted person..."

            "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning how to dance in the rain." (unknown)

            by kck on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:06:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  kck nails it! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kck, Pris from LA

              Here's the deal, Yosef. We're not binary here. According to you, we should condemn Robeson altogether for his support of Stalin. Sorry. Not going there.

              I can recognize and honor Robeson's life and his contributions for all that he accomplished, without excusing his support for Stalin -- just as I can do the same for FDR without excusing or condoning his internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII, and just as I can recognize the monumental accomplishments of the guy in my .sig file without condoning his Indian removal policy.

              None of these men were perfect, and none of us are.

              All these things can be explained in the context of their times, without excusing or trying to justify them. An explanation is not necessarily a rationalization or an excuse. Historians have to deal with this all the time.

              You're not acting like any historian whose work I respect. I do not dispute your facts, only your conclusions. You conclude that we must judge Robeson by your standards and for your reasons. I'm not having any of that bullshit today.
               

              "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

              by Ivan on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:35:59 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  after 1956 there was absolutely no excuse (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yosef 52, dougymi, Pris from LA

      and I'm not sure there was really any excuse before then, either. The show trials, Trotsky's assassination, the blatent destruction of democracy in Czechoslovakia, which had previously been a bastion of freedom and tolerance?....How could any thinking person have not noticed that Klement Gottwald was not a liberal Democrat?

  •  What do you think of the U.S. support (9+ / 0-)

    of Russia during WW-2 ?

    But he made one of the worst mistakes an advocate of human freedom can make: he took as an ally and supporter in his struggle an enemy of human freedom even more vicious and more destructive than the enemy he was fighting.

    In Stuka Pilot , Hans Ulrich Rudel says he was amazed at all the American equipment the the Russian were driving / using as they rolled into Germany . He said he could not believe that the U.S. would help Stalin .

    "brutes have risen to power, but they lie!" Charlie Chaplin

    by indycam on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:49:50 PM PST

  •  Your diary is needed, but I can't recommend it. (7+ / 0-)

    I too am a big Robeson fan and do see him in the full context of who he was.

    I too have always been aware that Robeson's statements on behalf of Stalin and Soviet Russia were terribly misguided. I believe that Robeson may have been a bit blinded in his fervent support of freedom everywhere, that he possibly failed to take into account that the Soviets had a pretty long history of brutal oppression as well. Their motivations for supporting freedom movements had a lot more to do with geopolitics than it did any desire for racial equality.

    However, I cannot tip and rec your diary because it is not sufficiently linked and researched. The diary you cite was well researched, linked with proof and the case for Robeson as a hero was very well made. I tipd and recd that diary as a well made case. You have a good point that needs to be raised as a caveat, but this diary is insufficient to that purpose.

  •  In the fight for civil rights (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    there were divisions.  This is true.  

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:20:00 PM PST

  •  The diary was about how much better he and other (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nosleep4u, StepLeftStepForward

    blacks were treated in the soviet Union. Shows just how bad the oppression of AAs was in the U.S. Sad as bad as Stalin and the soviet union was, the way he was treated there was better. Also i recall at the time, the U.S. were allies with the Soviet union in fighting the Germans and hitler. Only shows desperation to me, that racism was so bad in this country that Paul Robeson would say the soviet Union was better. Have to remember, this country wasn't embracing black people as full citizens. So which was worse for blacks, the U.S., or the Soviet Union? Nice to be all hyped up when you are enjoying all the freedoms of this country, as compared to blacks who had no reason to be hyped up about all the flag waving, when blacks were being lynched and murdered on a daily basis.

    People were talking about how bad communism was, at the same time, were treating black people like crap here.

  •  If anything, this just shows that (4+ / 0-)

    everyone has flaws.  I tipped you because it's better to know that not BUT I have always had a problem with the way people on the left have to bring up every flaw that people on our side have whenever their name comes up.  No one is a saint.  Chaplin married a bunch of underage girls.  FDR set up internment camps for the Japanese.  Michael Moore is rich.  And so on.  I'm fine with saying, "it's unfortunate that so and so did this, but on the whole I respect him."  When I bring up some historical figure on the left and the first thing out of someone's mouth is, "well, yeah, but they did... so they suck"  I get fucking tired of it.  No one will respect the left until we stop being so nitpicky.  

    I found poverty neither attractive nor edifying. It taught me nothing but a distortion of values, an over-rating of the virtues of the rich- Charlie Chaplin

    by satanicpanic on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:47:41 PM PST

  •  Next up (6+ / 0-)

    Charlie Chaplin, film icon, or rabid marxist?

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:48:07 PM PST

  •  Most of people, heroes or not, have feet of clay (9+ / 0-)

    Kerry, Hilary Clinton and Edwards, among others, voted for the AUMF that led to the Iraq invasion that led to the death of  a million, and millions more refugees. They did this despite the evidence that showed that Bush's invasion was based on lies. Shouldn't they have known? Kerry even stated in 2004 that even knowing what he knew then he would still have voted for the AUMF.

    Even Mother Teresa could be condemned by your standard. She went to Haiti and praised the Duvaliers. She visited Albania and praised their brutal regime, including their infamous orphanages. Shouldn't she have known about the brutality of these regimes or was she blinded by her own ideology.

    Robeson wasn't perfect. Neither were those "true heroes" you cited, including Humphrey. HHH lost any credibility when, hoping to reap political benefit, he supported the Johnson's war despite his misgivings. 60,000 American and 2-4 million Vietnamese lost their lives. Humphrey was at the center of power. Robeson never was. Who has greater culpability?

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:03:05 PM PST

  •  Now tell me exactly what influence Paul Robeson (4+ / 0-)

    had in any policies or actions that supported Stalin? Remember, even the U.S and other countries allied with Stalin to defeat hitler. Did Paul Robeson influence anyone black or white to support Stalin? Are there any speeches he made to influence us? If he did, i hadn't heard of it and i am old enough to have heard about it. I didn't hear a word. Out of the two speeches i heard Paul Robeson give, not in one of those speeches did he say anything that could remotely be considered as support for communism or Stalin. He only talked about civil rights issues as they pertain to what was happening in this country. My mother was totally involved and followed Paul Robeson. All their crap about supporting Stalin is a bunch of crap (propaganda) and no better then the fools labeling him and MLK communist. All i heard or read about him, only mentioned how much better black people were treated there as opposed to here.

  •  There are two facts that are likely (7+ / 0-)

    ...being omitted.

    1. Paul Robeson was the son of a runaway slave, who knew exactly what slavery was about.
    1. Robeson died in 1976.

    This is an important issue because of what?  Somebody remembered his advocacy in the US against lynching and for civil rights?

    Save your vitriol for the living who are repeating this type of mistake.  Bitterness makes people do strange things, even when the causes of that bitterness are matters of justice.

    People are complex mixes of morality and immorality. The larger the people, the larger and more complex that mix.

    But he did have a historic singing voice.  

    And the fact this controversy survives shows that the amputation of America's left wing in the 1950s created an culture in which these issues could not get settled at the time.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:04:59 PM PST

    •  The left wing was amputated and cauterized (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett

      so that it could never grow back. And it never really has. Instead we have become a mutant, monstrous creature with a right wing and a FAR right wing - and how long can such a monstrosity continue to survive?

      If it's
      Not your body
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      AND it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 09:26:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You know what the consequences of that are (0+ / 0-)

        A bird with only a right wing, as its spirals to the ground, flies in ever smaller concentric circles until it flies up its own bunghole.  The only question is which happens first: hitting the ground or flying with its head up its ass.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Mon Jan 24, 2011 at 04:29:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I see that "anti-communism" is still (7+ / 0-)

    an article of faith for some, despite the  Cold War having ended 20 years ago.

    Yes, Communism is dead.  How's that working out for the working classes in the Capitalist modern world, now that Capitalism is the undisputed victor?

    Or is "Working Classes" too inflammatory a phrase for tender bourgeois sensibilities?

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:15:27 PM PST

  •  Interesting diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yosef 52

    To tell the truth, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I've known about Paul Robeson for over 30 years, and yet, I had no idea that he had remained a Stalinist so long after the horrors of Stalinism had been revealed. Definitely a major stain on his legacy.

    •  He didn't. He supported Pan-African (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JoanMar, nosleep4u, mallyroyal

      liberation struggles which were supported by the CP.
      The United States and Britan and France and Belgium and Portugal were repressing all attempts by Africans to throw off the yoke of Colonial  rulership.

      When I was in the Congo (Brazzaville) in 1971 - it was Socialist at the time.  Who were they invaded by?  CIA operatives based in Kinshasa.

      Throwing words around like Stalinist is the obsession of various Trotskyite and Socialist Workers Party groups - but they are really digging deep into barrels of bullshit to smear Robeson with that.

      Hell - I supported the Soviet Unions giving assistance to ZAPU, ZANU, MPLA, PAIGC and the ANC.

      Does that make me a Stalinist?

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 06:29:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The eulogy quoted in the diary (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yosef 52, shpilk

        is pretty conclusive. Only a Stalinist would say those things.

        As far as the liberation struggles cited, did Stalin himself really support any of that? If he died in 1953, that would seem to me to predate all of the struggles to which you refer? How does he get credit for that?

  •  Capitalist imperialism played a principal role... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JoanMar, nosleep4u

    ...in creating the conditions that gave rise to Stalin, and the policies he pursued.

    Lenin, like Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel, among others, appealed to the US for assistance in establishing their independence, but each was presented with outrageous demands that they accept a few well placed bribes and submit to neo-colonialism.

    When they refused, and insisted on independence, the full weight of international monopoly capital was brought to bear against them, including direct military attack, as well as funding and arming of the most despicable kinds of traitorous counter-revolutionary elements, constant attempts at infiltration and bribery to commit sabotage, and floods of seditious Faux "News" style propaganda.

    Add to that encirclement, blockade, boycott, cutting off of trade and credit, and relentless world-wide propaganda against them.

    All of these factors are what really, ultimately, caused the starvation and general deprivation, as well as the emergence of such harsh regimes.

    In each case, those nations were literally, deliberately, forced to resort to martial law and draconian measures to defend their revolution and maintain their independence.

    Hitler was even very substantially financed, and his war machine built up, by anti-semites and capitalist pigs from all over the world, especially the US, to sic the Nazis like a mad dog on Russia.

    Such conditions as these nations faced were not conducive to optimal social, economic and political development, obviously.

    Does this exonerate Stalin, and the others?  Certainly not, but it does explain a lot more accurately what actually happened.

    The US and other imperialist capitalist nations did everything in their considerable power to destroy those fledgling nations, and failing that, to cripple and retard their development, to very considerable effect.

    It seems the height of disingenuous duplicity to then point to the horrid conditions that ensued as any kind of "proof" of anything, except that our own nation, which itself was founded on heinous genocidal policies and practices, bears more responsibility than anyone else for what happened in the "Communist" countries.

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:47:53 PM PST

  •  I'm not particularly enamored... (0+ / 0-)

    ....of either communists or liberal hawks. Give me a good anarchist any day.

  •  *chuckle* Really? You are condemning a man (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mallyroyal, sturunner

    who found a country to accept him as a man when his own country treated him as less than a dog? Such passionate vitriol against a brilliant, talented man who had to seek refuge outside his own country?
    BTW, tell me again, what happened to the millions of people who first inhabited this land? What happened on slave ships bound for this land? What happened to black and brown people before the abolition after slavery? And long, long after?

    Laughable.

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 06:32:15 PM PST

  •  Very interested but need more diverse (0+ / 0-)

    sources and links.

    The most curious thing about this Robeson guy is he is almost unknown to me.

    •  You haven't been living (0+ / 0-)

      A) In a left-leaning US city from, say the 1960's and before, or b) where there were uncensored classical or folk musical programs, maybe? The Pacifica stations (KPFA Berkeley, WBAI New York) still mention Paul Robeson. Old union lefties (I have met them from Seattle, still IWW) know and play Paul Robeson's recordings. I heard his version of the trip where he met Feffer, on KPFA and the whole is in a tribute program which should be in the Pacifica Archives in Los Angeles.

  •  Eh, (6+ / 0-)

    look, I made one consistent point in the last diary: if Robeson was wrong about something, it's really his refusal after the late 50s to rescind his opinions of Stalin.  There's no defending that, and I won't try.  

    But in your case against him pre-Khrushchev there's a lot that's just plain wrong.  For example:

    Robeson played a concert in Prague in 1949, celebrating his good Soviet friends. His good Soviet friends were then in the process of crushing Czech democracy into the dirt

    That's an odd description of what happened.  Yes, there was a nonviolent coup - entirely internal, by the way, and coming off democratically elected majorities - but in the history of the Czech lands that's hardly exceptional.  (By contrast, on the eve of World War I, the leaders of Western democracy carved up the Czech lands without their knowing, partitioning the country for their own purposes.)  Why would Robeson be particularly ill-inclined toward a communist takeover of the government?  Why weren't the Czech particularly inclined to oppose it, either?  

    Despite the grotesque lies of Walter Duranty in the New York Times, denying that there was any hunger in the USSR (when in fact a horrible famine was raging), there were accurate reports coming out of the USSR (in The Chicago American, for example, and in the reporting of Malcom Muggeridge).

    And no shortage of reports contradicting these: are you going to criticize people in the 40s for not being able to jump ahead a generation, look backwards, and recognize whose reportage was more accurate?  For not knowing Duranty was wrong and Muggeridge was right?  Are you even familiar with Muggeridge's other work?

    Katyn is a great example, because it came up in the other diary as well.  By the early 50s there had been only two major sources arguing that the Soviets had committed the crimes in Katyn: the propaganda wig of the Nazi party, and the U.S. Congress.  If you're Robeson, are you inclined to believe either of these, in the face of denial from your ideological allies?  The same Congress that had put him and other Americans on the stand as part of HUAC investigations?  

    You're doing the same thing Wham Bam was doing in the last diary, trying to apply both hindsight and ahistorical assessments to the era and judge these people mercilessly.  That's fine if you want, but would that future generations cut us a little more slack.

    Me, I'll take Robeson as a complex figure who had every reason to be suspicious of anti-Soviet reportage through the early 50s, but whose stubborn refusal to see the truth afterward is his worst legacy.  You're asking too much more.

    I'll give this word to James Baldwin, so maybe you'll understand Robeson's context better:

    Maybe the fact that I was colored, too, made a difference.  All the tourists I saw in the Soviet Union except John Hope were white.  Most of the other travelers, such as the technicians and writers I saw there were white, too.  Just as the dirt in Central Asia upset [Arthur] Koestler, so it upset me.  Dirt without Jim Crow was bad - but dirt with Jim Crow, for me, would have been infinitely worst.  In the old days, Koestler and I could not have stayed in the same hotels together in Turkestan, nor ridden in the same railway compartments. ... Koestler perhaps could not understand why I did not complain as often as he did, or why I was not quite so impatient... Koestler had never lived as a Negro anywhere.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:29:59 PM PST

    •  "Stubborn refusal to see the truth"? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kalmoth, pico

      Or just too damn stubborn to admit that he was wrong?

      Ever make a really big, really bad misjudgment of someone's character, and then not want to admit it because you'd look/feel like a total fool?

      It all goes with being human.

      If it's
      Not your body
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      AND it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 09:31:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's very possible. I don't really know (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yosef 52, shpilk, kalmoth, zett, Oh Mary Oh

        what was going on in Robeson's head after Khrushchev aired out all the stuff he probably couldn't have known (like the extent and violence of the purges) that only reinforced the stuff that he did know (like the violence against Russian Jews).   Whether it was pride or stubbornness or what, the end result is that he never came around to disavowing it, and it's an enormous negative spot on an otherwise brilliant career.  There's 'flawed', and there's 'refuse to acknowledge the massacre of millions', which is a bit more problematic.

        I have no disagreement with the diarist on that point.  

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 10:02:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sayyy... James Buchanan got a stamp. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yosef 52, Oh Mary Oh

    And yes, the Postal Service HAS made other such mistakes. Not often, I will grant, but sometimes. It honored James Buchanan, defender of the Dred Scott decision and the worst president in U.S. history, with a stamp.

    But so has every single President up to Reagan, with the exception of Jimmy Carter.

    They all get stamps.  Always have, always will.  But nobody gets a stamp until they're dead:  them's the rules.

    Carter will get his when he dies.  So will both the Bush Presidents.  And Clinton.  And Obama.

    Kind of a conflative reach...

    It ain't called paranoia - when they're really out to get you. 6 points.

    by Jaime Frontero on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 09:44:28 PM PST

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