Did Katrina vanden Heuvel think no one would notice her magazine’s affinity with friends of Joseph Stalin?
The left-wing magazine The Nation has published what it deems America’s all-time, most influential top 50 progressives. The list is very revealing. I will not mention all 50 names, which you can review for yourself, but a few are especially interesting.
For starters, it’s fascinating that The Nation leads with Eugene Debs at number 1. Debs was a socialist — a capital “s” “Socialist.” Fittingly, it was 100 years ago this year, in 1912, that Debs ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket, placing fourth in a contest dominated by a progressive Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, and a progressive Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. Today’s progressives get annoyed if you call them socialists. Well, then, why is a pure socialist the no. 1 “progressive” on The Nation’s list?
Of course, progressives really get annoyed if you suggest they bear any sympathies to communism. That being the case, two other “progressives” on The Nation’s list are quite intriguing: Paul Robeson and I. F. Stone.
Paul Robeson was a communist and gushing admirer of Stalin’s Soviet Union, a proud recipient of the Kremlin’s “Stalin Prize.” Even the New York Times could not help but admit that Robeson was “an outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union.” When Robeson in 1934 returned from his initial pilgrimage to the Motherland, the Daily Worker thrust a microphone in his face, and Robeson glowed about the new world he had discovered. The Daily Worker rushed its Robeson interview into print, running it in the January 15, 1935 issue under the headline, “‘I Am at Home,’ Says Robeson At Reception in Soviet Union.”
The Bolsheviks, explained Robeson, were new men, unshackled by the glories of Stalinism. When he got there, Robeson said he had not been “prepared for the happiness I see on every face in Moscow.” He had been “aware that there was no starvation” in Russia, but was bowled over by the “bounding life,” “endless friendliness,” and “feeling of safety and abundance and freedom” he found “wherever I turn.”
Paul Robeson had discovered sheer equality under Joseph Stalin. When asked about Stalin’s purges, which the Daily Worker’s faithful comrades characterized as warranted executions of a “number of counter-revolutionary terrorists,” Robeson retorted: “From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!”
Paul Robeson was deadly serious. To shoot such malefactors, said Robeson emphatically, was “the government’s duty.” How dare anyone oppose “this really free society” run by Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lavrenti Beria, the NKVD, the GRU, and regulated by the vast Gulag archipelago? Any such villain, by Robeson’s estimation, ought to be “put down… with a firm hand.” Robeson hoped that “they [Soviet authorities] will always do it” — that is, always employ such just executions.
Robeson told the Daily Worker that he felt a “kinship” with the Soviet Union. It was “a home to me.” So much so, in fact, that Robeson moved his family there.
It would take almost a half century more, after Robeson’s death, for Communist Party USA to publicly concede the obvious: Paul Robeson had been a longtime secret member. In May 1998, the centennial of Robeson’s birth, longtime CPUSA head Gus Hall finally, proudly revealed the truth.
In this birthday tribute to “Comrade Paul,” Hall and CPUSA came bearing gifts. “We have a birthday present for Paul that no one else can give,” said Hall, “the full truth and nothing but the truth.” And what’s that truth? “Paul was a proud member of the Communist Party USA,” stated Hall unequivocally. Paul had been a man of communist “conviction.” This was “an indelible fact of Paul’s life,” in “every way, every day of his adult life.” He “never forgot he was a Communist.” A teary-eyed Hall recalled that his “own most precious moments with Paul were when I met with him to accept his dues and renew his yearly membership in the CPUSA.”
None of this, naturally, is mentioned in The Nation profile, which blasts anyone who dared consider Robeson a communist. Such people, of course, are pure retrograde, Neanderthal McCarthyites.
Instead, The Nation insists that “comrade Paul” was a “progressive.” That is particularly remarkable for another reason: a frustrated Gus Hall had warned about progressives trying to portray Robeson as one of their own. A vigilant Hall said that communists “cannot allow … liberal, progressive” forces “to turn Robeson into a liberal. The real Robeson was a revolutionary, a Communist…. Paul Robeson was one of ours — a Communist leader, a beloved comrade.”
Nonetheless, modern progressives continue to do just that. Such are the witting depths of their self-delusion. They believe what they want to believe.
And that brings me to I. F. Stone.
Stone is listed at number 26 on The Nation’s list. Likewise, there is no mention of words like “communist” or “Soviet Union” anywhere in his profile. That’s no surprise. Stone has been hailed by liberals for decades as the literal “conscience” of journalism. The Los Angeles Times dubbed him the “conscience of investigative journalism,” and CNN’s Larry King called him a “hero.” When Stone died, an Oliphant cartoon showed him outside the Pearly Gates, with Saint Peter telephoning God, “Yes, THAT I. F. Stone, Sir. He says he doesn’t want to come in — he’d rather hang around out here, and keep things honest.”