The recent passing of Communist Party USA boss Gus Hall, who died in New York this month at age 90, confirms that, on the major conflict of our time, democracy versus totalitarianism, American journalists literally don’t know what they are talking about.
Consider selections from the obituary of Hall by Myrna Oliver of the Los Angeles Times. “Affable, nattily dressed and adept at telling funny stories over endless cups of coffee,” said the Times. Mr. Hall “mellowed with age” and “painted pictures of woodpeckers” at his cozy home in Yonkers. His “hardscrabble experiences in the logging camps, mines and mills convinced him of the rightness of communism.” But here’s the collector’s item, a true classic. Hall was “quintessentially American.” It’s not clear how it’s quintessentially American for anyone to dedicate his life to an ideology which, according to its own founders, is rule by force and terror. According to the careful count of “The Black Book of Communism,” the ideology to which Mr. Hall dedicated himself is responsible for as many as 100 million deaths worldwide. The mass graves are still being unearthed.
Not many Americans dedicate their lives to craven, slavish advocacy of the Soviet Union, one of the most loathsome regimes in history a mass-murdering dictatorship that inflicted poverty and misery on millions, and was headed for three decades by Josef Stalin, who made genocide the defining characteristic of his regime
Gus Hall, born Arvo Halberg in Minnesota, was not just a partisan and cheerleader for this gang. Stalin was his idol and his boss. Hall was a paid agent of the Soviet regime during the nadir of its brutality, when dissidents, writers and artists vanished into the gulag, never to be seen again; when troops hauled entire ethnic groups to Siberia; when Eastern European leaders were tried for the crime of being Jewish, and executed after ludicrous show trials. And much much more. Hall knew all but denied or defended all, which is what his Soviet bosses paid him to do.
Others in the Communist Party USA, an outfit founded, funded and directed by the Soviet Union, did it without pay. They did it while enjoying the rights, freedoms, and prosperity of the United States of America, a nation they regarded as “glavy vrag” the main enemy, and which they hated with sulfuric ferocity.
The Communist Party USA was and is a hate group. Gus Hall, who headed that party, was a Stalinist stooge, a paid professional liar, an agent of a hostile foreign dictatorship.
Despite his birth on these shores, he was quintessentially anti-American. This is how he should be remembered, not for quaint coffee shop jokes or woodpecker portraits. For purposes of comparison, imagine an obit of a longtime paid agent of Nazism reading, “He mellowed in his later years, believing National Socialism would come to America not by violent revolution but through the ballot box, and liked to tell a good joke while quaffing a cold beer at his cottage in Vermont.”
The anti-Semitic show trials that Hall defended took place in the early 1950s in Czechoslovakia, then a Soviet colony. Milan Kundera, a novelist from that country, observes that the struggle of mankind against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting. That should be the watchword for a new century, but you can’t remember what you didn’t know in the first place.
Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley is editorial director of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco and author of “Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s.”