The CPUSA Discovers Hollywood Clout

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

The CPUSA Discovers Hollywood Clout
Bernhard-Thuersam-PhotoBy the mid-1930s FDR had communist-infiltrated labor unions supplying campaign money through Russian communist Sidney Hillman’s CIO-PAC, the first political action committee. FDR’s running mate, Henry Wallace, helped attract collectivist votes to the Democrat party.  Today the Democrat party’s platform differs little from the 1936 CPUSA platform, and Hollywood remains a staunch supporter of the Democrats.
 Bernhard Thuersam
The CPUSA Discovers Hollywood Clout
“The Communist Party [CPUSA] enjoyed great success with “front groups,” organizations they controlled without that control being publicly recognized.  One of the major front groups, the League of American Writers, had been an outgrowth of the American Writer’s Congress, an affiliate of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers, headquartered in Moscow.  During the 1930s, at the height of its success, the League even managed to enlist Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States.
The founders of the [Soviet Union] were fascinated with the cinema because they recognized that it allowed limitless alteration of reality, the very goal they that they were attempting to achieve in real life.

“Communists must always consider that of all the arts the motion picture is the most important,” said Lenin, who sent cinema trains into the Russian countryside during the 1920s. [Stalin explained in 1936 that] “The cinema is not only a vital agitprop device for the education and political indoctrination of the workers, but also a fluent channel through which to reach the minds and shape the desires of people everywhere.”
In 1926, Sergei Eisenstein, the USSR’s premier cineaste, made Battleship Potemkin, a film about a sailors’ mutiny.  The Soviets used the movie as part of their labor-organizing efforts.  Joseph Goebbels praised the picture and said it should be the model for Nazi cinema.  French actor Yves Montand, who was born to communist Italian parents who fled France from Mussolini’s Fascist regime, said it was the dramatic Potemkin, not the turgid Das Kapital, that stirred his loyalties to Marxism and the USSR.
In 1933, at the nadir of the Depression, impoverished New Yorkers paid $89,931 in four days to see King Kong, at the time a record draw for an indoor attraction. Party cultural officials, eager as Stalin to influence people “everywhere,” duly took notice of Hollywood’s clout . . . and even Stalin enjoyed American gangster movies.
The implications of such influence were staggering to those who were seeking to extend this major movement of their time.  Stalin reportedly claimed that he could easily convert the world to communism if he controlled the American movie industry.
“One of the most pressing tasks confronting the Communist Party in the field of Propaganda,” wrote [Communist International] boss Willie Muenzenberg, “is the conquest of this supremely important propaganda unit, until now the monopoly of the ruling class.  We must wrest it from them and turn it against them.”
By the mid-1930s the tectonic shifts of history, and certainly the social and political conditions of the time, were all favorable to the Party, which was then moving from triumph to triumph.  Hollywood loomed as one of its easier targets.”
(Hollywood Party, How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry, Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, Prima Publishing, 1998, pp. 20-21)
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Submitted by: Bernhard Thuersam, Director Cape Fear Historical Institute

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