Category Archives: Communist Party USA

Death of a Stalinist

Bill Mardo (1923-2012)
and his vozhd  1878-1953

It seems that a Mr. Bill Mardo, né William Bloom, died in New York on January 20 of this year.  Seven days later the New York Times ran a 750-word obituary on the gentleman which may well be the most mindless obit ever written.

It seems that this Mr. Mardo was one of three such comrades who wrote columns in the Daily Worker during the nineteen fifties in which they urged that African-American baseball players be hired by the major leagues.  Obviously, the failure of the baseball industry to accomplish integration so late was shameful.  But did this comrade have anything to do with the belated integration of black players ?  The NYT obit has no doubt that he played a leading part.  But the obit writer here, Richard Goldstein, seems blissfully ignorant of the actual role of the American Communist Party in mid twentieth century America.
During the whole period of Mardo’s tenure at the Daily Worker, the Communists constituted a small conspiratorial group totally devoted to the interests of the Soviet Union and to Stalin.  Any interest they had in African Americans was consistently subordinated to their devotion to the Soviets. The details of the Communist stance of “the Negro question” has been documented by a number of historians;  a very convenient source is Maurice Isserman’s Which Side Were you On ? (1982).  Mr. Goldstein has either never read these sources or has chosen to disregard them.

Mr. Goldstein does furnish some details of Mardo’s life that should have aroused at least some curiosity.   But no, to Goldstein everything appears to be as normal and American as apple pie.

On Mardo’s name change, this is what Goldstein writes:  

Mr. Mardo was born William Bloom in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 1923 …. He changed his name to Mardo as a tribute to his sisters Marion and Doris when he began his career in journalism …

As a tribute to his sisters !  What could be more natural than that ?  What loving brother could possibly do less than change his last name to honor his sisters ?  The fact that Communists in that era took on “party names” for conspiratorial reasons does not seem to be known by Mr. Goldstein.  In the case of Jewish Communists, the party names were almost invariably “Americanized” to hide the Jewish origins of these comrades.
And then, somewhat later, 

He left the newspaper to work as a Washington reporter for the Soviet news agency Tass in the early 1950’s ..

Again, what could be more normal, more American, than to have a young American reporter (who by the way never went to college and never learned other languages, as far as we know) to work for the Soviets in Washington ?  And no, Mr. Goldstein has never heard of just what the Soviets were up to in those days of the Cold War.  Why mention a thing like that, anyway ?
But it does seem that this generation of readers needs to be reminded of just what the CPUSA was doing in those days, especially in regard to the civil rights of African Americans.  An African American sociologist of the time, Horace Cayton Jr., put it most succinctly:

… the record shows that where and when the Communists seemed to be fighting for Negro rights, their objective was simply to strengthen the hand of Russia.  When this was accomplished, they abandoned the fight and turned to somethings else …  (cited in Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were you On ? 1982)

While the CP gave verbal support to civil rights issues before 1941, such support was  muted after the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany on June 22 of that year.  Overnight,  support for the war became the overriding issue. The Communists throughout were antagonistic to the  Civil Rights movement of A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.  Just before June of 1941, these two leaders were denounced by the CP as “war mongers” because they were sympathetic to the cause of the Allies while Stalin was in a pact with Hitler.  After June of 1941, these Black leaders were denounced by the comrades as insufficiently pro-war.

And, obviously, neither the Daily Worker, nor its Comrade Mardo, could find any fault whatever in the Soviet Gulag, nor in the Soviet oppression of Jews.  In this they were in stark opposition to the whole Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.   The last words have to go to Martin Luther King, who wrote in support of the Soviet Jewry movement:

The New York Times 

January 16, 1965

I am profoundly shocked by the treatment of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union. I would like strongly to endorse the moral protest and appeal of conscience to the Soviet Union published as an advertisement in The Times Jan. 14.I should like to add my voice to the list of distinguished Americans of all faiths who have called the injustices perpetrated against the Jewish community in the Soviet Union to the attention of the world.
The struggle of the Negro people for freedom is inextricably interwoven with the universal struggle of all peoples to be free from discrimination and oppression. The Jewish people must be given their full rights as Soviet citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. itself.
The anti-Jewish tone of the economic trials must cease. The free functioning of synagogues should be permitted. There should be no interference with the performance of sacred rites. The religious and cultural freedom of this old Jewish community should be re-established.
In the name of humanity, I urge that the Soviet Government end all the discriminatory measures against its Jewish community. I will not remain silent in the face of injustice.

Martin Luther King Jr.Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 14, 1965

The American Communists, 2010

Apparently THEY think that they’re still alive

Things to watch for in this revealing little video:

1) Watch them sing “We Shall not Be Moved.” I heard them — the comrades of the CPUSA — sing the very same song in 1940, but the words were “Browder is our leader, we shall not be moved…” Today, Browder is no longer mentioned by these folks. He has been air-brushed out of their history.
2) Watch the demeanor of the comrades when they sing the Internationale. Those are still the holy words to them.
3) And finally, where are all those starry-eyed, good looking young people of yore ? Not in this crowd.

Do you have it in your heart to spare them a little pity ? (I don’t, actually)

Stalin, Robeson, and Me

Fifty-seven years ago this month Joseph Stalin died in Moscow, on March 5, 1953. I was a sociology graduate student, aged 26, just recently married, not yet a father (though expecting). Those Stalinists in New York, whom I had encountered at CCNY and elsewhere, were of professional interest to me (as were Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Plymouth Brethren, etc. etc.). How would the Stalinists react to the death of their “great leader” ? I decided to make some observations.

By coincidence, a large public meeting had previously been planned by one of the Communist front organizations to take place on what turned out to be a day or two after Stalin’s death. The venue was a large hall in Harlem, and Paul Robeson (whom the Communists had not yet revealed as a secret party member) was the scheduled speaker. I decided to attend. Would there be tears for the newly-late leader ? Would there be great public grief ? I wanted to know and I went up to Harlem to find out.

What a surprise ! The comrades arrived on time, maybe a couple of thousand, and sat politely through routine speeches without there being a single mention of Stalin. Finally Paul Robeson got up, and in the first sentence of his speech declaimed the death of “the great Stalin.” Well, at that moment there was loud applause, a standing applause, but applause no different from that accompanying other points that the various CP speakers had emphasized.

I concluded that these New York Stalinists were devoted to their party and its discipline, but that they lacked any warm emotional tie to the man whom they had seen praised, so many times, in the Daily Worker and elsewhere, as Coryphaeus of Science, Father of Nations, Brilliant Genius of Humanity, Great Architect of Communism, Gardener of Human Happiness. The cult of personality, I concluded, was thin and arid, at least among the New York comrades.

Earl Browder, being interviewed by Mike Wallace, 1957

I have just discovered this fascinating video.

It’s sort of long, but what an experience !

Earl Browder was the boss of the American Communist Party for fifteen years prior to his sudden expulsion in 1945. Why and how did this take place ? The issue is explored by John Earl Haynes: Moscow was displeased by some independent thinking on the part of Browder. He was warned by the Kremlin, ignored the warning, and was then unceremoniously kicked out.

Hating Israel, Loving Obama

The Frozen Smile

Barak Obama has said, more than once, and in unmistakable language, that he supports Israel’s right to exist and Israel’s right to defend itself. But the funny thing is that (at least some of) those who hate Israel and who don’t think that it has any right to defend itself nevertheless love and endorse Obama. Do they know something about Obama that perhaps Obama himself either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to say ?

First and perhaps foremost, there is Jimmy “Frozen-Smile” Carter, who thinks that Israel practices “apartheid” and is solely responsible for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It has been announced that Carter will be one of the main speakers at the Denver convention to endorse Obama, although, as of this writing, it appears that he has been told not to mention the word “Israel.” The Soviets, before passing out of history, experienced a thaw. Can we hope as much from Carter and/or his smile ? Hope again.

[Update, Aug. 28: In the end, the Forward reports, the Dems decided to honor Carter by showing a video of him but not allow him to speak at the convention.]

The Nation magazine, something of a voice of twenty-first century American Communism, gives a little more hesitant endorsement of Obama, all the while blaming Israel for everything that is wrong in the world, or at least in the Middle East.

And then there is the poor little Communist Party of the USA. It has seen better days — say those of Earl Browder and William Z. Foster. But it still soldiers on as a ghost of a ghost, somewhere halfway between being moribund and dead. It endorses Obama (with some hesitation), but never misses a beat in beating down on Israel.

But wait, there is hope for those who want to dismiss everything I say in this posting. There is at least one enemy of Israel (not counting Pat Buchanan) who will not support Obama. That is the estimable Cynthia McKinnon, who is running for President all on her own.