Yesterday, after our posthumous look at the life of global-warming godfather Maurice Strong, we started telling the remarkable – and reprehensible – story of his distant cousin Anna Louise Strong, a small-town Nebraska clergyman’s daughter who spent three decades in Moscow, serving as a major English-language propagandist for Soviet Communism.
But Strong didn’t stay in Moscow forever.
In 1946, she visited China for the first time. There she met with Mao, who, apropos of the atom bomb, then solely in US hands, said, “In the end the bomb will not destroy the people; the people will destroy the bomb.” Years afterwards, Strong wrote that she “was so impressed by these words that I used them later for a Christmas card.” Apparently disillusioned (at least to some degree) by the USSR, Strong found new hope in Mao’s China:
In America we were always “God’s country,” qualified to liberate and improve the world. In Russia there was always “the perfect system,” spoiled till now by some personal devils. In China they “made mistakes,” suffered by them, acknowledged and studied them, thus planned victory.
Here at last seemed credible history of the difficult advance of Man.
Returning from China to Russia, Strong was deported to the US on charges of being a spy, after which she spent several years in Los Angeles. Even she acknowledged that it was exceedingly pleasant: “I owned a town house, a summer lodge in the mountains, a winter cabin in the desert.” Not too shabby. But the continuing draw of totalitarianism proved too powerful to resist. In 1958, at the age of 72, Strong left her comfortable life in southern California behind forever and moved to China, telling friends, “I think the Chinese know better than anyone the way for man.” The adherents of Mao’s revolution, she believed, were on the cutting edge of “man’s struggle to advance” and understood “that victory depended not on the power of weapons but on awakening the consciousness of man.”
It is interesting to note that Strong’s relocation to China coincided with the beginning of the Great Leap Forward, a campaign of state terror, violence, and forced collectivization that claimed the lives of tens of millions of people. Did Strong already know about the Great Leap Forward when she decided to move to China? Was that, perhaps, the reason why she wanted to go? Was the thought of mass famine and meaningless murder in the name of The Cause just too exciting for her to miss? Her own writings contain only positive references to the Great Leap Forward, whitewashing the butchery and starvation while representing the whole thing as an economic advance.
In Beijing, Strong was installed in the finest flat in a particularly stately apartment block. The building had formerly belonged to the government of Italy, and had housed that country’s diplomats; after it fell into the hands of the Chinese state, it was put to use as a luxury residence for specially favored foreign friends of Mao’s regime. In addition to giving Strong a home, the government also supplied her with three servants – “a housekeeper, cook, and handy-man.” If Strong was disturbed by the utter contradiction between this exceedingly lavish, generous arrangement and the strictly egalitarian tenets of her beloved Communism, she appears never to have mentioned it in print.
During these years in Beijing, Strong was as busy as ever. She socialized with both Mao and Zhou Enlai, and she churned out book after book about China’s “revolutionary spirit,” “the struggles of oppressed peoples,” the “revolt against imperialist oppression,” “the colonial peoples’ struggle for liberation,” “the onward march of man,” etc. (Her oeuvre provides innumerable examples of the kind of empty ideological sloganeering that George Orwell inveighed against in his essay “Politics and the English Language.”) “The Chinese leaders,” we’re told, “considered her their unofficial spokesperson to the English speaking world.”
She finally died in Beijing, aged 84, in 1970, at the height of yet another ugly chapter in the history of Red China, namely the Cultural Revolution – a brutal bloodbath in which tens of millions of citizens were removed from their jobs, torn from their families, “re-educated,” tortured, and killed in the name of the greatness and glory of Communism. During this period, most of the regime’s resident “foreign friends” were imprisoned or executed. Not Strong. Presumably because she’d rendered such extraordinarily loyal service to her totalitarian hosts, she was, one source tells us, “one of the last ‘Old China Hands’ to remain in the good graces of the Chinese through the cultural revolution.”
Did Anna Louise Strong ever, ever write a single word in criticism of the Cultural Revolution? No. On the contrary – impossible as it is to understand, repulsive as it is to contemplate – she cheered it on lustily, just as she had the Great Leap Forward. To the very end, in short, she was a useful stooge par excellence – a woman who, born and educated in a free country, was driven by a degree of blind ideological commitment beyond imagining to spend her adult life venerating, socializing with, and celebrating in print the two most bloodthirsty mass murderers in human history.