Anna Louise Strong, cheerleader for Mao

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.

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At a meeting with Mao and others

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:

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Around 1950

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.”

With Mao, W.E.B. Du Bois and others, 1959

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.

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With Zhou Enlai

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.”

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Her grave in Beijing

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. 

Anna Louise Strong, devotee of Stalin

We spent the last three days examining the life of Maurice Strong, the Canadian tycoon who concocted the global-warming scare as a rationale for subordinating democracies to a UN elite with dramatically enhanced sovereign powers.

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Anna Louise Strong

One name that popped up briefly in our investigations into Strong’s life was that of his distant relative Anna Louise Strong. We’d never heard of her before, so we decided to find out about her. What we discovered was that she was a useful stooge of the first water.

Born in small-town Nebraska in 1885, the daughter of a Congregational minister and missionary, she attended Bryn Mawr and Oberlin and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. Moving to Seattle, she became active in local progressive politics and began writing newspaper articles in support of the Russian Revolution, which had just taken place.

In 1921, after attending a lecture about the Russian Revolution by journalist Lincoln Steffens (who was famous for saying about the USSR: “I have seen the future, and it works”), she went to Russia and began writing glowing books about Bolshevism in action. In The First Time in History (1925), which carried a preface by none other than Leon Trotsky, she described Russia as

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Around 1912

the only place in the world where I get a feeling of hope and a plan. With hundreds of thousands of people living for that plan and dying for it and going hungry for it, and wasting themselves in inefficient work for it, and finally bringing a little order out of chaos for it. America seems cheerful and inconsequential after it. Europe, – the insane nightmare of Europe, – seems impossible to endure….

In Russia when they speak of the Revolution, they don’t mean one grand and horrible upheaval; that was merely the “October Overturn,” the taking of power. Now comes the using of power to create a new world through the decades.

Anna_Louise_Strong_NYWTSThere have been many revolutions in history, each with its tragic dignity, its cruelties, its power released. But never has there been a great organisation, in control of the economic as well as of the political resources of a nation, planning steadily through the prose of daily life a future embracing many lands and decades, learning from mistakes, changing methods but not aims, controlling press and education and law and industry as tools to its purpose….This is Common Consciousness in action, crude, half-organised and inefficient, but the first time in History.

stalinStrong spent thirty years in Russia, where she pronounced herself “greatly stirred by the building of the first socialist state in the world.” She “wrote hundreds of articles about it and some fifteen books,” and almost annually “went to America to lecture and make contacts with publishers,” invariably stopping “in other countries on the way.”

Her books on Russia, along with articles for such high-profile publications as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and The Nation, made her a pretty big name. She lunched with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She met with Stalin and Molotov. She was a founder of the first English-language paper in Russia, The Moscow News. 

But after years of gushing in print about Soviet Communism, the USSR, for Anna Louise Strong, turned out not to be utopia. That, she found elsewhere. Tune in tomorrow.