Castro in Vietnam: A forgotten chapter

Recently, author Jamie Glazov reposted a 2016 article of his about one of the lesser-known chapters of Communist history: the involvement of Cubans in the torture of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. On the occasion of Fidel Castro’s death, Glazov called attention to what he called “the direct and instrumental role Castro played in the torture and murder of American POWs in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.” As Glazov noted, America’s mainstream news media – which have tended to soft-pedal the evil of Castro’s regime and more than a few of which (as we’ve pointed out at this website) have celebrated Communist Cuba for the supposed quaintness and charm of its broken-down buildings and infrastructure – have virtually ignored this dark episode.

Fidel Castro

We’re not talking here, mind you, about a couple of Cubans who were sent over to Vietnam to help run POW camps. No; in fact, at the height of the Vietnam War, the number of Cubans in North Vietnam numbered in the thousands, and at least some of them were part of what Castro called the “Cuban Program” at the Cu Loc POW camp in Hanoi, which came to be known to inmates as ‘the Zoo.’” Among the goals of the “Cuban Program” was “to determine how much physical and psychological agony a human being could withstand.” For this purpose, Castro’s minions picked out US servicemen as “guinea pigs” to be worked on by a torturer, who like his comandante was named Fidel, and who was “trained in psychology and prison control in Russia or Europe.” Among the victims of Fidel’s brutality was a F-105 pilot, Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil, an F-105 pilot, whom a fellow POW, Col. Jack Bomar, described as follows:

Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil

The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man’s head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. . . . He stood unmoving, his head down. Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of black rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. His failure to react seemed to fuel Fidel’s rage and again he whipped the rubber hose across the man’s face. . . . Again and again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed the man’s face with the hose. Not once did the fearsome abuse elicit the slightest response from the prisoner. . . . His body was ripped and torn everywhere; hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed the wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest, back, and legs.

Barbara Walters

Cobell died. So did many others. Of course, no one who is remotely familiar with the systematic, sadistic violence perpetrated by Che Guevara and others on behalf of the Castro regime could be terribly surprised that Castro was capable of arranging such a violent project. At the same time, one never quite gets accustomed to the fact that a popular current presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, is a lifelong Castro fan; ditto the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain; that the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, honeymooned in Havana; that Barbara Walters, the longtime host of American housewives’ favorite TV show, The View, had a cozy relationship with Fidel, whom she described as “charming”; that network reporter Lisa Howard had a veritable romance with him. It is one of the enduring, and sick, facts of life that some people who are lucky enough to live in liberty are capable of an irrational attraction to totalitarian tyrants.

Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.

Eric McCormack

None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.

Debra Messing

Predictably, both McCormack and Messing slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September 17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter “kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting them on the back – a response to which they are both surely accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics, served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”

Tammy Bruce

So strong was the reaction that McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement. “I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case – as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts, knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do American a favor.

The Cuba-chavista connection

Hugo Chavez

For those fans of the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have denied that chavismo is basically a Spanish word for Communism, the intimate ties between the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez – and, subsequently, of his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro – with the frankly totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba has always been something of a stumbling block. In a recent article for Reuters, Angus Berwick provided a fascinating new trove of information that substantiated that nefarious link. “The Cuban government has relied on Venezuela for economic and political support for two decades,” Berwick wrote. “In return, Cuba has provided Venezuela with training and support that has allowed Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro to keep a tight grip on the military — and on power.”

Fidel Castro

Berwick revealed that in 2007, when Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to keep running for re-election, he turned for advice to “a close confidant” – namely, Fidel Castro, who told him that if he wanted to stay in power indefinitely, whatever the results of elections, he should assume “absolute control of the military.” Chavez listened, and as a result ordered that Venezuelan troops be spied on. With the help of advisors supplied by Castro, Chavez oversaw the refashioning of a government agency that now goes by the name Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and that had previously been tasked to spy abroad, into an organization whose primary mission was to conduct espionage within Venezuela’s own armed forces.

Nicolas Maduro

To this end, members of Cuba’s armed forces were brought into Venezuela to restructure the military and train spies. Under the instruction of its Cuban tutors, the DGCIM “embedded agents…within barracks,” tapped the phones of senior officers, put together “dossiers on perceived troublemakers,” and reported “any signs of disloyalty.” Non-chavista officers and enlisted men were duly arrested, imprisoned, tortured; one organization says that the number of former military personnel now in detention as a result of DGCIM investigations is over 300. Since its transformation, the DGCIM has been “accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained navy captain.”

Juan Guaido

For years, Cuban and Venezuelan officials have denied that the relationship between their militaries was anywhere near this intimate. But they were lying. While Venezuelan oil kept Cuba’s economy going, Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military has kept the chavista government in power. It’s because of this arrangement, this deal between devils, that Juan Guaido’s bid to replace Maduro – a key factor of which was his expectation that many members of the armed forces would take his side – failed so ignominiously. Military officers and enlisted men who might indeed have been supporters of Guaido have long since been culled from the ranks, with the help of Maduro’s ruthless Cuban allies.

Sanders: praising China

The other day we wrote here about a prominent psychiatrist who, in an interview on CNN, maintained that President Trump is worse than Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. As we observed, to make such comparisons is irresponsible beyond measure, because it diminishes the scale of those tyrants’ destructiveness at a time when many Americans – especially young people – are poorly educated about twentieth-century totalitarianism.

Bernie Sanders

A few days later, a far more famous person than that psychiatrist made an equally outrageous statement. In a late August interview with The Hill, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that China is growing “more authoritarian” in many ways, claimed that the Communist dictatorship has “made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”

Mao Zedong

Is this true? Well, first of all, let’s make two things clear: China is a massive country (it’s by far the most populous on earth, and has been for a very long time) and it has long been a very poor country as well. Yes, it has undergone a major economic transformation. But because it started at almost zero, in the wake of Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, even achieving a middling level of prosperity per capita would have been a big deal. Yes, thanks to its gigantic population, China has managed in the course of a few decades to develop an economy that rivals the size of America’s; but that still means that the average inhabitant of China is nowhere near as affluent as his counterparts in the West.

Deng Xiaoping

In any event,what exactly changed? Well, let’s recall, to begin with, that Bernie Sanders loves Communism, and that when he celebrates Chinese accomplishment he is implicitly cheering on Communism. But China has experienced an economic boom not because it has clung to its Communist ideology and systems of social control but because, under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it abandoned its fierce devotion to Marxist economics and introduced elements of capitalism even as it remained a Communist dictatorship. It helped enrich itself, furthermore, by underpaying factory workers and selling its products abroad at dirt-cheap prices. This policy, which continued under Deng’s successors, was aided by the refusal of Western countries to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – a refusal that resulted in profound damage to large portions of the industrial base of the U.S. and other countries and great suffering on the part of blue-collar Western workers. China’s success also owed a great deal to its currency manipulation and its shameless theft of intellectual property from Western countries. Oh, and it also killed a lot of poor people, which of course is one easy way of eliminating poverty.

Xi Jinping

Hence, yes, poverty in China has declined to a considerable degree. Thanks to the spectacular growth of Chinese industries, the country now has a great many more very rich people than it had a few decades ago. But while its biggest cities now teem with gleaming skyscrapers and its richest citizens travel the world and send their kids to Harvard and Oxford, tens of millions of people in rural areas continue to live at a level of poverty that brings to mind the 1931 Pearl Buck novel The Good Earth. Indeed, the changes that Sanders so enthusiastically extols have resulted in what may well be the most formidable case of economic equality – a topic he frets over endlessly when talking about the American economy – in the history of human civilization. And let’s not forget this small detail: everyone in China is still unfree.

Nicolas Maduro

But of course that doesn’t matter to Sanders. He was a fan of the USSR. He loves Castro’s Cuba. Until recently, anyway, he was defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. As Jim Geraghty noted in National Review, this is a presidential candidate who in 1985, while the USSR was still around, commented: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” Well, the fact is that in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Guangzhou, the new Party-connected super-rich managerial class enjoys a whole lot of first-class cuisine, while out in the sticks there are still millions who are, yes, starving.

Cuban defectors? Who cares?

Castro with Jesse Jackson

We’ve spent plenty of time on this website discussing celebrities from the US and other free countries who have gotten a big kick out of going slumming in Cuba, chumming around with Fidel Castro, and the like. We’ve written about how current New York Mayor (and presidential hopeful) Bill de Blasio honeymooned in Havana. About how another one of the current crop of presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, has praised Castro and visited Cuba. About how the mayor of New Orleans went to Havana for tips on economic development. About Barbara Walters’s cozy relationship with Fidel. About the quasi-romance between Fidel and another American TV “journalist,” Lisa Howard. About a UCLA art professor’s fascination with Che Guevara. About a fun trip made by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to the island prison. About how Karl Lagerfeld used rundown Havana as a backdrop for a fashion show. About the movie that director Bob Yari filmed in Cuba. About celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s admiration for the Castro regime. And about heroic whitewashes of Cuban Communism by Time Magazine and other media.

Castro with director Oliver Stone

The point has consistently been the same: that it’s easy for people living in democratic countries to romanticize tyranny. It seems especially easy, somehow, for rich and privileged folks who like to make the most of their wealth and their ability to travel at will to any spot on earth. There’s something about visiting a dictatorship and consorting with a dictator that just tickles their fancy. Somehow they’re able to take in the terrible spectacle of fellow human beings living under economic and political conditions that they themselves would chafe under and yet praise the system, and the thugs, that forces these conditions upon them. The whole business is an eternal reality and an eternal puzzle.

Members of Cuba’s youth soccer team

Yet however blinkered so many people in the West may be about the reality of a place like Cuba, the Cubans themselves have no illusions. They know what it is to live every of their lives without liberty. So it is that last month, six members of Cuba’s youth soccer team who were in New York on their way from Cuba to the U.S. Virgin Islands – where they were scheduled to play a game on July 17 against the team representing that possession – defected. Six! This was, of course, hardly a unique event: only a month earlier, four Cuban soccer players defected while in the U.S. for a tournament.

Castro with Angela Davis

This report first appeared in the official Cuban government daily Granma. It was picked up by the news service Agence France-Presse. We read about it at the reliable Babalu Blog, which had found the story at the website of a Pakistani newspaper. A roundabout way, don’t you think, for a story from Cuba to reach American readers? (Even more roundabout, in fact, than the idea of having to go through New York to get from Havana to the U.S. Virgin Islands.) But this is what happens when major Western newspapers simply aren’t interested in such stories – such, alas, is their admiration for, or at very least readiness to cover for, the Cuban system. We checked: even though the defection took place in New York, none of that city’s major dailies appears to have reported on it. Well, disgraceful enough for them. But whether covered in the media or not, there were six Cubans who freer when they went to bed that evening than when they’d woken up that morning – and that’s what matters.

More laurels for Angela Davis, thug

She’s a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America in the last half-century. There’s no reason to go over every detail of Angela Davis’s criminal history here: we already did that in a couple of pieces in 2016. But here’s a brief summary: Communist Party and Black Panthers member; secretly married to a gangster; supplied guns for a courtroom hostage-taking that ended in several deaths; took it on the lam, was finally arrested and tried, and – thanks to the radical sympathies of at least some of the jurors – was found not guilty.

She was plainly a criminal. But the times being what they were, she was seen as a political prisoner, a warrior for civil rights. A covert campaign by the USSR played a key role in shaping this image. Musicians like John Lennon and the Rolling Stones wrote songs about her; writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison sung her praises.

After her release, she was awarded prizes in Communist countries; supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and hung around in Cuba with Fidel Castro himself; in the US, she twice ran for vice president on the Communist Party line and became a professor at a California state university. And, thanks to a leftist media and academy, her name shone ever more brightly in the pantheon of supposed cultural heroes. Our 2016 pieces on her were occasioned by the news that she was about to win a major prize from the Brooklyn Museum for being a role model for women; we revisited her story in 2017 when she was scheduled to be awarded a human-rights accolade by an Alabama civil-rights group. Earlier this year, we noted Davis’s participation in a rally to support Ilhan Omar, the blatantly anti-Semitic Congresswoman from Minnesota.

Well, here we go again. In July, Ron Radosh, an expert on the history of American Communism, reported that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution – the Smithsonian! – was planning to honor Davis this September by showing an old “documentary” entitled Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. In fact, according to reliable accounts, this documentary is a whitewash of Davis’s career as a Communist thug. After the screening, one Rhea Combs “will interview and question Ms. Davis.”

Radosh quoted from a press release issued by the museum: “we all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial.” The release called Davis’s life “a quintessential American story of activism” and claimed that she had been “criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list” not because she had supplied guns for a crime but “because of her activism in support of social justice.”

As Radosh writes, this is an outright lie. And it’s a lie being told by one of America’s premier cultural institutions about one of America’s most despicable public figures.

More praise for the USSR at the Times

Walter Duranty

On this site, where our task is to record the antics and inanities of those who have taken it upon themselves to defend the indefensible, all roads, or at least so it can sometimes seem, lead back to the New York Times. It was the Times, after all, that gave us our mascot, the world-class lickspittle (and Pulitzer Prize winner!) Walter Duranty, who while serving as the Gray Lady’s Moscow correspondent during the Stalin era shamelessly defended Uncle Joe’s evil Gulag, his brutal policy of farm collectivization, and his outrageous show trials – and, not least, covered up his deliberately engineered Ukrainian famine, the Holodomor. Millions died; Duranty lied. And what makes things all the worse is that, far from being an exception to the rule at the Times, which countless low-information readers continue to view as a newspaper of record, Duranty was a proud and consistent exponent of an ignoble and longstanding Times tradition: the reflexive whitewashing of totalitarian regimes.

Herbert L. Matthews and friend

The Nazis, too, benefited from the Times’s weird compulsion to sugarcoat monstrous tyranny – reports on the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews were routinely suppressed, softened, and relegated to short articles in the newspaper’s back pages. Decades later, similarly, Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews gave so much positive coverage to Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution that the National Review, borrowing a familiar classified-ad tag of the day – “I got my job through the New York Times” – ran a parody ad featuring El Comandante himself; in 2007, Reason ran a piece about Matthews headlined “Fidel’s Favorite Propagandist.”

Vivian Gornick

Three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Times hasn’t stopped looking for aspects of Soviet life to hold up for praise. A couple of years ago we took note of a sickening Times piece by Vivian Gornick entitled “When Communism Inspired Americans” – a serious effort on Gornick’s part to paint American Stalinists as heroic believers in noble ideals, rather than as the unquestioning toadies of (and lying apologists for) a mass-murdering dictator. Also in 2017, we commented on an instant classic entitled “Why Women Had Better Sex under Socialism.” In this masterpiece of buffoonery, Kristen R. Ghodsee, a professor (what else?) at the University of Pennsylvania, maintained that women in the Soviet Union not only had more rights than women in the democratic West but also had more orgasms.

Sophie Pinkham

Gornick’s and Ghodsee’s pieces were part of a Times series commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Now, to celebrate the fiftieth year since Apollo 11, the ever-reliable Times has run a piece by one Sophie Pinkham arguing that, even though America beat Russia in the race to put a man on the moon, the U.S.S.R. won what she calls “the Space Race for Equality.” Meaning what? Quite simply, that the Soviets “sent women and people of color to space years before the U.S.” As Pinkham explains: “The Cold War was fought as much on an ideological front as a military one, and the Soviet Union often emphasized the sexism and racism of its capitalist opponents — particularly the segregated United States. And the space race was a prime opportunity to signal the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.”

Hero of equality

Pause for a moment, if you will, over those last words: “the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality.” Not its alleged or claimed or supposed or pretended commitment. Pinkham – a grad student at Columbia University who has written for such far-left organs as The Nation and London Review of Books – is apparently trying to sell the Soviet Union to us as a beacon of equality. Yes, in a way we suppose men and women were equal under Soviet Communism – equal, that is, in their utter lack of human rights and democratic freedoms. Men and women alike were woken in the middle of the night by KGB agents and beaten, tortured, or imprisoned, without being officially charged or tried, for having been overheard voicing some complaint or for having otherwise found their way onto the government’s radar. Men and women alike were condemned to death by starvation in the Holodomor, were sent away for years at a time to the Gulag, or were simply lined up against walls and shot in cold blood.

That’s Soviet equality, folks. Yet after Columbia awards a Ph.D. to Pinkham – who, in her recent photos, appears to be too young ever to have experienced Communism firsthand in the U.S.S.R. or its European satellites – she will earn a living telling generations of students at some prestigious college or other that Soviet Communism was synonymous with social equality. Caveat emptor.

Danny Glover, Communist stooge

Danny Glover

Some of the Hollywood stars whom we’ve written about here – whether because they’ve praised Castro or Maduro or accepted big paychecks to perform for some Third World strongman or another – have done so because they’re underinformed, misguided, or just plain greedy and amoral. But one big showbiz name who has been the subject of our attention is a bona fide admirer of totalitarianism. As we wrote in August 2015, Danny Glover, star of The Color Purple, Witness, and the Lethal Weapon pictures, is an out-and-out enthusiast for Communist dictatorship. He loved Hugo Chávez, whom he met in 2006 and who ended up setting up financing for two politically charged movies Glover planned to produce.

With the late Hugo Chavez

And much as he loved Chávez, he loved Fidel Castro even more. For years Glover has been a frequent visitor to Cuba, where he attends the Havana film festival, attends political-cultural events, accepts awards, and pals around with the tyrants who run the place. He views the Cuban Revolution through a quasi-mystical lens, speaking with religious fervor about its “extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” A few years back he campaigned actively for the release of the “Cuban Five,” a group of spies who were jailed in the U.S. and whom Glover praised as “heroic men.” As we’ve previously noted, Glover became friends with one of the five, Gerardo Hernández, who had been involved in shooting down unarmed planes carrying Cuban exiles, and whom Glover – who had visited Hernández several times in his California prison cell – described as his “spiritual brother.”

With Gerardo Hernandez

During a November 2015 visit to Cuba, Glover was reunited with Hernández, whom President Obama freed in a gesture of friendship toward the Castro regime. While in Cuba, Glover enthused over what he described as the spies’ awareness of “their responsibility to humanity” – and, more broadly, celebrated “the work of the internationalists of this island that brings the light of solidarity to remote places

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

This is the man who, on June 19 of this year, testified before the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee in support of a slavery-reparations bill whose main sponsor is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

In the middle of the last century, during the Cold War, members of the American Communist Party, which took orders directly from the Kremlin, were summoned by congressional committees to answer for their loyalty to the totalitarian enemy, which was considered an act of treason. Reasonable people may disagree as to whether it was appropriate for the national legislature to interrogate these Communists. But we have to say that it seems bizarre, to say the least, to invite Communists to Capitol Hill as if they were pillars of wisdom and virtue.

Rep. Steve Cohen

Not that anyone in the hearing room that day would have known from the subcommittee chairman’s introduction of Glover that he is a diehard Communist. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) described him, rather, as an “actor, producer, and an activist for various causes,” not to mention “goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, chairman of the board of Transafrica Forum, an African-American lobbying organization for Africa and the Caribbean, and a friend of Harry Belafonte.” That last bit was plainly meant as a cute touch; in fact the reference to Belafonte served as a useful reminder that he is, in the words of historian Ronald Radosh (whom we quoted here in 2015), an “unreconstructed Stalinist.” So we’re talking about two men one of whom was amiably introduced by the leader of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and the other affectionately referred to by that same leader, as if they were twin American icons, but whose politics are downright monstrous. If they were open Nazis, no member of either house of Congress would invite them to testify about anything. But they are both Communists, and, in the eyes of Cohen and his colleagues, apparently, that’s just fine – although it’s best, of course, to keep that little fact under wraps for the purpose of the hearing.

There’s hardly any reason to get into the details of Glover’s brief testimony, aside from observing that he spoke of “democracy” and “equality” and “justice” as if he genuinely believed in these things. Naturally he supports reparations. Whatever. The point is not what he said but that he was invited there to say it. The point is that being a champion of totalitarianism, a buddy and admirer of the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, is no longer viewed in certain respectable inside-the-Beltway circles as disqualifying one as an authority on justice. That, quite simply, is a disgrace.

A Hobsbawm hagiography

E.J. Hobsbawm

Back in 2016 we spent five full days on the British historian E. J. Hobsbawm, who had died four years earlier at the age of 95. As we noted then, Hobsbawm’s demise was followed by a tsunami of praise. In the Guardian he was described as “arguably Britain’s most respected historian of any kind”; the New Yorker called him “refreshingly serious—intellectually curious and politically engaged,” a man who “was in it to change the world.” The Independent told its readers that he was “one of the greatest British historians of the 20th century.”

The obituarists for these and other prominent media did not ignore the fact that Hobsbawm was a lifelong Communist – a passionate admirer and fierce defender of Stalin who even, in a 1994 TV interview, expressed support for Stalin’s murder of millions. What they did was find ways to minimize it, or excuse it, or even praise it. One necrologist spoke of Hobsbawm’s “Marxist ideals.” Another depicted him as a victim of anti-Communist prejudice. Can you imagine any of these publications referring seriously to “Nazi ideals” or “anti-Nazi prejudice”?

A.N. Wilson

The novelist A.N. Wilson was almost alone in explicitly condemning Hobsbawm for his politics, pointing out that “if some crazed Right-winger were to appear on BBC and say that the Nazis had been justified in killing six million Jews….We should be horrified, and consider that such a person should never be allowed to speak in public.” But what happened to Hobsbawm after that interview? As we wrote in 2016: “His career soared. He was offered (but rejected) a knighthood. Later he accepted from Tony Blair the title Companion of Honour. Oxford gave him a prize worth half a million pounds. As Hobsbawm got older, the media increasingly described him as the country’s greatest living historian. All this despite the fact, as Wilson pointed out, that Hobsbawm never learned the lessons of the century he had lived through.” Nor was he even a good historian: his books, as Wilson bluntly put it, were Communist propaganda. He “quite deliberately underplayed the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland in 1939-40.” He was silent on the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets murdered 20,000 Polish soldiers. And he “deceitfully downplayed the grim role of the Communists in Spain in the Thirties” and “the forcible nature of the coups the Soviets carried out in Eastern Europe after 1945.”

Richard J. Evans

If we’re returning now to the subject of Hobsbawm, it’s because another famous historian, Richard J. Evans, FBA, FRSL, FRHistS, FLSW, has published an 800-page biography of him. Evans is best known for his three-volume history of the Third Reich – which has been described as definitive – and for his court testimony defending a writer’s characterization of David Irving as a Holocaust denier. In all his writings on Hitler’s regime, Evans has made it clear that he is not a fan. He sees Nazism for the evil that it is. He does not buy into the notion that, in writing about a Nazi, you can set aside his Nazi beliefs, or contextualize them or relativize them, depicting them as just a minor or incidental part of his personal makeup. You can’t conclude that, his Nazi convictions notwithstanding, the most important thing about him is that he was a devoted husband and father, a good friend and neighbor, a man who loved his pets and was, as the British say, clubbable. No, a Nazi is, first and last, a Nazi. Evans understands that.

David Pryce-Jones

Confronted with the case of Hobsbawm and Hobsbawm’s Communism, however, Evans is able to take a totally different approach. In a blistering review of Evans’s book for the June issue of the New Criterion, yet another historian, David Pryce-Jones (who, as it happens, is also an FRSL), laments that Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History makes Evans “look either a dupe or a fool of the higher sort, in any case earning him a reputation no historian would want to have.” Describing Hobsbawm as “the foremost Communist apologist in the Britain of his day,” Pryce-Jones observes that if Hobsbawm had been a Nazi, “Evans surely would have thrown his doctrine back into his face. Instead, he defends the indefensible with this hagiography.” Although Hobsbawm, after joining the Communist Party as a student at Cambridge, “never deviated from the Party line,” Evans “can still write this utter absurdity: ‘there was no sense in which [Hobsbawm] was an active or committed member of the Party.”

Josef Stalin

As for Hobsbawm the man, Pryce-Jones, who is now 93 and who actually knew Hobsbawm, provides a valuable corrective: “In my experience, Hobsbawm was nothing like the genial and popular figure depicted by Evans.” At one dinner they both attended, Hobsbawm sang the praises of Castro’s Cuba; another dinner guest, a former British ambassador to Cuba, demurred, providing chapter and verse on Cuban perfidy, but to no avail. “All American propaganda, according to Hobsbawm.” There was more: Hobsbawm and Pryce-Jones just happened to be neighbors in a certain Welsh village, where, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Hobsbawm, like any half-mad local crank, “would stop to tell me at the top of his voice with expletives in front of surprised farmers how superior Communism was to the nationalism that replaced it.” Pryce-Jones concludes by underscoring a point that is somehow missed by people like Evans and the writers of Hobsbawm’s admiring obituaries: namely, that this was a man who, if the Soviets had conquered Britain and given him the power to do so, would have ordered them all sent to their deaths.

Angela and Ilhan: birds of a feather

Angela Davis in her youth

In June 2016, as we reported here at the time, Angela Davis was celebrated by a feminist art center at the Brooklyn Museum for being “first in her field.” What field would that be? Diehard Communism? As a young woman she joined the American Communist Party and studied at Humboldt University in what was then the Soviet puppet state of East Germany, and has remained a devotee of Marx and Engels ever since. Or is her field domestic terrorism? In the incident that made her famous, she bought a bunch of guns that were used several days later by some pals of hers who invaded a courtroom, took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage, and ended up in a shootout with cops in which the judge was killed, the prosecutor paralyzed for life, and one of the jurors injured – the perpetrators’ goal having been to compel the release of Angela’s then husband, a Black Panther, Communist, and armed robber named George Jackson, from Soledad State Prison.

Arrested for her role in this atrocity, Davis, despite massive evidence against her, was acquitted by a jury that was plainly swayed by dishonest propaganda that painted her as a victim of racial prejudice.

Angela and Fidel

Thus began her career as a public figure – specifically, as a full-time critic of democratic capitalism, booster of Communism, and outspoken anti-Semite. She palled around with Fidel Castro in Cuba and accepted the Lenin Peace Prize in Moscow. She publicly supported the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Twice in the 1980s, she ran for Vice President of the United States on the Communist Party line. Meanwhile she pursued an academic career, and the American university having undergone a political sea change in the 1960s and 70s, her hard-line Communist credentials only helped her advance: from San Francisco State, where she taught Ethnic Studies, she proceeded to UC Santa Cruz, where she taught in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments and was appointed to the UC Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies. The website of Santa Cruz, where is now listed as a “Distinguished Professor Emerita,” provides a sugarcoated version of her criminal past and calls her “a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.” Nor has her fanatical Communism kept her from being a darling of the American left, which has promoted her tirelessly as a heroine of rights for women and black people.

She stood with Fidel. She stood with Brezhnev. Now she stands with Ilhan.

Which brings us to her latest activities. On April 30, Davis joined “scores of other black women” at a Capitol Hill rally in support of Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing, Somali-born freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota. As the website of the left-wing TV/radio program Democracy Now put it, Omar had “been at the center of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office.” Translation: since her election in November, Omar had made a series of chillingly anti-Semitic comments, and a great many decent-minded people had had the audacity to take offense. There had been an effort to pass a resolution condemning her, but members of her own party had circled the wagons and rewritten the resolution so that it made no explicit mention of Omar and was at least as much a statement about “Islamophobia” as about anti-Semitism. Speaking to Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, Davis maintained that Omar had been “targeted because she is an immigrant, because she is Muslim, because she is a courageous, bold black woman who speaks out in defense of Palestinians.” She added: “I am extremely proud that finally we’ve elected someone to Congress who speaks out in such a powerful way on behalf of black women, on behalf of Palestinians, on behalf of all people who are oppressed.” Birds of a feather flock together.

Angela (gray hair) seated behind Ilhan at the big rally

Davis’s support for Omar made headlines. The Huffington Post, describing Davis as a “civil rights icon,” whitewashed the comments that had gotten Omar in trouble and took Omar’s word for it that she had received a mountain of death threats. At The Nation, one Rebecca Pierce celebrated Davis and her confreres for creating “a force field of support” around Omar “in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House.” UPI bought the death-threats claim too, running a piece under the headline “Activists rally in support of Rep. Ilhan Omar after death threats.”

As for the rally itself…well, stay tuned. We’ll get to that on Thursday.