This letter was published by Daily Variety on Wednesday, October 1, 2003, p.19. Parts that were edited in the published version are enclosed in brackets; editorial additions in red.
Monday, 15 September 2003
c/o Daily Variety
5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA 90036
re: Off Broadway, Charles Isherwood: Trumbo, Wednesday, September 3, 2003, p.8
If Dalton Trumbo had been a supporter of Adolf Hitler instead of Josef Stalin, few would now be wasting effort celebrating his life, talents, or martyrdom.
The "dark period" of American history, [in your words] as Charles Isherwood calls it, was actually when talented people were taken in by Soviet propaganda, while Stalin enslaved, starved, tortured, murdered, and -- truly -- martyred millions. It continues today.
Those who are taken in [now], however, don't even know that they are serving the lies of a foreign power that doesn't even exist anymore. Trumbo's "principles" were to dissimulate and to evade honestly and publicly stating his attachment to one of the greatest tyrants of the 20th century. As totalitarian darkness spread across Eastern Europe and China, the true courage was that of people willing to confront and stop it.
The notion that a mindless anti-Communist "hysteria" was consuming the United States was a fiction of the Soviets and their supporters[, including] That included those who simply did not believe, or did not want to admit, that Franklin Roosevelt had overlooked, indeed dismissed, evidence of massive Soviet espionage in the United States Government -- or influence in Hollywood.
Since Soviet archives and former Soviet officials now confirm the sensational revelations and even worse fears of the time, the truth can no longer be denied. The living colleagues of Trumbo, and their credulous supporters, however, continue a kind of rear-guard action, perhaps hoping for a revival of Stalinism.
Kelley L. Ross
Daily Variety printed a response to this letter on Wednesday, October 15 [p.15], from Barry Primus:
Kelly [sic] L. Ross' letter of October 1 is yet another stab in the rush by revisionists to legitimize and clean up the shameful period of the blacklist.
The very vast majority of the men and women who suffered under the blacklist gave no aid of any kind to any enemy and were guilty only of harboring ideas that were contrary at the time to the establishment. The witch hunt on the whole was invented and used by unscrupulous politicians.
It is shameful that people continue to simplify this dark period and demonize the victims of the times. It is particularly shocking in a town where so many people suffered because of this generalized hysteria.
Since the original letter was about Dalton Trumbo, Mr. Primus's response is not very responsive. It does, however, repeat the propaganda that was formulated to protect people like Trumbo. The "revisionists" are, indeed, people more like Mr. Primus who don't want to believe that there was ever a threat from the Soviet Union or from dissimulating Communists. Bobby Kennedy knew better.
The issue was not those "harboring ideas that were contrary at the time to the establishment"; it was people who were involved with the Communist Party. "Communist" is a word that Mr. Primus carefully avoids. The House Un-American Activities Committee did not ask people, "What are your ideas?" It asked the famous question, "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?" It was known then, but not believed by liberals, as it has been confirmed from Soviet sources now, that the Communist Party USA was financed and directed by the Soviet Union. If it had really been about "ideas," the Hollywood Ten and others could have candidly stated and advocated what they believed; but they choose silence, deception, and the Fifth Amendment instead (under orders, of course, from the Communist Party).
There was no "witch hunt" that was "invented" by anyone: There were just investigations of what Soviet agents, Communists, and Communist sympathizers had been up to. There were "unscrupulous politicians" involved, as politicians leap at any political opportunity, but the problem and the threat existed independently of them. There was justifiable fear, but not the groundless "hysteria" that Mr. Primus imagines.
Finally, the "victims" of the "dark period" were the thousands and millions who died under Communism. Mr. Primus seems to think that someone losing their job for a few years in Hollywood, because they refused to cooperate in the defense of the United States, is worse than all those being murdered at the same time by Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. This is what is shameful and shocking, in a town where prominent people (can you say "Oliver Stone"?) still go and pay fawning tribute to a surviving Communist dictator, Fidel Castro.