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Ron Radosh

What both men realized was that the American Communist Party in La-La land was not a regular political party, but rather, more like “an underground cult.” Or as Sidney Hook had put it in those days, it was a conspiracy led by Stalin’s minions in America, not by a group of heretics. Communists wanted everyone to believe that they were just liberals who wanted progress a bit faster, and they carefully hid the truth that the moves they made and the positions they took were orchestrated for them in Moscow.

Over the years, one issue that has come up over and over is that of whether or not the Hollywood Reds managed to insert their propaganda and viewpoint into the films they worked on. Anti-anti-communist leftists like Victor Navasky have always said this was a falsehood. But as Meroney concludes, it “may be true after all.” He cites material he found revealing that the Hollywood CP boss, screenwriter John Howard Lawson, gave concrete instructions to actors and writers on how best to do just that. The idea was to do as much as you could, and try as hard as possible to put “the party line in every script you write.” Of course that was a hard task, given that the line kept changing, and by the time a film was released, what they said may have already been obsolete. But one of Meroney’s finds is a document from screenwriter Paul Jarrico — one of the lions of the blacklisted Communists — admitting that “we were certainly involved in efforts to affect the content of films,” and were “wide-eyed about the possibility of writing movies that would affect millions and millions of viewers.”

In the later Vietnam era, when Reagan was already conservative, he and Brewer were furious about how the Hollywood Stalinists tried to depict themselves — successfully as it turned out — as civil libertarians and unjustly treated victims of repression by the studio chiefs. Reagan remembered vividly the lessons he learned during the postwar series of Communist-inspired strike actions that divided Hollywood. The Party wanted to create one single union to represent all Hollywood labor that they and by indirection the Soviet Union would control. How the Hollywood Reds depicted themselves, Reagan put it, was “the biggest fairy tale since ‘Snow White.’”

Among other things, readers will find out about the violence perpetrated by the Party under the control of a secret Communist labor leader, Herb Sorrell, who brought in union toughs from Harry Bridges’ Longshoremen’s Union (controlled by the Party) to beat up those back-lot workers and actors and others who sought to return to the studios and ignore the CP-established picket lines set up at the studio gates.

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