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Ron Radosh


Observation three: Now let us look at Dreier and the question of Communism. In various entries, any individual who was an anti-Communist is per se bad. When a hero of his is a pro-Communist, fellow traveler, or dupe, that person is lauded as either good and taking the right position or a victim of McCarthyism.

Dreier has an entry on the philosopher John Dewey, who, he writes, fought for “workers’ rights, women’s rights, and civil rights.” He praises him for fighting the “hysterical Red Scare ” during World War I and for joining what he calls the “movement to outlaw war” and for a world court. He does not mention, however, that the latter was the chief initiative of a Republican conservative president, Warren G. Harding.

Most significant, however, is that nowhere will the reader learn about Dewey’s heroic fight against the Stalinists and his decision to honor Sidney Hook’s request to chair the international commission to evaluate the charges made in Moscow against exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky. The Dewey Commission, as it was called, became the centerpiece of a world campaign that succeeded in exposing what Trotsky called “the Stalinist school of falsification.” By breaking with the anti-anti-Communist consensus of his fellow liberal intellectuals, Dewey showed his independent streak. To leave out any mention of this in a profile of Dewey is simply unforgivable.

Finally, let us look at his entry for the most famous Communist entertainer and African-American hero in the United States, the late bass baritone Paul Robeson. Now Robeson was indeed a legitimate American hero. He was an All-American quarterback on the 1915 Rutgers University team, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the valedictorian of his graduating class, all in the time of major segregation and racism. He was named to the college Football All-America team and had varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track. In 1923, he earned a law degree from Columbia University. Then he turned to an acting and singing career, the fields in which he rightfully became an international success and the first African-American superstar. Obviously, Paul Robeson was a man of immense talent and energy.

Then, Peter Dreier’s profile turns both dishonest and misleading. He writes: “When World War II ended and the Cold War began, Robeson’s outspoken support for the Soviet Union became highly controversial.” Dreier continues to note that according to Robeson’s  biographer Martin Duberman, Robeson privately “had begun to have doubts about the Soviet Union, particularly its mistreatment of Jews.” Actually, there is no evidence for this at all. When Robeson visited the Soviet Union in 1949, the Soviets did take the arrested Jewish poet Itzik Feffer, whom Robeson had met years earlier, out of prison to make it appear that he was alright. Feffer had silently indicated to Robeson that he would soon be killed, but when he came back to the U.S., Robeson told the press that rumors about Soviet antisemitism were false, that Feffer was fine and in good health, and that only the warmongers wanted to spread hatred about the great Soviet Union. Then Dreier writes the most amazing bit of pettifoggery:

But when speaking in the United States, Robeson never uttered any criticism of the soviet Union, leading many to suspect that he was a communist. (my emphasis). “Because my father was a slave,and my people died to build this country…and I am going to stay right here and have a part of it.”

That his father being a slave had anything to do with Robeson’s love affair for Stalin and company of course makes no sense whatsoever.

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