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Ron Radosh

Again: The New York Times Whitewashes Communist Paul Robeson

April 28th, 2014 - 9:39 am

This week, it was announced on the obituary page of the New York Times that the son of famed African-American singer Paul Robeson, Jr. had died. As I read it, the following sentence appeared, and I realized that once again “the paper of record” — as the old NYT used to be called — had whitewashed Paul Robeson’s activism:

While they had much in common, he said one difference was that he was a member of the Communist Party from 1948 to 1962 while his father never joined the party. (During the McCarthy era, his father faced F.B.I. surveillance after he criticized the government.)

That claim, as the Times writer could have found out with just a bit of research, is false.

Robeson was a secret member of the CPUSA for decades. On March 21, 1998, in the Communist newspaper The People’s Weekly World – at the time of the celebration of what would have been Robeson’s 100th birthday — General Secretary of the CPUSA Gus Hall announced:

We can now say that Paul Robeson was a member of the Communist Party. … During the period of McCarthyism, most of the Party was forced underground. Paul, and other trade union leaders were part of that.

Later, at a public meeting held in May, Hall said in a birthday tribute to “Comrade Paul” that he had a special “birthday present for Paul that no one else could give.” That present was Hall’s revelation that “Paul was a proud member of the Communist Party USA”; a man of true Communist “conviction.”

Hall added that it was “an indelible fact of Paul’s life, [in] every way, every day of his adult life.” The real truth, he said, was “he never forgot that he was a Communist.” His most precious moment, Hall said, occurred “when I met with him to accept his dues and renew his yearly membership in the CPUSA.”

One has to understand how the Communist movement operated. Its major public figures were always told that to be effective, they had to deny their CP membership, and if accused of being a Red, to simply reply that the right-wing was again engaging in “Red-baiting.” That was the tactic used by Robeson and by his son, when anyone — especially the press — made that accusation.

If Robeson was not a member, he was a dues chiseler. Everything he said publicly parroted the current CP line, whatever it was.

Robeson was in fact a Stalinist and a defender of Stalin throughout his public life.

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28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's time to mob the New York Times into repudiating their boy Duranty's Pulitzer.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
New York times has been lying for decades. They have colluded with despots even during WWII. It's time people stop giving them the headlines.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Communism was the religion of fools. The blind dogmatic adherence caught many an intellectual in its trap. But such fools don't happen in a vacuum. Sympathy for communism in the Red Decade was normal in such journals as The Nation and The New Republic. Closing their eyes to the horror, they helped many to do the same.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
From what I read in Diana West's book about WWII, American Betrayal, Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins were Stalinist's well after the informed public knew he was a monster. The Roosevelt administration arranged to send Stalin all the materials he needed to assemble the first Soviet nuclear bomb. Much other assistance was provided by these two to Stalin during WWII. So Paul Robeson was a singer. The New York Times defended Stalin during much of his reign. What is the surprise here?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just so we're clear, Kentfromohio, when you say Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins, do you mean FDR or Eleanor? I'm asking because when word got out that Stalin was a monster to the American public, FDR was already six-feet-under from a stroke, so we need clarification on what you mean by that.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Old Man River!

Ever see The Emperor Jones? Now that is a weird friggin movie.

Robeson had Asperberger's Syndrome and spoke like 20 languages. An honest to God genius. But, yeah, a die heard Stalinist.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Robeson did not have Asperger's syndrome, a version of autism. He could never have lived as he did if he had had it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It amazes me that the rewriting of history proceeds apace. During his radical phase, Ralph Bunche was close to Paul Robeson and his wife. Some of their correspondence is at UCLA Special Collections. And yet the Carnegie Corporation persuaded Bunche to identify red Negro betterment organizations. See http://clarespark.com/2011/08/04/carnegie-corp-and-the-negro-problem/.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is sad that such a great artist was such a great idiot, but it is hardly unheard of.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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