Not Anti-War, Just on the Other Side

Daniel Hannan wrote in the London Telegraph last year that “The greatest cultural victory of the Left has been to disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact" and toss it down the Memory Hole, to borrow another Orwellianism:

To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.

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In his Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh, largely through gentle subtext, told the story of how Soviet sympathisers in the West used the alliance with the USSR to rehabilitate its doctrines. Hayek, writing in 1944, devoted the greater part of his Road to Serfdom to refuting the idea that Nazism and Communism were opposed ideologies, well aware of how fervently this idea was being promoted.

He was right; but he made little impact. If you want to see how successful the propagandists of the time were, look at the reaction you get today when – as I did recently – you recite a few unadorned facts that point to the socialist nature of fascism.

Trumbo himself would go from writing the pacifist Johnny to penning the screenplay of the very-much pro-war 30 Seconds Over Tokyo just a few years later. And as Orrin Judd wrote in his review of Johnny 15 year ago:

The story of Dalton Trumbo & this pacifist classic is as entertaining as anything he ever wrote. After the Stalin-Hitler Nonaggression pact was signed, doctrinaire communists like Trumbo were ordered to oppose US entry into the war; the Nazis were suddenly allies of the Communists. So Trumbo penned this seemingly impassioned anti-war diatribe. However, as soon as Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Party members were commanded to advocate immediate American intervention, so with Trumbo's connivance the book disappeared from print. Meanwhile, isolationists praised the book and tried getting Trumbo to join their movement. He not only refused them, he also turned their names over to the FBI. Once the war ended, the FBI & Congress belatedly turned their attention to the domestic Communist menace and Trumbo ended up being a member of the Hollywood Ten, when he refused to name fellow Party members in a fit of new found moral virginity. Additionally, with America once again fighting against Communists, this time in Southeast Asia, Trumbo suddenly rediscovered the value of his novel and it returned to print. One hardly expects elevated levels of morality from a Communist, but the cynicism displayed by Trumbo was truly breathtaking.

In 2003, Mark Steyn wrote a review under the brilliant title "76 Trumbos Play the Big Parade," of the off Broadway play written as an apologia for Trumbo, "Though the play won’t tell you the answer to that famous question – 'Are you now or have you ever…?' – the answer is: yes, he was. The more interesting question is: How do you feel about getting one of the great moral questions of the century wrong?"

Last month, Ann Coulter noted that Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston will be playing Trumbo in a film to be released later this year. I wonder if he realizes the man he's eulogizing is on par, in his own way, with Walter White. Or as Coulter's headline exclaimed, "From meth cook to Hitler apologist."

(Headline via this long-running Insta-meme.)