By Eugene Lyons
ONE of the minor forms of the revolt against reason which is such a conspicuous and disturbing feature of our time was the infatuation of a considerable number of American radicals and liberals with the Soviet Union during the decade that ended so dramatically with the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the beginning of the Second World War. On the slenderest basis of firsthand knowledge of Soviet conditions and realities, these amateur and professional friends of the Soviet Union formed an infinite number of pro-Communist organizations, bored from within trade-unions, issued pompous manifestoes, formed literary cliques to discredit authors who failed to conform to the ‘Party line,’ and acted on all occasions as zealous press agents for the Soviet régime.
This game reached a climax of folly when some four hundred of these Red and pink intellectuals published a declaration hailing the Soviet Union as ‘a consistent bulwark against war and aggression’— just on the eve of the conclusion of the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the invasion of Poland, and a little over three months before the invasion of Finland. The subsequent march of events was a cruel awakening for America’s cocktailbohemian Communists.
The ‘ Red decade’ has found a brilliant, vitriolic and wholly unsympathetic chronicler in Eugene Lyons, who became one of the main targets of abuse of the American Red intellectual ‘hatchet squad’ when he set down an extremely pungent record of his disillusionment in Russia in Assignment to Utopia. Almost all the ascertainable facts about the American Communist Party, with its frequent changes of ideology and tactics on instructions from Moscow, and about its periphery of poets, artists, singers, physicians, ministers, writers, journalists turned amateur left-wing politicians and economists, are set down to an accompaniment of lively and acid comment.
Mr. Lyons obviously neither gives nor expects quarter. No punches are pulled, and everyone who ever signed a Red manifesto is likely to find his name in print in this book, which is exhaustive as well as vehement. Sometimes humor might have served the author’s purpose better than the invective which he usually prefers. But the Red decade called for a historian; and Mr. Lyons has done his job extremely well.
W. H. C.