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This Land Is Our Land

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Some people have questioned the connection between the recent NFL player protests and communism. They have referred to comments about cultural Marxism as nothing more than a "modern right-populist bogeyman", thus inferring there is no connection at all.

To reach this conclusion, one would have to view the NFL protest in a vacuum, intentionally ignoring statements and positions that have been taken by some individuals involved in these NFL protests, and further, to ignore manifestos and demands that have recently arisen from those who claim to speak for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a larger sense, one would have to ignore history itself, and forget about the record of communism in America, and it's use of racial identity issues and sports in an attempt to gain support.

A popular television show recently had an episode titled "This Land is Your Land", and while this was most likely a wink and a nod to the communist history that the song represents, in the context of today's politics, it reveals much more via an essay inspired by the same song at the government funded National Endowment for the Humanities.

While the politics of the television show might be apparent by the fact that the current season has been dedicated to demonizing "preppers" as racists and murderers, the essay at the NEH makes it clear that communism, Hollywood and manipulation of sports have a long history.

Below are excerpts from the essay, which enlighten us about the history of connections between Marxist individuals and organizations, and racial politics and sports (and more broadly about propaganda via entertainment, of which sports is simply a subset). What we see today is nothing more than a replay, an extension and modern remake of well-used leftist political tactics. Are the current NFL protests related to cultural Marxism? In the light of history, it's hard not to see the tangled web of connections.


This Land Is Our Land
By Michael Kazin

Consider the words and images of the Great Depression that, alongside speeches by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, remain icons more than eighty years after the long slump began. “Once I built a railroad, / Made it run / Made it race against time / Once I built a railroad / Now it’s done / Brother, can you spare a dime?” In Yip Harburg’s lyrics, set to a Russian-Jewish lullaby, a beggar talks back to the system that stole his job. The man seeking a handout is everyman—once a farmer and a combat veteran as well as a construction worker.
All these works were created by individuals active in the culture of the Popular Front, a vigorously democratic and multiracial movement in the arts and daily life that was sponsored but not controlled by the Communist party. Harburg was a leading member of pro-Soviet groups in Hollywood and penned dozens of songs that satirized racist lawmakers and Cold Warriors, which helped earn him a blacklisting in 1950. But he kept the Oscar he had won a decade earlier for writing “Over the Rainbow” for The Wizard of Oz.
To understand the fortunes of American communism during its heyday in the 1930s and forties requires a healthy taste for irony. On the one hand, the apostles of Lenin and Stalin yoked themselves to one of the bloodiest, most repressive regimes in history and the first one whose dictatorial nature mocked its own vision of a world run by working people. Yet the Communist party had a striking influence on American culture, although seldom in its own name. The influence of Popular Front culture endured long after the party had been banished to the crumbling margins of American politics. The number of renowned writers, filmmakers, entertainers, and artists who had traveled with the Communists during its heyday was quite remarkable, given the party’s modest size and electoral inconsequence. Party members wrote “Ballad for Americans,” “Strange Fruit,” “This Land Is Your Land,” Native Son, The Little Foxes, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Artists who, while not members, had spent many evenings in the party’s milieu, created Citizen Kane, Death of a Salesman, “Fanfare for the Common Man,” For Whom the Bell Tolls, Yertle the Turtle, Invisible Man, and wrote the screenplay for Casablanca. Novelists in or close to the party had nine books at or near the top of the best-seller list from 1929 to 1945.
The very creation of a marketable genre known as “folk music” was due almost entirely to the Popular Front.
No white-led radical movement since the Civil War had staked as much as the Communists on a commitment to racial equality. The party never attracted many non-white members and had trouble holding on to those it did. But its constant assaults on racist laws and politicians earned the respect of black Americans who had no intention of joining. In 1945, two black sociologists observed, “The Reds won the admiration of the Negro masses by default. They were the only white people who seemed to really care about what happened to the Negro.”

The party’s rhetoric on race was not always a guide to its actions. Communists fought for civil rights the same way they fought for industrial unions and intellectual freedom: with one eye fixed steadily on the needs of the USSR. What did remain consistent was the party’s vision of a society that would encourage both racial equality and expressions of racial pride. A mass, sustainable civil rights movement did not emerge until the 1950s, when the party had all but vanished from political life. But the Popular Front helped put forth a new way of understanding race in America, and it was on such an understanding that the marriage of pluralism and equality depends.

Communists sponsored broad ad hoc coalitions on a variety of racial issues—from a federal antilynching law to voting rights to battling against fascism as a system of explicit race hatred. These efforts attracted a prestigious group of African Americans from the arts and entertainment.
The advocacy of militant antiracism had its prophetic moments—particularly in the area of mass culture. In 1939, in New York and other big cities, the party launched a boycott of the movie Gone With the Wind, whose rosy depiction of the Confederacy clashed with histories of the Civil War era by DuBois and other radicals. A pro-Communist writer declared he “should like to take” the film’s producer David O. Selznick “out of his chartered skysleeper and rub his nose in the South of pellagra, of Jim Crow, of illiteracy, . . . of sharecroppers, of the modern Ku Klux Klan riding down unionists.” Although the boycott’s effect on the box office was minimal, it was the first major salvo in a debate over media images of black people and other ethnic minorities that continues today.

Communists had more success when they protested against the Jim Crow barrier in a form of entertainment older than film: Major League Baseball. Due to an unofficial agreement among team owners, no black player had taken the field with white ones since the mid-1880s. When he became sports editor of the Daily Worker in 1936, Lester Rodney resolved to abolish that tradition.

Cleverly, the young editor framed the campaign in the language of muckraking as well as principle: “The Sunday Worker will rip the veil from the ‘Crime of the Big Leagues’—mentioning names, giving facts, sparing none of the most sacred figures in baseball officialdom.” The strategy gained new readers as well as lavish praise from the black press. In return, Rodney reprinted similar features from such black weeklies as the Pittsburgh Courier—which further enhanced the credibility of his stand.

Over the next decade, the party pressed its case in a variety of venues. May Day paraders carried banners demanding integration of the sport; young Communists even picketed Yankee Stadium before a game. In interviews with Rodney, various Major League managers stated their support for abolishing the color bar. Paul Robeson, a former football All American, lectured baseball owners at one of their meetings: “The time has come that you must change your attitude toward Negroes.” Finally, in the fall of 1945, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, a college graduate and army veteran, to a contract.
Popular Front artists may have had their greatest impact creating features on the big screen. During the years of Depression and world war, at least 40 percent of Americans took in a movie every week.
But in Hollywood as elsewhere, cultural Communists had a talent for making themselves useful and tilting the opinions of others their way. Communist party members and their close allies took the lead in forming the first independent unions of writers, actors, and craftsmen—and sponsored such groups as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, whose events drew thousands of participants and widespread media attention.
Historians continue to battle over how to define the essential nature of the Communist party and the Popular Front. One camp argues that the party and its allies were, in FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s famous phrase, “masters of deceit.” Nothing they did mattered as much as their allegiance to a foreign power, and when that allegiance became a serious handicap during the Cold War, the party was finished.
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Updated 10-02-2017 at 01:56 PM by Brian4Liberty