Category Archives: Dreiser and Communism; Dreiser as Communist

A. B. Magil, “Theodore Dreiser: The Old and the New”

 

A. B. Magil, ‘Theodore Dreiser; The Old and the New’ – Daly Worker 8-28-1931

A. B. Magil, ‘Theodore Dreiser; The Old and the New’ – Daily Worker 8-28-1931 pg 4

A. B. Magil, ‘Theodore Dreiser; The Old and the New’ RUSSIAN

 

posted here:

Theodore Dreiser: The Old and the New

By A. B. Magil

Daily Worker

August 28, 1931

pg. 4

I have also posted a Russian translation of Magil’s article that was published in The Collected Works of Theodore Dreiser (Moscow, 1938).

A.B. Magil (1905-2003), also known as Abraham B. Magil and Abe Magil, was a Communist Party member and a Marxist journalist and pamphleteer.

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

Theodore Dreiser, “Amerikas angst von den Kommunisten”

 

Theodore Dreiser, ‘America’s Fear of Communism’ GERMAN

Theodore Dreiser, ‘America’s Fear of Communism’ – Der Querschnitt

Theodore Dreiser, ‘America’s Fear of Communism’ – Der Querschnitt

 

Posted here in the original German and English translation (documents above):

Theodore Dreiser, “Amerikas angst von den Kommunisten” (America’s Fear of Communism), Der Querschnitt, XII (August 1932): 549-550

This article is not cited in the standard Dreiser bibliography by Pizer, Dowell, and Rusch.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

 

Yuri Doykov on Dreiser

 

The following is an email from my friend and fellow researcher Yuri Doykov from Arkhangelsk, Russia:

About your article “Theodore Dreiser and the US Communist Press,” … it is interesting to know whether the “big” American press has celebrated the 150th anniversary of Dreiser’s birth. Our official government publication “Rossiyskaya Gazeta” has marked it with a “column” of a regular observer. This is understandable, since the country is following a neo-Stalinist course.

In your article there are things that are interesting to me that were kept silent in the Soviet Union. For example, anti-Semitism, hatred of “snobbish” England. Although, in my understanding, it was Dreiser and other representatives of the Red Decade who were sick with “snobbery”, admiring the Soviet Union and Stalin.

This enthusiasm, by the way, marked the beginning of the “disintegration” of the West, which Solzhenitsyn spoke about in his Harvard speech. Now the decay has led to the emergence of Mr. Trump and the New Year’s storming of the Capitol.

Best wishes,

Yuri

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 13, 2021

 

 

 

final corrected version

 

Theodore Dreiser in the US Communist Press

This article involved examining and documenting over 400 articles in the US Communist press (and then choosing which among them to reference and quote). This involved not only documentation but also transcription; almost all of the quoted material was transcribed by me.
Mistakes were inevitable. A final corrected word document has been posted by me at

 

Roger W. Smith, “Theodore Dreiser in the US Communist Press”

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 13, 2021

Теодор Драйзер, “Ленин” (Theodore Dreiser, “Lenin”)

 

 

 

Ленин

lenin – new masses

 

Published in Pravda, April 22, 1940, pg. 7 (the seventieth anniversary of Lenin’s birth).

Published in English as “V. I. Lenin,” New Masses, April 23, 1940, pg. 16.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2021

Roger W. Smith, “Theodore Dreiser in the US Communist Press”

 

‘Theodore Dreiser in the US Communist Press’

 

My new article is posted here as a Word document.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2021

 

“Mooney Talks to Dreiser, Says He Needs Champion”

 

 

 

Posted here:

“Mooney Talks to Dreiser, Says He Needs Champion”

The Fresno Bee, Fresno, California

Saturday, May 31, 1930

pg. 9

 

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Thomas Joseph “Tom” Mooney (1882-1942) was an American political activist and labor leader, who was convicted with Warren K. Billings of the San Francisco Preparedness Day Bombing of 1916.

It quickly became apparent that Mooney and Billings had been convicted based on falsified evidence and perjured testimony and the Mooney case and campaigns to free him — in which Dreiser was active — became an international cause cause célèbre for two decades.

Mooney served 22 years in prison before finally being pardoned in 1939.

 

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Theodore Dreiser, A Primary Bibliography and Reference Guide, Second Edition, by Donald Pizer, Richard W. Dowell, and Frederic E. Rusch lists sources about Dreiser and Tom Mooney.

Other sources not listed there include:

“Mooney and America,” Hesperian (San Francisco) 1, winter 1933 (reprinted in Theodore Dreiser: Political Writings, edited by Jude Davies)

“Dreiser Denounces Infamous Rolph Decision on Mooney,” Daily Worker, April 22, 1932

“Famous Writers Protest Method of Mooney Probe,” Daily Worker, November 4, 1932

“Mooney’s Release For Funeral Urged,” September 6, 1934

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    September 2021

Edmund Wilson review of Tragic America

 

Edmund Wilson review of Tragic America – New Republic 5-30-1932

 

Posted here is Edmund Wilson’s review of Dreiser’s Tragic America in The New Republic of May 30, 1932.

It gets at — very effectively — the question of flagrant infelicities and weakness in Dreiser’s writing versus the strengths of same. And it perceptively examines how Dreiser’s thought and political views were evolving at the time and becoming more aligned with Communism.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2021

“I would not want to do anything that could harm the position of Russia.”

 

excerpt

So said Theodore Dreiser said in 1933, explaining his refusal to intercede for a group of arrested Trotskyists, according an essay/book review on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon by Maya Zlobina: “Versiya Kestlera: kniga i zhizn” (Koestler’s Version: The book and the life) in the Russian journal, Novy mir (Novy mir, No 2, 1989).

I could not find the source of the Dreiser quote, which — in Zlobina’s article — is in Russian. The passage from the article referenced referring to Dreiser and other supporters from abroad of the Soviet Union under Stalin (in my translation from the Russian) is as follows:

… Rubashov,* who is to be shot before midnight, paces the cell, tallying the final results. The blinding darkness that had darkened his mind has dissipated, melted, and a clear, hitherto unknown stillness descends on the soul. The final chapter is called “The Dumb Interlocutor” — with him, that is, with his true Self, the hero will spend the hours allotted to him before the execution. Free from debts and obligations (or maybe just free?), Rubashov will reconsider and reevaluate his past, questioning everything he believed in. “So why should he die? To that question he had no answer.” He only knew that “I have paid; my account with history is settled.” … The author gave the hero more than an easy death — peace: “A wave slowly lifted him up. It came from afar and travelled sedately on a shrug of eternity.”

On this it would be possible, together with Koestler, to put an end to it, if his book did not give us a key to another historical phenomenon, no less mysterious than the confessions of the accused at the Moscow trials. So mysterious that others are seriously talking about a worldwide conspiracy of the left intelligentsia against Russia, in which A. Barbusse, R. Rolland, L. Aragon, T. Dreiser, B. Shaw, L. Feuchtwanger, F. Joliot-Curie, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, Hewlett Johnson and others (and from our own — V. Mayakovsky, M. Gorky, I. Ehrenburg and, of course, M. Koltsov, who told Aragon before leaving for Moscow in anticipation of his arrest: “Remember that Stalin is always right”). I will not discuss this detective story, which looks suspiciously like those anti-Soviet conspiracies that were composed at Lubyanka. But the attitude of the Western intellectual elite to these crudely fabricated forgeries, to mass arrests and to everything that happened in those terrible years in our country, the stubbornness with which eminent, respected writers ignored the crimes of the Stalinist regime and thereby covered them up (and some even glorified the Soviet “camps for the re-education of citizens” as “a remarkable achievement of socialism”), is stunning and requires explanation. What was it? What “blinding darkness” covered their eyes?

All the same: we find here “Rubashov’s syndrome” in its purest form – after all, they were not threatened with torture! … They believed — or wanted to believe — that in the USSR “the foundation of the great happiness of all mankind is being laid,” and for the sake of the dream they cherished protected and supported the myth created by Stalinist propaganda. ” It just so happened, — Bukharin said bitterly to one of his Parisian acquaintances, — that Stalin became, as it were, a symbol of the party. “Or a symbol of socialism, the foreign friends of October might say.” from Rubashov and his comrades, these highbrow humanists enjoyed all the rights and benefits of imaginary freedom, which the country was deprived of, embodying their social ideal! … Hypnotized by the alternative “who is not with us, is against us,” they were asked menacingly:

“Who are you with, masters of culture?” — they chose Stalin.

“Whatever the nature of the current dictatorship in Russia – unfair or whatever you want … until the current strict martial law is eased … and until the question of the Japanese threat is cleared up, I would not want to do anything that could harm the position of Russia. And, with God’s help, I will not do it, “Dreiser said in 1933, explaining his refusal to intercede for a group of arrested” Trotskyists,” with whom, however, “he was very sympathetic.” And Joliot-Curie, who in 1938, at the request of Koestler, wrote a letter to Stalin in defense of the Austrian physicist-communist Weissberg, who was arrested in the USSR (later transferred in accordance with the Soviet-German treaty to the Gestapo), in the late 40s, when “Darkness at Noon’ was being published in France,, and Weissberg, returned from the concentration camp, publicly branded Koestler as a detractor and slanderer! Ten years later, after the official denunciation of the “cult of personality,” the same Joliot-Curie admitted to Ehrenburg that he had seen all the “flaws” for a long time, and added: “Please, in the presence of the children, tell us about the good things that were done for you.” In essence, these intellectuals treated both their people and all of humanity as children who should only be told about the good so that they would not be disappointed in socialism! … Yes, they knew what they were doing, and in the name of a falsely understood duty they betrayed not only ourselves, but us. They betrayed the precepts of European culture and that chief duty that Zola enunciate in his famous “J’Accuse…!” and that impels every true intellectual to take up the pen and sound the alarm at the sight of injustice.

Only a few of the progressives dared to speak the truth about “the country of the victorious revolution.” Now we cannot even imagine how much courage these “apostates” needed, how they reviled and cursed these, according to Koestler, “fallen angels who had the tactlessness to divulge that paradise is not found where it is supposed to be.” The case of the purely non-partisan “defector” André Gide is very indicative in this respect. The famous French writer, who from afar saw in the USSR “an example of that new society that we dreamed of, no longer daring to hope,” was deeply disappointed with Soviet reality. In the preface to “Return from the USSR” (1936), he tried to explain that supporting a lie, “would only harm the Soviet Union and, at the same time, the cause that it personifies in our eyes”; that, with sympathy for Russia, he hesitated for a long time before coming to such a decision, for it so happened that “the truth about the USSR is spoken with hatred, and lies — with love.”

Koestler’s book was written in the conviction that salvation is only in truth, and was written with love for a country and people suffocating under the yoke of the Stalinist dictatorship. However, the people, who remained for all intents and purposes beyond the scope of the portrayal, are depicted in the novel as obviously conventional. The schematism of these images, which is particularly obvious and, perhaps, even offensive for the Russian reader, is simply explained by the fact that the author was unable to artistically master the “folk” (and foreign) material. And yet Koestler was able, with a penetration rare for a visiting foreigner, to discern the living soul of the people through official optimism, propaganda varnish and the dumbness of fear. In The Invisible Writing, an autobiographical book written twenty years later, we find striking words about direct, reliable, fearless people, whose civic prowess contradicts the very essence of the regime and on whom, according to Koestler, our country rests. “I have met them on my travels in every part of the Soviet Union. … These men, whether Communists or not, are ‘Soviet Patriots’ in the sense in which that word was first used in the French Revolution. … in a country where everybody fears and evades responsibility; they exercise initiative and independent judgment where blind obedience is the norm; they are loyal and devoted to their fellow-beings in a world where loyalty is only expected towards one’s superiors and devotion only towards the State. They have personal honour and an unconscious dignity of comportment, where these words are objects of ridicule. … To-day I realise that their existence is very nearly a miracle, that they became what they are not because, but in spite of that education — a, triumph of the indestructible human substance over a de-humanising environment.

— Maya Zlobina. “Versiya Kestlera: kniga i zhizn” (Koestler’s Version: The book and the life), Noyy mir, No 2 (1989 )

*Rubashov, a victim of the Moscow show trials during the Stalinist Great Purge, is the main character in Darkness at Noon.

 

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The passage from Zlobina’s article, in the original Russian, in which Dreiser is quoted is as follows:

“Какова бы ни была природа нынешней диктатуры в России – несправедливая или какая хотите… пока нынешнее напряженное военное положение не смягчится… и пока вопрос о японской опасности не прояснится, я не хотел бы делать ничего такого, что могло бы нанести ущерб положению России. И, с Божьей помощью, не сделаю”, – заявил в 1933 году Драйзер, объясняя свой отказ заступиться за группу арестованных “троцкистов”, коим, впрочем, “очень сочувствовал”.

The full text of Zlobina’s article, in the original Russian and my English translation, is posted at

Maya Zlobina, “Koestler’s Version: The book and the life”

 

I wish to thank the Russian independent scholar Yuri Doykov for providing me with a copy of this article in the original Russian.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  August 2020

“Theodore Dreiser Joins Communist Party”

 

‘Theodore Dreiser Joins Communist Party’

“Theodore Dreiser Joins Communist Party”

Daily Worker

July 30, 1945

pg. 5

 

Posted here (PDF file above) is a letter of July 20, 1945 from Theodore Dreiser to William Z. Foster, General Secretary of the Communist Party USA, in which Dreiser applied for membership in the party. Dreiser was admitted to membership.

The letter was published in the Daily Worker, which was published by the Communist Party USA.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2020