When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would honor director Elia Kazan with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Hollywood liberal-leftists objected. The “Committee Against Silence” (CAS), a group of former “blacklisted” writers, has planned a protest outside the Oscars ceremony on March 21, and has asked academy members not to applaud Mr. Kazan when he is introduced.
They find unforgivable that in his testimony during the House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings in 1952, Mr. Kazan, as they dramatize it, “named names” of people in the American movie and theater industries that he knew were members of the Communist Party (as he was briefly a member) and thereby ruined their careers.
A “witch hunt” against “innocent victims” is how his critics characterize the HUAC investigation of communist infiltration in Hollywood, to which he was a friendly participant. “Informer” and similar names are what they call him. Furthermore, Bernard Gordon, who formed the CAS, said Mr. Kazan’s major achievement “was to contribute to one of the worst civil liberties violations in the country.”1
What had Elia Kazan essentially done to receive this opposition?
Besides his testimony before the HUAC, he published a notice in the New York Times, which stated the following:
“They [the Communist Party] attempted to control thought and to suppress personal opinion. They tried to dictate personal conduct. They habitually distorted and disregarded and violated the truth.”
“I was also held back by a piece of specious reasoning which has silenced many liberals. It goes like this: ‘You may hate the Communists, but you must not attack them or expose them, because if you do you are attacking the right to uphold unpopular opinions and you are joining the people who attack civil liberties.’ “
“[W]e must never let the Communists get away with the pretense that they stand, for the very things which they kill in their own countries. I am talking about free-speech, a free press, the rights of property, — and, above all, individual rights.
“Liberals must speak out.”2
Instead, like the Communist Party they belonged to, the liberal “innocent victims” still distort, disregard, and violate the truth. As they and their supporters still charge Elia Kazan with the alleged crime of “naming names,” they still evade how he also named the facts about the Communist Party, facts they refuse to acknowledge.
In fact, the liberties of the Hollywood Communists weren’t violated by the HUAC. Since as Americans they have a right to uphold and speak any ideas, be they those of our Founding Fathers or of Karl Marx, they were investigated, not because of the ideas they upheld, but because of their membership in a party directed and financed by the Soviet Union, which had as a purpose the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Had it succeeded, all liberties in America — including freedom of thought and speech — would have been ended.
These facts nullified the Communist Party as one worthy of constitutional protection and made it treasonous for an American to be a member of the Party.
Moreover, the Hollywood Communists were members of a party that banished to Siberia or murdered anyone who remotely threatened its power; that supported and signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi-Germany from 1939 to 1941; that under Joseph Stalin’s reign exterminated millions of peasants in the Ukraine; and that ultimately committed what is arguably the bloodiest tyranny in world history, its victims estimated at 20-40 million people — which discounts the tens of millions reduced to a sub-human existence.
The Hollywood Communists failed to speak when it came to telling the HUAC or their employers of their membership in this party, a revelation of which would have rightfully cost them their jobs. Instead, they used their free speech, a right denied to their comrades in Soviet Russia, to insert into their movie scripts communist ideology that necessarily undercut American values, such as the right to one’s property.
That Elia Kazan helped expose them meant they could no longer perpetrate fraud against their employers, who had the right to “blacklist” them and refuse them the opportunity to propagate communism on their property, their studios and movies.
That he came to understand the evils of the Communist Party and its ideology, and confirmed the names of its American members, who were “loyal” to falsehoods and murderers, makes him not a traitorous “informer,” but an individual dedicated to facts, truth. Elia Kazan should be applauded for such moral heroism.
1. Maureen Dowd, “Streetcar Named Betrayal,” New York Times, February 24, 1999.
2. Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, Hollywood Party, Prima Publishing, 1998 (p.224-225).