Saturday, August 15, 2020

Propaganda in the Pulps –

The cheap fiction magazines grind the reactionary political ax in a way the slick-paper periodicals would never dare attempt

There are war manoeuvres on the lawn of the White House. Many pages in the pulps are given over to black scream newspaper headlines; they are effective… the pulp magazines are related to newsprint, not to the novel, swinging with the weather-vanes of headlines.

HB Ucello was a teacher in the New York City school system when he wrote ‘Propaganda in the Pulps,’ for the March 2, 1937 issue of the Stalinist magazine New Masses. One curious article in the same issue caught my eye. It was called ‘Where My Sympathy Lies’, by Henry Roth, author of one of my favorite novels of childhood; Call It Sleep. Of the then recent Soviet show trials of Trotskyites he writes

None maintained his innocence there, none became the accuser; no matter how brilliant, none was backed by principle, all confessed their guilt… I do not believe together with the Hearst Press that these men were under the influence of mesmerism or mysterious narcotics; therefore, I believe them to be, as they themselves acknowledged, guilty.

Well. We know now that all these confessions were pried from the accused lips through torture during the Great Purge. The fellow-travelers were left with egg on their faces once again when Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939. The editors of the New Masses twisted themselves into pretzels (not for the last time) explaining the “confusion” to their American anti-fascist comrades.

Stalin was an enlightened Man of Peace; how could such things be? When Germany broke the pact and invaded Russia, and the Americans and Russians became allies, there must have been a huge sigh of relief in the American camp. Communists buried their doubts and joined the Allied forces in droves.

We await with bated breath a detailed study of leftist propaganda in the cartoon saturated New Masses. It would be extremely educational.