The Corner

Poppa Goldberg/Hollywood Ten

My father is a font of anti-Communist arcana (what did you think I picked this stuff up from college or my New York City high school?). Here’s an email he sent me about the Hollywood Ten, too late for inclusion in the column:

I believe the Hollywood Ten were legally at risk because they violated the Smith Act, which was passed in 1940 and made it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. The Smith Act was the bete noire of the Communist Party and they fought it tooth and nail. It became in Communist folklore the American Nuremberg Laws – BUT first to uphold the implementation of the Smith Act was none other than the Communist Party, USA, which gleefully turned over the names of Trotskyites to the FBI. I didn’t trust my memory on this so I googled it (Smith Act – first entry gives a history – although tendentious in its opposition to it – of the act). Here’s the pertinent paragraph:

“An ironic aspect of the convictions, which was not lost among civil libertarians and others, was that the Communist Party had fully supported the use in 1941 of the Smith Act against the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. Motivated by its hatred of Trotskyist political opponents and its fervent support for the Soviet-American alliance of World War II, the Party had judged the Smith Act perfectly constitutional and the subsequent trials a legitimate government action. Those positions gravely undercut the credibility of the Party’s efforts in the 1950s to characterize the Smith Act as unconstitutional and to mobilize a defense on the basis of political free speech and freedom of association.”

The convictions referred to were of the leadership of the Communist party – Henry Winston, Eugene Dennis, John Gates, Gus Hall, Ben Davis, five others (all listed in the google story) – in, I believe 1949.) The Ten were convicted of contempt of Congress (HUAC hear ings), and several of them jumped bail and went underground but later were apprehended and imprisoned. Original sentences were for five years. The Commies had to wiggle out of their embarrassment of endorsing the Smith Act to punish the Trotskyites, back in 1940.. The bottom line in all this is that the Communists had no governing morality – they would use a law they detested in order to punish their enemies, just as they will use the word “peace” to disarm their enemies.


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