When Reagan was rejected by the CPUSA

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Sep 27 15:28:03 MDT 1999

The Sunday Times (London)                               26 September 1999


        It is too late for the politburo to gloat, but Ronald Reagan,
slayer of the "evil empire," tried to join the Communist party as a
young man and was rejected for being too dim.
        The revelation is made in the authorized biography done by
friends who knew the former president when he was an actor.
        One of them, Howard Fast, the writer, said Saturday that
Reagan "was passionate" about enlisting with the American
Communist party in 1938.
        "They thought he was a feather brain and turned him down,"
Fast told The Sunday Times.
        Reagan always portrayed himself as a former left-leaning
Democrat who moved to the political right after seeing the
communists in action in Hollywood. It now emerges that some of
his closest friends were communists. "He felt if it was right for
them, it was right for him," said Fast.
        In 1938, the 27-year-old actor announced he wanted to sign up.
The party conducted an investigation, said Fast, and "word came
back he was a flake ... who couldn't be trusted with a political
opinion for more than 20 minutes."
        Fast said the party sent Reagan a delegation who "convinced
him he could do more for the various causes that the party
represented in Hollywood as an outsider, as a friend of the party,
than as a member.
        "It took hours to talk him out of it."
        The former president's flirtation with Marxism was an unlikely
prelude to a political career that was largely spent battling the threat
of Soviet communism.
        At the time, the United States was still in the grip of economic
depression and many Hollywood actors were starved of work.
According to Edmund Morris, the biographer, Reagan applied to
become a member of the Californian branch of the American CP but
was rejected by leading figures in the party.
        As the anti-communist witch-hunt intensified, he was president
of the Hollywood Screen Actors' Guild and supplied the FBI with
at least six names of communist sympathizers.
        Among its other revelations, the biography discloses that
Reagan had little respect for George Bush, his vice-president for
eight years, and viewed him as a "downstairs person" who lacked
political courage.
        The revelation of his disdain for Bush, the loyal deputy who
became his successor, throws new light on the tensions within the
White House as the vice-president struggled to get his own
presidential campaign off the ground.
        According to Morris, who devoted 14 years' work to the book,
Reagan formed a dim view of Bush while they were both candidates
for the Republicans' presidential nomination in 1980 -- a contest
that Reagan won.
        After agreeing to a one-to-one debate with Bush in New
Hampshire, the scene of the crucial first primary election, Reagan
invited other candidates to join in. Instead of objecting, Bush
allowed his rival to change the rules and dominate the event.
        "Reagan was a man who admired strength," said Morris. "I
think he perceived Bush, when Bush wimped out, as a man who
gave into pressure. I sensed very strongly that Reagan thought
Bush was not all man."
        Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, the 864-page book to be
published by Random House, was commissioned in the 1980s when
Reagan was president. Morris was given unprecedented access to
White House meetings and had monthly conversations with his

Louis Proyect

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