Strange Communists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Apr 22 08:18:30 MDT 2002

Chronicles of Higher Education, April 26, 2002

Strange Communists From the Literary Left

On July 9, 1945, Guy Endore, a popular novelist and Hollywood screenwriter,
awoke as usual before dawn. Of wiry build, with brownish-blond hair and
blue eyes, Endore weighed a trim 145 pounds and stood 5 feet 7½ inches,
looking at least a decade younger than his 45 years. As he reached for the
pad and pencil that always rested near his bedside to record his waking
thoughts, a characteristically gentle yet enigmatic smile spread across his

Politically, Endore was what historians of the literary Left would regard
as an orthodox "Stalinist." In 1934, even before formally joining the
Communist Party, he wrote The New Republic to criticize an editorial that
had condemned the violent disruption by Communists of a Socialist Party
meeting in Madison Square Garden -- one of the manifestations of the
disruptive strategy of the Communist International that drove one-time
Party sympathizers such as John Dos Passos (1896-1970), Edmund Wilson
(1895-1972), and Lionel Trilling (1905-75) to publicly oppose the Party.
Endore, however, insisted that the Socialists, not the Communists, were
responsible for creating the divisive provocation.

Sometime between 1936 and 1938, at the height of the infamous Moscow Purge
Trials, Endore took out Communist Party membership, after moving from New
York to Hollywood. In the fall of 1939, as the news of the Hitler-Stalin
pact drove a number of disaffected intellectuals from the League of
American Writers and other Communist-led organizations, Endore extolled the
pact as evidence of Stalin's tactical genius. In May 1945, officials of the
U.S. Communist Party began to criticize the pact, which led to the
expulsion of the Party's general secretary, Earl Browder, in February 1946,
for "social imperialism"; Endore, however, waxed enthusiastic that the
comrades were once more returning to their principled politics. Thus he
decided, on July 9, 1945, to dash off a letter to the Communist weekly New
Masses, praising the public statement by the French Communist Jacques
Duclos that signaled the eventual end of Browderism: "Nothing so hopeful
has struck us as this recent French detergent," he wrote.

According to recollections of friends and family, and his own private
correspondence, a typical morning in the summer month when Endore sent that
letter might begin with him jotting down his waking thoughts, after which
he would return his pad of paper to the table. He would then place it
alongside the Gideon Bible that was always near at hand, although he was
quick to reassure all friends who inquired that, while a Jew by birth (his
father had changed the family name from Goldstein), he was actually a
lifelong mystic sympathetic to theosophy. Next, Endore might consult
Genesis, Chapter 9, on which he had been meditating the night before. More
than 20 years earlier, that passage had convinced him that he must convert
humankind to vegetarianism or the species would destroy itself.

Louis Proyect
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