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March 11, 2005

Erasing the Stalin Connection


For years, King County has been giving out the Paul Robeson Awards to scholar-athletes. To honor athletes who are also scholars is a good thing, and Iím for it. ButÖPaul Robeson? The countyís mini-bio of this man says he was an African American singer, actor and political activist, but skims over just what sort of political activist he was. Part of his activism was for racial equality, and that part is good. But at the outbreak of the Cold War, when Stalin was imposing Communism on Eastern Europe and Mao was imposing it on China, this man was publicly siding with them against the United States. He accepted the Stalin Prize from the Soviet government. You can read about it at this non-political source.

The King County web page omits this. It does say the U.S. State Department took away Robesonís passport for most of the 1950s, but it doesnít say why. It doesnít mention that he was called in front of a Congressional committee and asked about his Party membership. He refused to answer.

I donít know if Paul Robeson ever said he was a Communist, but the Communists claim him as one of theirs: look here, here, and here.

When the Bush Administration put Robeson on a postage stamp, they left that part out. (Ditto for Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, another stamp Stalinist.)

Well, so what? Canít we celebrate a Communist for his other achievements? Yes, particularly his non-political achievements. But if weíre celebrating Robeson as a political activist, it does matter what he was an activist for.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at March 11, 2005 03:19 PM



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