Among America’s more important actors and singers is Paul Robeson, born a century ago. An impressive talent who struggled against pervasive racism, Robeson would seem to deserve the centennial celebration of his life beginning this month. Unfortunately, he had an ugly side: He was an avowed communist who received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952.
Anyone can make a mistake, but Robeson knew what he was doing. In 1949, he met in Moscow with his friend, Yiddish author Itzik Feffer, who informed Robeson of the start of Joseph Stalin’s anti-Semitic purges. Robeson told reporters on his return to the United States that “I heard no word about” anti-Semitism. Feffer was later murdered by Stalin.
One wonders how Robeson, who died in 1976, would have responded to the collapse of communism. A few unrepentant communists remain: two dozen fill Sunset Hall, a Los Angeles home for the aged begun by Unitarians. The facility sports a picture of Robeson, a bust of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, and books on Marxism, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong and leading Bolshevik Leon Trotsky.
Sunset Hall’s residents spend their time pining for the good ol’ days. At age 8, Glady Foreman, now 90, was labeled a “little socialist” by her father. She predicts that “socialism, crushed to the Earth, will rise again.”
Jacob Darnov, 101, was a messenger for the early Soviet army. He unashamedly proclaims that Lenin is “the greatest politician we ever had in this world.”
Wayne Friedlander, who ran Sunset Hall until recently, says that these people “are the giants,” to whom he, a former member of Students for a Democratic Society, owes an enormous debt. “Giants.”
Yes, giant fools. What else can one call people who promoted, and still defend, the most murderous philosophy in human history?