Wednesday, March 23, 2016

(Now) The Hollywood Ten (Nov. 1947)

In this (Now) chapter the novel imagines a meeting between Marc and certain familiar characters of the besieged American left as  they tried to deal with the witch hunt of communists orchestrated by Sen. "Tailgunner" Joe McCarthy (R-Wis).

The Coppola business got a big bang. Marc took the hit and pressed on with his long harangues in the House followed by votes mostly for losing causes now.
He pressed behind the scenes for relief from the investigations hounding him but Marc's ideas were very different from his colleagues. His high-minded hectoring had scored him many political points over the years and made just as many enemies.
He was not bored. There were attacks. Jabs and counterpunches were needed on all sides. Marc marshaled them. 

At Anna Damon's apartment Marc pow-wowed with John Abt a big fish communist. The writer Dorothy Parker was there and, Heywood Broun the reporter who got up the Newspaper Guild to squeeze the New York press barons.    
They were talking Hollywood Ten screenwriters on their way to federal prison for not making nice with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. The scribes went and got Constitutional and what have you instead of following a script written by someone else.    
Vito sat at the edge of a chair with his hat twirling in his hands. "They are not nailing them for being communists. They are getting them for not answering a question when asked."
"I think it's time to go into hiding," said Parker.
"You've been saying that since World War I started," Broun poked her.
"They were none of them any good as communists," Damon said. "We are very disappointed in the work done by party members out in Hollywood. A few champagne benefits for Spain. They are unreliable and egotistical, accustomed to their creature comforts." 
Marc was bugged. "Anna, you sound like you don't care what happens to these guys just because they're not good communists."
"Congressman, you must meet me for tea and a chat," said Parker.  
Damon flushed radical red. "And what is your concern with these men Dorothy?"  
Dorothy Parker
"They are friends and colleagues," Dotty spit. "People I work with. They are not propaganda tools for me. I need people to drink with and talk to...or I'll die.”
"They are good at that I can assure you," Damon told the famous writer.
"Then I should think they make the best kind of communists."
"But they don't."
"Their hearts are in the same place yours is," the writer whipped back. "Theirs just happen to be pumping."
"Ladies, please," Marc growled.
Abt was reasonable. The truth was that none of the Hollywood writers were communists anymore.   
John Abt.
"Ed Dmytryk had been out of the party for at least a year. Andrian Scott never had anything to do with us," he said.
"You mean the party has no real stake in what happens to these guys now?" Marc was steamed. "That the communists are going to abandon them the same way Hollywood did?"
Broun jumped in. "The bosses are using this to roll back the unions. They are clearing them out of the most active members and making it hard to sign new ones. Everybody is heading for the hills on this thing. They threaten federal prison. Who wouldn't be terrified?"
"Congressman, you should say something, but it should be larger than the writers," Abt tried to hit the soothing notes. "You can talk about them. Their cases are instructive, but make it about the larger picture. That's the right role for you here."
"An attack on the committee and its tactics?" Marc tried.
"For example," Abt nodded.
Vito turned to Heywood Broun. "What do you
Heywood Broun.
"Attack. I don't care who or what, but attack."
On November 24, Marc took to the House well, aimed and fired at the committee.
"Let us look at this picture a moment. The First Amendment to the Constitution provides that Congress cannot make any law abridging freedom of speech and of the press. That means that this committee cannot report out any law, and this Congress cannot pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or press; and you cannot get around it by wildly and hysterically charging a political conspiracy.
“You cannot evade the Constitution no matter how much hysteria, no matter how much of a smoke screen you raise here. Since you cannot legislate in any manner that will abridge the freedom of speech or freedom of the press, you cannot investigate this field. That is exactly what the situation is here. You are investigating in a field over which you cannot legislate; consequently the activity of the committee is in violation of the Constitution."
He raised the case of Dalton Trumbo, one of the writers pacing the plank: "Now let me be more specific, let us examine the very questions that you asked which this witness refused to answer: One, as to membership in a labor union; and, two, as to membership in a political party. Both of those questions inherently involve the persons right of free speech. You cannot get around that, no matter what amount of irresponsible charges may be hurled at these witnesses."
Marc had been at the throat of the Texan Martin Dies since he got his little roadstand up and used it to pillory union leaders and civil liberty types back in the thirties. And there was that whole business with the Federal Theater Project.
Marc knew his enemy.
"It seems this committee and the Congress, during the last few years, have taken the position that democracy is synonymous with the rule of monopoly capital, that democracy is synonymous with everything for which monopoly capital stands; that anyone who protests against the rule of monopoly capital, anyone who objects to what has been transpiring under that rule, anyone who seeks a social and economic change is subversive. Thus, you have been attempting to make Americans conform with the patterns of the big trusts. America will never survive if we place America in that straight jacket.

   "Mr. Speaker, place America in that strait-jacket and we will have the America of standpatters, we will have the America of the Bourbons and of the Tories. At least the Bourbons and the Tories of the past did not use this kind of technique of red-baiting, using the Communist bogey for the purpose of imposing fascism. It is the weapon employed to protect the few who benefit from the program of war and depression. It is a repetition of history. It was done this way in Germany, it was done this way in Italy, and if I have to be alone again in Congress, I will cast my votes against it ever happening in the United States of America."

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