There should not be any controversy about the awarding of an honorary Oscar to director Elia Kazan at the Academy Awards presentation this Sunday. Not only is the award justified on its artistic merits, Kazan’s decision to testify about Communism in Hollywood in 1952 was a courageous, costly, and noble one that deserves its own award.
Thankfully, I am not alone in making this point. A group called the Ad Hoc Committee for Naming Facts is organizing an effort to fight the misinformation that flows so freely in the news media and throughout the entertainment industry about the era that prompted those hearings.
The group correctly points out that it was Kazan “who was the supporter of the principle of individual rights, and his Communist opponents who were its enemies.”
The effort was organized by the Ayn Rand Institute — and Ayn Rand knew something about what was at stake in Hollywood in 1952. The founder of modern libertarianism was deeply involved in the effort to fight the Communist Party’s attempt to hijack America’s entertainment industry.
Here are the facts as laid out by the group — all of which I can validate through my own years of investigating this era and through countless hours of personal interviews with some of the surviving principals:
The people identified by Kazan were members of the Communist Party — a fact rarely mentioned in most news accounts;
The mission of the party, financed and directed by the Soviet Union, was the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and the imposition of a Soviet-style dictatorship in America;
The Hollywood Communists were ideological enemies of individual rights — including the First Amendment which they hid behind during the hearings;
The U.S. government had a legitimate right to investigate an organization that declared its intent to overthrow it on behalf of a foreign dictatorship;
Private film studios had every right to “blacklist” people whose views they found repugnant. Few would question, for instance, the right of a business owner to refuse to hire a known follower of the Nazi Party. There is no moral distinction between Stalinism and Hitlerism.
The committee also offers the good news that a surviving member of the Hollywood 10, Edward Dmytryk, as well as Roy Brewer, former president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, are outspokenly in support of awarding Kazan.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing both men about the hearings and the events leading up to them. It is a history few Americans know, yet it is a history we cannot afford to forget at peril to our own freedom.
If we do misinterpret the lessons of the past, the Cold War victories will have been in vain. Communism is an evil system. It has not gone away. It has not evaporated, not even in Russia. Ninety miles from our shores in Cuba, one of the most vicious Communist police states in the world continues to terrorize its own people. And the largest nation in the world, China has subjugated its own people, and threatens the West today with nuclear weapons perfected in our own laboratories; weapons that were stolen or purchased under the criminally negligent watch of the Clinton administration.
I look forward to watching the Academy Awards presentation this Sunday — for the first time in many years. Something honorable might actually happen. Then again, that depends upon the reception Kazan gets from an intellectually shallow and ideologically left-wing Hollywood crowd.
America will be watching, Hollywood.
We’ll be interested to see who among you today understands the meaning of free speech and individual rights, and which of you believe that free speech and individual rights are simply privileges reserved for those who pass some misguided socialistic litmus test.
Kazan has paid a price for taking a moral stand against evil. He deserves to be honored, not vilified, pilloried, or abused.
Hundreds of millions of people have been victimized by Communism in the last 75 years. Enough is enough. It’s time to let truth and freedom ring, again — even in Hollywood.