U.S. Jamaican Embassy Honors Stalin Propagandist


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In a ceremony befitting President Obama’s vision of a repentant postmodern America, a section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica has been named after a propagandist for Stalinist Russia and darling of the international left – the controversial African-American stage actor and social activist Paul Robeson.

The Embassy’s Information Resource Center that boasts housing “the definitive collection of Americana” in Jamaica is now named the “Paul Robeson Information Resource Center.” During the renaming ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater called Robeson a patriotic American.

Her remarks surely pleased Jamaica’s left-leaning government and its many anti-American elites. They regard Robeson as a kindred spirit — a famous ideologue of the old left who blazed a trail for them: stalwart members of today’s postmodern left. In recent years, they have pushed for slave reparations from Britain, promoted a chummy relationship with Cuba, and proven problematic partners in the war on Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Ultimately, the renaming appears to be part of President Obama’s reset of America’s foreign policy – and how a postmodern America ought to interact with the world and be perceived by it.

It’s not that Robeson’s resume lacks some stellar achievements, a fact that Bridgewater – an African-American whose father was a jazz trumpeter – surely had in mind. A famous stage actor and singer in the 1920s and 30s, Robeson was an all-American athlete and class valedictorian at Rutgers University. He subsequently earned a law degree from Columbia University, and though he briefly practiced law it’s said he ended his legal career because of limited opportunities for black lawyers, and an alleged incident in which a white legal secretary refused to take dictation from him.

Many regard Robeson as a 20th Century Renaissance man. Yet like many among the morally confused left during the 1940s and 50s, Robeson embraced communism. And while most black Americans stood by their country, Robeson stood against it by serving as a high-profile propagandist for Stalinist Russia — a dangerous existential enemy of America and the West. He was controversial and polarizing. In 1949, when Robeson declared that African-Americans should refuse to take up arms against Stalinist Russia, American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson was quoted as saying that although he’d never met Robeson, he would “punch him in the mouth” if they ever met.

Like Hollywood’s outspoken leftist celebrities, Robeson traveled the world to promote his odious political views. This included high-profile trips behind the Iron Curtain, to Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, to demonstrate solidarity with Joseph Stalin and the communist cause. He spoke and sang at large rallies and gatherings – high-visibility events generating newspaper headlines and featured on Pathe’s newsreels.

Robeson fashioned himself as a man of the people. Yet when Hungarians revolted against their Soviet masters, he likened them to fascists. Referring to politically-motivated killings in Stalinist Russia, he observed: “From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!”

When Stalin died in 1953, Robeson – winner of the Stalin Peace Prize a year earlier – praised him in a glowing eulogy as a great man. “One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin – the shapers of humanity’s richest present and future,” he wrote.

Many of Robeson’s fellow leftists were horrified at Stalin’s crimes in Russia and aggression abroad. They publicly condemned what was happening — even to the point of renouncing communism. But not Robeson. Appearing in 1956 before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he refused to condemn Russia’s labor camps where millions perished – yet in the same breath he bitterly condemned his own country’s legacy of slavery. Robeson’s outrage was selective. He was enraged by every lynching that ever occurred in the Jim Crow South – yet he never raised his voice against millions of state-sponsored lynchings in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. He regarded them as color-blind societies where social justice and egalitarianism prevailed.

Rewriting History

Robeson’s outspoken political views were repugnant, a fact even acknowledged today by some leftists. “Yes, Paul Robeson Was an Unrepentant Stalinist,” declared a Robeson-bashing article in the left-wing Daily Kos. Yet U.S. Ambassador Bridgewater nevertheless praised Robeson as a great American during the embassy’s renaming ceremony that coincided with the 36th anniversary of his death on January 23, 1976, at age 77. “Paul Robeson faced many challenges throughout his life, but he remained a sterling and shining example of patriotism, pride, elegance and humility,” said Bridgewater, 64, a 32-year veteran of the foreign service.

The renaming generated much positive publicity in Jamaica, a country with a love-hate relationship with the United States. Robeson’s granddaughter Susan Robeson, a filmmaker and activist, was among more than 150 visitors on hand, including a number of students. One newspaper headline declared: “Robeson’s Shining Example Lights Up U.S. Embassy.” Now, many young Jamaicans are learning for the first time about Robeson; and no doubt they’re learning a narrative that’s popular among Jamaica’s influential leftist political circles: Paul Robeson was a black man who sought social justice for America’s oppressed blacks, and as a result he was blacklisted and persecuted by America’s racist and reactionary government. A former British colony, the island of 2.7 million is overwhelmingly of African descent.

The story behind the Robeson renaming is purely Obamaesque, and is perhaps an indication of what’s been quietly happening at U.S. Embassies around the globe. Early last year, in observance of Black History Month, the U.S. Embassy in Kingston launched an essay contest for high school students, asking them to propose a historical figure after which the the Embassy’s popular Information Resource Center should be named.

The winning essay by Kathy Smith, “The Soul of a Continent,” put forth Paul Robeson with whom Smith identified, in part, out of a sense of racial solidarity. “Robeson sung songs of equality and anti-hate, as if spurred by the soul of a continent,” Smith wrote – with her reference to “continent” being a reference to Africa. “His baritone voice told the truths of a man desperate to retain his thought-soul, his identity and African spirit.”

Smith, now a law student at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, is correct about one thing: Robeson’s rich baritone voice is indeed associated with a number of memorable American songs including “Old Man River,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and “Let My People Go.” Yet Robeson also is famous for singing an English-language version of the Soviet National Anthem – a powerful and heartfelt rendition that may be heard on the YouTube clip reproduced here.

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica failed to respond to an e-mail query regarding the renaming — and who approved it. But Ambassador Bridgewater certainly had a major role in it. So did whoever in the State Department gave her a green-light – an approval no doubt reflecting President Obama’s reset of U.S. foreign policy. In this reset, America no longer defines who it is to the world. That would be arrogant. Instead, the world is allowed to decide who America’s heroes ought to be.

How times change. During the Bush years – when I was a journalist based in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, the U.S. Embassy sought to counter the island’s anti-Americanism, which went into a chest-thumping rage over Bush’s post-9/11 war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq. Those efforts were described in an article of mine for theWashington Times, “Answering Anti-Americanism.” Now, Ambassador Bridgewater and her State Department facilitators appear to be throwing a bone to Jamaica’s left-leaning People’s National Party and its anti-American cheerleaders: people, to be sure, who don’t represent the views of most ordinary Jamaicans.

Anti-Americanism

Words and deeds matter. By honoring Paul Robeson, the U.S Embassy may be giving a boost to anti-Americanism and in turn Jamaica’s potential for Islamic-inspired terrorism by young men attracted to jihad’s anti-Western message. It’s a strange fact: Jamaica has only a tiny Muslim population; yet it has links to a unusually large number of Islamic-inspired terror outrages and plots. These include the London subway bombings; Washington’s beltway sniper shootings; and “shoe bomber” Richard Reed’s aborted attempt to blow up an American Airlines jet.

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  • Schlomotion

    There can be no doubt that Paul Robeson was a Communist. He was also a man of great voice and great personal fortitude whose parents were slaves but who became an international political figure who chose his own path and had the unshakeable fortitude to tell off the HUAC right to their faces without being wound through the mind-games. He was truly a predecessor to Muhammad Ali, backing the stark enemies of the US fascists and a small handful of high profile Zionists who hijacked Congress and the media in the 1950s. The United States formed a tribunal to punish celebrity Americans for thought-crime, all of this created for media consumption. Very few people could actually shame this tribunal. Those who did had their passports revoked in a de facto American Iron Curtain. Robeson was one of the first people to beat them over the head with the hypocrisy and un-Americanness of their own behavior and it devolved into a war over who is the biggest hypocrite.

    Today, the unofficial HUAC operates as bloggers and fringe journalists looking for Communists in the Obama administration and making a blacklist of Obama, Robeson, Bridgewater, and Smith. Robeson is of course, too dead to answer. The author requires 45 words of invective before even being able to say the name Paul Robeson. What strikes me the most is that he tries to transfer this venomous rehash of history into the witch-hunt for Al Qaeda operatives that he claims are being harbored by Jamaica because Jamaica is "providing a worldview from which Islamic-inspired terrorists could emerge."

    Let loose the precrime thought police!

    • Poppakap

      Such a silly comment from a co-traveler of Robeson. I expected as much from frequent troll slomo. If any group practices thought policing today, it is the left. The elitists in the media and hollywood have conspired to create defacto speech codes and groupthink that limit honest dialogue and the results are so widespread and common that I find it humorous for the troll above to blather on as he did.

      The unofficial HUAC? Give me a break. Such ridiculous old-school nonsense we've been hearing from Stalinists for almost 100 years now. We've got a hard-left, America-hating POTUS and slomo mentions HUAC. I suppose it's the bitterness that provides the irony.

      Thanks for the laugh just the same.

      • Schlomotion

        Thanks, Ray.

    • ajnn

      huh ? the mark of a nonsense maker and hater. he manages to attck Israel in an article about paul robeson; a very interesting and controversial figure.

      being angry about american racism is suggested as a reasonable segue into supporting joseph stalin and his mass-murders and many crimes against humanity. the anger is real and very human. support for, my gosh, joseph stalin is just plain iommoral.

      how do you judge such a man ? with difficulty and humility.

    • Ghostwriter

      To reply to Scholmotion's foolish screed,I think that Paul Robeson was a talented but foolish man. He was too bitter and angry to see how evil the Soviet Union truly was. He may have been a talented actor but he never spoke out against the crimes of Joesph Stalin because he didn't want to see them. Although many others did,including other black Americans,Robeson didn't want to listen. And people like you Schlomotion,continue that ugly tradition. Why don't read what I wrote about Robeson below and give me your opinion of it? That is,if you're interested.

  • mlcblog

    Schlo, to my mind, is lacking some info but perhaps would rather cling to his view.

    In the 1950's Paul Robeson was a force for the left. He was promoted as part of their relentless takeover of all that is civilized. I had to endure his bitter racist attitude with the songs my mother played as part of our childhood music. Remember, there was no TV, just radio and phonograph records.

    Robeson was always a nut. The left loved him. Apparently still does.

    He was so extremely anti-American and bitter. We could pick that up even as children., Songs like "Let My People Go"

    • Schlomotion

      Ha! His "bitter racist attitude" is not in his music! His music is sweet and sad and powerful. That's good stuff. I used to have an autographed copy of the record you mention. It's just music. It's just singing. I agree that the Comintern wanted to take advantage of Kulturkampf and sovietize it. Of course. And certainly I agree that Robeson refused to come to grips with the barbarity of the Soviet Union. Still, if my parents were slaves, and fascist crossdressers from B'nai B'rith forced me to come testify in kangaroo court because of the content of my song lyrics, I am sure I would denounce them savagely too.

      • ajnn

        "facist crossdressers from b'nai b'rith" ?

        what have jews to do with Robeson, HUAC, and the communist party much less Robeson's support for the mass murdering joseph stalin ?

        jew-hatred seems to be a common thread among extreme leftists.

  • Tony Kondaks

    Robeson is from Princeton, New Jersey. On Witherspoon Street, there is the Paul Robeson Center. Last time I walked by there (a year ago) there was, spray-painted on the sidewalk in front, a stenciled Hammer and Sickle.

    This, in Princeton, the home of America's Academic elite。But, of course, Princeton sees fit to have Paul Krugman on its staff…so what do you expect?

  • Tony Kondaks

    Funny…a few days ago an article appeared here on Frontpage criticizing the Daily Kos for censoring conservative thought. Now we have a link in this article to the Daily Kos article refuting Stalin.

    The Daily Kos allows practically anyone to post anything they want, regardless of the political slant. Yes, participants and readers can "vote" through online polling if they want a post to disappear…but that is the function of the reading community, not the site itself.

    I believe frontpagemag owes the Daily Kos an apology for its previous article insinuating censorship there。

  • Visitor

    Three points:
    1. Robeson was an extraordinary and complex individual and reducing him to a caricature is silly. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Robeson#cite_no….

    2. One can deplore Robeson's naive and gullible romance with Stalinist Russia while still respecting his outspoken defense of Negro rights and his recognizing his considerale artistic talents.

    3. No American citizen should be denied his fundamental rights, including the right to travel on a US passport and the right to perform in public concerts or to be employed, on the basis of his political opinions, however much they may not be shared by the majority. If these rights can be denied a Robeson, who is to say they cannot be denied to you? We differ from totalitarian countries like the USSR by respecting human rights, not by denying them.

    • ajnn

      good points all. i am still uncopmfortable with robeson's support for the soviet union while we, the united states, were at war with that country. the lack of a 'declaration of war' is actually a sufficientlegal fig-leaf to establish this as a civil rights and not a national security issue.

  • MrZZ

    Looking from the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain, the damage to Western freedom and democracy, done by clowns like late Paul Robeson and still alive Angela Davis from UC Santa Cruz, may be compared only with activities of Hanoi Jane. On a positive side, since people in USSR used to read anything, coming from the communist government through the mirror, many of them understood real value of carboard figures, who pretended to represent America.

  • Ghostwriter

    Sadly,Paul Robeson can be described as a useful idiot for the Soviet Union of that time. While most black Americans could see that the Soviet Union was a horrible place that should not be imitated,Paul Robeson never did. He didn't listen to those who fled Eastern Europe for America,even as the crimes that Joseph Stalin committed became too obvious to overlook. Paul Robeson squandered any goodwill he might have garnered in this country by not recognizing the true evil of Stalin and of the Soviet system itself,a thing his fellow countrymen COULD see.
    In Hollywood today,there are many Paul Robesons of all races,people like Oliver Stone,Sean Penn,and others like them who don't see the true evil of our adversaries and only see evil in their own country. There are Jamaicans who live in America. Hopefully,they won't be fooled like Paul Robeson was,a man too blinded by bitterness to see true evil where it existed,even when there were black Americans who could see that the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin was evil and would destroy any gains by them in American society.

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