Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Paul Kengor, a professor of political science at Grove City College. His previous books include the bestsellers God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. His latest book is Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, based on an unprecedented volume of declassified materials from Soviet archives, FBI files, presidential libraries, CPUSA holdings, and more.
FP: Paul Kengor, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Congratulations on your new book.
Tell us what you have uncovered about the Left yet again.
Kengor: I don’t know if congratulations are in order, Jamie. It can be rather depressing and tormenting to read through old archives from the Communist International, the Soviet Central Committee, the KGB, and Communist Party USA, and see how the communists so cynically and successfully duped liberals/progressives again and again and again. It’s even worse when, in turn, those same liberals/progressives attacked not the communists who used them and made them look like fools, but the anti-communists who repeatedly tried to warn the liberals/progressives that they were being exploited.
That bizarre, sad manipulation continues to this day, with communists from the grave still finding their suckers, especially in academia, where liberal professors continue to frame the anti-communists as the bad guys. Their Cold War demon is Joe McCarthy, not Joe Stalin. And most depressing of all, those professors generate new dupes among their gullible, wide-eyed students. To add insult to injury, those profs and their students elected as president a man (Barack Obama) who was mentored by one of those duping communists (Frank Marshall Davis), who liberals today refuse to dare acknowledge was a communist, and, naturally blast the anti-communists as Red-baiting reprobates for daring to even raise the question.
So, congratulations? I suppose. But it’s pretty damned depressing at times.
Imagine: After 100 million corpses produced by the communists, it’s still us anti-communists who are on the defensive, thanks to continued dupes on the American left. You know that Vladimir Lenin is howling from his tomb.
FP: I understand Prof. Kengor, I just wanted to give you credit for writing this priceless book.
Share with us a bit more on what exactly inspired you to write this book.
Kengor: That’s easy: the ideology of communism is the greatest killer in human history, and too many Americans have no idea that such is the case, especially today’s college students, who were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are being educated by the disciples of John Dewey, who, incidentally, is one of the biggest dupes in my book. Liberals and progressives have been the unwitting handmaidens to the lies, deceptions, and advancement of this pernicious ideology. And now, even today, they continue to provide that service, primarily through education—or I should say through mis-education.
Dupes have been an integral part of American history since the founding of the republic. George Washington actually warned his countrymen about dupes in his classic “Farewell Address.” It was a word common during the American Revolution, and it never went away.
Once I started looking into communist archives, I saw the ugly upsurge in this process of duping, starting specifically with the launching of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in October 1917, the launching of the Comintern in Russia in March 1919, and the launching of the American Communist Party in Chicago in September 1919. Of course, communists excelled at propaganda. They were masters. They were outstanding liars—born liars, really. It’s in the DNA, the marrow of the bones. Lenin said that lying was moral as long as it advanced class interests. Vaclav Havel spoke of the “communist culture of the lie.”
Think about this, Jamie: At the height of its membership, in the 1930s, Communist Party USA never had more than about 100,000 members. They were truly a tiny, fringe minority. So, to get marchers at their rallies, signers for their petitions, foot soldiers for some protest, they needed to attract non-communists on the left—i.e., liberals/progressives. As was their nature, they typically lied to these liberals/progressives about their intentions and true loyalties. They were amazed, astonished at how the liberals/progressives repeatedly swallowed—hook, line, and sinker—the most outlandish lies.
So, what inspired me? All of the above. I already knew how bad the communists were—killers of civil liberties and people. I began looking in archives and saw how they cunningly manipulated liberals/progressives. I found material no one had ever seen before, or at least hadn’t published. And I realized I better get this information out there. Other “scholars” weren’t about to publish this material, or even look at it, given that most scholars are on the left, and this material is a scathing indictment of everything the liberal left has ever claimed.
FP: You credit Frontpage with helping to get you started.
Kengor: Yes. This is all began with an article I published in Frontpage about five years ago. It was an article on Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War. One of Frontpage’s loyal readers read it and emailed me about a document he had from the Soviet Central Committee archives. It was a May 1983 letter from the head of the KGB, Victor Chebrikov, to the head of the USSR, the odious Yuri Andropov. It concerned a “confidential offer” by Senator Ted Kennedy against President Ronald Reagan, intended, clearly, to undermine Reagan’s re-election bid and his defense policies. I was stunned. That document began my digging into a host of archives and primary sources, where I found all sorts of genuinely shocking material, including on Ted Kennedy, which I know you’ll want to address.
I should also add that this brought me into contact with the great Herb Romerstein, the veteran investigator of the communist movement, who I dedicated the book to. Herb introduced me to these archives and showed me how to navigate them. God bless him. He’s a good man.
FP: Tell us some of the characters involved.
Kengor: That’s a very long list. But here are a few: Ted Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart, John Dewey, Roger Baldwin, Harry Ward, Corliss Lamont, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Jane Fonda, Dick Durbin, “Baghdad Jim” McDermott, Arthur Miller, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Lincoln Steffens, Henry Wallace, Ambassador Joseph Davies, Howard Zinn, Walter Cronkite, Helen Thomas, John Murtha, Maxine Waters, Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, Claude “Red” Pepper, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Will Geer, Clarence Darrow, Katharine Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Artie Shaw, Mary McGrory, Carl Sagan, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin, Eric Foner. I could go on and on.
This could be a multi-volume set. I’m not kidding. Again, this is a sad story. Liberals and progressives were outstanding dupes for the communists; they really were. They believed nothing that the anti-communists told them, but swallowed the most gigantic whoppers fed to them by their communist “friends.”
FP: What do you hope this book will help achieve?
Kengor: I say repeatedly in the book that I want liberals to realize that the communists were not their friends. If they would read this book, which they won’t, they would see this. Liberals are incredibly close-minded. It never ceases to amaze me. Can you believe I still haven’t had a single call, after all these years, from one mainstream journalist asking me about the Ted Kennedy document? Not even one phone call from a liberal reporter arguing with me? They’re afraid it’s true, so they won’t dare touch it. Our media is scandalously biased.
And see, Jamie, because they won’t read it, and, more than that, because they’ll lump me and my work into their loathsome category of irredeemable, Neanderthal anti-communists, they’ll continue to be duped by their “friends” on the far left. In effect, they’ll continue to provide cover for their communist pals, who, ironically, hated and demonized all the liberals’ icons—Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK.
So, I hope the book will affect some liberals, but I doubt very many at all.
Beyond that, I want to reach young people in particular who want a reliable, authoritative history of this great ideological battle of the 20th century, and who need to know how and why communism was so bad. When they actually hold the book, and see all the pages and endnotes (over 1,500 endnotes), and see that I defend anti-communist Democrats and liberals who weren’t duped, and even list among my dupes political mentors of mine like Ronald Reagan (who was duped for a period after World War II), then they’ll take the book seriously and consider it with an open mind. This is history they need to know.
I don’t care about making money from this, Jamie. I really don’t. If the publisher gave away 100,000 copies and I didn’t make a dime, I’d be thrilled as long as people were learning truth. This is too important. Communism was too deadly. We need to know this stuff.
FP: Paul Kengor, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview and thank you for your fight for the truth.