School of Darkness

This is the story of Bella Dodd.

Of particular interest to me is chapters 8 and 9 onwards. After 9, much is written of how the Communists reacted to WWII, including Soviet and German strategic calculations.

In a sense, it is a sad story, but also an eternal one. One we are fighting now, even.

“I now saw that with the best motives and a desire to serve the working people… I and thousands like me, had been led to a betrayal of these very people…. I had been on the side of those who sought the destruction of my own country.” (229)

“This is the key to the mental enslavement of mankind. The individual is made into nothing … he operates as the physical part of [a] higher group intelligence… he has no awareness of the plans the higher group intelligence has for utilizing him.” (158)

[]TO THE New York newspapers the story of the expulsion of a woman Communist was merely one more story. It was handled in the routine way. I winced, however, when reputable papers headlined the Communist Party charges and used the words “fascism” and “racism,” even though I knew these words were only quoted from the Party resolution.

I braced myself for further attacks from the Party, and they came soon in terms of economic threats. Some of my law practice came from trade-union and Party members, and here action was swift. The union Communists told me there would be no more referrals to me. Party members who were my clients came to my office, some with their new lawyers, to withdraw their pending cases.

Reprisals came, too, in the form of telephone calls, letters, and telegrams of hate and vituperation, many of them from people I did not know. What made me feel desolate were the reprisals from those I had known best, those among the teachers whom I had considered friends. While I was busy with Party work I sometimes thought proudly of my hundreds of friends and how strong were the ties that bound us. Now those bonds were ropes of sand.

What I had failed to understand was that the security I felt in the Party was that of a group and that affection in that strange communist world is never a personal emotion. You were loved or hated on the basis of group acceptance, and emotions were stirred or dulled by propaganda. That propaganda was made by the powerful people at the top. That is why ordinary Communists get along well with their groups: they think and feel together and work toward a common goal.

….

The New York Post asked me to write a series of articles on why I had broken with the Communist Party, and made me a generous offer. I agreed. But when I had finished them and read them over I did not want to see them published and found an excuse for refusing the offer. When a weekly magazine made an even more lucrative offer, I refused that, too. There were several reasons for this, as I now realize: one was that I did not trust my own conclusions, and another that I could not bear to hurt people I had known in the Party and for whom I still felt affection. Some I knew were entrapped as surely as I had been.

It was a strange and painful year. The process of completely freeing oneself emotionally from being a Communist is a thing no outsider can understand. The group thinking and group planning and the group life of the Party had been a part of me for so long that it was desperately difficult for me to be a person again. That is why I have lost track of whole days and weeks of that period.

But I had begun the process of “unbecoming” a Communist. It was a long and painful process, much like that of a polio victim who has to learn to walk all over again. I had to learn to think. I had to learn to love. I had to drain the hate and frenzy from my system. I had to dislodge the self and the pride that had made me arrogant, made me feel that I knew all the answers. I had to learn that I knew nothing. There were many stumbling blocks in this process.

[]
In the days that have gone since we enunciated these statements so confidently I have had many occasions to see that this cataloging of people as either “right” or “left” has led to more confusion in American life than perhaps any other false concept. It sounds so simple and so right. By using this schematic device one puts the communists on the left and then one regards them as advanced liberals -after which it is easy to regard them as the enzyme necessary for progress.

Communists usurp the position of the left, but when one examines them in the light of what they really stand for, one sees them as the rankest kind of reactionaries and communism as the most reactionary backward leap in the long history of social movements. It is one which seeks to obliterate in one revolutionary wave two thousand years of man’s progress.

During my thirteen years of teaching at Hunter I was to repeat this semantic falsehood many times. I did not see the truth that people are not born “right” or “left” nor can they become “right” or “left” unless educated on the basis of a philosophy which is as carefully organized and as all-inclusive as communism.

I was among the first of a new kind of teacher who was to come in great numbers to the city colleges. The mark of the decade was on us. We were sophisticated, intellectually snobbish, but usually fetishly “democratic” with the students. It is true that we understood them better than did many of the older teachers; our sympathy with them was a part of ourselves.

[]

I knew how devoted he was to the South and its people and after our marriage we went to visit his home. I had never been South before, but I now realized why so many of its children went to Northern cities for a livelihood.

John’s people were not plantation owners nor did they have share croppers. They owned a lot of land and they worked it themselves. The women worked as hard as the men. I visited some of the Dodd children at the Martha Berry Schools near John’s home and I was struck by the independence and sturdiness of these people. Never after that first visit did I read morbid literature on the South without a sense of resentment at the twisted picture it gave of a section which has great reservoirs of strength, based not on material wealth but upon the integrity of its people.

I did not become a Communist overnight. It came a little at a time. I had been conditioned by my education and association to accept this materialistic philosophy. Now came new reasons for acceptance. I was grateful for communist support in the struggles of the Instructors Association. I admired the selfless dedication of many who belonged to the Party. They took me into their fraternal circle and made me feel at home. I was not interested in any long-range Party objectives but I did welcome their assistance on immediate issues, and I admired them for their courage. Most of all I respected the way they fought for the forgotten man of the city. So I did not argue with them about the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which they talked about, or about its implications.
Of course some of my friends were unhappy about my new course. One day when Ruth Goldstein and I were walking down Sixty-eighth Street she spoke bitterly about my new affiliations.

“You are getting too involved, Bella,” she said. “You will get hurt. Wait and see!”

I laughed at her. “Oh, Ruth, you are too concerned about promotions and tenures. There are other things in life.” “What about this one-party system that they favor?” she demanded.

“Well, you know we really have only a one-party system in America right now,” I retorted. “Remember the Harvard professor who says that both political parties resemble empty bottles with different labels?”

Ruth continued arguing and I finally said: “Oh, Ruth, I am only interested in the present. What the Communist Party says about the future is not important to me. The sanity of the American people will assert itself. But these people are about the only ones who are doing anything about the rotten conditions of today. That is why I am with them, and,” I ended truculently, “I will stay with them.”
Of course I was not the only American who thought one could go along with the good things the Communists did and then reject their objectives. It was a naive idea and many of us were naive. It took a long time for me to know that once you march with them there is no easy return. I learned over the years that if you stumbled from weariness they had no time to pick up a fallen comrade. They simply marched over him.

The saddest situation I saw in the Party were the hundreds of young people eager to be used. And the Party did use this mass of anonymous people for its immediate purposes. And so young people were burned out before they could reach maturity. But I saw, too, how inexhaustible was the supply of human beings willing to be sacrificed. Much of the strength of the Party, of course, is derived from this very ruthlessness in exploiting people.

[]

Since 1932 the Communist Party had publicized itself as the leading opponent of fascism. It had used the emotional appeal of anti-fascism to bring many people to the acceptance of communism, by posing communism and fascism as alternatives. Its propaganda machine ground out an endless stream of words, pictures, and cartoons. It played on intellectual, humanitarian, racial, and religious sensibilities until it succeeded to an amazing degree in conditioning America to recoil at the word fascist even when people did not know its meaning.

Today I marvel that the world communist movement was able to beat the drums against Germany and never once betray what the inner group knew well: that some of the same forces which gave Hitler his start had also started Lenin and his staff of revolutionists from Switzerland to St. Petersburg to begin the revolution which was to result in the Soviet totalitarian state.

There was not a hint that despite the propaganda of hate unleashed against Germany and Italy, communist representatives were meeting behind the scenes to do business with Italian and German fascists to whom they sold materiel and oil. There was not a hint that Soviet brass was meeting with German brass to redraw the map of Europe. There was no betrayal of these facts until one day they met openly to sign a contract for a new map of Europe — a treaty made by Molotov and Von Ribbentrop.

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