A Centennial Tribute to an American Communist
The Sun is ours. The earth will be ours. Tower of the sea, you will go on singing.
Pablo Neruda, "Ode to Paul Robeson."
1957 was a poor year for the ambitions of US imperialism in South Asia. In March, the Communist Party of India won the Kerala elections and took power on 5 April (or, according to the CIA, they "established a significant beachhead in Kerala"); on 2 October, the USSR launched Sputnik I and appeared to be ahead in the "space race"; the late 1955 visit of Khrushchev and Bulganin to India compounded fears that India was to "go Communist" (Nehru had not yet illegally deposed the CPI government in Kerala; that took place on 31 July 1959). India's nonaligned foreign policy and its principled stand in the UN with regard to the US in Korea raised the ire of the theorists of "containment" who dominated the US establishment. [The author of the "containment" strategy was George F. Kennan whose "long telegram" of 1946 called for "firm containment" of the USSR through the use of "unalterable counter-force" in those places that the US found the Soviets at work against "the interests of a peaceful and stable world." George Kennan ("X"), "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," Foreign Affairs, July!947, p. 581. Kennan was, until 1946, stationed in the US embassy in Moscow and he came to Washington as Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department. This "telegram," Churchill's fiery speech at Fulton and the US-backed counter-insurgency in Greece inaugurated the Cold War and the era of anti-communism sponsored by the US. See Isaac Deutscher, "Myths of the Cold War," Containment and Revolution. Ed. David Horowitz (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).] In this context, US President Eisenhower called his closest advisors to the White House on 12 November 1957. One of his aides offered those present the following, a standard US view of India at the time: "Aid to India will be a very hard proposition to sell because their behavior has been very offensive on the Communist issue, and because they have gone out of their way to insult us on many occasions." [Robert J. McMahan, The Cold War on the Periphery. The United States, India and Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 235-239.] Not four months later, the Indian government validated these remarks on the occasion of the birth anniversary of an admirable man, Paul Robeson.
* Assistant Professor of International Studies, Trinity College, Hartford, USA.
Social Scientist, Vol. 25, Nos. 7-8, July-August 1997