chapter  5
28 Pages

Communism on Camera: Ninotchka and the Cinematic Representation of the Communist Left

It is relatively clear that the American Communist Party posed little threat to the security of the United States in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The organization was highly factionalized and lacked the sturdy leadership required to remove the party from the political shadows. Although the emergence of Earl Browder in the mid 1930’s provided a spark to the flagging CP, the party lacked the numbers, political connections, and overall appeal to mount any type of socialist offensive within the US. The party, in essence, continued to live in a world of dreams, one where Lenin and Stalin were “men of the people” and where the Russian revolution stood as the supreme example of good over evil. Ironically, party members in the United States were victims of their own medicine. Propaganda emanating from Russia provided a false perception of the “heroes” of the revolution which American progressives, in general, swallowed wholesale. “Western communists dutifully followed the lines of the picture supplied from Moscow,” writes Robert Service, “Lenin was depicted as a heroic figure, laden with unconditional praise. His humanity as a comrade, a husband and a Marxist had to be extolled. No blemish on his record was tolerable.”1