The Charlotte News



War Book Deluge

By W. J. Cash

Site ed. note: Cash's subsequent review of Henri Barbusse's Under Fire, of which he makes mention below, is "Barbusse Portrays War Horror" - October 22, 1939.


The coming deluge of war books hasn't had time to put in appearance yet, but it won't be long. And while I am about it, I might as well climb out on a limb and say that most of them won't be worth reading. At least, most of those the last war produced weren't. For, apart from the merely sentimental tripe, most of them tended to be propaganda of one sort or another. And this time, that will probably be even more true. As I recall it now, the last war, while still in progress, produced only one really first-rate book--Henri Barbusse's "Under Fire." Next week I propose to take a look at it, for it is a masterpiece of vivid exposition; and if you want to find out what war is actually like, you can do it better by reading this "story of a squad" than even by looking into the horrid picture books turned loose in the last decade by Laurence Stallings and others.


Meantime, however, I am interested by the fact that a great many of the writing people have already set themselves to grinding out propaganda--for the newspapers and magazines.

Most of us have been conditioned to look on the British as veritable Machiavellians at this game of propaganda, and to be more strongly on our guard against them than against the other combatants. But it doesn't seem to be working out that way. Actually, most of the effective propaganda which is being turned loose is Nazi-Red stuff.

The Nazi stuff is pretty simple, and is easily spotted by anybody of reasonable acuity. It takes a double form. On the one side, the Nazis are offered to us as amiable ducks who after all are only trying to keep from starving in their "restricted space" and to behave with the most punctilious chivalry even to those who won't understand their needs and try to block 'em. On the other, they are portrayed as irresistibly powerful, so powerful that only a fool would want us to risk defending them as by repealing the arms embargo. You can easily spot most of this last stuff by merely looking for the line which gives its source--for most of it either emanates from Germany itself or from Mr. Hearst and his reporters, such as Mr. Knickerbocker.


The Red stuff, however, is somewhat slicker. Or at any rate, it seems to be. I rubbed my eyes the other morning when I found it walking about openly on the front page of one of the best Red-baiting newspapers I know of. In the shape of an article by Anna Louise Strong.

Comrade Anna was apparently as cold as Mr. Lindbergh's "surgeon's knife." "Rooshia," she said, was only trying to restore peace to the world and she held the cards to force it. Good old Rooshia! She had even refused to take a hunk of Poland Mr. A. Hitler had wanted to give her, and was in favor of "self-determination" for Poland. All she had done was to reoccupy territory which Poland had stole from her (true enough, so far as it goes) and which no longer had a government. And, now that that was settled, well, she'd make Mr. A. Hitler toe the line, she'd neutralize the Balkans and Turkey, she'd line up Italia--and then she'd face England and France with the query as to whether they wanted to be aggressors in the West; with the implied threat that Papa Stalin would spank if they did.


The last was the point, of course. Comrade Anna managed deftly to convey the impression to all her little readers that England and France would be aggressors, if they didn't yield.

I'm afraid old Cerebrus nodded. That sort of thing is the standard Communist line at the moment, as it is also the Nazi line, mutatis mutandis.

As for Comrade Anna, she is an American born out in Nebraska so long ago as 1885. She took her Ph.D. out of the University of Chicago in 1908, and for awhile was engaged in various social and labor union activities in various American cities including Seattle. Since 1921, she has been a correspondent in Russia, beginning with the American Friends Relief Mission in Russia and graduating to the service of Mr. Hearst. In 1932 she married Joel Shublin, a Russian at Moscow. She is the author of the "Red Star in Samarkand," "The Soviets Conquer Wheat," "I Change Worlds," "This Soviet World," and "The Soviet Constitution."

Whether the lady is an out-and-out Communist is not clear. She has sometimes passed for something less than that. But her sympathies are quite as clear as those of Mr. Walter Duranty himself, and so, when you see her name on a dispatch from Moscow you had best take it with a handful of salt.

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