My wife and I sat down Saturday evening to watch the 2015 film Trumbo. Dalton Trumbo is played by Bryan Cranston who did a marvelous job, certainly worthy of the Academy Award nomination he received for Best Actor.
It’s loosely based on the Hollywood screenwriter, author, and self-admitted Communist Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976). I’ve been familiar with Trumbo’s work since the early 1970s through his 1939 anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun, based on the case of a World War I survivor who suffered shocking debilitating injuries.
It’s one of the best anti-war novels ever written. That’s why it’s so hard to understand why Trumbo would have identified with the Soviet Union and other Communist regimes.
Cliff Kincaid, director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, interviewed Allan H. Ryskind, author of the book, Hollywood Traitors:
“All of [Trumbo’s] heavy-duty propaganda and activities on behalf of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party are omitted [from the Trumbo film]. So is his vigorous support of Lenin, Adolph Hitler (during the Hitler-Stalin pact) and North Korea’s Kim Il-sung after his aggressive attack against South Korea in 1950. Even his membership in the American CP, which he eventually bragged about, is ignored. Dalton was on Stalin’s side virtually all of his adult life—in important ways—but those unfamiliar with the titanic battle between the Sovieteers and the anti-Communists in Hollywood wouldn’t have a clue as to what that fight in the movie colony was all about and Trumbo’s deep involvement on the Soviet side.”
“Shortly after the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, Trumbo and his publishers decided to suspend reprinting the book until the end of the war.” With the escalation of the Vietnam War, the book became popular again, so much so that Trumbo directed the 1971 film version of the novel that starred Timothy Bottoms.
Metallica’s song “One” is based on the film.
One scene in Trumbo caught my attention. Trumbo’s oldest daughter asks him if he’s a Communist. Instead of answering yes or no, he asks her, “Would you share your sandwich with someone who did not have one?” to which she replies, “Of course.” Ipso facto, he replies, “So that makes you a communist too.” If Communism is just sharing, then who could be opposed to Communism?1
Are people sharing their sandwiches in North Korea and Venezuela? No, because there are no sandwiches to share. Communism isn’t about sharing. It’s about brute force.
Democrats who claim that rich people are not paying their “fair share” in taxes are the less violent version of Communism. Our government only uses force if you refuse to share. No guns are needed. The long arm of the law will just empty your bank account, garnish your wages, and sell off your property for your failure to “share” your version of the Communist sandwhich.
Trumbo was a man of multiple contradictions. He claimed to be a Communist but was a very rich capitalist, described by his communist friends as a “swimming pool communist” because the estate where he lived had its own swimming pool. No community pool for the Trumbos.
The history of Communism is a record of genocide,2 as D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe show in their book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?:
“Mao killed about 72 million human beings from 1948 to 1976. When we add the 40 million Stalin is responsible for, we come to a number of 112 million. Throw in Hitler’s 15 million (not counting the devastating war he started!), and we come to about 127 million. Add other killings by other atheistic and totalitarian states — as a result of their atheistic ideology — you come up with a number of more than 130 million.”3
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “estimates reach as high as sixty million” deaths just during Josef Stalin’s reign of terror.4 “Historian Robert Conquest, in The Harvest of Sorrow, his definitive account of Stalin’s reign of rural terror, estimated that 14.4 million people, half of them children, perished.”5
In addition to supporting an ideology that led to the deaths of tens of millions, Trumbo hid behind the First Amendment, a right that would not have been afforded him if he had moved his family to a Communist nation.
As reported in Movie Freak, Trumbo’s daughter Niki says the depicted scene never happened. “‘No,’ she chuckles, ‘we never had a conversation like that one while riding horses. That’s made up. But it’s also what I was referring to earlier. It’s another essence moment, a scene that fits what was going on at the time and the emotions we were feeling, but not actual reality. The real moment was more like me asking, “Daddy, are you a communist?” and him replying that he was. The follow-up question was something like, “Can I be a communist when I grow up?” and I wanted him to say that of course I could be; that he’d be so proud of me if I was. Instead he told me I had to be 21 before I could make decisions like that. I had to be old enough to vote. I was so disappointed! Of course, what I wanted was his approval more than I wanted to be a communist. But, I also think he didn’t want to influence my political beliefs, so he wanted to distance himself a little bit from doing that until I was older and could actually talk about, discuss and debate those sort of topics from a place of mutual understanding.’” ↩
Mark Kramer, ed., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 4. ↩
D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 236. ↩
Lloyd Billingsley, The Generation that Knew Not Josef: A Critique of Marxism and the Religious Left (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985), 38. ↩
Lewis Lord, “A reign of rural terror, a world away,” U.S. News & World Report (June 30/July 7, 2003), 4. ↩