US

Socialist, Communist authors make Obama administration reading list

Patrick Howley Political Reporter

Socialist, Communist, and McCarthy-era blacklisted writers appear on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new “Books That Shaped Work in America” list celebrating the department’s 100th anniversary.

A Socialist leader, two Stalin apologists, two blacklisted ’50s screenwriters, and a suspected Marxist are included on the list, which DOL compiled based on recommendations from various figures in the community. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez described the program as an “online book club.”

Better not invite Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.

The first two reds on the list are Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who made it for their 1897 work “Industrial Democracy,” recommended by Carter administration Labor Secretary Ray Marshall. The Webbs were supporters of the Communist economic experiment and are known in academia as apologists for Josef Stalin, whose regime they wrote about from firsthand observation in their 1935 book “Soviet Communism: A New Civilization.”

A.I. Bezzerides’ 1949 novel “Thieves Market” made the list, which makes the Department of Labor more welcoming than Red Scare Hollywood. “During the McCarthy period, Variety said, he had trouble getting movie work because of his known leftist sympathies, but continued to pick up television jobs,” according to Bezzerides’ 2007 New York Times obituary.

Budd Schulberg’s 1955 novel “On the Waterfront,” based on his 1954 screenplay for the Marlon Brando film, made the DOL list. Schulberg was named in House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) testimony as a onetime member of the Communist Party. He wound up naming other Communists in his own HUAC testimony.

Michael Harrington’s 1962 book “The Other America,” recommended by former Labor secretary Robert Reich, cracked the list. Harrington was an open Socialist and co-chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America. He was identified in his New York Times obituary as “probably the most visible spokesman for Socialist ideals in the United States” with the exception of longtime Party leader Norman Thomas.

Feminist Betty Friedan’s 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique” made the list, despite the fact that Friedan, “from her college days and until her mid-thirties, was a Stalinist marxist (or a camp follower thereof),” according to a June 2000 column by David Horowitz, citing a 2000 Friedan biography.

She was also, according to Horowitz, “the political intimate of leaders of America’s Cold War fifth column, and for a time even the lover of a young communist physicist working on atomic bomb projects with J. Robert Oppenheimer…she was certainly familiar with the writings of Engels, Lenin, and Stalin on the subject and had written about it herself as a journalist for the official publication of the communist-controlled United Electrical Workers union. Friedan’s secret was shared by hundreds of her comrades on the Left though not, of course, by the unsuspecting American public…”

Though the DOL list includes many left-wing writers like Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, environmentalist Rachel Carson, economist John Maynard Keynes, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it also includes some right-leaning or conservative authors including Milton Friedman, Peggy Noonan, Ayn Rand, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.

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