Rousing Post Recalls Cold War, Citing John Steinbeck

Image of Joseph Stalin

Image of A Russian Journal, 1948 work by John Steinbeck and Robert Capa“Revisiting John Steinbeck’s A Russian Journal from 1948”—an impassioned website post dated March 21, 2017—reminds readers that John Steinbeck and Robert Capa overcame opposition from left and right in reporting firsthand on daily life in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin following World War II. A publication of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the World Socialist site revives Cold War rhetoric in attacking the forces of fascism, Stalinism, and reactionary capitalism that combined to make the lives of ordinary Russians as miserable as possible before, during, and after the war. The language of the post sounds outdated, but the author’s idea accords with the view of John Steinbeck, whom she credits for accuracy and bravery in the face of threats at home and in Russia. “While the Soviet Union was destroyed more than 25 years ago by the Stalinist bureaucracy,” she writes, “the experiences of the Second World War continue to shape the consciousness of millions in the former USSR. Despite certain limitations, this work by Steinbeck and Capa provides valuable insight into the historical experiences of the working class and peasantry of the former USSR.” Timely praise.

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  1. Herb Behrens says:

    The most common attacks on foreigners in the Soviet press are on the basis of drunkenness and lechery. And while we are reasonably alcoholic, and no more lecherous than most people, although this is a variable thing, we were determined to live the lives of saints. And this we succeeded in doing, not entirely to our satisfaction.

    – A Russian Journal. 1948. Ch 8, p. 175

  2. Wes Stillwagon says:

    I believe the only reason Steinbeck/Capa received permission to visit and record what they observed in Stalin’s USSR was because the leadership read works like The Grapes of Wrath and mistakenly interpreted what they read to conclude that Steinbeck was a socialist when in fact he was a socially responsible individualist Democrat. It appears the writer of the subject article is also under that misconception. And it almost seems like the dated language may be from years of experience writing at the Kremlin’s Politburo Ministry of propaganda. Interesting this appears as investigations into the Trump regime’s close ties to the corrupt Russian bank formerly chaired by Vlad Putin. Steinbeck and his views would have landed in a Siberian Gulag if they really understood the man. A socially responsible Individualist democrat is quite different than a Socialist or a Communist. Socially responsible democracies are mainly po0pulated by highly evolved individuals. Socialist and Communist societies survive only on the will or rule of despots (like Putin) and Trump. The freedoms and liberties of our Constitution do not exist in Communist and Socialist societies.

    • If powers in the Kremlin were aware that the FBI investigated Steinbeck because of the novel–and that his first wife registered as a Communist in 1937–their inference that he shared their ideology is even likelier. George Orwell made the same mistake when he accused Steinbeck of being a potential fifth-column communist collaborator in 1948, the subject of an earlier post at

  3. Wes Stillwagon says:

    By virtue of his “potential fifth-column communist collaborator” accusation Orwell did not understand Steinbeck’s scholarly views regarding the individual within a social body. The general lack conceptual grasp of the evolving individual and the impact upon its community offers me little encouragement for positive social change. As such our children and grandchildren will not enjoy the benefits of growing into superior beings because they are seeking the wrong personal goals. Nations in the world will continue to be ruled by father figure despots like Hitler, Putin, Trump, and etc because few really understand the very practically applied philosophical concepts of Steinbeck/Ricketts.

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