Spartacus Back Story

What the media missed and millennials need to know.

“This is about the closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker famously proclaimed during the Kavanaugh hearings. Since the documents he threatened to expose were already public, Booker’s gambit was something of a bust. On the other hand, as an election approaches, the senator’s reference is worth exploring.

Even Fox News showed footage from the 1960 movie Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier and Jean Simmons, in which the Romans threaten to crucify rebellious slaves unless Spartacus identifies himself. The others then heroically proclaim “I am Spartacus.”  It was a dramatic moment, but nobody in the establishment media explained the back story.

The movie Booker cited is based on the 1951 novel Spartacus by Howard Fast, a Communist pisseur d’encre whom Time magazine had dubbed “Big Brother’s U.S. pen pal.” In 1953, Fast won the Stalin Peace Prize, the only American to win the award other than Paul Robeson, a black American Communist who spent his life defending all-white Soviet dictatorships.

Stalin died in 1953 and three years later, Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes and mass atrocities to the Soviet Communist Party’s 20th Congress. The revelation devastated many American Communists and motivated Howard Fast to write _The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party_, released in 1957.

Khrushchev’s revelations, Fast wrote, “itemizes a record of barbarism and paranoiac bloodlust that will be a lasting and shameful memory to civilized man.” Communism is not social science but “naked terror, awful brutality and frightening ignorance.” Fast denounced “Stalin and the collection of hangmen and murderers around him” and charged that the Communist Party is “based on pseudo-religious cant, cemented with neurotic fear and parading ritualistic magic as a substitute for reason.” And the Spartacus scribe wasn’t done.

The only people who resisted the revelation of Stalin’s crimes, Fast wrote, were “the mental revolutionaries, the parlor pinks, the living-room warriors, the mink coated allies of the working class.” These were “Sick people who had seen no death than a painted corpse in a funeral parlor, no other violence than an auto crash – these people lusted for an Armageddon their mad dreams had promised them.”

The Naked God may have been the most devastating anti-Communist book since the The God That Failed (1949), with accounts from former Communists including Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon) and Richard Wright (Native Son, Black Boy). Fast’s book did not get the attention it deserved but his best-selling Spartacus attracted attention from Hollywood, at the time cranking out biblical epics like The Robe, David and Bathsheba, and Ben Hur.

The Spartacus screenwriter was Dalton Trumbo, who joined the Communist Party during the Stalin-Hitler Pact, when many others left, and remained in the Party after the Khrushchev revelations. Trumbo hated Fast’s Naked God but he wasn’t going to pass up a big payday. And since Trumbo had been one of the famed Hollywood Ten, Spartacus remains a classic on the big screen of the left, which duly consigned The Naked God to the forbidden list.

While some fled the Communist Party after 1956 many others remained and the Soviets continued to run candidates in American elections. In 1976 their candidate for president was Gus Hall, an old-line Stalinist, with Jarvis Tyner for vice president. College student John Brennan voted for Gus Hall and incredibly enough, only four years later in 1980 Brennan gained employment at the CIA, which he headed under POTUS 44.

One of those Americans who remained faithful to Communism and the Soviet Union was Angela Davis. In 1979 Davis won the Lenin Peace Prize, her primary for the Communist ticket in 1980, with Davis for vice president under Hall. The same duo lost to Reagan and Bush in 1984, and thereafter the Communist Party USA declined to run candidates and urged their supporters to vote for the Democratic Party.

In 1988, American Bernie Sanders spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union, where the gulags were still functioning and Soviet bosses torturing political prisoners in psychiatric hospitals. If Hillary Clinton had not rigged the primaries, Sanders would have been the Democrats’ candidate in 2016.

Cory Booker wants to be the candidate in 2020, and his bid for a  “Spartacus moment” suggests that he knows the Old Left back story. For their part, Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cynthia Nixon and Andrew Gillum, like their media supporters, show little if any familiarity with The Naked God, The God That Failed, and The Road to Serfdom.

On every hand they rise crying “I am socialist!” thereby confirming ignorance of the actual record. Howard Fast, who died in 2003, knew what socialism was all about. So did Milan Kundera, who wrote, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Candidates can’t recall what they never knew in the first place. And now abide anger, hatred and ignorance, but the greatest of these is ignorance.


Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons.