Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hemingway’s and Politics

With a few exceptions, Hemingway’s biographers have discounted his inter­est in and understanding of politics. In his foreword to Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, Carlos Baker summarizes many of the paradoxical, even con­tradictory, aspects of his complex subject, calling him politically a “fierce individualist . . . who believed that that government is best which governs feast.”
In his intellectual inventory of Hemingway in By Force of Will, Scott Donaldson follows suit, finding the consistent pattern of his political stance to be “the ideas of conservative Republicanism” deeply distrustful of big government and jealous of the autonomy of the individual person. “Basically bored with politics” according to the biography by Jeffrey Meyers, Hemingway responded to the call of the left in the 1930s in a “half-hearted” way with To Have and Have Not, which represents “only a token commit­ment to the class struggle.” Kenneth Lynn’s Hemingway brings a neoconser­vative as well as psychoanalytical perspective to the life and works, arguing that his political a naivete allowed Hemingway to become a communist dupe. James Mellow’s recent Hemingway: A Life without Consequences, discuss­ing the writer’s relationship to the communist magazine New Masses, char­acterizes his political stance as that of “an individualist first and liberal second.” Under the combined influence of Martha Gellhorn and the out­break of civil war in Spain, however, Hemingway embraced what Mellow styles “the politics of desperation.” And even the most authoritative biographer, Michael Reynolds, announces in The Young Hemingway that postwar cynicism and journalistic experience soured politics for the fledgling author: “Never a radical, Hemingway became apolitical and remained so for the rest of his life,” making him “one of the least overtly political writers of his generation.”
Yet Hemingway’s life, journalism, and imaginative writing show a contin­uing awareness of politics from early included his grandfathers, both committed Republicans and Theodore Roosevelt, the dominant American politician of the first decade of the century, right down to the victory of the Castro revolution in Cuba and the election John F. Kennedy, to whose inaugural Hemingway was invited. The sir personality of his mother expressed itself in many ways, one of which W, commitment to the suffrage and temperance movements. One of her son early memories was attending a political meeting with her in Nantucket another was recalled in a love letter to Mary Welsh cataloging the excitement of Chicago “with my Grandfather … and Theodore Roosevelt with the hearty clasp and the high squeeky voice.”
Although Roosevelt’s trust-busting, Bull Moose variety of progressive Republicanism carried Hemingway’s hometown in national elections, the pervasive gentility and insularity of Oak Park, Illinois, were less attractive t the boy. Working as a cub reporter in Kansas City after graduation from high school, he encountered a rawer kind of life. His beginner’s status did not entitle him to a byline, but his reportorial beat included the railroad station, where he interviewed visiting celebrities, including, one supposes, some politicians. In the city room where he typed his stories, exposure to rough urban politics was inevitable. After seven months on the Kansas City Star Hemingway, having failed his physical examination because of weak vision, volunteered for Red Cross ambulance duty in the Great War that was ravaging Europe. In France and then in Italy he encountered mot only war but the state politics that is “the womb in which war is developed.” While convalescing in northern Italy after being wounded in the Veneto, Hemingway met the elderly Count Emanuele Greppi, whose political sagacity, diplomatic experience, and courtly charm deeply impressed the young man, who later used him as the prototype of Count Greffi in A Farewell to Arms. In 1950 Hemingway wrote to Charles Scribner that Greppi served as his mentor in the complexities of European politics.
Returning to America after the war, Hemingway spent his first year con­valescing and writing sketches and short stories, then went to Toronto to serve as a companion to the crippled son of a wealthy family. There he began contributing to the Toronto Star. Over the four years of his associa­tion with this newspaper, he wrote almost two hundred articles. Many were human interest stories, but well over half were political mostly concerned with Europe and the Near East. Covering postwar conferences, conflicts, and tensions, the young journalist wrote knowledgeably about the W Economic Conference in Genoa, t e rise o fascism in Italy, the effects of runaway inflation in Germany Mustapha Kemal and the evacuation of Constantinople and Thrace, Franco-German tension in the Ruhr, the revolu­tionary unrest in the European proletariat, and occasionally about Canadian than and American political issues. Such political figures as Clemency Poincare, the Soviet diplomat George Tchitcherin, Aleksandr Stambou of Bulgaria, Chancellor Schober of Austria, Mussolini, Kemal, Count ponyi, and Lloyd George receive extended treatment, and D’Annun Lenin, Trotsky, Eamon de Valera, King Constantine, King Victor manuel, Leon Daudet, Wilson, and numerous others make at least car appearances. Anyone doubting Hemingway’s political expertise should I him on “Russia Spoiling the French Game”  “The Distrust Kemal Pasha” (October 24, 1922), or “King Business in Euro (September 15, 1923). Torontonians who read his dispatches to the regularly received a good education in some of the issues and personal: of contemporary European politics.
As Hemingway’s work for the Star ended and his literary efforts began appear in print in his and the century’s middle twenties, his direct expose to politics decreased and his interest subsided somewhat. Nevertheless, political awareness continued to appear in his correspondence. In a letter March 17, 1924, Hemingway teased Ezra Pound for his admiration Mussolini by beginning with the salutation “Dear Duce.” Praising Spain a November letter to his old friend Howell Jenkins, he contrasted the situation in the other southern European peninsula: “They treat you like shi Italy now. All post war fascisti, bad food and hysterics”. Even more relevant complaints about the Mussolini government appear in a le of February z, 1925, to the same recipient. Writing to John Dos Passos April z2 he referred sarcastically to Hindenberg and the Junker mot chists. In the following year, when the first issue of New Masses came c Hemingway accurately called it “some sort of a house organ” (SL 218) in letter to Sherwood Anderson: To his painter friend Waldo Peirce at the t of 1927 he denounced dictatorships in both Italy and Primo de Rive Spain. While in Kansas City in the summer of 1928 for the birth of his Patrick, “he looked in at the nomination of Herbert Hoover at the Republican National Convention, retiring in disgust at the machinations of politicians” (Baker, Life Story 194). The Great Depression was not away, but Hemingway noted that it had already arrived in Key West.
In his imaginative writing of this first major period of his career, political issues appear more often than has generally been noticed or acknowledge though they seldom become a major theme. In “Out of Season,” one three stories in Hemingway’s first published book (1923), the drunk gardener-fishing guide Peduzzi extends greetings as he walks through to, with his clients. Silently and rather sinisterly, “the bank clerk stared at from the door of the Fascist cafe.” Of the ten poems in the same book, “Roosevelt” is an ambivalent eulogy to a childhood hero, and “Captives,” “Champs d’Honneur,” and “Riparto D’Assalto” express the disillusion­ment with the Great War that was the most widely held political opinion among literary intellectuals at the time and that was to receive its definitive statement six years later in A Farewell to Arms. Similar sentiments are behind a third 0f the eighteen short sketches called “chapters” comprising in our time (1924) and appearing again in In Our Time (1925). In addition, the 1930 edition 0f that collection contains “On the Quai at Smyrna,” derived from Hemingway’s journalistic coverage of the Greco-Turkish con­flict, and the overtly political story “The Revolutionist,” which had ap­peared as a “chapter” 0f in our time. A few months later the short satirical novel The Torrents o f Spring was published with a sarcastic dedication to S. Stanwood Mencken, a right-winger committed to keeping alive the red scare with the preposterous claim that there were more than half a million Communists in the United States, and to his antagonist H. L. Mencken. In the next novel, The Sun Also Rises, the banter of Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton  their fishing trip north of Pamplona includes references to both foreign and domestic politics: Primo de Rivera and th-e rebellion in the Riff as well as Lincoln and Grant, the temperance movement, William Jennings Bryan, and President Coolidge. Coolidge is also mentioned in “Banal Story” in Men without Women (1927), a collection that includes two Italian stories of political significance. “In Another Country” is set in Milan at a rehabilita­tion hospital for wounded military personnel during the war. Walking through “the communist quarter” to the Cafe Cova, the narrator and three other young officers must pass by wineshops filled with hostile workers, some shouting, “A basso gli ufficiali!” (“Down with officers!”) Much more unpleasant is the political situation after the war as depicted in “Che Ti Dice la Patria?” This story first appeared as a non-fictional report on a trip Hemingway and Guy Hickok took to Italy in March 1927. The country that Hemingway had loved so much only a decade earlier had become under Mussolini a rude, threatening, dangerous, corrupt place. That is what the country’s domination by fascism said to him. Finally, at the end of the decade, came A Farewell to Arms. Whatever else that great novel may say, its statement against the Great War is clear and convincing.
As in the previous decade, Hemingway’s letters during the 1930s are sprinkled with political references, especially when he is writing to Dos Passos. Traveling to Spain in May 1931 to collect more material for Death in the Afternoon, he observed closely the complicated Spanish political, scene, reporting on it to Dos Passos in a letter of June 26 that is virtually a disquisition on the subject. Hemingway still felt at home in Spain, but Italy was another matter. As he made plans for an African safari with Henry Strater early in 1932, he stipulated that the boat from Marseilles to Mom­bassa not stop at an Italian port because he did not want to be beaten up. As the Depression deepened many writers were moving left, but Hemingway, who had moved in that direction more than a decade earlier, resisted the tendency. As the presidential election approached, with the “Country ... all busted” he wrote Guy Hickok, the unattractive choices were “The Paralytic Demagogue/The Syphilitic Baby/The Sentimental Reformer/The Yes-Man of Moscow” that is, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Norman Thomas, and William Z. Foster. A year later he wrote from Madrid to his conservative mother-in-law, noting confusion and cor­ruption in Spain but something worse in Germany: “I hate Hitler because he is working for one thing: war”. When “one of my best pals” (SL 411), the communist revolutionary and painter Luis Quintanilla, was arrested in Spain in October 1934, Hemingway financed a benefit show of his work in New York and wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalogue. A new epistolary friend was the Soviet critic and translator Ivan Kashkeen, with whom he discussed literature and politics in correspondence beginning August 19, 1935.
During these years Hemingway was following closely Caribbean as well as European politics. Gerardo Machado’s brutal dictatorship had been over­thrown in Cuba in 1933, but political turmoil continued on that unhappy island. Ninety miles north in Key West, where the Hemingways had been living since 1923, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration was trying to respond to the collapse of the economy, but Hemingway was sharply critical of its efforts. When a disastrous hurricane hit the Keys on the night of August 31, 1935, the appalling loss of life in the Civilian Conservation Corps work camps, filled with war veterans including many of the bonus marchers, enraged Hemingway, who blamed not only the Miami Weather Bureau but New Deal bureaucrats in Washington, who delayed a rescue train until it was too late. Not satisfied with venting his anger in his corre­spondence, he wrote “Who Murdered the Vets?” for New Masses in Sep­tember and in December sent a congratulatory telegram on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the magazine that nine years earlier he had reviled.
Cuban and Key West materials form the substance of “One Trip Across” (1934) and “The Tradesman’s Return” (1936), which constitute the first two parts of To Have and Have Not (1937), the author’s most political book to date. By the time of publication the Spanish civil war had been
disquisition on the subject. Hemingway still felt at home in Spain, but Italy was another matter. As he made plans for an African safari with Henry Strater early in 1932, he stipulated that the boat from Marseilles to Mom­bassa not stop at an Italian port because he did not want to be beaten up. As the Depression deepened many writers were moving left, but Hemingway, who had moved in that direction more than a decade earlier, resisted the tendency. As the presidential election approached, with the “Country ... all busted” (&?”, he wrote Guy Hickok, the unattractive choices were “The Paralytic Demagogue/The Syphilitic Baby/The Sentimental Reformer/The Yes-Man of Moscow” that is, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Norman Thomas, and William Z. Foster. A year later he wrote from Madrid to his conservative mother-in-law, noting confusion and cor­ruption in Spain but something worse in Germany: “I hate Hitler because he is working for one thing: war”. When “one of my best pals” (SL 411), the communist revolutionary and painter Luis Quintanilla, was ar­rested in Spain in October 1934, Hemingway financed a benefit show of his work in New York and wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalogue. A new epistolary friend was the Soviet critic and translator Ivan Kashkeen, with whom he discussed literature and politics in correspondence beginning August 19, 1935.
During these years Hemingway was following closely Caribbean as well as European politics. Gerardo Machado’s brutal dictatorship had been over­thrown in Cuba in 1933, but political turmoil continued on that unhappy island. Ninety miles north in Key West, where the Hemingways had been living since 1928, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration was trying to respond to the collapse of the economy, but Hemingway was sharply critical of its efforts. When a disastrous hurricane hit the Keys on the night of August 31, 1935, the appalling loss of life in the Civilian Conservation Corps work camps, filled with war veterans including many of the bonus marchers, enraged Hemingway, who blamed not only the Miami Weather Bureau but New Deal bureaucrats in Washington, who delayed a rescue train until it was too late. Not satisfied with venting his anger in his corre­spondence, he wrote “Who Murdered the Vets?” for New Masses in Sep­tember and in December sent a congratulatory telegram on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the magazine that nine years earlier he had reviled.
Cuban and Key West materials form the substance of “One Trip Across” (1934) and “The Tradesman’s Return” (1936), which constitute the first two parts of To Have and Have Not (1937), the author’s most political book to date. By the time of publication the Spanish civil war had been under way for over a year, and Hemingway was itching to get involved. As early as September 26, 1936 he had written to Maxwell Perkins: “I hate to have missed this Spanish thing worse than anything in the world but have to have this book [THAHN] finished first”. There was no ques­tion where his loyalties lay. In December he told Perkins. “I’ve paid two guys over there to fight (transportation and cash to Spanish border) already.... Franco is a good general but a son of a bitch of the first magni­tude” (SL 455). By January 1937 Hemingway was in New York helping Prudencio de Pereda on a propaganda film for the Loyalists, and late the following month he was sailing to France. On March 16 he arrived in Spain as an accredited correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alli­ance. For over a year he covered the bloody conflict, often under fire, writing thirty-one dispatches for publication in European and Canadian as well as American newspapers. During this period he and Joris Ivens made the film The Spanish Earth to raise public concern about what was happen­ing in and to his most loved country. Back in the States in the late spring and early summer of 1937, Hemingway narrated the sound track for the film, showed it to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House, gave antifascist speeches at the Second American Writers’ Congress in New York and at a successful fundraising event in Hollywood sponsored by Frederic March, wrote an article for Pravda, and did whatever else he could to aid the cause that constituted the deepest political commitment of his life. When he returned to Europe again in August, he continued his reporting on the war and enlarged his circle of friends, especially among the political activists of the International Brigades.
While hosting soldiers and journalists in his hotel room rocked by artil­lery fire in besieged Madrid and traveling to the Aragon front to cover important battles, Hemingway somehow managed to write the highly politi­cal play The Fifth Column, followed by four short stories on the war and by For Whom the Bell Tolls. Early in 1938 he returned to Key West, but he was back in Spain on April 1 in time to witness Franco’s rapid, relentless ad­vance toward Catalonia. Though he tried to maintain optimism after this cruelest of Aprils, it became increasingly difficult to do so. Returning to Key West, in a July article for Ken he urged President Roosevelt to provide aid at last to Spain, but FDR continued his policy of nonintervention, leading Hemingway to predict in Ken on August 11 that war would break out within a year as a consequence of continuing appeasement of fascism. Six weeks later Chamberlain Spain’s Catholic victory,” and five months later, on September 1, 1939, Hitler unleashed the blitzkrieg against Poland. Hemingway, whose political pre­science has too often gone unremarked, had missed his prediction by only twenty-one days.
As the United States moved closer to involvement in 1940 and 1941, Hemingway declined to write “flagwaving stuff”,  but would, he said, fight. Soon after his marriage to Martha Gellhorn, however, she received an assignment from Collier’s to report on the Chinese-Japanese war, and Hemingway wangled a similar assignment from the new left-liberal New York newspaper PM. They spent a month in Hong Kong, where Hemingway met the widow of Sun Yat-sen, before moving on to a war zone. In Chungking he met with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek as well as the American ambassador to discuss the military and political situa­tion. In his articles for PM he pointed out China’s need for assistance in its struggle to repel aggression, noting also that the Soviet Union was giving aid. The situation was reminiscent of Spain.
Recognizing as he did Japan’s threat, Hemingway was appalled by the lack of U.S. preparation revealed at Pearl Harbor. To Charles Scribner he wrote despairingly: “Through our (American) laziness, criminal careless­ness, and blind arrogance we are fucked in this war as of the first day and we are going to have Christ’s own bitter time to win it if, when, and ever”. His first contribution to the war effort was the anthology Men at War. In the introduction he expresses his hatred of both war and “all the politicians whose mismanagement, gullibility, cupidity, selfishness and am­bition brought on this present war and made it inevitable.” He also reiter­ated the political position he had consistently maintained for twenty years: “We must win [the war] never forgetting what we are fighting for, in order that while we are fighting Fascism we do not slip into the ideas and ideals of Fascism” (Men at War ). Having contributed to the effort to stop fascism in Spain, he now organized the “Crook Factory,” with the support if not at the instigation of the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Spruille Braden, to conduct espionage on the Falangists and other Nazi, sympathizers on the island. His associates in this enterprise were several friends from the Spanish civil war, including the talented radical composer and former Loyalist gener­al Gustavo Duran, as well as members of the embassy staff. From spying Hemingway progressed to patrolling for Nazi submarines on his fishing vessel the Pilar, equipped for the purpose by Braden and the Chief of Naval Intelligence for Central America. Although the Pilar did not engage in actual combat with submarines, as Hemingway was to fantasize in his posthumous novel Islands in the Stream, during its two years of activity, according to Ambassador Braden, the operation “obtained valuable information on the location of German subs on various occasions” (Meyers, Hemingway: A Biography 388).
But the real action that Hemingway longed for was in the European theater. His wife had left the Finca Vigia for London in late October 1943 as war correspondent for Collier’s, returning in March. In May they were both in Europe, Hemingway having secured a contract of his own with Collier’s. Though not on the same ship, they were both offshore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Hemingway was back in London when the Germans began to launch their buzzbombs, two of which struck not far from him. He flew with the RAF over enemy territory several times before crossing over to Normandy to see ground action. There he met Colonel Charles “Buck” Lanham, with whom he was to develop a close friendship as he accom­panied the 22nd Infantry Regiment in Normandy and later, after the libera­tion of Paris, in Belgium and on into Germany. He was often under fire, especially as the leader of a French guerrilla group on the way to Paris and in the terrible fighting in the Hurtgen Forest with Lanham and the 22nd. Only after the Allied victory was obvious to all did Hemingway leave on March 6, 1945, a month after the Yalta Conference and a month before V-E Day. The second war against fascism, unlike the first, had been won.
In the sixteen remaining years of his life, Hemingway’s interest in politics continued. In the months immediately following the war his letters discuss such political issues and figures as the cancellation of the Lend-Lease pro­gram; Petain, whom he “never liked ... neither as a general, a man nor a politician”; the Soviet Union; and such British fascists as Oswald Mosley and William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw”). In a letter to the Soviet writer Konstantin Simonov on June 20, 1946, Hemingway affirmed his antifascism, criticized Churchill, and endorsed Soviet-American friendship. Writing to Charles Scribner in 1947 he approved Martha Gellhorn’s attack in The New Republic on the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in the same year he scoffed at the notion that political unrest in Colombia was sponsored by the Kremlin. As anticommunist hysteria was sweeping the United States, he found it necessary to affirm to Charles Scribner Jr. that he could “take an oath at any time that I am not nor never have been a member of the C.P. [Communist Party]”. As for congressional investigating committees, in a 1949 letter he fantasized his response to any question about being subversive: “You cocksucker, when did you come to this coun­try and where were your people in 1776-9, 1861-5, 1914-18, and 1941-45?” As for Senator McCarthy, Hemingway in 1950 issued this invitation to the Finca Vigia: “You can come down here and fight for free, without any publicity, with an old character like me who is fifty years old and weighs 209 and thinks you are a shit, Senator, and would knock you on your ass the best day you ever lived” (SL 693). While disillusioned with American politics, he followed the Cuban revolution with interest and ap­probation. He was less than favorable to the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya. As he complained to sometimes disbelieving friends, he was hounded by the FBI. One of his last letters was to John F. Kennedy, praising him for his inaugural address and expressing his admiration and hope for the new administration.
There can be no doubt, then, that Hemingway had a serious interest in politics during his entire adult life. It was only one of many interests, of course, and certainly less intense than his interest in writing or fishing or hunting or bullfighting or travel. But it conditioned his worldview and found its way into his imaginative writing, especially in the 1930s. The question remains, however: What was his own political position? As a man of strong opinions, he was certainly not content to remain an impartial observer of the international and domestic scene. He was not, like his old Spanish refugee at the bridge, “without politics.”7
Because he was not a consistent political thinker, however, he did not adhere to a systematic political theory. Unresolved contradictions recur in his political pronouncements, but certain central themes can be traced. First, though interested in politics, he disliked politicians and especially distrusted their appeals to patriotism. In Kansas City as a cub reporter he observed political corruption involving a city hospital during a smallpox epidemic. In World War I he experienced the human consequences of political rivalries in Europe. The loss of idealism shared by his generation has received no more memorable statement than Frederic Henry’s thoughts in A Farewell to Arms, elicited by his patriotic friend Gino’s comment that one should not speak of losing the war because “what has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain”: “I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the ‘rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on procla­mations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards in Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.”8
After the war Hemingway worked in Chicago for the Cooperative Com­monwealth, the magazine of the Cooperative Society of America, ostensibly a political-economic scheme to improve the lot of rural midwesterners. As it turned out, the society was a financial fraud designed by founder Harrison Parker to bilk millions from the members. Another disillusionment. As a reporter for the Toronto Star Hemingway satirized Mayor Thomas Church as a gladhanding politician pretending to be a sports fan and wrote of political murders in Chicago. On the international scene he excoriated Poin­care and the other reactionary, shortsighted, vindictive, stupid French politi­cians in power in an article dated February 4, 1922, but he was more favorable to Poincare five weeks later. His coverage of the Genoa Confer­ence in April and May was avowedly impartial, but some of his sketches of Europe’s political leaders are less than flattering. Subsequently he inter­viewed Mussolini twice, on the second occasion calling him “the biggest bluff in Europe. On the domestic scene he made sardonic comments in his correspondence about Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. He was, if anything, even more caustic about the New Deal, calling his formerly beloved Key West “this F.E.R.A. Jew administered phony of a town”. In Green Hills of Africa the New Deal is called “Some sort of Y.M.C.A. show. Starry eyed bastards spending money that somebody will have to pay. Everybody in our town quit work to go on relief. Fishermen all turned carpenters. Reverse of the Bible.”9 FDR, “The Paralytic Demagogue,” Hemingway held responsible for the deaths of the veterans in the Keys during the hurricane of 1935 as well as the U.S. failure to aid the Spanish Republic. Other politicians and public figures criticized by Hemingway in the late 1940s and early 1950s include Harry Truman, Cardinal Spellman, Juan Antonio de Rivera, Mayor O’Dwyer of New York, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Mus­solini. From 1954 to the end, such a list would include De Gaulle, Ezra Pound, Eisenhower, Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Estes Kefauver, John Kasper (the racist admirer of Pound); and Fulgencio Batista. Writing to Mary Welsh in 1945, he included “any liveing [sic] politicians” in a list of people he did not believe.
The second salient characteristic of Hemingway’s political position was a strong individualism hostile to control by any exterior force, whether liter­ary critic, wife, or government. His personality was powerful, not to say domineering, and he asserted it among his friends and associates, many of whom readily followed his leadership. As for government bureaucracies, noli me tangere might well have been his motto. To Dos Passos he wrote on 1932: “I can’t be a Communist because I hate tyranny and, I suppose, government.... I can’t stand any bloody government.... No larger unit than the village can exist without things being impossible” (SL 360). In another letter to Dos Passos he called himself an anarchist. To his Russian translator, the critic Ivan Kashkeen, he wrote three years later: “I cannot be a communist now because I believe in only one thing: liberty.... All the state has ever meant to me is unjust taxation.... I believe in the absolute minimum of government.” As he went on to explain, the writer is a kind of an Ishmael, an antipatriot: “He owes no allegiance to any govern­ment. If he is a good writer he will never like the government he lives under. His hand should be against it and its hand will always be against him”. Such autonomy was essential to maintain the integrity necessary to serve truth, the artist’s deepest moral obligation.
Hemingway’s dislike of politicians and his prickly individualism have long been recognized, but the third and even more important component of his politics has been underestimated, insufficiently acknowledged, or ignored altogether. From the beginning to the end of his adult life, he had deep sympathies with the left, especially the revolutionary left. An example of the neglect of his leftism is the matter of the great American Socialist Eugene V. Debs. In their full-scale biographies of Hemingway, neither Kenneth Lynn nor James Mellow mentions Debs. Michael Reynolds mentions Debs twice in The Young Hemingway only as historical background, not connecting him to the young war veteran from Oak Park. Only Carlos Baker makes such a connection, stating somewhat misleadingly that Hemingway did not wish to choose between Roosevelt and Hoover in 1932 “since his favorite candidate was still Eugene Debs”. Relying on Baker, not understanding the import of the word “still,” and forgetting that Debs died in 1926, Jeffrey Meyers states that “Hemingway supported the Social­ist Eugene Debs for President in 1932. The truth, as Hemingway related it to Lillian Ross in 1948, is that he cast his first and only vote in a U.S. presidential election for the founder of American socialism: “I cast the only vote for Debs in our precinct. Never voted after that. In the death of our candidate I retired from giddy political whirl”. Eight years later he explained to J. Donald Adams that he voted for Debs because “he was an honest man and in jail” (SL 871), as if on the American political scene the only place for an honest man was in jail. One thinks of Thoreau. It is especially significant that Hemingway was still recalling (and implicitly endorsing) Debs so late in life.
When Hemingway characterized the Democratic, Republican, socialist, and communist candidates in the 1931 presidential  campaign, his least unfavorable epithet, “The Sentimental Reformer,” was attached to the so­cialist Norman Thomas. But unlike Thomas, a Presbyterian minister and graduate of Princeton and Union Theological Seminary, Debs was MOM than a reformer; he was a class-conscious railroad worker, union organizer and official, pioneer of the movement for industrial unions, one, of the  founders of the Industrial Workers of the World, and opponent of American intervention in the Mexican revolution and of American participation in World War I. He also celebrated the success of the Bolshevik revolution. As Debs was entering prison on Palm Sunday 1919, after conviction under the Espionage Act for a speech he gave in Canton, Ohio, the previous year, he declared himself “a flaming revolutionist.”10 The next year Hemingway voted for him.
A couple of months later he met Isaac Don Levine, who covered Russia for the Chicago Daily News. Impressed, Hemingway wrote to his mother that “Levine is an excellent fellow and gave us the cold dope on Rooshia”, and proceeded to read the correspondent’s book, The Russian Revolution (Reynolds, Young Hemingway 193), a favorable account. After his marriage to Hadley Richardson and the departure of the couple to Paris at the end of 1911, Hemingway learned more about the Soviets the follow­ing spring at the Genoa Conference, where he wrote more for the Toronto Star about the Russian delegation than about any other. Additional infor­mation was doubtless gleaned from fellow journalists Lincoln Steffens and Max Eastman, both of whom were enthusiastic supporters of the Bol­sheviks. Eager to see Russia for himself, Hemingway received credentials for the trip from the Star, and even provided an author’s note for Poetry maga­zine, stating that he was “at present in Russia as staff correspondent”, but the trip never came off. From Genoa he returned to Paris in time for May Day 1911, when a large communist demonstration was broken up by police. Confined to bed with a throat infection, he did not witness the event, but he was impressed enough by newspaper accounts to mention it in a letter to his father and to describe it brilliantly in a sentence that moved his writing from journalism to literature: “I have watched the police charge the crowd with swords as they milled back into Paris through the Porte Maillot on the first of May and seen the frightened proud look on the white beaten­up face of the sixteen year old kid who looked like a prep school quarter back and had just shot two policemen”. Italian Com­munists, ubiquitous in the north of the country, were less formidable: “The North Italian Red is father of a family and a good workman six days out of seven; on the seventh he talks politics”, often fueled by too much chianti. Congenial and convivial, these Reds are no match in street battles with the bands of young Fascists, as Hemingway ruefully admits.
As sympathetic as he was toward the Bolsheviks in Russia, the easygoing Genoese Reds, or his “new God” in 1913, the recently assassinated Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, Hemingway had little use for parlor radicals or new converts back home. When Max Eastman’s Masses was revived as New Masses in 1926, he called it “the most peurile [sic] and shitty house organ I’ve ever seen”, though he did send it “An Alpine Idyll.” Similar cracks appeared the next few months in letters to Sherwood Anderson and Maxwell Perkins, and he also poked fun at the sentimental reformism of New Republic in the poem “The Earnest Liberal’s Lament,” enclosed in a letter to Waldo Peirce. When literary intellectuals were moving left in the early 1930s, Hemingway made a startling comment in a letter to Scott Fitzgerald: “Have you become a Communist like Bunny [Edmund] Wilson? In 1919-20-21 when we were all paid up Communists Bunny and all those guys that it was all tripe - as indeed it proved to he - but suppose everybody has to go through some political or religious faith sooner or later. Personally would rather go through things sooner and get your disillusions behind you instead of ahead of you”. Because there is no evidence elsewhere that he was in fact a “paid up Communist” and because he later denied that he had ever been a Communist, one must interpret this state­ment as humorous hyperbole, but it does confirm other indications of his early sympathy with the revolutionary left. After all, his writing of the 1920s included the touching story of “The Revolutionist,” tortured by the Hungarian Whites but still full of illusions: “He believed altogether in the world revolution”. And another peripatetic revolutionary was the protagonist of the aborted “A New Slain Knight,” the major fiction­al project between The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.11
When Hemingway’s great work on tauromachy, Death in the Afternoon, appeared in 1931, the concluding page seemed clearly to repudiate, at least in his own work, increasingly fashionable literary radicalism: “Let those who want to save the world if you can get to see it clear and as a whole.”12 In Green Hills of Africa (1935), the criticism becomes even more pointed: “Writers should work alone.... Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle. Sometimes the bottle is shaped art, sometimes economics, sometimes economic-religion. But once inside the bottle they stay there”. He was espe­cially apprehensive about the dangers of ideological or party control of the creative process. Praising 1919 as “bloody splendid”, even better than The 42nd Parallel, Hemingway went on to warn Dos Passos about left didacticism. When Paul Romaine expressed the hope that Hemingway would write about more socially significant subjects than bulls and the lost generation, he bristled: “That is so much horseshit. I do not follow the fashions in politics, letters, religion etc” (SL 363).
But even as he resisted pressure from the American left, Hemingway traveled to Madrid in May 1931, only a month after the overthrow of the dictator Primo de Rivera and the departure of King Alfonso XIII. He found the political scene exhilarating but chaotic, with Republicans constituting a large majority but split among themselves into a bewildering variety of parties and factions, not to mention regional interests. Helping him make sense of the situation was a new Spanish friend, the radical Luis Quintanilla. At the end of the year the Constitution of the Second Republic was passed, declaring Spain “a democratic republic of workers of every class, organized in a regime of liberty and justice.”13 These were the ideals and the country to which Hemingway made the most profound political commitment of his life in the civil war that was to follow in less than five years.
But first there was the deteriorating situation at home. As an old sympa­thizer with the revolutionary left, his sympathy recharged by his trip to Spain, he was not to be lectured by pinkish, bookish types in the States. To Paul Romaine he wrote angrily on August 9, 1932: “I will not outline my political beliefs to you since I have no need to and since I could be jailed for their publication but if they are not much further left than yours which sound like a sentimental socialism, I will move them further over”. There was no denying, as he wrote to Guy Hickok in October, that the “Country is all busted.... 200,000 guys on the road like the wild kids in Russia.... Well well well this depression is hell”. But Stalin­ism was certainly not the way out. Indeed, he wrote to Dos Passos at this time, “I suppose I am an anarchist.... To hell with the Church when it becomes a state and the hell with the State when it becomes a church”. At times, though, Hemingway seems to demand constancy above all. Thus in 1933 he was critical of Scott Fitzgerald for turning to communism but two months later called Max Eastman, who had angered him with his scathing review of Death in the Afternoon, “a traitor in politics” because he was turning away from it.
Hemingway’s culminating statement in the mid-1930s on revolution, pol­itics, and writing is surely “Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba.” Using an unnamed newspaper columnist (clearly Heywood Broun) as an example, Hemingway here deplores easy talk of revolution by writers with­ out an adequate knowledge of history or a sufficiently analytical intel­ligence. He explains: “The world was much closer to revolution in the years after the war than it is now. In those days we who believed in it looked for it at any time, expected it, hoped for it - for it was the logical thing. But everywhere it came it was aborted.” The reason, he came to believe, was that “there can never be a Communist revolution without, first, a complete military debacle.” The debacle was complete in Russia. Italy came close to revolution after Caporetto, but rallied its military effort in the spring and summer of 1918. French troops rebelled and were marching on Paris in 1917, but Clemenceau turned the tide with ruthless suppression of all who did not wish to pursue the war, even to the extent of ordering a saber charge by the Guard Republicaine on a parade of mutilated veterans - thus antici­pating Hoover’s use of troops to rout the bonus marchers in Washington. The implication throughout is not that Hemingway no longer wanted revo­lution in 1934 after wanting it in the early 1920s, but that now the condi­tions were not propitious, for economic crisis was not a sufficient cause. Serious writers, moreover, should have a commitment to their art that goes beyond politics or the personal rewards that politics may bring. Heming­way’s statement of his aesthetic creed in “Old Newsman Writes” is similar to those he made elsewhere, but it bears quoting: “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and after­wards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” These qualities, he explains, constitute the permanent value of such a book as War and Peace, not “the big Political Thought passages”14 that are topical and therefore transient. Only the dedicated writer working alone can hope to achieve literature. Writers’ collectives and left didacticism cannot.
If the duty of a writer is to write, the duty of the revolutionary is to work for the revolution. Both vocations require extraordinary commitment. One of the few favorably presented minor characters in To Have and Have Not is the Communist Nelson jacks, “a tall, thin man with a scar that ran from one corner of his eye down over his chin.” Unlike the rowdy drunks among the other vets crowding Freddy’s Bar in Key West, jacks is calm and focused. To Richard Gordon, the fashionably radical novelist character based on Dos Passos, jacks comments: “It takes discipline and abnegation to be a Com­munist; a rummy can’t be a Communist.” Writing a novel on the Gastonia textile strike, Gordon had earlier received praise for his fiction at the Lilac Time, a watering place for the Ha but his admirer turns out to be literally crazy. The literary judgment of jacks is quite different. When Gordon asks his opinion of his books, jacks says that he did not like them:
“I don’t like to say.”
“Go ahead.”
“I thought they were shit,” the tall man said and turned away.
Presumably jacks will continue his lonely, dedicated life as a peripatetic communist organizer. Before working with the bonus marchers he had been in “Mexico, Cuba, South America, and around.”15
Of Hemingway’s next three works, The Spanish Earth is a propaganda film made in collaboration with a Dutch Communist, and both The Fifth Column and For Whom the Bell Tolls have communist protagonists. In the play Philip Rawlings is a counter-espionage agent in Madrid reporting to Antonio, a character based on the city’s chief of the Servicio de Investigacion Militar, the Communist Pepe Quintanilla, the brother of Hemingway’s good friend Luis Quintanilla. Philip’s romantic interest is Dorothy Bridges, a leggy blonde reminiscent of Martha Gellhorn. When his attraction to her and his disgust with the dirty business his work involves - including assas­sination and torture - threaten to compromise his dedication to the cause, his comrade Max reminds him of the ends these means are designed to achieve: “You do it so everyone will have a good breakfast like that. You do it so no one will ever be hungry. You do it so men will not have to fear ill health or old age; so they can live and work in dignity and not as slaves” (The Fifth Column 79). Once enjoying wealth and the pleasures it brings, Philip has given up his lifestyle to serve the revolution, and at the end of the play he must give up Dorothy as well: “I’ve been to all those places [Saint Tropez, Paris, Nairobi, Kitzbuhel, Havana, etc.] and I’ve left them all be­hind. And where I go now I go alone, or with others who go there for the same reason I go” (The Fifth Column). So Philip achieves the requisite communist abnegation and discipline that Nelson Jacks prescribes.
If Philip Rawlings is ambivalent about the issue of means and ends, Robert Jordan of For Whom the Bell Tolls is even more so. In the beginning, as a volunteer in the International Brigades, he felt his political faith with a religious intensity: “Like the feeling you expected to have but did not have when you made your first communion. It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all the oppressed of the world which would be as difficult and embarrassing to speak about as religious experience and yet it was authentic as the feeling you had when you heard Bach, or stood in Chartres Cathedral or the Cathedral at Leon and saw the light coming through the great win­dows.... It gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely.... It was something that you had never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance.... But the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling.... You could fight.”16 And fight he did: “You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged, surging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world, against all the tyranny, for all the things that you believed and for the new world that you had been educated
(FWBT 236). This was the zealous faith of crusading  communism, the spirit of Velasquez 63, the headquarters of the International Brigades. Who has described the communist faith better than Hemingway, who did not share it but respected it deeply? The climate was different at Gaylord’s, the hotel housing some of the high Russian officers and journalists. Cynicism - or realism - was the prevailing mood here, where the food was good despite the siege of the city and where the reality behind the propaganda was known to all. But such characters as Karkov, modeled after the Pravda and Izvestia correspondent Mikhail Koltsov, and General Golz, modeled after the Polish General “Walter,” were admirable in their distinctive ways and, after their fashion, perhaps equally committed. Jordan himself becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the discrepancy between appearance and reality in the conduct of the war. In the longest stream-of-consciousness passage in the novel he is deeply troubled by the necessity of using fascistic methods to stop fascism: “You were fighting against exactly what you were doing and being forced into doing to have any chance of winning” (FWBT 162). With these serious reservations he was still willing to “be under Com­munist discipline for the duration of the war” (FWBT 163), even if, as he tries to tell himself, he had no politics now. Not quite a Communist any­ more, perhaps, Jordan is still and always, like his creator, an antifascist. On the second of his three days with Pablo’s band in the Guadarramas he continues his interior political dialogue: “You’re not a real Marxist and you know it. You believe in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. You believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (FWBT 305). But a fascist victory in Spain will prevent realization of the goals of the French and American revolutions as well as the dictatorship of the proletariat, a classless society, and a state economy.
The achievement of For Whom the Bell Tolls; Hemingway’s greatest nov­el, transcends partisanship in its artistic integrity. If the horrors of fascism are made manifest, the massacre of the fascists in Pablo’s village is perhaps even more graphically depicted. And surely no character in the work is etched more acidly than the murderous madman Andre Marty, commander of the International Brigades. The author’s commitment to truth eschews propaganda. The result is an affirmation of human struggle, indeed of hu­manity itself, as well as perhaps the finest novel of Spain by a non-Spaniard. However, its matrix is its author’s longstanding sympathy for the revolu­tionary left, his love of Spain, and his friendship with such Communists as Luis Quintanilla, Gustav Regler, Milton Wolff, Karol Swierezenski (“Walter”), Gustavo Duran, Freddy Keller, Mikhail Koltsov, Mamsurov Judji­Umar, Hans Kahle, Werner Heilbrun, Jose Luis Herrera Sotolongo, Joris Ivens, Mate Zelka (General “Lukacz”), Alexis Eisner, Ilya Ehrenburg, Phil Detro, Roman Karmen, Nicolas Guillen, Roman Nicolau, and others. As he once told Joseph North, “I like Communists when they’re soldiers, but when they’re priests, I hate them”. Hemingway was never a dupe of the Communists, but neither did he allow his discomfort with their duplicity or brutality to override his conviction that their disci­pline offered the best chance to save the Republic, stop fascist aggression, and prevent another world war. As he wrote to Edmund Wilson years later about his association with Communists in the civil war: “This was not a Stalinist experience. These were episodes in the defence of the Spanish Re­public.
What Hemingway later sardonically called his “premature antifascism”17 became timely when World War II arrived. Eager for action, he first orga­nized the “Crook Factory” and subsequently went to the European theater. Again, as he wrote to Mary Welsh on September 11, 1944, he was happy fighting fascism: “Know what you fight for and where and why and to what ends”. It was good, but it was not Spain. In a letter to Charles Scribner after the war, Hemingway sorts out his loyalties: “to Scribners ... the Spanish Republic, the 4th U.S. Infantry Division and the 22nd Infantry Regiment. I have felt much more deeply about the 12th International Bri­gade and my children and Mary”. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary reunion of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in New York in 1947, Hemingway could not attend in person but he recorded his prose eulogy “On the American Dead in Spain,” first published in New Masses in 1939, along with some prefatory comments to be played at the dinner.
Some of these loyalties were bound to make Hemingway a suspicious character to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities, and vigilante groups during the anticommunist hysteria of the 1940s and 1950s. He was under close scrutiny by the FBI during the last two decades of his life. His response was to mock and defy the witch-hunters.
The hunt might have become more intense if Washington had been aware of the help Hemingway was providing to Cuban Communists. Dr. Jose Luis Herrera Sotolongo, whom he had met in Spain, escaped a death sentence imposed by Franco and was living in exile in Cuba, where he became Hemingway’s personal physician and one of his closest friends. Herrera Sotolongo met Fidel Castro while the latter was still studying at the Univer­sity of Havana and later participated in the rebellion against the dictator Fulgencio Batista. Hemingway himself had supported the overthrow of the former dictator Gerardo Machado in 1933. When the outlawed Cuban Communist Party began its agitation against the Batista regime, Heming­way supported the effort with donations totaling $20,000, the largest sum contributed by a foreigner. After the Party was legalized, Hemingway con­tinued his financial support of both Cuban and Spanish Communists through Emiliano Loza and Herrera Sotolongo. He also became involved in an unsuccessful conspiracy to overthrow another Caribbean dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic.
When Castro came down from the Sierra Maestra for the final phase of the Cuban revolution, Hemingway had mixed feelings. From Ketchum he wrote to his son Patrick in late November 1958 expressing serious reserva­tions: “I am not a big fear danger pussy but living in a country where no one is right - both sides atrocious - knowing what sort of stuff and murder will go on when the new ones come in - seeing the abuses of those in now - I am fed on it”. But after Castro’s total victory and Batista’s flight from Havana “with his chief murderers and thieves,” Hemingway was glad to see him go, writing to Gianfranco Ivancich on January 7, 1959: “Sic transit hijo de puta” [“So passes the son of a bitch”]. Later the same month he wrote to L. K. Brague Jr. that “Things are OK with us in Cuba. A friend I was in Spain with is one of the new govt.... With all the vested U.S. interests they will be bucking to try to give the Cubans a square shake for the first time ever.... Castro is up against a hell of a lot of money. The Island is so rich and has always been stolen blind. If he could run a straight government it would be wonderful”. After Castro had been in power a year, Hemingway was still defending the revolution. Arriving back in Havana after the dangerous summer of 1959 in Spain, he kissed the Cuban flag on arrival and declared, “I am happy to be here again, because I consider myself one more Cuban.... My sympathies are with the Cuban Revolution and all our difficulties. I don’t want to be considered a Yanqui”. He approved of some of the executions of Batista thugs, bitterly decried by the American press, adding: “I have complete faith in the Castro Revolution because it has the support of the Cuban people. I believe in his cause” (Fuentes, Hemingway in Cuba 275). Or, as he put it in a letter to Buck Lanham on January 12, 1960, “I believe completely in the historical necessity of the Cuban Revolution”. For the forty years of his adult life, Hemingway had believed in revolution.
One wonders what Hemingway would have trade of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in our time. Surely his individualism would have rebelled against the regimentation that seems inevitable when the state becomes a church. Perhaps, despite his impatience with politicians, he would be attracted to Felipe Gonzalez, the democratic Socialist now leading Spain. Hemingway once expressed some grudging admiration for the socialist prime minister during the early years of the civil war, Francisco Largo Caballero. To support democratic Socialism at the end of the century would have been consistent with his support of Eugene V. Debs in 1920. Despite his individualism and his distrust of politicians, Ernest Hemingway was always on the left.

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dina said...

notes of for whom the bell tolls
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Muhammad Naeem: Language Consultant said...

Notes for Whom the Bell Tolls are already on the website. If you cannot find them, use the search feature of the website to find them.

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