The Soviet Attack On Women's Minds (McCall's, August 1952)
The Soviet Attack on Women's Minds
From McCall's, August 1952
by Mary C. Lyne and Dorothy Tuttle
In the Western Hemisphere, north of the Tropic of Cancer, lies a broad land of depraved tastes and rife immortality. There outlaws with machine guns terrorize the populace, mothers train their sons to hate and kill, millions of children have no schooling because their parents cannot pay for it, tots toil endlessly in field and factory, and women are shamelessly overworked and exploited. This grotesque and terrifying country is bounded on the north by Canada and on the south by Mexico, and it is designated in the geography books as the United States of America.
Recognize it? Even if you don't, millions of women in this in this world do. It is the image of America that Soviet propaganda has implanted in women's minds, at great expense and with painstaking artfulness. The Communists have carefully calculated the influence of women on the next generation as well as on this one, and have devoted an immense proportion of their word war to capturing the hearts and minds of women all over the world. Moscow regards women second only to youth as the most highly sought-after ally in the struggle for Communism.
The Kremlin's first step, of course, is to try to wi women's allegiance to the Communist program directly. Before it can do this, however, Moscow has learned that it must alienate women from Western influences, especially from the ideals of a free democracy.
One way the Communist propagandists go about this is to play on themes they are sure will horrify uninformed women. "American and British imperialists hate all that represents life and the future," says the Communist publication Scanteia. "They hate children, for the latter represent the future of the world. In 'civilized' America, children's life is hell...What a gigantic difference between the dark life of children in capitalist States and the happy life of Soviet Children!"
Moscow radio suggests to the women in the mines, the boiler rooms and the teeming hovels of Russia that they have a pitying thought for the poor American telephone operators, "compelled to work at such speed that in a few years they have become disabled." The American worker's of farmer's wife "lives in slums which a self-respecting dog would not use," the same radio reports.
In some guarded office in Moscow trusted servants of the Soviet are poring over the same literature we American read, but for a very different purpose. They are busy rewriting it into their own twisted interpretation of America.
Readers of McCall's may remember the article by André Fontaine entitled "Raise Your Boy To Be a Soldier" in the January 1951 issue. A frank admission of how unprepared most American boys are for the draft, it explained how parents might ease the transition for them and enable them to use part of their education in the Army to advantage afterward in civilian life. Here is the version of it given to readers of the Soviet Literary Gazette on July 10, 1952:
"The U.S. rulers are preparing to transform all American youth into their butchers and jailers. The reactionary magazine "Macaulay" recently published a special summons to American mothers: "Make your sons be soldiers!" In addition, explains the magazine, soldiers who do not think but only shoot irreproachably!
"Precisely for this purpose the magazine urgently recommends to American mothers, appealing to their 'patriotism' to eradicate from childhood in their sons the most dangerous 'peaceful' sentiments and teach them to use weapons! The main thing, 'Macaulay' teaches, the child must not meditate about why and whom he must shoot. This is not his business. This is the business of the Pentagon and Morgan, Dupont and company."
Needless to say, this Russian report of the article resembles the original content even less than "Macaulay" approximates "McCall's."
Another American women's magazine carried some photographs of children playing. One of them showed two children with toy guns. The Soviet press cited this picture as an example of "American children playing 'at executions.'"
"A frightful photography!" said the Russians. "Children are the first to fall victims of the propaganda of genocide and the cult of murder carried on by the ruling circles of the USA."
Hammering such stuff into the minds of women everywhere is a continuing and costly endeavor. The Soviets spend more than a billion dollars a year to spin their spider web around the world. They spent 150 million dollars in France alone in 1951 trying to break down what America had built there in good will. That is more than the United States spent last year on all of its world-wide information programs.
It's doubtful whether the Soviets themselves know just how much they expend solely to manipulate the minds of women. But we can get an idea of the importance they place on propaganda for women by examining some of the machinery they devote to it.
Number 13 Unter den Linden, East Berlin, is the headquarters of the most aggressive women's cub in the world, the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF). It claims 135 million members in 62 countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The WIDF is one of the major Communist international front organizations and peddles the Red line exclusively. It has enlisted unwary recruits from Brooklyn to Bombay.
The WIDF not only upholds the Soviet aims through organized meetings, campaigns, demonstrations and individual effort, but has propaganda media of its own - pamphlets, booklets, an illustrated monthly magazine (Women of the Whole World) and a weekly newsletter (News in Brief).
When the Soviet Union launched its "Hate America" campaign to justify its own position in Korea the WIDF sent twenty women from seventeen different countries to Korea as the "Women's International Commission for the Investigation of the Atrocities Committed by U.S. and Syngman Rhee Troops." They stayed twelve days and reported "mass tortures and mass murders" by American and South Korean soldiers which "surpass the crimes committed by Hitler's Nazis." The Soviet delegation submitted this report to the United Nations. Communists still circulate it, whenever possible, among women's organizations.
The atrocity propaganda that world Communists built against American forces in Korea attained unparalleled heights of inventive fantasy. For the benefit of women the Soviet psychological warriors reproduced sympathetic (and authentic) pictures of American mothers weeping for their sons killed in the war. In the next breath they insisted that American boys were gouging out babies' eyes in front of Korean mothers, then added gruesome details too revolting to repeat in an American magazine.
Objective foreign visitors may all agree that our women are among the best treated in the world, but the Communists will quote an American woman's speech for equal rights to prove that women are abused and oppressed in the United States. We are one of the most literate nations in the world, but the Reds seize upon every editorial complaint against overcrowded schools to prove that we are depriving our children of education. We take just pride in our child labor laws, but the Reds leap upon an official U.S. Department of Labor report of violations to prove that we wring our profits from the bodies of the young. We have opened our arms to thousands of displaced persons, but the Reds scan our press for the slightest incident to prove that we exploit them shamelessly.
Often a few genuine statistics become the springboard for flights of fancy, like the letter supposed to have been written by a woman refugee who came to the United States: "A frightful country," the Soviet publication Trud quoted her. "A monstrous town. If I don't get work soon, I'll take my life. My last words before death will be: 'Farewell America - bloodsucker America!'"
At other times the Red misinformation agencies seek their desired effect by the old propagandists' trick of quoting out of context. Suppose you were the American dean of women of a junior college in Lebanon when the American fleet was preparing to pay a friendly visit. It would be perfectly natural for you to invite the Lebanese students to help entertain the Navy men as a gesture of international good will. Imagine how you would feel afterward if you read this leering report of your invitation to the Soviet Izvestia: "This American lady circulated to the students...a letter with an invitation to visit the officers' club where it would be possible 'to have a good time' and give 'pleasure to the American Sailors.'" Every word quoted literally, but the whole sense of the invitation changed into something loathsome. That actually happened. And what do you suppose women whose only information about America comes from Russian sources thought of it?
The Communist party's Propaganda and Agitation Section puts out many specialized publications to win women to the Soviet cause. Soviet Woman is their leading women's periodical. Published in six languages and profusely illustrated, it makes a propaganda point with every story, article and picture, whether devoted to foods, fashions or culture.
Soviet Woman is prominently displayed with other Communist publications at a sidewalk bookstall near the University of Bombay, according to the American educator Dr. Walter Crosby Eells. In case you share common belief that Communist propaganda can prevail amidst ignorance and illiteracy, consider what Dr. Eells reported from Bombay:
"Many individuals, both Indian and American, stated that this Soviet literature...was being widely purchased and avidly devoured by Indian students." The Communist party has achieved its greatest gains in the recent elections, Dr. Eells points out, in the best educated parts of India.
Do not assume, however that all Soviet propaganda is a pack of lies. What the Reds really make capital of is our problems. It is easy for them to quote shocking and true statistics on crime and juvenile delinquency, to parrot our alarm over the increase in youthful drug addiction, to reproduce authentic pictures of shameful slum conditions, to present an isolated lynching as if it were an everyday occurrence and to hold up to scorn some of the disturbing material that appears on our newsstands and radio television programs.
Tangible and sometimes irrefutable, these stories are the best weapons the Communists have among women otherwise inclined to be friendly to us. When the Reds tell people that in a single week Los Angeles television programs contained 852 major crimes, including 167 murders, assorted robberies, jail breaks, lynchings, dynamitings, saloon brawls and sluggings it shocks women of other nations, just as it does ours, and it makes them wonder what kind of bloodthirsty people we are and how we are training our children.
American movies also, of course, receive special attention from the Red propagandists.
Perhaps you saw The Inspector General, with Danny Kaye. You might have noticed that it was adapted from the Russian classic by Nikolai Gogol. Here is the report of it that went to the Russian people:
"From the screen there comes a flood of wild cries, miaowing, neighing, barking, braying The man who vomits forth these strange sounds is clothed in the most fantastic manner, grimaces, 'makes faces,' sets his hair on fire, jumps into the water, somersaults in the sand. All this is punctuated with scabrous music-hall songs and vulgar tunes...And so one the screen we have a 'comedian' making mad gestures, producing meaningless noises and splitting straight into the faces of the audience. And the '100% Yankees,' following with delight the grimaces of the mountebank, roll in their seats and roar with laughter."
What American women wear has come in for equally inaccurate treatment. Three years ago a foreign designer offered our our buyers a creation called a "double balloon evening costume" that was , to say the least, grotesque. Russian propaganda held it up to the world as the sort of garb in which women of America's ruling classes were parading the streets. The truth was, as one retailer remarked, "American women wouldn't be caught dead in it." Copies of it couldn't be moved off store racks even at $5.95.
The Communists generally are careful to attribute such foibles only to the women of the "upper classes" - the "Wall Street wives." Otherwise, it wouldn't fit into their picture of America as a land of oppressed women. Equal rights, peace and the defense of children are the fabric of the sheep's clothing the Moscow wolf wears to to seduce the minds of women. Those are the rallying cries of two favorite Communist propaganda devices, the huge international conferences and observances for women.
The Red international conference in defense of children in Vienna - everyone invited, even the U.S. Children's Bureau (which didn't accept) - is followed by their International Children's Day on June 1. Later they hold their World Congress of Women. March 8 is their International Women's Day. Each of those occasions provides a world-wide sounding board for the Moscow line.
The Russians like to boast that their own constitution gives women equal rights. They have plastered walls all over the world with posters of clear-eyed, heavy-chested Soviet women casting ballots and working at the same jobs as men. The "cover girls" of their magazines carry out this theme.
Sometimes Soviet propaganda about its own women is so hollow it betrays itself. Here is a Red version of women's equality in Hungary:
"When Mrs. Sz became a truck driver, her husband protested violently. He is that type of man who likes his wife waiting for him at home when he returns from work. However, his young wife found this smiling superiority an offense. She became a truck driver and now they are equals."
The Soviet constitution does give women equal rights - the right to vote yes for a single party line and the right (often mandatory) to serve in labor battalions as street cleaners, stevedores, laborers, miners, furnace stokers, porters, farm hands and truck drivers. Their straw bosses, almost always, are men.
On top of this they are expected to raise big families. Any help around the house and in bringing up the children is beneath the dignity of the Soviet man, so the women are held responsible for training their children in the blind obedience that Communism demands of them. If a woman has five children she gets a Motherhood Medal. If she has ten she gets a Mother Heroine Medal.
Yet no women are in the top echelons of Soviet government, and few are in the next strata. Less than 4 percent of collective farm chairmen are women, though women do over half the farm work.
Experts in our government are constantly analyzing the tide of Red propaganda. They are neither oblivious of the Communist attack on women's minds nor helpless against it.
American women themselves have taken up the fight. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. Edith Sampson and Miss Anna Lord Strauss issued a statement which was sent to key women of the world in reply to poison-pen letters about America sent out by the Women's International Democratic Federation.
"No woman believes that peace can be gained where hate is encouraged, whether it be in a family or in a nation," the American women wrote. "The hate campaign of the Soviet Union against the Free World, and the United States in particular, can have no constructive objective of lessening world tensions and building toward peace."
Independent women's clubs all over the United States are undertaking projects to bring the true picture of America to the world. Equally important, they are attacking at home the conditions that give Red propaganda any semblance of authenticity. For information on how you and your organization can help, write to Dr. Robert L. Johnson, Administrator, International Information Administration.
The Voice of America, penetrating the Iron Curtain with radio broadcasts, is another means of countering the Soviet word war. One of three Lithuanian fishermen who made a sensational escape in freedom reported that women behind the Iron Curtain listen, at great peril, to the Voice's dramatic programs for women, which give them the facts.
A Soviet writer once undertook to explain "one of the Americans' most ancient holidays - 'Thanksgiving Day.' According to the tradition," he wrote in Izvestia, "roast turkey is eaten on this day...But the poor are unable to avail themselves of this democratic item. So the entire load of festivities falls on the well-to-do strata, in particular, the inhabitants of Wall Street."
Millions of women in this world may believe stories like that, because our information program does not have the funds to reach everywhere that Soviet propaganda does. But thousands of foreign women know better, simply because Thanksgiving, like other traditional and spiritual aspects of our family life, is described on the women's programs of the Voice, while the real story of our customs and living is directed to women in news articles, photos, features, pamphlets and posters by our International Press Service, in motion pictures made by our International Motion Picture Service and in U.S. Information Service Libraries all over the globe.
Through our educational exchange program key people from other countries, including many women, come to the United States and observe the truth for themselves.
When these visitors go back to their own countries the Communist propagandists find themselves pretty much in the position of the errant husband caught red-handed by his wife. The only thing he could say was: Who do you believe - me or your eyes?"