1. Eugene Debs, 1893.
2. Anne Hollander, 1965.
3. Richard Blanton, 1997.
Numero Uno — “The Senate of the United States appointed a select committee to investigate and report to the senate the facts in relation to the employment, for private purposes, of armed bodies of men or detectives in connection with differences between employers and employees.
This select committee has made its report, which shows that the
committee examined fourteen different witnesses on the thug side of the question, including the Pinkertons themselves, and with regard to the Homestead infamy, the part played by the thugs, H. C. Frick, the murderous monster and pimp of Carnegie, and Bob Pinkerton, were examined, and eight other witnesses. The committee, in examining questions directly bearing upon labor and labor strikes, called in 17 witnesses. Four witnesses were examined upon questions relating to the power of the courts to interfere to prevent labor strikes, and fifteen witnesses were examined upon the subject of arbitration and other matters of inquiry proper for the committee to pursue.
The investigation led’ to the admission, on the part of the Pinkerton brothers, who hire, organize, arm and equip the thugs, and then supply Carnegie, Frick, and others of their ilk, with as many murderers as they demand to kill workingmen, that the presence of these thugs served to unduly inflame the passions of the men who strike against oppression and degradation. There are, it was ascertained, in the ranks of the thugs, trained spies, who, assuming to be mechanics, enter the ranks of the strikers, and, obtaining information, report to employers and thereby enable them to spot and discharge certain men who dare protest against outrages, and thus make it possible for scabs to obtain the places of honest workingmen.
Having obtained such information from the two brother Pinkertons, whose names stand for as much infamy as fell to the lot of Judas Iscariot or Benedict Arnold, or any other villains our corrupt civilization has spread upon society, the committee reached the conclusion that if corporations would discontinue the employment of Pinkerton thugs on occasions of threatened or existing strikes, their interests would be better subserved.
The committee also reached the conclusion that the employment of the Pinkerton thugs at Homestead was ‘unnecessary.’ Prior to the introduction of the thugs by Frick, the committee found that ‘not the slightest damage was done nor attempted to be done to property on the part of the strikers.’ Hence, it may be inferred that the passions of the strikers were inflamed by the introduction of a gang of armed thugs, ready and willing to murder the strikers at the word of command, and that they did not murder hundreds of them in the interest of Carnegie and Frick, is a mystery, unless it is explained by the heroic determination on the part of the strikers to sell their lives as dearly as possible; a resolution that brought the thugs to terms, and sent them, for the first and only time, defeated and crushed, without having accomplished their murderous mission.
The committee, in its deliberations, reached the following conclusions:
1. Rights of employers and workmen are equal.
2. Employers have an undoubted right, provided they fulfill
their agreements, to employ and dismiss men at pleasure.
3. Workmen can legally organize for mutual protection and
4. When dissatisfied with wages or hours, they should attempt to arbitrate.
5. Falling in this, they have a right to discontinue work, either
singly or in a body.
6. Having discontinued, they have no right, legal or moral, by
force or intimidation, to keep others from taking their places, or to
attempt to occupy, injure, or destroy the property of their employers.
7. In all controversies, arbitration having failed, reliance
should be placed upon the power and adequacy of the law.
8. Whether assumedly legal or not, the employment of armed
bodies of men for private purposes, either by employers or employees, should not be resorted to, and such use is an assumption of the state’s authority by private citizens.
9. States have undoubted authority to legislate against the
employment of armed bodies of men for private purposes; but
the power of Congress to so legislate is not clear, although it
would seem that Congress ought not to be powerless to prevent
the movement of such bodies from one state to another.
In the foregoing conclusions, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are those which will attract the most attention. The equality stated in No. 1, as matters stand, is totally misleading — the rights of employers and employes, only in a restricted sense, are equal — and this is seen in conclusion No. 2, in which it is glaringly shown that the employe has no rights whatever; the right to hire and the right to discharge an employee is placed absolutely in the hands of the employer, the employe is not consulted at all. He may be discharged for any cause which the whim or malignity of the employer may suggest, and according to this Senate committee, he has no redress; his work, his means of living, are taken from him, and he is forthwith remanded to the ranks of the idle, and he may go to the devil for aught the employer knows or cares; hence, we ask what becomes of conclusion No. 1? Does some one say that conclusion No. 3, which asserts that “workmen can legally organize for mutual protection and improvement,” provide any remedy against conclusion No. 2? We answer, none whatever, because, conceding the absolute right of the employer to discharge an employe, any protest on the part of organized labor to remedy the outrage, would be interfering with a conceded right of the employer.
To illustrate, A. has a legal right to join a labor organization, but for the exercise of this legal right, B., the employer, according to conclusion No. 2, may discharge A. ‘at pleasure,’ and thus it is seen that while the equality of ’employers and employees’ is asserted, the equality is a sham and deception, having no practical existence, so far as the conclusions of the committee are concerned.
To establish conditions in some measure approaching equality, has been the earnest effort of organized labor. As for instance, A., an employee, is discharged. Just here organized labor comes in and asks of the employer, Why? and insists that A. shall not be discharged without a hearing, something in the form of a trial; that he shall not be set adrift to gratify the spleen of some parasite, and made to suffer penalties innocently. If the committee had suggested something of this sort, something to check the meanness or venom of underlings, it would have been far more creditable than the one-sided conclusions the committee reported. The other conclusions are a series of old chestnuts, which it were a waste of time and paper to discuss. There is just one way out of the woods for organized labor to pursue, and that is to go forward pleading the cause of union, federation, united and compact organization and action, to create a bond of union so strong that unity will be secured when there is a conflict between right and wrong, truth and error, and to force the fight into legislative halls and to never cease the struggle until there shall be, in fact, in reality, truth in the declaration, that the ‘Rights of employers and employees are equal.’ Eugene Debs, “Congress, Pinkertons, and Organized Labor;” Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, 1893.
Occasionally, a stranger would come in the house uninvited and catch Dashiell Hammett off guard. He might be reading in an easy chair. Miss Hellman would introduce him, and he would elegantly rise and shake hands. Like many a famous writer who detests being disturbed in his private self, a million miles from any social confrontation, he had learned to scare off the intruder with his smile. Here he was luckier than most, for rather than looking pained and fraudulent, rather than a predictable Sam Spade/Humphrey Bogart hard-guy leer, the smile Dashiell Hammett produced on his clear-eyed, lean, aristocratic face was so nearly beatific that it disarmed the intruder long enough for Dashiell Hammett, with no more than a how-do-you-do, to vanish from the room. The armchair or the book gave his only evidence. Even the invited dinner guest coming punctually into the room would know the same ectoplasmic presence, when Miss Hellman, the laughter mingled in her greeting, would immediately explain what Dash had said—what his joking exit line had been on, it seemed, the instant of your entrance. He was elusive but never aloof. Through the medium of Miss Hellman it was possible to carry on a running extrasensory conversation. A question to him, put through to her, on one evening (as how to clean a meerschaum pipe) or a request for an opinion (on somebody’s writing, on something President Eisenhower did) was sure to be answered on another. And five years before the meeting with Miss Hellman, a request had been put in writing for a Paris Review interview. He was by then at the end of his tether, often too weak to take his meals at the table. An answer came: “Sorry. Don’t think it would work. Lilly will explain.” Which she does, though neither by design nor by coincidence, in this interview. On a table in the parlor where she talked was a framed snapshot of Dashiell Hammett as he looked in World War II as a corporal in the Army Service Forces. He is lighting his cigarette on a PX Zippo lighter and looking every inch a soldier in his impeccably creased suntans and overseas cap tilted toward the right of his head of white hair.
Miss Hellman’s voice has a quality, not to be captured on the page, of being at once angry, funny, slyly feminine, sad, affectionate, and harsh. While talking here she often allowed her laughter, like an antidote to bitterness, to break into her thoughts and give a more generous dimension to her comments, which, in print, may seem at first glance merely captious. These pages are compiled from three afternoon conversations in the more than usually harrying conditions of the Labor Day weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, while Miss Hellman was driving herself to finish a movie script for Sam Spiegel. There were many interruptions—telephone calls and people coming and going in the room. Such circumstances cannot excuse but may in part explain some of the interviewers’ unrehearsed and too eagerly ‘literary’ questions.
Before you wrote plays, did you write anything else?
Yes, short stories, a few poems. A couple of the stories were printed in a long-dead magazine called The Paris Comet for which Arthur Kober worked. Arthur and I were married and living in Paris. Let’s see, about 1928, 1929, somewhere in there. They were very lady-writer stories. I reread them a few years ago. The kind of stories where the man puts his fork down and the woman knows it’s all over. You know.
Was it Dashiell Hammett who encouraged you to write plays?
No. He disliked the theater. He always wanted me to write a novel. I wrote a play before The Children’s Hour with Louis Kronenberger called The Dear Queen. It was about a royal family. A royal family who wanted to be bourgeois. They kept running away to be middle class, and Dash used to say the play was no good because Louis would laugh only at his lines and I would laugh only at mine.
Which of your plays do you like best?
I don’t like that question. You always like best the last thing you did. You like to think that you got better with time. But you know it isn’t always true. I very seldom reread the plays. The few times I have, I have been pleasantly surprised by things that were better than I had remembered and horrified by other things I had thought were good. But I suppose Autumn Garden. I suppose I think it is the best play, if that is what you mean by “like.”
Somebody who saw you watch the opening night in Paris of Simone Signoret’s adaptation of The Little Foxes said that through the performance you kept leaving your seat and pacing the vestibule.
I jump up and down through most performances. But that particular night I was shaken by what I was seeing. I like Little Foxes, but I’m tired of it. I don’t think many writers like best their best-known piece of work, particularly when it was written a long time ago.
What prompted you to go back to the theme and the characters of The Little Foxes? Only seven years later you wrote Another Part of the Forest.
I always intended to do The Little Foxes as a trilogy. Regina in The Little Foxes is about thirty-eight years old, and the year is 1900. I had meant to take up with her again in about 1920 or 1925, in Europe. And her daughter, Alexandra, was to have become maybe a spinsterish social worker, disappointed, a rather angry woman.
In the third act of The Little Foxes is a speech which carries the burden of the play. It says there are people who eat the earth and all the people on it, like the locusts in the Bible. And there are the people who let them do it. “Sometimes I think it ain’t right to stand by and watch them do it.” At the end of this play, Alexandra decides that she is not going to be one of those passive people. She is going to leave her mother.
Yes, I meant her to leave. But to my great surprise, the ending of the play was taken to be a statement of faith in Alexandra, in her denial of her family. I never meant it that way. She did have courage enough to leave, but she would never have the force or vigor of her mother’s family. That’s what I meant. Or maybe I made it up afterward.
These wheelers and dealers in your plays—the gouging, avaricious Hubbards. Had you known many people like that?
Lots of people thought it was my mother’s family.
Might you ever write that third play?
I’m tired of the people in The Little Foxes.
In Regina, the opera Marc Blitzstein based on The Little Foxes, the badness of Regina is most emphatic.
Marc and I were close friends, but we never collaborated. I had nothing to do with the opera. I never saw Regina that way. You have no right to see your characters as good or bad. Such words have nothing to do with people you write about. Other people see them that way.
You say in your introduction that The Children’s Hour is about goodness and badness.” continued behind paywall Anne Hollander, “Lillian Hellman, the Art of Theater #1;” Paris Review, 1965.
Acutely aware of the contingent nature of the new sources, these young historians avoid entanglement with any of the old, ideologically divided schools of Cold War history. To oversimplify drastically, the orthodox school of Herbert Feis and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., blamed the Cold War on the Soviet Union. The revisionist school of William Appleman Williams blamed American economic expansion for frightening the Soviets. The ‘postrevisionists,’ typified by John Lewis Gaddis, attempted an empirically based amalgam of the two sides, only to meet with criticism from revisionists who called this approach ‘orthodoxy plus archives.’ The postrevisionist retort was to dub the three schools ‘hawks,’ ‘doves,’ and ‘owls.’
A few senior scholars already established in these debates have also dared to grapple with the new evidence—none to greater effect than the leading owl himself. Gaddis, a historian at Ohio University now moving east to Yale, has produced a fascinating, provocative, and in no small measure endearing revision of Cold War history up through the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The work is endearing because, in exposing the errors of past histories, Gaddis focuses frequently on his own. The careful reader of footnotes may judge this book to be the foundation of a new school of Cold War history: autorevisionism.
Hardly anyone in either the older or younger generation of Cold War scholars will agree with all of Gaddis’s judgments. For example, is it truly explanatory to call Josef Stalin a “brutal romantic” when all Soviet leaders were brutal and Nikita Khrushchev retired the romance trophy? The book’s grand sweep is beyond the reach of this review, but its penultimate chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis may provide a lens through which to glimpse the extraordinary work that is going on in this field—especially when considered in tandem with a remarkable new history of the crisis based on Soviet sources.
The most enduring phrase summing up the Cuban Missile Crisis—the climax of the Cold War and the closest the world ever came to nuclear Armageddon—belongs to Secretary of State Dean Rusk: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” Thus was born the myth of calibrated brinkmanship—the belief that if you stand tough you win, and that nuclear superiority makes the difference in moments of crisis. This myth, midwifed by the Kennedy family and its hagiographers, had untold consequences for the planning of the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race.
A different story began to emerge in 1969, when Thirteen Days, the posthumous memoir of Robert F. Kennedy, revealed that the resolution of the crisis (Khrushchev’s withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba) came after a series of secret meetings in which RFK offered the Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin not threats of nuclear retaliation but an old-fashioned diplomatic deal: a pledge of no U.S. invasion of Cuba, plus the withdrawal of U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey. The terms, according to the memoir, were that this could not be an explicit quid pro quo and that the deal would never be publicly acknowledged by the United States. Further revisions of the myth emerged in the early 1980s, when former Kennedy aides Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, alarmed by what they saw as President Ronald Reagan’s embrace of brinkmanship, warned the public that the Cuban Missile Crisis had not been resolved by America’s nuclear superiority but by its conventional superiority in the Caribbean, which enabled restraint and the quarantine of Cuba.
Next came a trickle of declassified U.S. government documents in the mid-1980s, including notes and transcripts from the meetings of John F. Kennedy’s top advisers, in which the president appears not as the fastest draw at the OK Corral but as a peacenik. As soon as the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that they could not guarantee the destruction through air strikes of all the Soviet missiles in Cuba, JFK decided to do whatever he could to avoid an invasion of Cuba and a war over what he called “some obsolete missiles in Turkey.” In 1987 Rusk himself revealed JFK’s willingness, had the crisis persisted much longer, to propose a public Turkey-Cuba trade through the United Nations—a willingness, in short, to blink.
Since then, the revisions have mounted as the documents have flooded out. Theodore Sorenson has admitted that while editing Thirteen Days he cut references in RFK’s diary to an explicit Turkey-Cuba deal. Despite JFK’s dismissal to reporters of any such deal as a weak-willed option floated by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson, we now know, on the basis of a declassified cable from Dobrynin (published in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin), that RFK made the deal explicit even as he handed back the formal Soviet letter recording it His comment to Dobrynin was that such a document “could cause irreparable harm to my political career in the future.”
Many of these revelations first saw the light of day at a series of conferences organized by James Blight and janet [sic] Lang of the Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Held between 1987 and 1992, these “critical oral history” sessions included Kennedy aides, Soviet participants, and finally Cuban veterans (among them Fidel Castro), and they produced more revelations: that along with intermediate-range missiles, the Soviet arsenal in Cuba included tactical nuclear warheads that might have been used if the United States had invaded; and that Cuba was very much an actor in its own right Castro at one point telling an increasingly alarmed Khrushchev to “use ’em or lose ’em.”
On the Soviet side, the Blight-Lang sessions were forced to rely on the largely uncorroborated memories of aging veterans and their children (such as Khrushchev’s son) rather than on solid documentation. As recently as September 1994, when I presented the Russian archives with a set of Kennedy audiotapes and a 1 5,000-page microfiche of declassified U.S. documents related to the missile crisis, the archives had released only 700 pages on the subject. One may therefore imagine the jubilation among Cold War historians at the appearance of “One Hell of a Gamble,” by the Russian scholar Alexandr A. Fursenko and his Canadian collaborator, Yale University historian Timothy Naftali.
It is a treasure-trove of a book, studded with quotations and citations from still-secret archives in Moscow, woven together with the new U.S. documentation. It is also a dramatic and highly readable narrative, the most authoritative to date, of the six-year period from the Cuban Revolution through the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and the October 1964 coup that ousted Khrushchev. The title comes from a recently declassified Oval Office audiotape in which 1FK told a belligerent congressional delegation that invading Cuba during the crisis would be “one hell of a gamble.” To his everlasting credit, JFK was not willing to roll those dice.
The new Soviet evidence falls into three categories: Soviet intelligence and embassy reporting from Havana to Moscow, a similar flow from Soviet agents and officials in Washington, and internal Politburo and Khrushchev office records. The first category alone makes this book essential reading for any serious analyst of U.S.-Cuban relations. It yields extraordinary insights into the personalities of Castro, his brother Raúl, Che Guevara, and other leaders, as well as abundant information about Cuban military and intelligence capabilities. Perhaps most striking is evidence of the Cubans’ unrelenting fear, before and after the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961, that a U.S. invasion was imminent. The authors’ evocative rendering of the resulting paranoia suggests that when Khrushchev claimed that the missiles were there to defend the Cuban Revolution, he was not just scoring a propaganda point. (He also, as Gaddis points out, succeeded in this aim.)
Equally fascinating is the second category, Soviet reporting from Washington. For example, summaries of reports from a personable military intelligence officer named Georgi Bolshakov reveal that he hit it off with RFK and met with him on a backchannel basis some 51 times during 1961-62. There were also some woeful intelligence failures: the KGB station chief Alexandr Feklisov reported in March 1962 that he had at least three well-placed sources whose names “the Russian government continues to protect.” Yet despite these alleged penetrations, during the October crisis the KGB fell back on (inaccurate) invasion tips from a bartender at the National Press Club.
The Holy Grail for Cold War historians is, of course, the third category of evidence: notes of Politburo meetings, Khrushchev memos, and reports intended for the highest levels of the Kremlin. As cited by Fursenko and Naftali, this evidence adds rich new detail to our understanding of Khrushchev. Perhaps most astonishing is the degree to which the Soviet premier acted as his own intelligence analyst. So closed was Khrushchev’s inner circle that he rarely consulted with the KGB about decisions regarding the United States. Instead, he would summon whatever prominent Americans happened to be in Moscow. On the occasion of his deliberations over whether to place tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, the visitor dropping into Khrushchev’s dacha for a chat was the poet Robert Frost!
As with all such exclusive scholarly arrangements, the strength of Fursenko and Naftali’s book is also its weakness. Very few of the KGB, Politburo, and military intelligence (GRU) documents cited here are available to other scholars. Moreover, the authors’ acknowledgments and source notes give little indication of what sorts of conditions were attached to their exclusive access—a discouraging omission, indeed. Some citations are reassuringly precise, while others read simply ‘spravka (summary), GRU.’ What were those conditions? Did the authors select the materials they wanted from complete lists and finding aids, or were their searches directed by the staffs of these still-closed archives? That said, if the authors had not pushed for whatever access they obtained, our understanding of the Cold War would be demonstrably the poorer. As Gaddis does through his assessment, Fursenko and Naftali through their narrative arrive at a new definition of heroism on the part of national leaders—what Gaddis calls ‘a new profile in courage.’ We now know that the Cuban Missile Crisis arose from a certain degree of adventurism on both sides—Kennedy’s covert actions against Castro and Khrushchev’s secret missile deployment—and that it was resolved only because both men were willing to risk humiliation rather than Armageddon.
In one of the great counterfactuals of history, we might ask, What if Khrushchev had only held out another day or two for a public Turkey-Cuba trade? Without the ‘Russians blinked’ version of history, might the American officials who planned the Vietnam War have had less faith in their calibrated brinkmanship? Might Khrushchev have survived the October 1964 coup plot, in which his adventurism in Cuba was one of the indictments? President Kennedy later estimated the odds of nuclear war during the missile crisis as having been one in three. Bundy guessed lower, at one in 100. But as Bundy added, ‘In this apocalyptic matter the risk can be very small indeed and still much too large for comfort.'”Richard Blanton, “Annals of Blinkmanship;” National Security Archive, 1997.