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Susan Green

Mr. Davies – Lawyer and Whitewasher

(24 May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 21, 24 May 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Joseph E. Davies, of Mission to Moscow fame, is a capitalist and, in his own words, “proud of it.”

Time magazine refers to him as an “American lawyer, capitalist and individualist.” Life magazine calls him a “capitalist lawyer.”

Walter Huston, playing the part of Davies in the film, tells the Russian, Kalinin, that, as a lawyer, he has represented the most powerful American capitalist interests.

Who’s Who lists Davies as a lawyer and diplomat, and enumerates his activities as such and as a prominent member of the Democratic Party – one of the two political outfits that take turns in running America for the bosses.

Ex-Ambassador Davies is married to Marjorie Post Hutton – a name out of the social register.

Marjorie Post Hutton Davies has for many years been on the board of directors of the General Foods Corp., which, one may say, is to the food industry what the United States Steel Corp. is to steel.

Mr. and Mrs. Davies have their home in aristocratic Palm Beach, Fla., with additional residences to taste.

Mr. Davies belongs to more than a dozen top-notch gentlemen’s clubs throughout the Eastern states, including the extra snooty Chevy Chase in Washington and the just too-too Everglades in Palm Beach.

One of Mr. Davies’ oldest and best friends is Owen D. Young, chairman of the board of directors of General Electric Co., which, one may also say, is to the electrical manufacturing industry what United States Steel Corp. is to the steel industry.

General Electric has done millions of dollars’ worth of very profitable business with Stalin’s government, and Mr: Young has told his friend Mr. Davies that “the Soviet government has an exceptionally high credit rating in banking and business circles in New York and this country.” It is evident from Mr. Davies’ book that this commendation of the Stalin government by banking and business made a deep impression on his capitalist soul.

His “Prejudices” Make Sense

In the prologue to the film, where Mr. Davies appears in person and turns on the charm to convince the audience that he – the proud-of-it capitalist – is of course “the friend of the common people,” he admits that he once had “prejudices” against the Soviet government.

He undoubtedly refers to the time when all his fellow capitalists throughout the world had similar class “prejudices” against the revolutionary Soviets of Lenin, Trotsky and the Old Bolsheviks, whose mock trials and executions by butcher Stalin? Davies wholeheartedly applauds in the film – though not quite so unequivocally in his book. Those were the days when the Soviet leaders were more concerned about maintaining a real workers’ government and building socialism than about the commendations of American proud-of-it capitalists.

Here, in the above, you have seen the ruling class background of Davies – a man of power and pelf, a man proud of his top-dog position, a man determined to maintain the capitalist system under which he is a favored son. It is not by high-sounding words that the suave Davies and the impressive Walter Huston of the film should be judged. Here is a man with an “overwhelming class bias, ticking to the tune of his class interests.

His round of activities in Russian is little different from what it was in America. Caviar and champagne – teas, balls and receptions – theaters and the ballet – museums and art collecting. As the film so vividly shows, life in the upper brackets is good in Russia, as it also is in America. That at the same time the mass of Russian workers are poorly housed, poorly clothed, poorly fed does not condemn, Stalinism in his eyes any more than the social differences between American workers and capitalists condemn capitalism in his eyes.

To his esthetic sense, however, it is a tragedy – no less – that the former city home of a Russian nobleman should be “run down,” as he wrote in his diary on January 19, 1937. That many families of workers and soldiers have to be crowded into this run-down dwelling of one former nobleman is not too hard for him to bear.

The political and propaganda stranglehold of Stalin on the movements and minds of the masses evokes in this Ambassador for the American ruling class, a touch of envy and admiration. In a letter to the President, quoted in Davies’ book, he stated: “Jim Farley might get some pointers if he were to come over here.” Basically, ruling classes agree.

The film shows Davies visiting mines and factories. As Ambassador of the American ruling class, what is he looking for? Only for an answer to this question: How will Russia’s war production affect the imperialist balance of power? To him, very obviously, the workers are only pawns in the imperialist game.

It is an old Stalinist trick to allow a movie audience pictorially to go through giant industrial plants to give the impression that everything is going fine. This writer has personally visited some of the very plants shown in Mission to Moscow, but it was only by going into workers’ houses that one could find out what it was like to live on one hundred inflated rubles a month. Thousands of tourists have gaped at the wonders of the Ford plants in this country, without knowing a damn thing about the labor spy system of that noted industrialist. Similarly gazing with Davies at Russian war production plants gives the audience no idea of the slave-labor system of Russia’s noted dictator.

Such things are of class interest to the workers and it is on such things that workers base their approval or disapproval. Not so the proud-of-it capitalist.

Mr. Davies Forgets His Doubts

In his book Mr. Davies expresses some doubts of the infamous Moscow Trials. Among other things, for instance, he calls attention to the lack of documentary evidence. However, in the film he is convinced of the defendants’ guilt, presumably by the ridiculous hocus-pocus that is passed off by Warner Brothers as a trial.

As a lawyer and capitalist, it was not difficult for Mr. Davies to forget his doubts. For what was Stalin seeking to put an end to by these trials? The revolution, the Old Bolsheviks who made the revolution, the fair name of Trotsky, which will always stand for the workers’ revolution – those “frightening” forces which caused Davies to have his earlier “prejudices” against the Soviets of Lenin and Trotsky. These forces, which threaten the stability of Stalin and the new ruling class of Russia also threaten the capitalist Mr. Davies, his capitalist wife, his capitalist friends, his Palm Beach estate, his swanky clubs, his expensive hobby of collecting art.

Therefore, aside from the immediate purpose of war propaganda, white-washing Stalin’s crimes against the Russian workers and their Bolshevik leaders, as Davies has done in his book and in the film, was an act of class interest per se. Let no worker be fooled by this whitewash by one ruling class into forgetting the crimes of another.

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