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The Stalinist Does Suspense By: Ron Capshaw
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 12, 2007


George Bernard Shaw was, for once, on the receiving end of a witty retort. Complaining of how much sugar he had to coat his socialist pill with to get audiences to swallow it, a colleaguge responded, "Yes, a pity they lick the sugar off and leave the pill."

Roughly a century later, a leftist tried a different flavor: suspense. By the Summer of Love and race riots, 1967, Ed Lacy (aka Len Zinberg, as revealed by Alan Wald in Trinity of Passion), was best-selling mystery author. What Zinberg attempted as a Communist writer in the 1930s--American fascism feeding off of and growing from racial tensions--found a wider audience when he exchanged the proletarian genre for the hardboiled one in 1951 as the blacklist was closing in on him. Exit Len Zinberg, enter Ed Lacy.

The pen name had changed, but the propaganda didn't. Throughout the 1930s and '40s, the favorite nightmare scenario of American Stalinists involved a hidden fascism orchestrating and capitalizing on anti-Semitism and anti-black racism. Stalinists, according to liberal observers at the time, favored power politics more than they let on. Of that zeitgeist, Len Zinberg, as revealed in his 1960s novels, was very receptive to the Black Panthers.
 
In Black and Whitey (the title itself is a give-away), a black police officer's sympathy for the Black Power movement is validated when it is revealed that his Jewish, left-wing partner is in reality a second-generation Nazi, whose infiltration of the Panthers involves more than simply carrying out his police assignment: the Nazi's goal is to foment a race riot that wil result in a police pogrom against blacks. 
 
What is telling about Lacy/Zinberg's nightmare world of Nazis in blue and doomed black revolutionaries is how little has changed in his worldview. Even Albert Maltz, a Party member from the 1930s and '40s, had by now accepted, courtesy of Soviet power politics, that the world was grey and not (no pun intended) black and white. Not so with Zinberg, who, concerns about American fascism to the contrary, didn't seem unduly concerned with the behavior of the Black Panthers. Indeed, if Lacy/Zinberg had wanted to write a novel about budding American fascism in the 1960s, he could have included, not only night-stick wielding cops, but the Panthers, who supported political assasination (when applied to Robert Kennedy), and practiced it against "informers" and "traitors" in their cells, marches on Washington (the purpose of which was to enter the Senate and decapitate Senator John McClellan), and anti-Semitism in theory and in practice, which included both that of their day (al-Fatah's terrorist attacks in Israel) and Hitler's Final Solution.
 
But recognizing that behavior for what it was would have required Lacy/Zinberg to grow up.
 
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Ron Capshaw has written for National Review, the New York Sun, Partisan Review and the Weekly Standard. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and is currently writing a biography of Alger Hiss.


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