The Trouble with Harry
October 25, 2002
by Ronald Radosh
Harry Belafonte’s contemptuous and contemptible assaults on Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice surprised a lot of people—but shouldn’t have. Most do not know that Belafonte always was, and apparently still is, an unreconstructed Stalinist—a man who firmly, profoundly believes that America is evil.
Belafonte told CNN’s Larry King that Powell was the equivalent of a slave “who lived in the house” during the days of slavery and who “served the master.”
Then he used his influence to get the African aid group, Africare, to disinvite Rice, the scheduled keynote speaker at their fund-raising dinner, at which Belafonte was to be honored for his humanitarian efforts.
On King’s show, Belafonte said Rice is a “Jew . . . doing things that were anti-Semitic and against the best interests of her people.” Evidently, helping lead the War on Terrorism is something not of concern to African-Americans.
Most Americans remember Belafonte as a path-breaking opponent of segregation and racism, and the first black American artist to break the color bar in the 1950s entertainment world and become a major celebrity. Few are aware of the toxic political vision he espouses.
Let’s look at a few of his tributes.
* In June 2000, Belafonte was a featured speaker at a rally in Castro’s Cuba, honoring the American Soviet spies, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Tears, one observer reported, “streaked down” Belafonte’s face, “as he recalled the pain and humiliation his friend [Paul] Robeson had been forced to endure” in 1950s America. Undoubtedly, he was pleased to hear Cuba presented “as an example of keeping the principles the Rosenbergs fought and died for alive.”
* In 1997, Belafonte was featured speaker at the 60th Anniversary celebration of the “Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade,” at which he honored these self-proclaimed “premature anti-fascists” who served in the mid-1930s as Stalin’s private Comintern army, a battalion (not a brigade) that served as enforcers of Soviet policy during the Spanish Civil War. To Belafonte, nothing had changed since the 1930s. The VALB was still representatives of “a truth that engulfed the universe . . . that fascism anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.”
He did not pause to remind the aging vets that their anti-fascism disappeared overnight after their return home—when the remaining soldiers got the news about the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, and quickly declared that the only enemy was FDR’s warmongering and Great Britain.
* Speaking in October 1983 at a “World Peace Concert” run by East Germany’s official Communist youth organization, Belafonte gave his blessings to the Soviet-sponsored “peace” campaign pushing unilateral Western disarmament, at a time when the Soviets were putting SS-20 missiles in East Germany.
As the New York Times reported, Belafonte “attacked the American invasion of Grenada and also criticized the scheduled NATO weapons deployment” of Pershing 2 missiles in West Germany, which Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan deployed to offset the Soviet missile offensive.
Belafonte, in other words, was supporting the Soviet bloc in its Cold War with the United States. And he was doing so in full embrace with the East German prison state. Here, where the notorious secret police, the Stasi, ruled by waging a perpetual witch-hunt against the entire population—Belafonte had only love and good wishes for their success.
No wonder that the late Leo Cherne, head of the International Rescue Committee, rejected Belafonte’s being honored. “I happen to have some reservations about Belafonte,” he wrote one of the IRC’s board, “I have found him . . . beyond my tastes for the elements of left-wing predisposition. He played a significant relief role in Ethiopia at a time when Ethiopia was under the control of the left wing dictator Mengistu, at the very time that the Castro military forces were playing an active support role.”
To Harry Belafonte, Castro is a freedom fighter and Colin Powell and Condi Rice merely “house slaves.” Ever the diplomat, Colin Powell responded to Belafonte’s blast by calling the singer his “friend,” and noting that the slave analogy was from another time and place and was simply “unfortunate.” Secretary Powell should take to heart the simple adage, with friends like that . . . .
This article appeared in the New York Post on October 23, 2002, and is reprinted with permission.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."