Harpo Marx in the USSR (1933)


In 1918, whilst the first world war stilled raged on in France, US and British troops joined together with the militaries of 12 other countries – and ‘illegally’ invaded Revolutionary Russian with the expressed objective of destroying the Socialist Revolution and reinstating the Czarist regime. The US had only (and reluctantly) entered WWI in 1917, and by 1918, its military was already interfering in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation (that had ironically fought on the side of the Allies). Another peculiarity worth noting is that in early 1918, whilst the soldiers of both countries were still killing one another in France, British and German troops fought ‘side by side’ in a collaborative attempt to destroy Socialism in Russia. Interestingly, whilst the working class men in the US Army was being asked to destroy Socialism in Revolutionary Russia (1918-1921), working class men and women in America formed the Communist Party of the USA, in 1919. Following the end of US military interference in the internal affairs of Revolutionary Russia in 1921, the US government refused to diplomatically ‘recognise’ the Soviet Union (founded in late 1922). This was the case up until 1933, when President Roosevelt decided to change this policy, and initiated a full diplomatic exchange between the two countries. Prior to this, the US had suffered the Wall Street Crash in 1929, and working class people were forming unions, openly agitating for Socialism, and joining the Communist Party in their thousands! With the US government refusing any diplomatic ties with the USSR, it was concerned at the growing power and influence of the Communist Party of the USA, which was part of the Communist International, (with had its headquarters in Moscow). It was the Communist Party that was the de facto representative of the US in the USSR, and this was something the corporate capitalists were not prepared to accept, as it made the workers under their unemployment difficult to control and exploit. President Roosevelt decided to remedy this situation by establishing formal diplomatic ties with the USSR in 1933, and in so doing, have ‘official’ representatives on the ground in Moscow. This was part of a broader ‘disinformation’ plan prior to WWII, designed to turn the workers of America away from Soviet Socialism by implying that such an egalitarian system was ‘imposed from above’, and dependent upon ‘oppressive’ measures to maintain. Sharing was not in the best interests of the American working class, who should continue to fight amongst themselves for the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Although Roosevelt began the false propaganda of ‘slave labour camps’ in the USSR, at that time no one took these accusations seriously. This rhetoric was quickly withdrawn during WWII, when the US and UK desperately required the Soviet Red Army to sacrifice millions of its men and women in the fight against Nazi Germany.  In the meantime, and for reasons not entirely clear, the US government despatched ‘Harpo Marx’ to the newly created US embassy in Moscow as a ‘good will ambassador’ in 1933! One bizare explanation is that the US naively thought that as he possessed the family name ‘Marx’, he would be more acceptable to the Soviet Authorities! The following video is taken from the Soviet newsreel recording this event.

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