Front Page: “Anna Louise Strong, the American who spent most of her life writing books and articles extolling the virtues of Communism, died today of a heart attack in Peking, where she had lived for the last 12 years,” the New York Times reported on March 30, 1970. Fifty years later, with Communist China much in the news, Strong’s career deserves a second look.
She was born in Friend, Nebraska, in 1885 and after graduation from Oberlin College in 1905, Strong earned a PhD from the University of Chicago, with a thesis titled “A Study of Prayer from the Standpoint of Social Psychology.” Strong’s father was a Congregationalist minister but Anna became an eager evangelist in the First Church of Christ Socialist, whose basic belief is that Christianity finds ultimate fulfillment in the communist faith.
Strong made her way to the Soviet Union, where she worked on the English language Moscow News, pitched to American readers. In her 1935 autohagiography I Change Worlds, Strong profiled Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. “One must not make a god of Stalin,” Strong wrote, “he was too valuable for that.” Stalin was then busy collectivizing agriculture in the USSR, and the independent farmers known as kulaks stood in the way.
Stalin decreed it was time to abolish the kulaks “as a class.” To that end, he planned a famine in Ukraine that claimed millions of lives. For Anna, “Stalin had merely authorized what farmhands were already instinctively doing.” As Stalin reportedly said, “If one man dies of hunger that is a tragedy. If millions die that is only statistics.” Strong’s Stalinist colleague Walter Duranty of the New York Times conveniently denied that any famine took place. read more