38 I CHRONICLESntailoring. There is also no questionnthat despite all the bourgeois perks shenalways enjoyed, Hellman saw Americannsociety as basically evil, whilenSoviet society could do no wrong.nThus when Budd Schulberg complainednto her of Soviet oppression ofnwriters, Hellman screamed at himn”Prove it! Prove it!”; this happenednsometime around J 968.nBut Hellman also wrote her anti-nNazi play. Watch on the Rhine, duringnthe period of the Hitler-Stalin Pactn—not something a person under partyndiscipline would do. And if she was anStalinist (and she was), the weird fact isnthat she remained a Stalinist long afternthe Communist Party, under Khrushchev’snlead, had denounced Stalin. Innfact, Hellman blamed Khrushchev forn”stabbing Stalin in the back”(!), and itnwas only in 1976 (in Scoundrel Time)nthat she made even the briefest, mostngrudging admission that Stalin mightnhave “sinned.” This was the personnJane Fonda introduced in 1977 as an”fighter against political oppression”!nNevertheless, it was a deadly deviationnfrom the party line for Hellman toncontinue to support Stalin after thenparty had proclaimed him a criminalnwith the blood of millions on hisnhands. A loyal member of the partynwouldn’t (and couldn’t) do it. Moreover,nthe actual witnesses to her presencenin the party are few, and not verynimpressive (even, it seems, to the FBI).nAnd some of their testimony has beenncontradicted just since the publicationnof Wright’s book.nSo: ethically unbalanced, yes; a fellowntraveler, often; but a consciencentotally controlled by the party, probablynnot. (Too bad: Maybe the partynwould have done a better job.) If shenwas “somebody’s girl” (Wright’snphrase), it’s more likely that she wasnHammett’s (that old charming Stalinist),nnot the party’s. But the most likelynexplanation, I think, is that she wasnher own weird girl all along: Shenalways insisted that she was not a deepnpolitical thinker. As a close friend saidnabout her politics, “With Lillian,ndon’t rule out idiocy.”nWhatever she was, though, Hellmannestablished herself in the 1970’snas a unique American heroine. Bynmeans of powerful publicity in thenpress, she was held up to be admirednnot just by the left but also by thenentire country. It is particularly disturbingnthat the basis for admirationnwas supposed to be, precisely, her politics.nBut Wright’s book appears to confirmnwhat has long been suspected:nthat Hellman’s famous memoirs are antissue of lies. And her cultural importancenis now so great, thanks to hernapotheosis in the 70’s, that the truenstory must not be brushed under thenrug—despite the wishes of John Hessnof The Nation.nWhy did she lie? In the current statenof our information, we can only guess.nWright sympathetically suggests that innher old age she became persistentlyndelusional. That is, Hellman didn’tn”lie” in the real sense of “consciouslyndeceive,” because she /lerse/f could nonlonger tell the facts of her life from hernfantasies of it. This amounts to sayingnthat in her last years, when she wasnmost honored, Hellman was actuallyncrazy. It’s an amusing image. In favornof the idea is that she did sue MarynMcCarthy for slander, a dangerousnprocedure if she knew McCarthy wasnmostly right. (But she may haventhought she could destroy McCarthynbefore the case ever came to court.)nAgainst the idea are Hellman’s franticnattempts to prevent Wright, or anyn”unauthorized person,” from seriouslynresearching her life. Why did she seeknsuch total control of information if shenthought she had nothing to be afraidnof? Anyway, her attempts to talk tonMuriel Gardiner about the Mary Mc­nCarthy case (which fell through) certainlynindicate that she knew a hardnreality when she saw it.nMoreover, Hellman’s behaviornneeds to be put in a wider context.nThis is a failing of Wright’s booknthroughout; but here, the point is thatnin the I970’s Hellman was not thenonly old Stalinoid intellectual to benpurveying false information about thenpast, especially past personal conduct.nMalcolm Cowley did the same, toncheering college audiences. Did he,ntoo, suffer from delusions? Or was itnthat he simply thought he could getnaway with it? Lillian Hellman did getnaway with it, for almost 10 years.nSo: We just don’t know the real storynof Hellman’s inner life yet. Wrightnutterly demolishes Hellman’s publicnpersona, but the private Hellman, thenreal Hellman, remains to be discovered.nThe mystery can only be solvednnnby complete access to her private papers,nand that’s not likely to happennanytime soon.nBut there is a far more importantn(and final) question: not “Why didnLillian lie?” but “Why were we sonready to believe her?”nThere is a sense in which Hellmannwas victimized by her radical past bothnin the 50’s and in the 70’s. In thenMcCarthyite 50’s, it resulted in somenmild persecution; in the revisionistn70’s, it resulted in her virtual deification.nNeither process had much to donwith the real Lillian (a fierce littlenperson of clearly minor importance);nshe was caught up both times in broadernsocial and cultural movements. Fornif the New Left of the 1960’s wasnovertly contemptuous of the rigid oldnStalinists, the leftist intellectual consensusnof the 1970’s had a weakness fornthem, seeing them as a flawed butnparental generation, and perhaps evennas heroes. That process is still at work:nWitness the whitewash of party historynin the current movie Seeing Red (protestednnow even by the radical historiannJesse Lemisch). The deification ofnLillian Hellman was part of that process.nBut Orwell wrote that the great sinnof leftist intellectuals in the 30’s wasntheir desire to be anti-Fascist withoutnbeing antitotalitarian, and the descriptionnfits Lillian Hellman like a glove.nWe should not have been so eager tonaccept her at face value. By “we,” Inmean all of us who were not out-andoutnconservatives. But it’s the left’snspecial responsibility: They pushednher. Until the left comes to grips withnthe totalitarian part of its past andnfirmly rejects it instead of glorifying it,nthere is little chance of its becoming anviable political movement in thisncountry. Moreover, the left’s unwillingnessnto totally reject the totalitariannpast is part of a far more serious problem:nits continued violent apologeticsnfor any totalitarianism of the presentn(Vietnamese, Cuban, Nicaraguan)nthat calls itself by the “correct” namenof “Marxist.” In any case, the apotheosisnof Lillian Hellman is now one ofnthe innumerable skeletons in the left’sncloset. John Hess’s desire to push thenissue aside, which was the startingnpoint of this essay, only compoundsnthe moral problem faced by thenleft—a moral problem we might wellncall “Hellmanism.”n