"To live is to war with trolls." -- Ibsen
Congressman George A. Dondero (Republican from Michigan) was convinced that art is a communist plot. In his impassioned 1949 speech to Congress he explained how art undermines the morals of America:
As I have previously stated, art is considered a weapon of communism.... It is a weapon in the hands of a soldier in the revolution against our form of government.... The evidence of evil design is everywhere.... The question is, what have we, the plain American people, done to deserve this sore affliction that has been visited upon us so direly; who has brought down this curse upon us; who has let into our homeland this horde of germ-carrying art vermin?...(From the Congressional Record, First Session, 81st Congress, Tuesday, 16 August 1949.)
Dondero spent a lot of time carefully analyzing how each school of modern art contributes to the destruction of America:
1. Cubism aims to destroy by designed disorder.Dondero and his fellow patriots were particularly agitated about immigrant artists (or "germ carrying art vermin") coming into the United States: "Legér and Duchamp are now in the United States to aid in the destruction of our standards and traditions. The former has been a contributor to the Communist cause in America; the latter is now fancied by the neurotics as a surrealist...."
2. Futurism aims to destroy by the machine myth
3. Dadaism aims to destroy by ridicule.
4. Expressionism aims to destroy by aping the primitive and insane.
5. Abstractionism aims to destroy by the creation of brainstorms.
6. Surrealism aims to destroy by denial of reason.
Other Congressmen on the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951 were similarly concerned about immigrant art vermin, such as artist Arthur Szyk. Szyk had escaped from Hitler in 1939 and came to the United States, where he became a relentless propagandist against the Nazis.
His cartoons infuriated Hitler, who put a price on Szyk's head. Eleanor Roosevelt welcomed him as a "one man army." Szyk adored his adopted land and did many drawings and paintings praising its freedom:
However, after the war ended certain Congressmen became suspicious that anti-fascist immigrants might also harbor Communist sympathies. They launched an investigation of Szyk in April 1951. Although Szyk denied any affiliation with communism, the old and frail artist died of a heart attack four months into his investigation, on September 13, 1951.
It's ironic that while Congressman Dondero was fulminating about threats to the country from modern art, the CIA was secretly subsidizing abstract expressionism as part of the cold war against the Soviet Union. Spies on the front lines were spending substantial sums weaponizing modern art by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko as part of a culture war, while Dondero and his fellow patriots were defusing the CIA's work.
Stalin, sounding very much like Congressman Dondero, was equally paranoid about the impact of modern art, which he called "ideological sabotage against our country and especially against our youth...." Stalin complained that
attempts are being made against socialist realism in art and literature.... In these so-called abstract paintings there is no real face of those people, whom people would like to imitate in the fight for their peoples’ happiness, for communism and for the path on which they want progress. This portrayal is substituted by the abstract mysticism clouding the issue of socialist struggle against capitalism.