Lillian Hellman

In her most important play, ‘The Little Foxes’, the capitalist Ben Hubbard says:

‘One loses today and wins tomorrow. I say to myself, years of planning and I get what I want. Then I don’t get it. But I am not discouraged. The century’s turning, the world is open. Open for people like you and me. Ready for us, waiting for us. After all, this is just the beginning. There are hundreds of Hubbards sitting in rooms like this throughout the country. All their names aren’t Hubbard, but they are all Hubbards and they will own this country some day.’

Earlier in the play Addie, the black housekeeper, says:

‘Yeah, they got mighty well-off cheating niggers. Well, there are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, like in the Bible with the locusts. Then there are people who stand around and watch them eat it. (Softly:) Sometimes I think it ain’t right to stand and watch them do it.’

Lillian, first for her plays and then for her heroic stand against the McCarthy witch-hunt, emerges as one of the great figures of the last century. The New York Times defined her thus:

‘An icon of an era, a moral beacon for the generation coming of age, telling of an effort to remain truthful to one’s convictions in the face of the forces of dishonesty and repression.’

The crisis of the McCarthy period is not only over but, significantly, forgotten. It is only possible for the current totalitarianism of the recent legislation that has been passed in all the advanced technological nations, wiping out as it does a long history of fought-out protection of the individual from the state, to be enacted on the basis that that history is not taught and the past obliterated.

History can demonstrate that the destruction of America has not come from an enemy, and certainly not from rebels, but rather from an increasingly top-heavy structuralism of laws and amendments to laws. McCarthy was a pre-determined event made ultimately inevitable by a constitution which, by legislating against every possible disaster, simply guaranteed that in due time the disaster would not fail to arrive.

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