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LOOK: March 4, 1947 (“How to Spot a Communist”)

When it came time for Look magazine to provide its readership with a handy method of identifying Communists, it turned to Renaissance man Leo Cherne (1912-1999). The gushing Look contributor bio* on Mr. Cherne turned out to be a preview of the many prestigious accolades to come. Indeed, in 1984 he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by none other than Ronald Reagan, a man who knew a thing or two about spotting Commies.

Mr. Cherne minces no words in his introductory text to his article for Look:

The real Communist is not a liberal or a progressive. He believes in Russia first and a Soviet America. He accepts the doctrines of dictatorship as practiced in Russia. And he is prepared to use a dictator’s tactics of lies and violence to realize his ambitions.

Because the whole Communist apparatus is geared to secrecy, it is not always easy to determine just who is a Communist. But whether he is a Party card-holder or a fellow traveler, the American Communist is not like other Americans. To the Communist, everything—his country, his job, his family—take second place to his Party duty. Even his sex life is synchronized with the obligations of The Cause.

Mr. Cherne then offers several lists to help the patriotic and paranoid American ID Commies and Pinkos:

Adapted from material prepared by Friends of Democracy, Inc.

There is no simple definition of an American Communist. However, certain general classifications can be set up. And if either a person or an organization falls within most of these classifications, that person or organization can be said to be following the Communists’ lead. These classifications include:

1.) The belief that the war waged by Great Britain and her allies during the period from August, 1939 to June, 1941 (the period of the war before Russia was invaded), was an “imperialistic” war and a game of power politics.

2.) The support of a foreign policy which agrees always with that followed by Soviet Russia, and which changes as the USSR policy changes.

3.) The argument that any foreign or domestic policy which does not fit the Communist plan is advanced for ulterior motives and is not in the best interests of either the people or world peace.

4.) The practice of criticizing only American, British and Chinese policies, and never criticizing Soviet policies.

5.) Continually receiving favorable publicity in such Communist publications as the Daily Worker and the New Masses.

6.) Continually appearing as sponsor or co-worker of such known Communist-front groups as the Committee to Win the Peace, the Civil Rights Congress, the National Negro Congress and other groups which can be described as Communist inspired because they within the classifications set forth here.

7.) Continually charging critics with being “Fascists,” no matter whether the criticism comes from liberals, conservatives, reactionaries or those who really are Fascists.

8.) Arguing for a class society by pitting one group against another; and putting special privileges ahead of community needs as, for example, claiming that labor has privileges but has no responsibilities in dealing with management.

9.) Declaring that capitalism and democracy are “decadent” because some injustices exist under those systems.

Of course, actual membership is 100 per cent proof, but this kind of proof is difficult to obtain.

These are the five basic layers that the Communists rely on for their strength:

1.) The Party member – who openly or secretly holds a membership card.

2.) The fellow-traveler – who is not a Party member but who is carefully trained to follow the Communist policy.

3.) The sympathizer – who may disagree with some polices, but who is in general agreement with Communist objectives.

4.) The opportunist – who is unconcerned with Party goals or tactics but who believes, as John L. Lewis did in his CIO days, that the party can be used to his own advantage.

5.) The muddled liberal – who despite deep disagreement with the Communist Party’s ultimate goals, co-operates with Party members in front organizations.


Most Americans want to help a good cause, but don’t want to help Communists hiding behind a good-cause label. Here are tips:

1.) Check credentials: Before you join or help a group, find out if it opposed Britain’s “imperialistic” war and favored isolationism before Russia was invaded in 1941; if it supported the “people’s” war after Russia was invaded; if it now favors the veto as used by Russia in the UN.

2.) Signing petitions: Are you getting your name on a Communist list?

3.) Contributing money: Check carefully; you may be paying a Communist.

4.) On the escalator: Is your support of one group involving you in causes you didn’t know about? Check all affiliations.

5.) Resolutions: Does the group you support suddenly endorse other groups you know nothing about?

6.) Politics: Is your “nonpartisan” group endorsing candidates? Who are they?

7.) Speakers: Who are the outsiders invited to address your meetings?

8.) Fly-by-night issues: Does your group support policies also supported by the Communist Party, and then forget those policies as soon as the Party line changes?

9.) Double standard: Is it sensitive about American policy in China and British policy in Palestine, but quiet about Russian policy in Iran, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria?

10.) Literature: Does literature handed out at meetings endorse Party causes?

11.) Social life: Are you urged to buy tickets to other groups’ events? You may be contributing to other causes.

12.) Demonstrations and conferences: Does the local group which was set up to study the cost of living, for example, send delegates to conferences which pass resolutions on atomic energy control?

13.) Membership: Watch who joins and who resigns. Harold Ickes recently resigned from the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts and Sciences; Marion Hargrove quit the Duncan-Paris Post of the American Legion and the National Committee to Win the Peace.

As far as we can tell, Look never did a follow-up article on all the crazy mix-ups that may have resulted from overzealous citizens (Major Frank Burns?) following Mr. Cherne’s advice. There were, however, a few stories on a certain Senator from Wisconsin...

* Meet a man who dotes on digging up facts. He’s Leo Cherne, pronounced “churn.” He’s an author, news analyst, professor, radio commentator – and doctor of business ills. He was the ideal man to do “How to Spot a Communist,” pages 21-25.

Calling Leo a Wonder Boy is a habit with people. And it’s understandable. This slim, brown-eyed, 34-year-old lawyer is executive secretary of the Research Institute of America. He’s also a self-taught sculptor, ex-newspaper reporter and photographer. He once sang in the Metropolitan Opera chorus, wrote the 1941 Hit Parade tune “I’ll Never Forget,” and has turned down $400 for one of his paintings.

But it’s his work with the Research Institute that really counts. He directs a service that interprets government actions for 30,000 corporations, lawyers, unions, government bureaus. Some of his forecasts were wrong. But his average of bull-eyes is high. And he’s been 100 per cent right on major Supreme Court decisions.

Leo has come far from the tough Keeper’s Hill section of New York where he began. From the record, he seems to have one of the brightest futures of any man we know.

LOOK: March 4, 1947 (“How to Spot a Communist”)
By Leo Cherne
March 4, 1947
Vol. 11, No. 5

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