Another changer heard from, this time poet E. E. Cummings (and yes, he capitalized his name, although not his poetry):
In 1931 Cummings traveled to the Soviet Union. Like many other writers and artists of the time, he was hopeful that the communist revolution had created a better society. After a short time in the country, however, it became clear to Cummings that the Soviet Union was a dictatorship in which the individual was severely regimented by the state. His diary of the visit, in which he bitterly attacked the Soviet regime for its dehumanizing policies, was published in 1933 as Eimi, the Greek word for “I am.” In it, he described the Soviet Union as an “uncircus of noncreatures.” Lenin’s tomb, in which the late dictator’s preserved body is on display, especially revolted Cummings and inspired him to create the most impassioned writing in the book. “The style which Cummings began in poetry,” Bishop wrote, “reaches its most complete development in the prose of Eimi. Indeed, one might almost say that, without knowing it, Cummings had been acquiring a certain skill over the years, in order that, when occasion arose, he might set down in words the full horror of Lenin’s tomb.” In tracing the course of his thirty-five day trip through the Soviet Union, Cummings made frequent allusion to Dante’s Inferno and its story of a descent into Hell, equating the two journeys. It is only after crossing back into Europe at book’s end that “it is once more possible for [Cummings] to assume the full responsibility of being a man…,” Bishop wrote. “Now he knows there is but one freedom…, the freedom of the will, responsive and responsible, and that from it all other freedoms take their course.” Kidder called Eimi “a report of the grim inhumanities of the Soviet system, of repression, apathy, priggishness, kitsch, and enervating suspicion.” For some time after publication of Eimi, Kidder reported, Cummings had a difficult time getting his poetry published. The overwhelmingly left-wing publishers of the time refused to accept his work. Cummings had to resort to self-publishing several volumes of his work during the later 1930s.
I’ve heard stories like this before—especially the refusal to publish anyone who disagreed with the Party line. The same thing happened to Will Durant (see this), who wrote about his experience:
I had written…several articles about our trip [to the USSR]. My literary agent, the genial and enterprising George Bye, tried to dispose of these to Harper’s Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly; both of these rejected them on the ground that they would alienate too many readers; for Russia, in our Depression years, seemed to millions of Americans the last best hope of men…The articles [I wrote] frankly called the Soviet system a dictatorship over the proletariat, and described without glamour or prejudice—but perhaps with insufficient knowledge and understanding—the achievements and failures of Communist Russia in economics, morals, manners, religion, and government. I was warned, by a well-informed editor at Simon and Schuster, that the printing of these discourses in book form would further alienate the literary fraternity, and especially the reviewers, who were sympathetic with Russia…
For whatever reason, Cummings and Durant had minds that were open to what they saw in the Soviet Union, and they were able to perceive it. Way too many others were either genuinely fooled by the Potemkin village they were presented, or pretended to be because they wanted the Communist dream to be true and could not or would not give it up.
And they wished to silence those who differed.