On Christmas Eve 1926, Roger Baldwin set sail for the Soviet Union, a man adrift.
Nearly seven years before, he had helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He had been a hands-on executive director for the upstart organization, which had had an immediate impact with its unapologetic First Amendment defenses of labor radicals. But in 1926, Baldwin took a leave of absence from the organization as personal crises mounted. He was battling depression. His marriage was on the rocks. A close friend had died of a drug overdose. Later in life, Baldwin would tell an interviewer that it was "a time of confusion in my values."
Baldwin had always been a mess of contradictions. He was a Boston Brahmin pursuing a classless society, a pacifist who called for class war, a civil libertarian who enthusiastically supported the Soviet experiment despite reports of the Bolsheviks' police-state tactics.
Now he would finally get to see the workers' paradise for himself. And soon he would be producing apologias for it, writes ACLU Managing Editor Matthew Harwood in a sharp critique of his organization's founder.