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New International, July-August 1953


Julius Falk & Gordon Haskell

Civil Liberties and the Philosopher of the Cold War

(Part 2)

A Contortionist Defense of the Smith Act

HOOK’S THESIS COMPELS HIM to attempt to prove that there is no governmental persecution of the ideology of Stalinism (heresy), but only of the conspiratorial movement. Although such minor matters as the government’s “loyalty” program, the immigration bills, and the Congressional inquisitions may be passed over with a few deprecatory words about their wisdom and/or effectiveness, there is one matter which even Hook has to try to dispose of by argument. That is the Smith Act, under which thus far eighteen Trotskyists and at least double that number of Stalinists have been sent to the penitentiary or are presently enmeshed in protracted legal processes designed to send them there.

In his discussion of the Smith Act, Hook sets himself a task which is beyond him, or anyone else for that matter: to prove that the Act, despite its “weaknesses” is consistent with democratic legal and political processes.

(The Smith Act makes it illegal for any individual to advocate or “conspire” to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. Advocacy is thus placed in the same category as overt acts to overthrow the government by force and violence.)

The political exigencies of the times require that the courts accept the Smith Act as consistent with the First Amendment which prohibits Congress from making a law which abridges the freedom of speech and peaceable assembly. But there was a formidable juridical road-block in their way. That was the “clear and present danger” doctrine developed in a series of cases by Justice Holmes and Justices Brandeis, which had become the gospel of all liberals on this question.

In the first Smith Act case, that of the 18 leaders of the Minneapolis teamsters’ union and the Socialist Workers Party, the Supreme Court conveniently ducked the issue by simply refusing to review the case. But once the government had started its campaign against the Communist Party, it was evident that the court would have to rule on the constitutionality of the Smith Act. If it ruled adversely, the government’s whole legal campaign against the Stalinists would have collapsed. A majority of the Justices, however, saw their political duty and did it. And the liberals of America either had to accept this violation of the whole tradition of liberal jurisprudence, or stand up and denounce it even though it was the hated Stalinists against whom the law was now directed. As could be expected, Sidney Hook is in the forefront of the apologists for the majority of the Supreme Court, and of the salvers of the consciences of those who failed to perform their duty to help preserve civil liberties in America.

The “dear and present danger” doctrine was first , enunciated by Holmes in the Schenck case. In writing a majority opinion for the Court, Holmes ruled that Schenck’s action in writing letters to men who were being drafted in which he urged them to violate the draft law was a “clear and present danger” to the military effort of the country.

If the doctrine had jelled in final form with the Schenck case, it would have been an attack on civil liberties rather than a defense of them. Hook pretends that this was the case, and thereby once again displays the fine hand of the trained logician in his argument. Every freshman textbook on argumentation has a section on what is called “stacking the cards” in argument, that is marshalling only the facts which support your case and leaving out those which are damaging to it.

For Hook simply omits any reference to the Abrams vs. US, 1919, Gitlow vs. New York, 1925, and Whitney vs. California, 1927. These were the cases in which the “clear and present danger” cases were given their classic formulations by the two great liberal justices. It is on these decisions, and not on Schenck that liberal opinion has based its legal defense of freedom of speech. It was on the doctrine as enunciated in these cases that Justice Douglas based his dissenting opinion on the constitutionality of the Smith Act. Of course, Hook knows this. He simply counts on the ignorance of his readers and the passions of the cold war to keep them from looking into the matter more closely.

In Abrams vs. US Holmes wrote:

Only the emergency that makes it immediately dangerous to leave the correction of evil counsels to time warrants making any exception to the sweeping command “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.” I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be frought with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

In the Gitlow case (also a case against a Communist for writing revolutionary pamphlets) Holmes wrote that “every idea is an incitement,” but that the ideas of Gitlow “had no chance of starting a present conflagration,” and hence voted against the conviction. In Whitney vs California, Brandeis wrote:

To justify suppression of free speech there must be reasonable ground to fear that the serious evil will result if free speech is practiced. There must be reasonable ground to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent ... even advocacy of violation (of law), however reprehensible morally, is not a justification for denying free speech where advocacy falls short of incitement and there is nothing to indicate that the advocacy would be immediately acted on. The wide difference between advocacy and incitement, between preparation and attempt, between assembling and conspiracy, must be borne in mind. In order to support a finding of clear and present danger it must be shown either that immediate serious violence was to be expected or was advocated, or that the past conduct furnished reason to believe that such advocacy was then contemplated ... only an emergency can justify repression.

We do not know how words and their intentions could be clearer. We do not know how it could be clearer that in the years following the Schenck case Holmes had gained a deeper insight into the problem of civil liberties and the dangers of governmental encroachment thereon. And if any informed person could still harbor doubts on the matter, all

he has to do is to read the opinions of the judges who opposed Holmes and Brandeis in these cases to recognize that the majority of the court which upheld the Smith Act was working in its tradition and not in that of the liberals.

But Hook only knows about the Schenck decision. And he has, it appears, a legalistic leg to stand on. In the cases in which Holmes and Brandeis wrote their libertarian opinions on “clear and present danger” they were in the minority, and the conservative majorities of the courts prevailed. If this is a justification of his attack on Justice Douglas, let him make the most of it. Hook writes:

It follows at once [from the Schenck case] that Holmes could not have meant by his criterion an action that threatened to be successful ... Nonetheless, Justice Douglas in his minority opinion on the Smith Act denies that a “clear and present danger” of revolutionary overthrow exists on the ground that the Communist petitioners have “not the slightest chance of achieving their aims.”

That sounds pretty convincing if you have never heard of Abrams, Gitlow and Whitney. Justice Vinson and the court majority have interpreted the words “clear and present” to mean “vague and future,” and Hook, who says that Communists should not be permitted to teach in our schools because their intellectual integrity bends and twists with the demands of political expediency, is on the sidelines shouting “hurrah.”

But Hook is out to prove that the Smith Act decision is not an invasion of civil liberties, and hence is not part of any supposed witchhunt abroad in the land. Thus he must demonstrate that the Stalinists are a danger to our society, even within his own convenient use of the terms “clear and present.”

IN A SERIES OF HALLUCINATORY PARAGRAPHS, Hook sets out to demonstrate that the Communist Party is a threat to the security of the nation. Not merely in that it provides the spy apparatus with a few recruits, or instructs teachers to pervert defenseless college students. It is a threat in the most literal and total sense. It is possible that any day in the immediate future, the Kremlin will give the order to the American CP to strike and strike hard.

In a section designed to frighten children and senators, Hook writes:

... the Kremlin often instructs its fifth columns to make a bid for the conquest ol political power by force and violence even when the probability ‘of success is extremely small, and even when the direst predictions of failure have been made by those ordered to seize power. The reasons for this need not now concern us: they flow from strategic considerations in the Kremlin’s plans for world domination. In the 1920s such futile insurrections took place in Thuringia, Hamburg, and Canton. Even a wildly improbable effort at overthrow, one foredoomed to failure, may have very grave consequences for the community.

What is so wild about this statement is not what it superficially says, but its clear intention to warn us of the very realistic possibility of an American Communist Party (without influence, without numbers, not accused of storing arms or holding military formations, riddled with FBI agents, increasingly isolated) receiving instructions at any moment to march on Washington, or Heaven forbid, assault the Philosophy Department of NYU.

But Hook is undaunted:

For without this organic tie to the Soviet state apparatus with all its engines of war, espionage and terror, the American Communist Party would have only nuisance value, its members would be ineffectual, candidates for the political psychopathic ward now inhabited by various other Communist splinter groups like the Trotskyites. It is not the speech of members of the Communist Party which makes them dangerous but their organizational ties, for this in effect makes them a paramilitary fifth column of a powerful state, ready to strike whenever their foreign masters give the word.

If Trotskyists are in the political psychopathic ward, they had better move upstairs to make room for their erstwhile friend. For what can be a more telling sigh of a political psychosis than to insist that the American Communist Party today is dangerous as a “para” form of a “military fifth column.”

Let us look at this quotation more closely. Hook says that “It is not the speech of members of the Communist Party which makes them dangerous, but their organizational ties, ...” But the Communist Party leaders and the Trotskyists before them were indicted for and found guilty of ideological subversion. Their organization was not on trial nor their organizational connections. It was purely and simply a trial of the advocacy of ideas.

Because of this ideological subversion they were accused of violating the Smith Act. And the Smith Act has been upheld. The obvious question that follows is: how can Hook endorse the Smith Act if it outlaws the speech of Communist Party members, believing as he does that their speech is not dangerous? What is more perplexing, how can he defend the wisdom of the Supreme Court which upheld the legality of outlawing the advocacy of violent overthrow, on the ground that these ideas may lead to incitations which are a clear and present danger, if it is not the ideas (“it is not the speech ...”) of “members of the Communist Party which makes them dangerous but their organizational ties ...”

It makes no sense at all.

Hook now tells us:

The aim of the Smith Act was certainly justified in the light of available facts. But the method of achieving this aim – making powerless the Soviet fifth column – was inept. The proscription should have been placed, not on speech to achieve revolutionary overthrow, but on organization to achieve it, and not merely any organization but an organization set up and controlled by a foreign power.

With all due respect to Professor Hook as a philosopher, this is just one step removed from babbling. In language of the greatest objectivity (“in the light of available facts”) he lauds the Smith Act for its “aim” which is really utterly irrelevant. The “aim” is to make “powerless the Soviet fifth column.” Of course, this “aim” is laudatory to every anti-Stalinist from right to left for a host of different reasons. But what does that have to do with the Smith Act?

If Congress passed a law outlawing all non-capitalist parties, making the criticism of capitalism on any level illegal, or if it outlawed progressive education because it claimed that such methods only educated a bunch of Reds – if Congress passed such laws with the noble aim of “making powerless the Soviet fifth column,” we wonder if Hook would then write that the aims of these laws are “certainly justified in the light of the available facts” – in order to soften his criticism of the laws which he so disarmingly refers to in the case of the Smith Act, as its “inept method.” But what is the inept method of the law if not the law itself. Illegalizing speech is the method, immediate aim and operational consequence of the Smith Act. It is this which distinguishes it from other repressive legislation of the same type. To be opposed to the “method” is to be opposed to the law in toto.

It would be needlessly painful and boring to follow Hook through the remainder of his tortured attempt to justify and whitewash the Smith Act. At one point he advocates amending the act so that its proscriptions, instead of applying to speech, would apply to organizations controlled by foreign powers dedicated to overthrow of the government by force. That, of course, would be tantamount to repealing the act and writing another one. Elsewhere he says that all “the main, if not avowed purposes of the Act could have been achieved by invoking other legislation ...” When he actually gets down to writing his proposed amendments, they are found to consist solely of adding the words “in case that it constitutes a clear and present danger” into different sections of the act. Thus it is evident that all his other proposals are just rhetoric to beguile the unwary reader.

But when all is said and done, he is not for repealing the Smith Act. He needs it as badly as the government does for his method of fighting the Stalinists. Although he says that the act as now written is meaningless, dangerous and inept he tells us:

Although the wisdom of enacting the Smith Law was doubtful the wisdom of now repealing it is even more doubtful. For if the Smith Act were repealed it would give a new lease on life to an illusion whose widespread and pernicious character was to a not inconsiderable degree responsible for the original enactment of the law. This illusion is that the Communist Party is a party like any other on the American scene, and therefore entitled to the same political rights and privileges as all other American political parties.

There you have it, stated as boldly and brutally as possible. Does the Smith Act, as actually written and administered, threaten and violate civil liberties? Possibly, Hook agrees. Should it not then be repealed? No, says Hook, that would be dangerous. Why? Because to repeal an act which is meaningless, dangerous and inept “would give a new lease on life to an illusion.”

Even though the Smith Act is a threat to civil liberties, it must be preserved because it performs an “educational” function. And Hook is quite right, it has. It has helped to create an anti-Communist mood in the country, based not on intelligence and awareness, but on ignorance and prejudice. It has abetted and encouraged the most reactionary elements in American life to question the rights of individuals to hold, not only Stalinist ideas, but generally radical and liberal non-conformist views as well. But then, anything which, in Hook’s view, is directed primarily against the “Communist conspiracy,” no matter how irrelevant, potentially dangerous or inept it may be, is not to be dismissed lightly. He has declared war on the international Stalinist conspiracy, and if in the course of the conflict democracy must be sacrificed, that unfortunately is a fortune of war.

Hook Blows Policeman’s Whistle on Campus

IN THE WAR against non-conformism, the educational system presents itself as a natural target. What more likely place sensationally to uncover “subversives” than behind the college desk – seemingly harmless men and women who through subterranean intellectual channels have been corrupting their students and agitating colleagues. For the demagogue out to capitalize on the anti-Communist mood, the attack on education and educators shows shrewdness and a sense of political timing. The contrast between the reality of the prosaicness of American academic life and the fantastic charges of moral corruption leveled against so many professors and scholars makes for dramatic headlines. It is also likely to get a fair public reception. The prejudice against “book learning” is as deeply rooted in the nation as is the suspicion of artists, poets and musicians, popularly and contemptuously referred to in such terms of reprobation as “longhairs” and “queers.”

The teacher is the person whose duty it is to question, challenge and inquire; though, unfortunately, he seldom meets these obligations today because of fear, passivity or incompetence. But the mere fact that these are his professional responsibilities is another important reason for the witch-hunters focusing their attention on the campus.

However, the primary source and inspiration for the attack on the educational system today is not the demagogy of an individual congressman, or the teacher’s quest for truth. It is to be found in the special rôle which the schools and colleges play in the gargantuan war preparations of the government.

During the twenties and even in the thirties, the college population was extremely small, consisting of the offspring of middle class and wealthier parents, a sprinkling of scholarship students and a small number of young people coming from poorer families prepared to make enormous sacrifices to support their children through college. What was remarkable about these parents was that there was little reason to justify any hope that anything practical would be derived from a bachelors’ degree.

In the fifties, the picture is quite different. The colleges have become mass institutions and worthwhile investments for parents. A college education today, particularly in some specialized field, now carries with it the virtual guarantee of a highly paid position in a private firm working on a government project, or with the government itself. The science classrooms are filled, and from them are graduated engineers, atomic scientists, research physicists, theoretical mathematicians, etc. From the Arts and Humanities come thousands of government careerists, all with their special role to play in the cold war: aspiring diplomats, advisors, researchers, writers, propagandists, etc. A third category of increasing concern to the government is the large number of teachers turned out by the colleges and universities. Finally, the government sees in the colleges a significant military potential.

Thus, the college today in contrast to the thirties is a source of labor, political and military supply for the government. It is this fact which makes the school system a particularly sensitive spot in the government security and loyalty drive. The campus can no longer be referred to with any justice as an “ivory tower,” as it is slowly sucked into the Washington political vortex.

The growing loss of academic autonomy is, by definition, synonymous with the decline of academic freedom. Academic freedom cannot exist unless we recognize the responsibility of professionally trained educators to guide the nation’s educational system. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for academic freedom. It does not mean that decisions made by these men will always be either wise or just; but unless this right exists, there is no possibility at all for genuine intellectual and academic freedom. Once the government, either directly or indirectly, creates those conditions where the authority to select textbooks, curriculum, or faculty members resides not with the university, but with political potentates, these freedoms become mere shibboleths.

This is precisely what is happening on the campus today. Investigations by Congressional Committees and intensified campaigns by reactionary, super-patriotic organizations encouraged by the government-initiated witchhunt, have cast a pall over the campus. Some books are removed from the shelves, educators investigated and fired, others intimidated, student organizations are banned as the necessary autonomy of the educational world is gradually whittled away.

This encroachment on academic freedom is not only from without. Within the educational world the timid, the confused and the reactionary are all doing their bit. Loyalty oaths are initiated by educational leaders only too eager to cooperate with local or national witchhunters, and firings are frequent.

Among the ranks of the educators, the most voluble debates are those concerned with the right of a member of the Communist Party to teach. It is realized by all that what is involved is not merely the fate of a small number of teachers, but the future of the teaching profession itself.

This battle has been raging for five years with the tide running in favor of those denying the right of a Communist Party member to teach. The National Educational Association, the largest single body of professional educators, endorsed the exclusion of Communist teachers from the schools, five years ago. Until a few months ago, the democratic tradition was upheld by the large body of college educators organized into the American Association of University Professors. In Sidney Hook’s book, this organization comes under sharp attack for its defense of the academic rights of Communists. But since its publication, the AAUP, meeting in convention, amended its stand so that, in effect, it corresponds to the views of Hook and the NEA.

In Hook’s discussion of academic freedom, there is considerable overlapping with his earlier chapters on heresy and conspiracy. The distinctions between the conspirator and the heretic on campus is discussed in the same terms as we have already presented, with the difference that there is now a specific application of the general principle.

IT IS HOOK’S OPINION that the overriding consideration for determining the rights of a teacher is competency. The competent teacher, it being understood, is one who can develop the critical faculties of his students, who can increase his knowledge and further his ability for making intelligent, rational decisions. The early chapters of Hook’s discussion of academic freedom, devoted to the vocation of the teacher are, indeed, excellent. However, what concerns us here is not an abstract discussion of the philosophy of education, but the controversial question: do Communists have the right to teach? to which Hook replies with an emphatic “No.”

The reasons Hook advances for denying Communist Party members the right to teach can be placed in the following categories: Communists indoctrinate; the CP teachers’ conspiracy; the Extent of the Communist Peril in Schools! Following these points Hook takes up certain practical problems band finally he offers some positive proposals. Let us take these items up point by point.

Do Communists Indoctrinate?

Hook is on very solid grounds in his treatment of the evils of indoctrination.

A teacher who uses the classroom not as a means to develop the critical faculties of his students, but only to recruit them to a political party, or any other organization, is subverting the basic aim of education. We can make no brief for. his academic rights. If a member of the Communist Party supposedly teaching mathematics or history is pre-occupied with proving the correctness of the latest turn of the Communist Party then he has automatically excluded himself from any due consideration as a teacher. By the same token if a fervent bourgeois-minded professor supposedly teaching Shakespeare is devoting his lectures to exposés of Stalinism then he, too, has violated the basic ethics of the teaching profession.

Hook is convinced that every member of the Communist Party in the school system indoctrinates in the pejorative sense of the term and therefore has lost his academic rights on grounds of incompetency. We say “pejorative sense of the term” because we have to make it clear that by indoctrination one frequently means coloring or slanting: an element of bias is introduced in a lecture, a special emphasis placed on a point to induce a desired reaction; or a more open presentation of a firmly held conviction is made. This slanting is quite different from indoctrination and is virtually universal among professors. It can even serve an educational function, particularly when conflicting views and interpretations are presented by different instructors, providing an intellectual stimulant and challenge to the student.

But Hook writes of the CP teacher: “As a teacher he cannot engage in the honest presentation and reasoned investigation of all relevant alternatives to the theories he is considering.” Therefore, Hook concludes, the Communist teacher is indoctrinating and has no concordant rights. If this is what Hook means by indoctrination then our school system would be depleted overnight. How many instructors does Hook know who have that superhuman objectivity and knowledge to present “all relevant alternatives to the theories and policies” under consideration? Hook’s own talents and propensities may run in this vein, though we are skeptical. We wonder if Hook presents “all” the relevant theories in an honest and objective manner when discussing Leninism or Marxism.

Everyone knows that Stalinist teachers inject propaganda into the classroom. It was never a cause for horror. We also know that not every member of the Communist Party in the school system indoctrinates. How many youth have taken courses with CP teachers, excellent courses in English, history, philosophy or the physical sciences; courses without indoctrination and often without any slanting or occasional notes of political bias.

Yet this is Hook’s main charge against the Communist teacher. Hook, the empiricist, the man who establishes operative principles on the basis of evidence tells us that he has no direct evidence for the proposition that Communists indoctrinate. Such evidence, we are told, is not available because it would be either wrong or impractical to attempt to cull such damaging material. Hook asks what would happen if we:

... actually tried to detect whether or not a teacher who is a member of the Communist Party or is suspected of being one, is carrying out his instructions to indoctrinate in class.

How shall we find out? Shall we observe him in class?

However, he tells us quite rightly in the next sentence:

No one indoctrinates when he is under observation.

Hook decides that:

except in its rarest forms, indoctrination in the classroom can rarely be detected save by a critically trained observer who is almost continuously present. This is not only undesirable but for all practical purposes impossible.

Hook then exhausts the possibilities for checking:

If we cannot detect a teacher engaged in skillful indoctrination by classroom visits, can’t we determine whether he is indoctrinating by questioning his students from time to time and putting them on guard on what to observe? Even if we could rely on students to do this, it would be a sad day in the history of American education if we used students in this way or encouraged them to stoop to the techniques of a police state.

Thus Hook’s enormous accusation against individual CP teachers is undocumented. He is evidently under the illusion that a philosophy professor enjoys special dispensation insofar as the rules of evidence are concerned.

Hook has evidence, it is not direct evidence, but nevertheless, it is better than nothing. He has several back issues of the now defunct The Communist dating fifteen to eighteen years ago in which we are told by Communist Party functionaries that Stalinist teachers must indoctrinate. Hook parades these musty quotations as though they were revelations. We will not weary our reader with the “evidence” from The Communist. It is old hat. Every political person knows that the Stalinist movement would like its teaching members to indoctrinate. The desires of the Stalinist officialdom proves nothing conclusively about the conduct of individual Stalinists. Hook, aware of the fallaciousness of his inference, and possibly over-impressed by Hollywood cloak and dagger films writes:

If members of the Communist Party are aware of their instructions how do we know that they carry them out or attempt to carry them out? The answer to this question indicates the ways in which the Communist Party differs from other political parties. First, recruiting is selective. William Z. Foster, one time secretary of the Party, in an important article on The Communist Party and the Professionals describes the care with which members are selected and the criteria of the selections. “In drawing professionals into the Party care should be taken to select only those individuals who show by practical work that they definitely understand the Party line, are prepared to put it into effect, and especially display a thorough readiness to accept Party discipline.” (The Communist, Sept. 1938, p.808, my italics.) Second, the statutes of membership define a Party member as one who not only “accepts the Party program, attends the regular meetings of the membership branch of his place of work” (in the case of the Communist Party teacher this is the school “cell”) and “who is active in party work.” Inactivity, unless it is a directed inactivity, reculer pour mieux sauter, as well as disagreement with the decisions of any party organization or committee are grounds for expulsion. Third, the Communist Party weeds its ranks carefully by purge and re-registration and other forms of control. As we have already seen, there exists a Central Control Commission whose task it is to check on all members.

Hook attempts to convey the impression that the Communist Party is a party little different from its Kremlin master. The American Communist Party, however, does not have power; it cannot force members to carry out its every whim. Bureaucratic, degenerate and corrupt as the American CP is, it could not even exist as a party if it attempted to function as a movement with powerful coercive features.

The fact that the CP passed resolutions establishing requirements of membership in 1937, proves nothing about the actual state of the membership then or now. There are inactive members tolerated in the party not “reculer pour mieux sauter” (it sounds more sinister in French) but for a host of reasons.

The Communist Party teacher is not an automaton. This claim may outrage Hook but that is no cause for alarm or fear. The Communist Party teacher of philosophy may have as many scruples about his profession as Hook claims for himself. He may even be the same Communist who voted for the 1937 resolutions Hook waves so triumphantly.

In brief, the Communist teacher may not indoctrinate for any number of reasons: personal integrity, fear of reprisal, technical difficulties, etc.

Hook offers a third line of “evidence” that Communists indoctrinate students. He quotes from the proceedings of the Rapp-Coudert Committee of eleven years ago some hearsay testimony from an ex-Stalinist teacher to the effect that a colleague of his, a member of the party, attempted to popularize such terms in a course in Modern European History as “Soviet Democracy,” “proletariat” and “dialectical materialism.” For Hook this is damning evidence!

This is all that he has to offer on how Communists indoctrinate. There is not even the hint of additional proof that membership in the CP spells automatic corruption in the classroom. And this is the heart of his theory.

The Teacher Conspiracy

HOOK DENIES THE FITNESS OF STALINISTS TO TEACH, not merely for their alleged indoctrination in the classroom, but because of their political, “conspiratorial” activity on the campus in general.

He opens his chapter on the teachers’ conspiracy with a description of the “tasks” of Stalinist teachers:

... recruiting among colleagues and students for party and youth organizations; setting up “party fractions” within departments, and where administrative regulations make it possible, control of new appointments, influence on recommendations for promotions and salary increases and election of sympathetic chairmen; the dissemination of party literature; and wherever it exists, the publication and distribution of the party-fraction newsletter or bulletin. All of these activities, leaving aside the special tasks of Communist Party teachers in science departments and laboratories, are directly or indirectly designed to convert students to communism, to influence their thinking along communist lines.

We do not condone efforts to utilize the school for political ends when it conflicts with education. But what is wrong with the efforts of the Communist Party on campus, “outside the classroom,” to recruit colleagues or even students? Where is the violation of professional ethics in Communist Professor “x” attempting to win over Professor Hook – or vice versa? What is so disturbing about the publication of “the party-fraction newsletter or bulletin.” Hook can distribute the New Leader if he and his academic co-thinkers at NYU have no publication of their own. A listing of the titles of these bulletins, or a claim that they are written and distributed anonymously in no way changes the fact that teachers have the same right as other citizens to write bulletins, to contest for their political ideas outside of the classroom. The anonymity of the publications, the “furtiveness” of their distribution of which Hook makes so much in this chapter is simply an indication that the “market place” of ideas on the campus is not altogether free.

When Stalinists band together to influence appointments and promotions on a basis other than that of merit, they should be combatted and exposed like any other cabal of teachers which seeks similar ends. That in practice Stalinist teacher fractions do this, we would be the last to deny. But that alone would hardly justify the determination that no Stalinist is fit to teach, and Hook knows it. That is why he mixes in all the other charges with this one, and by a clever use of language tries to impart to legitimate attempts to win people to their ideas an air of dark conspiracy.

Another trick is to tear the whole problem out of its context of time and circumstances, and to make what was a real problem when the Stalinists were riding high on favorable political winds appear to be the same problem today. All of Hooks “evidence” comes from the turbulent thirties, but is applied to the present. [3] It is now that he advocates that Stalinists be banned from the campus, when their organized activity is directed primarily to their own self-preservation, and not to running the American school system.

But as he always does in the end, Hook gives the show away on this question too. In an attempt to show that at least one of the Stalinist teachers’ publications was “subversive” Hook quotes extensively from it (again, of course, in the ‘80s). The passages he chooses to underline as most damaging state that:

The Communist Party will strive to lead the American masses to battle against the American capitalists who sent them to war, to turn the imperialist war into a civil war and a proletarian victory. (Emphasis Hook’s.)

And again, proclaim themselves in favor of:

The establishment of socialism through the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Emphasis Hook’s.)

And he adds:

Dean Chamberlain is free to evaluate the significance of the evidence of Communist subversiveness as he pleases. He is not free to disregard the evidence. The reader may determine for himself whether anonymous publication of this type of literature, distributed to students and faculty, constitutes conduct unbecoming a teacher.

What could be clearer? It is not the conduct of Stalinist teachers, at bottom, which really brands them unfit to teach in Hook’s eyes. It is their ideas, or the fact that they dare to disseminate and seek to recruit to them. And of course, he knows that the particular passages he has underlined are not some specific hallmark of the Stalinists, but represent general Marxist formulations.

He knows it, because it is hardly possible that he has forgotten that he not only accepted these formulations in the thirties himself while teaching on the staff at NYU, but that he went on to criticize Marx for suggesting the possibility of peaceful revolution in the United States. In retrospect, should Hook today have fired the Hook of the thirties for “conduct unbecoming a teacher?”

The Strength of the Conspiracy

HOOK IS WILLING TO CONCEDE that the strength of the alleged Communist conspiracy in the school system bears some relationship to the question: how dangerous is this menace?

Again we quote him at length to forestall any charge that we are imputing absurd reasoning to an authority on scientific method:

Some disturbing testimony on this point has been presented by Dr. Bella Dodd former member of the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party, and quondam legislative representative of the Communist-dominated Teachers Union of New York which was expelled as a captive Communist union both by the AFL and the CIO. Dr. Dodd testified that at one time a thousand members of the New York City teaching staff were members of the Communist Party – most of them in high schools and colleges.

How many students were exposed to skillful indoctrination by these enemies of freedom? Allowing for overlapping, even if each teacher, on a conservative estimate, taught only a hundred students in the course of a year this would mean that every year one hundred thousand students in New York City alone would be subject to educationally pernicious indoctrination. Of these it would be sage to say that, directly and indirectly, scores, and in some years, hundreds would have been influenced by their teachers to join the Communist youth organizations from which the Communist movement draws its most fanatical followers. According to Dr. Dodd, Communist Party teachers practice strategic infiltration into posts where they can influence the greatest numbers, particularly university schools of education, where “they affect the philosophy of education and teach other teachers.” Class size, or teaching loads, must be greater in such schools than in the estimate above, because the account reads “She said one Communist teacher might influence 300 future teachers in a single term.”

The impression Hook creates is of a vast conspiracy. He has “proven” statistically that if what Bella Dodd reports is accurate (something he apparently doesn’t question for a moment) then by a “conservative estimate” one hundred thousand students a year were victimized by the Stalinists. Elementary arithmetic would reveal that in the course of say five years, one half million students were subjected to pernicious indoctrination and in a decade at least one million were thus miseducated. The havoc the conspiracy can wreck, you see, is not only potential – it is existent and of monstrous proportions. Add to this the considerable damage done by Stalinist teachers in the schools of education, where in the five or ten year period thousands upon thousands of future teachers have been similarly indoctrinated. And all this, mind you, is just in New York City. Then add the number of students taught by alleged Stalinist teachers in such cities as Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, etc., and the number of indoctrinated students and future teachers reaches an astronomical figure.

If in the course of a four year high school and four year college education nearly one million young people have been indoctrinated, how can one reasonably account for the fact that the Stalinist youth movement is at its lowest point. If from the end of the war until today, an eight year period, the American Stalinist student movement can only claim several thousand members nationally (and this is a high figure) this means that of the nearly one million indoctrinated students (in New York City alone) only an infinitesimal percentage has been wholly seduced, and even if we allow for an enormous membership turnover, the proportion of recruits from among the defenseless indoctrinated students is unbelievably small. Even during the thirties, its peak period, the YCL membership did not anywhere correspond to the fabulous figures Hook manipulates with such agility.

There are only two conclusions that one can take seriously if Bella Dodd’s figures on the extent of Stalinist infiltration in the school system are correct: they do not indoctrinate in the accurate sense of the word; and/or their “indoctrination” is so ineffectual that they constitute no threat. It is our opinion that both conclusions are correct.

Earlier in the article we made the point that Hook is a writer of convenience. His ground is always shifting, his emphasis changing and his arguments often contradictory. It depends on what he is attempting to prove at the moment. His attitude on the Red Peril to education is an excellent example of contradictory emphasis. We have seen how Hook has portrayed the malignant nature of Stalinist infiltration in the school system, in the book we are discussing. But here he is attempting to deny the academic rights of Communist teachers. However, in a letter to the New York Times (July 19th) signed by Sid. Hook and other educators protesting Congressional inquiries on the campus, we read:

Because the number of actual Communist teachers is so minute, because even when augmented by the number of “fellow-travelers” they are still a tiny fraction of the college teaching profession, there is no justification for a Congressional committee to concern itself with the question. There is no national problem – there is nothing that can even be described as a state-wide problem – and there is no imaginable legislation that can flow from the Congressional inquiries under way.

The thousand Communist teachers and the hundred thousand of indoctrinated students a year are not mentioned here. Nor does the letter to the New York Times admonish those who minimize the threat to the nation of Stalinists on campus. In the book we do not conclude merely from Hook’s figures that he regards the presence of Stalinist teachers a threat to the nation. He tells us so in unambiguous terms:

Those who defend the privileges of members of the Communist Party to teach on the same terms as members of other political parties do not, of course, demand that the former be put in a position where they threaten national security. They maintain, however, that there is no mischief members of the Communist Party can do in colleges and universities which is even remotely comparable to the mischief that may result from their presence in atomic energy plants. We shall see below that there is weighty authority to contest this statement. (Emphasis ours.)

Hook, in his book written early in 1953 locates for us hundreds of thousands of students subjected to Stalinist indoctrination; a crime so great that it is comparable in his eyes to the damage that could be done to national security by the presence of Stalinists “in atomic energy plants.” A few months later, in the above quoted letter to the New York Times he agrees that even the combined forces of CP teachers and their fellow travelers do not create, a “national problem”; more than that “there is nothing that can even be described as a state-wide problem.” It is almost indecent to find an eminent authority on rational, logical thinking in such an obvious contradiction.

This example of Hook versus Hook is understandable; it is the inevitable bit of illogic committed by a man who is offering his services to American reaction and at the same time has a few remaining sentimental attachments to liberalism and academic freedom. As soon as his sentiment is dissipated by his sense of practical, hard-headed politics such contradictions will be eliminated.

Practical Problems and Positive Proposals

HOOK DEVOTES A SPECIAL CHAPTER to a serious effort to cope with a number of objections raised by critics of his views. We will deal briefly with several of his rejoinders before proceeding to a discussion of his “positive proposals” for coping with Stalinist teachers.

(1) A common objection to Hook’s views is that he confines his remarks to members of the Communist Party and does not include devout Catholics, teaching in secular schools; indicating that what is involved is not a discussion of educational theory or academic competence of an individual, but a policy of heresy hunting directly related to Washington’s aims in the cold war. For, if it is true that Hook objects to Stalinist teachers on grounds of incompetence, because they are under the rigid [5] discipline of a totalitarian party, he should also object to the presence of teachers devoted to a semi-medieval, reactionary and authoritarian Catholic Church.

Hook attempts to dispose of this serious argument in a few sentences:

They [Catholic teachers] are expected to fulfill honorably their obligations and duties as members of the inclusive academic community and not surreptitiously to take advantage of their position in the classroom or on the campus to proselytize for the Church. Catholic teachers in secular institutions prescribe books which are on the Catholic Index of Prohibited Books for their students, even when their students are Catholic. For example, Dean Harry Carman, of Columbia College, who is a good Catholic, used to take great pride in the Columbia Contemporary Civilization and Humanities courses, in which students read many works on the Catholic Index.

We do not know if the Communist Party formally forbids its members to prescribe books which are on the Stalinist Index. But the clear implication of Hook’s remarks, particularly his reference to Dean Carman, is that Stalinists are not allowed to, and therefore do not prescribe books which are anti-Stalinist. This is, as Hook well knows, pure nonsense. No matter what the Communist Party formally demands of its members on this score, we all know that they do not and cannot eliminate all anti-Stalinist reading material. Some Stalinist teachers would object to such proscriptions on the same ethical grounds that Hook claims for himself, while other Stalinists, who do not have the same moral compunctions, are in no position to ban all books but Stalinist propaganda from class readings. However, the importance of the analogy of Catholic and Stalinist teachers does not lie only in formal relations between individual member and organization. What is important and decisive for the analogy is the hold which each of these authoritarian organizations maintains over the thinking of its devoted adherents. Even apart from this, Hook is wrong for formally, too, Catholic teachers in secular institutions are under doctrinal obligations which violate intelligent concepts of educational procedure. Several examples of this are given in Paul Blanshard’s book, American Freedom and Catholic Power. Blanshard quotes the following pertinent paragraph from the Five Encyclicals of the infallible Pope Pius XI:

Again it is the inalienable right as well as the indispensable duty of the Church, to watch over the entire education of her children, in all institutions, public or private, not merely in regard to the religious instruction there given, but in regard to every other branch of learning and every regulation in so far as religion and morality are concerned. Nor should the exercise of this right be considered undue interference, but rather maternal care on the part of the Church in protecting her children from the grave danger of all kinds of doctrinal and moral evil.

Here are two more examples from among many provided by Blanshard, culled from Morals in Politics and Professions by Father Francis J. Connell, Associate Professor of Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America, published under the Imprimatur of the Archbishop of Baltimore-Washington in 1946:

At times, the textbooks used in class may contain statements relative to the Catholic Church that are false or misleading, particularly in history class. The Catholic teacher should not hesitate to bring out the truth on such occasions. It would be deplorable if a Catholic teacher allowed a calumny on the Church to pass unrefuted because she feared for the security of her position or she dreaded being regarded as a “bigoted Catholic.”

Neither should the Catholic teacher hesitate to give the solution taught by her religion to problems of a moral or social nature which may be discussed in class. Particularly in high school discussions on social or civic topics she may be expected to make a statement on such matters as divorce, euthanasia, birth control, the rights of the individual in relation to the State, the mutual obligations of employer and employee, the right of the parent to educate children as contrasted to the right of the civil authorities, etc.

And the second:

Neither in the classroom nor in her associations with teachers of other creeds may the Catholic teacher use expressions savoring of indifferentism. She may, indeed, explain and uphold the American system granting equal rights to all religions, but in lauding this system she should make it clear that she is limiting her praise to our own country, because of particular conditions prevailing here, and that she has no intention of condemning other lands in which a different procedure prevails. She must not speak in such wise as to give the impression that all forms of religious belief possess a natural right to exist and propagate. Only the true religion possesses such a natural right.

We would like to hear from Sidney Hook. Are these Catholic demands for indoctrination of all students of all ages any less inimical to educational ethics than the 1937 instructions of the Communist Party to its teaching members? Is the devout Catholic teaching in public schools any less aware of his obligation to unquestioningly follow the word of God’s representative on earth than the Stalinist to submit to party instructions? Is the practicing Catholic teacher less fearful of violating Church dogma with the threat of eternal damnation and burning in the fires of hell, than the Stalinist- fears flaunting party discipline with its threat of mere temporal expulsion? Is the moral and psychological hold of the authoritarian Church over its numerically increasing devout members much more tenuous than the influence exercised by the Communist Party with its enormous turnover over the individual Stalinist? And if Hook claims that Catholics actually do not indoctrinate in practice, how can he prove this if, as he has already stated in the case of the Communist teacher, there is no way of proving whether a teacher indoctrinates or not?

We do not expect to hear from Hook. We will venture our own answer to Hook’s tolerance of Catholic teachers – shared by us, of course – and his indignation over alleged Stalinist violation of teaching ethics: Neither his tolerance of the Church nor his indignation about CP teachers has anything to do with professional ethics. The Catholic is America’s ally in the cold war; the Communist Party is its deadly enemy. That’s the long and short of it.

(2) “Suppose a man is a good Communist but also a great painter like Picasso. Would we not permit Picasso to teach?” Hook asks himself this question about Picasso, or a great poet such as Pound if he were connected with a fascist group. He also answers it: if there is reason to believe that the teaching capacity of these men was “extraordinary.” ...

... Then provided some educational measures were taken to counteract their political influence, they might very well be employed, particularly if there was no concealment on their part of their membership in the Communist Party or Fascist Party. We would regard their cases as exceptions and cheerfully make them, or consider making them, whenever a painter with the stature of Picasso or a poet like Pound were being considered.

And what are the “educational measures” to be “taken to counteract their political influence”? Would Picasso’s students be required to take a course on One Hundred Percent Americanism? Perhaps just a lecture before or immediately after the class on the Red Menace? Maybe a couple of snoops in the classroom to correct Picasso each time he slips through some subversive remark or other? Better still, Hook could provide Picasso’s students with his writing on why Communists do not have the right to teach. We are really at a loss to understand what Hook’s precautionary measures might be. But then we are not alone in our bewilderment. Hook doesn’t know what he means any more than we do.

Hook’s self-addressed question about Picasso is a most serious one. The question and his answer reveal that he has not yet gone completely overboard in his patriotic binge. Sentiment and cultural hangovers are still a restraining influence. Logically, there is no reason why Picasso should merit special consideration, in view of everything that is at stake in Hook’s views. One Picasso with his enormous prestige could be as politically influential among his and other students as a dozen cells of CP teachers of lesser stature who could never get such magnanimous dispensations from our guardian of political and

educational morals. Hook is both cheerful and dubious about employing a Picasso only because he fears the full and inescapable implications of his thesis.

(3) Is it not dangerous to favor firing all Stalinist teachers under any circumstances? This is another problem Hook poses for himself. After deriding those who think “up some extraordinary situations or some special kind of Communist Party member for whom we would be willing to breach the rules.” Hook makes the following “concession”:

Whatever exceptions we make to meet ingeniously contrived suppositions it is safe to say that moat of them would be confined to the university where students are mature, full grown, and able to fend for themselves. As intellectually untrustworthy as members of the Communist Party are, a lone member or two may be conceivably tolerated on the post-graduate University level in non-science departments if they have openly admitted their membership and don’t pose as Jeffersonian Democrats, LaFollette Republicans or Christian Socialists. More than two on any campus will constitute themselves into a conspiratorial group in accordance with Party instructions.

Hook is nothing, if not a reasonable and flexible philosopher. If there is a school where students meet the following conditions: “mature, full-grown and able to fend for themselves” (how “mature” do they have to be and how do we find this out?); if the Communist teacher admits membership (thus placing his career in jeopardy); if the campus in question is on a post-graduate level and the department non-science; if the individual Communist has no more than one other CP colleague on the same campus – then “a lone member or two may be conceivably tolerated. ...” More than two on any campus is apparently impermissable under any circumstances for they naturally constitute themselves into a dangerous conspiracy.

Hook’s Positive Proposals

Hook reserves a “surprise” for his readers. It seems that there is no such person as a teacher who is formally a member of the Communist Party! The CP in a defensive move no longer issues party cards to teachers. This poses a problem, but not an insuperable one for him. The manner in which he resolves it is neither workable, democratic nor consistent with prior statements in the book, but this has not deterred Hook in the first 250 pages, and does not inhibit him in the remaining 25. Hook will not tolerate Communist deception in any form. If the Party is sly enough to refrain from issuing membership cards, it is only further proof of its conspiratorial nature and Hook, scientific philosopher and political tactician is prepared to meet the sly Stalinist maneuver head on.

How? In the first place. Hook would have a special committee which he dubs “Faculty Committee on Professional Ethics.” The function of this committee would be:

... to receive complaints either from the faculty or administration or both and conduct investigations. Its role would not necessarily be so passive. Wherever there was evidence that a Communist group was at work, or any other group organized for unprofessional practices, it would undertake investigation on its own initiative. The specific modes of procedure will vary from place to place and from faculty to faculty, but in all cases it will culminate in a fair hearing for any teacher charged with being a member of the Communist Party. Any teacher so charged would be suspended with pay until reinstated or dismissed by decision of the Faculty Committee or governing board at the recommendation of the Faculty Committee. [Is it possible that the Faculty Committee will overrule a decision of the Faculty Committee?] No publicity would be given to the suspension or to the hearing unless requested by the teacher. He would have the privilege of counsel.

But how will this vigilante committee of Hook’s uncover the secret, non-card holding member of the Communist Party? Hook proposes:

Sometimes membership will have to be construed from a complex pattern consisting of activities, participation in key front organizations, publication in party line organs, content-analysis of variations in position establishing close correlation with the official Communist Party line. Since it is to be expected that most members of the Communist Party, not faced by threats of prosecutions for perjury, will refuse to admit membership, and certainly not present membership, the problem will be to determine when an individual is lying and when he is telling the truth. The faculty committee will serve as a kind of academic jury. It will assess the weight of different kinds of testimony and evidence offered in the inquiry offered in the light of the particular context or situation obtaining on the campus.

Earlier in the book as we have already quoted, when Hook is asked to prove that members of the Communist Party actually indoctrinate in the classroom, he assumed his most righteous, indignant and democratic pose. Prove that Communists indoctrinate! Why that would involve snooping, it would be degrading to the academic profession, to have a trained observer continuously present checking on the suspected instructor; and as for students informing on teachers it would be, according to Hook of 100 pages earlier, “Far better to leave Communist Party teachers to do as they please than to degrade their students by impressing them into the kind of service made so notorious behind the Iron Curtain.” Let us remember, however, that this earlier sweet reasonableness of Hook was propounded at a point in his book when he was apologizing for failing to produce any direct evidence that virtually all Stalinist teachers indoctrinate.

How is this Faculty Committee on Professional Ethics going to unmask the secret member of the Communist Party? How, except through the methods of informing, stoolpigeoning, spying, prying, threatening, haranguing, etc. What other methods will be at the disposal of these intellectual vigilante committees? Members of a conspiracy are of a peculiarly uncooperative nature when their allegiances are being investigated and checked; nor are they likely to expose themselves by signing CP resolutions or articles just to make things easier for Hook’s dwindling conscience or for his academic heresy hunters. Say what you will about Sidney Hook, he is no fool. He fully understands the practical implications of his “positive proposal”: students will be called to testify, colleagues will be expected to inform; investigators will be sent into classrooms secretly and continuously to check the suspect; the accused will have his past and present private, political and personal life investigated and made public. And once the accused is found guilty of CP membership by the Faculty Committee and the defendant’s conviction upheld, will it be necessary to prove that he indoctrinated in the classroom? Not at all, for Hook is quick to tell us that:

... particularly important, such a faculty committee would not be required to prove that a member of the Party indoctrinated in class.”

To prove that he indoctrinated, you see, would involve snooping! And what is worse, indoctrination may never be proven.

Does one have to be a poet – or a philosopher – to imagine with what fidelity and intelligence Hook’s vigilante committees will sift the evidence! How they will distinguish between the sympathizer and the member! How they will guard against excesses! How they will protect the anti-Stalinist opponent of American imperialism who may or may not be a member of a socialist organization.

Does one have to be a poet – or a college student – to imagine the type of academicians who would flock onto these committees on educational morality. Can one imagine the number of arrogant, ignorant, dying-to-conform faculty members – so plentiful on the American campus – who would find their way onto Sidney Hook’s “positive proposal.”

Is Hook worried about excesses which these committees might commit? Hardly. In his opinion it is not “placing too great a reliance upon the judicial capacities of the best trained minds of the community, when they make themselves familiar with the ways and doctrines of the Communist Party, to expect that they will be able to distinguish between the educational heretic and the conspirator.”

There is a worry that plagues Hook about these committees. They may not be vigilant enough, or the faculty as a whole may be lax. In which case:

Where a faculty is properly aware of its responsibilities, there is no need or justification of legislative invasion. Where it is indifferent or lax in upholding standards, legislative investigation may still be undesirable but in time it becomes inescapable.

And this gives us the true picture of Sidney Hook, the professor in cap and gown blowing the police whistle.

Behind the Assault on Political Liberties

THE CURRENT ASSAULT ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM is given its specific direction and drive from the cold war. Since Stalinism is an ideology as well as a power-system, the struggle becomes particularly intense in the arena of ideas, and in the institutions which are most directly connected with them.

But the struggle does not take the form of an abstract intellectual debate. The stakes are high, and the argument takes place in a context of political and military clashes. Every vested interest in our society seeks to promote its own ends under the banner of the fight for freedom and democracy. In the United States the most reactionary forces see their chance to deal a blow to everything they have hated and fought down through the years. And at the moment they are in saddle and are riding the anti-communist wave for all they are worth.

Thus, it is not at all an accident that the most adamant opponents of progressive education, of separation of education and religion, of the whole tradition of public education and of academic freedom are on the offensive. They are on the offensive because the labor movement and the liberals have themselves fallen prey to the idea that even here, in the richest country on earth, with its vast historic reservoirs of democratic tradition, Stalinism can only be fought and defeated by administrative measures which boil down, in the last analysis, to calling the cops.

They protest against the legislative “investigation” of the schools and colleges, but before they know it they become entangled in a net of legalistic arguments relating to the use of the Fifth Amendment. They decry loyalty oaths, but the only arguments they can muster against them are those stemming from hurt dignity or over their efficacy in catching genuine Stalinists. And their arguments and struggles tend to take place on a descending plane of principle and effectiveness, while the book-banners, oath-administrators, blacklist-keepers, and Congressional inquisitors broaden and deepen the scope of their activities.

The assault on the civil and political liberties of the American people goes far beyond the struggle for academic freedom in the schools. A glance back at the ’30s will convince anyone who is capable of objective thought that in comparison to those far-off days American society has been permeated with attitudes, methods and institutions which are of the police-state type. We still have a long way to go before these methods and institutions have broken down the legal safeguards and democratic traditions of the country to the point at which one could say that we have a police state.

There is no law of nature or politics that says we will ever reach that condition. But what is most dangerous, more appalling, is the readiness with which broad sections of the American people have come to accept these invasions of their traditional liberties as the normal, or at least necessary adjuncts of the struggle against Stalinism.

In the ’30s we had no “subversive” list, and no government “loyalty” program. We had neither the Smith Act nor the McCarran Internal Security Act. Though the FBI kept a watchful eye on all Stalinist and radical activities even then, its chief concern was with catching criminals. The Un-American Activities Committee under Congressman Dies and its similars in several states were active, but they were universally abhorred and execrated by the whole body of liberal and labor opinion.

Can anyone seriously contend that democracy in America was in greater danger during the ’30s than it is now? Has the imprisonment of the Stalinist leadership, the exposure of a few Stalinists in the government and the colleges, the expulsion of Stalinist and socialist workers from their jobs in industry, the disabilities imposed on Stalinist, fascist, syndicalist and socialist organizations by listing them as “subversive,” the ubiquitous wire-tapping and questionings of radicals and ex-radicals by the FBI made democracy in this country more secure? Has artistic freedom and creation been enhanced by the questioning of Stalinist writers, actors, entertainers and artists by Congressional committees, and their subsequent expulsion from their jobs? Has the American labor movement been strengthened by the imposition of the Taft-Hartley “non-Communist” affidavits required of union officers, or by the administrative measures taken by unions against Stalinist members and officers? Has the search for knowledge in all spheres, or the training of our young people to think for themselves been advanced by one iota by the widespread assent of our educators to the idea that Stalinists should not be permitted to teach in our schools, or by the elimination of a handful of Stalinist educators from their jobs?

To answer these questions in the affirmative is not only to fly in the face of observable social facts, but to deny the very possibility of a democratic future for America.

Only a social order which has exhausted the potential of the democratic process is compelled to resort to naked force to maintain itself against those who would destroy democracy. The institutions and procedures of a police state type which have become so widespread in America are in the essence a resort to force which indicate that powerful sections of our society have concluded that it can be maintained only by an abrogation of democracy.

THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY is the central social and political conflict in the middle of the twentieth century. The roles assumed by individuals or by social classes and movements in this central struggle determine whether they are historically reactionary or progressive.

Like all generalizations, the propositions stated above gain significance and establish their validity only when they are concretized. For after all, it is the struggle for democracy in concrete circumstances which has social meaning. And such are the complexities of the modern world that men who willingly give their assent to the general proposition find themselves quickly hedging it about with a thousand reservations when they face the concrete struggle for democracy. The degree of their reservations, the angle of their deviation from the principle, is determined, broadly speaking, by allegiance to social and economic institutions which are threatened by an extension of democracy in our time.

Americans can appreciate this quite clearly when it is applied to the Stalinists. In Russia, as throughout the world, the Stalinists also claim to be defenders of democracy. They are for the freedom of the colonial countries from capitalist imperialism. They are for civil liberties, for academic freedom – in all capitalist countries. They are for literacy everywhere in the world. But since civil and political liberties are incompatible with the maintenance of the rule of the collectivist bureaucracy in the countries which they control, they suppress them ruthlessly. And they contend that anyone who criticizes or attacks that suppression is acting in the interest of re-establishing the iniquities of capitalism in the countries controlled by them, and a capitalism of most reactionary and even totalitarian hue at that. For them this contention pretty much ends the argument. Although it is often quite true (and that is why it has been possible to convince masses of people all over the world for the past thirty years that it has merit), it obviously does not end the argument for anyone who really is devoted to democracy.

In Stalinist countries there is no freedom of speech, press, or assembly. There is no right to political opposition. The schools, at all levels, are conceived as instruments for training the youth in ideology of the ruling class. Hence academic freedom is an incomprehensible notion. There is no right to trade union organization and collective bargaining for workers. In short, the claims of the ruling class to a monopoly of all social and political rights is absolute. And since the ruling class holds its position by virtue of its control and “ownership” of the state, it is the state which puts forth and enforces these claims in a most direct and open fashion.

In the capitalist portion of the world, the situation is somewhat different. The status of civil liberties comes closest to the Stalinist model in fascist countries such as Franco’s Spain. In such countries the role of the state as the direct enforcer of the ruling class’ monopoly of all political rights is also the closest to the role of the state in Russia. But from there, there is a continuous gradation of civil liberties, of economic, political and social democracy, in all capitalist countries. We are here concerned with its status and the forces which are changing this in America.

There are two historical processes which dominate the struggle for democracy in the United States in this epoch. One is the decline of capitalism all over the world as a social system; the other is the rise of Stalinism as the most immediate and forceful threat to capitalism. The decline of capitalism and the rise of Stalinism are closely inter-twined processes, the latter proceeding from the former. The cold war is the sharpest form in which the two irreconcilable social systems struggle with each other all over the world.

The most striking fact about the cold war is that in it capitalism is on the political defensive. It is doomed to this role not by the stupidity of its statesmen, but by the historical fact of its decline. Its contradictions have become rotten-ripe in most sections of the world. It drags centuries of colonial oppression and the exploitation of the workers around its neck like an albatross. On the other hand, the contradictions of Stalinism, its own enslavement and degradation of peoples is fully understood by the masses in countries where it has already triumphed and established its rule. To broad sections of the oppressed masses in the rest of the world it still appears as a social change, an enemy of the known oppressors, and hence a liberator from their ancient rule.

It has been the fate of the United States to have reached its position of world capitalist supremacy at the moment in history when world capitalism was in its death throes. The towering economic strength of the country, and the unprecedented prosperity of its people is clearly based on the relative degradation of the rest of the capitalist world. It is propped up by the military preparations which can only be justified on the basis of the necessity of maintaining America’s dominant position.

If we were living in the age when capitalism was healthy and expanding, one could expect that America’s position at the top of the world would infuse the American ruling class and most other strata of the population with an unprecedented feeling of self-confidence and security. Such was the atmosphere which permeated British society when Britannia ruled the waves and the sun never set on her domains. In those by-gone days the struggle for democracy in Britain itself was more a struggle to rid the country of the vestiges of feudal rule than to preserve rights which had already been secured in the past.

But in the United States we see an altogether different picture. Despite the enormous wealth of the country, despite its undisputed place at the head of the capitalist world, the atmosphere which pervades the ruling class, and seeps down to all strata of the people is one of insecurity, of frustration, of fear of the future. And the reasons for this are obvious.

Since the end of World War II the United States has spent tens of billions of dollars to prop up the rest of the capitalist world and the governments which rule it. But all these expenditures, all these efforts have brought neither stability to world capitalism, nor docile acceptance to American wishes by the other governments in the American bloc. All this expenditure has certainly not exorcized Stalinism. And although direct and indirect military expenditures have kept America in an economic boom for over ten years, almost no one, except a few liberal apologists for capitalism, really believes that prosperity and a better life are America’s manifest destiny. Instead, the country is haunted by the twin fears of economic depression or atomic war.

The political atmosphere in the country reflects this feeling of frustration and foreboding. In a class society, this feeling expresses itself in different forms which depend on the position occupied by different groups in the society, and by the ideological traditions which have become native to these groups as a result of America’s unique economic and social history.

Thus, there have always been sections of American society which have felt themselves so completely identified with American capitalism (or as it is known here, with “business”) that they have considered any challenge to the specific ideology of “business” a challenge to the American way of life. These are the amateur and professional patrioteers, the cohorts of the American Legion, the leaders and rank and file of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures. To its ideologists and militants “democracy.” is identified with capitalism to such an extent that civil liberties, academic freedom, the right to collective bargaining and all other democratic rights and privileges are regarded from one simple point of view: they are justified to the extent that they support capitalism, and are either a luxury or a menace to the extent that they oppose, weaken or even question it.

These extreme “Americaneers” are opposed with varying degrees of intransigence and consistency by broad sections of the American people. In varying degrees, it is these people who are the bearers of the democratic tradition in this country. Although in their overwhelming mass they give allegiance to capitalism, they are separated by a sufficient distance from its central web of business interests to be able to recognize that these are not coextensive with democracy in our times.

These are the workers who have to fight the very capitalists to whom their ideology assigns a necessary place in society. They are the “intelligentsia” to whom culture and freedom stands second only to security in their scale of operative values. They are the unreconstructed democrats in all stations of life to whom the democratic tradition of the country still means what they were taught it meant in a less constricted era: to whom “let the man talk, it’s a free country, isn’t it?” is still a statement of honest intention and belief.

These broad social groups recognize Stalinism as an enormous threat to human liberty and progress. They ardently desire its defeat both at home and abroad. The most conscious of them also understand that though it is a thoroughly reactionary, anti-libertarian movement, the Stalinists use the democratic aspirations of the masses in all countries for the purpose of enslaving them, and seek to pervert democratic institutions into tools for the establishment of tyranny.

The weakness of liberal ideology, however, a weakness which could prove fatal in the long run, is that it is unable or unwilling to recognize the capitalist system as the other main threat to democratic progress in our time Caught up in the feverish armament boom in America, the liberals are blinded to the organic and irreversible character of the decay of the system in the rest of the world, and to its military, monopolistic and bureaucratic ossification at home. They do not understand that the New Deal phase of American capitalism was their day of glory, a day never to be recaptured in the same form. And hence they continue to believe that the reactionary development in the political field and its accompanying attack on civil liberties is but a passing phase, one of those things we have to put up with until the next election.

Since they reject the concept of a dying capitalism; a full understanding of the nature of Stalinism is bound to elude them. They can see its totalitarian and tyrannical aspects as well as anyone else. They can see that its political appeal to masses of people in the world is related to poverty, aspirations for national independence, and the like. The best of them thus grasp the half-truth that in the rest of the world Stalinism can only be combatted politically by raising living standards and ending colonialism. Men like Justice Douglas and Chester Bowles even go further to the three-quarter-truth that these objectives involve some form of social revolution in Asia against the land holding and usury system.

But the minds of even the best of America’s liberals drag an ideological ball-and-chain with them which restrains them from grasping the full truth. They are fatally encumbered by their identification of American capitalism with American democracy. Thus they keep wandering down the blind alleys of advocating that this capitalist government become the midwife of the Asian revolution; of urging the capitalist unification of Western Europe as the road to salvation from the Stalinist danger there; of seeking to defend democracy in America by a holding operation which simply strives to preserve the democratic heritage of the past rather than to advance boldly toward the new democracy of the future.

THE BEST REPRESENTATIVES OF TRADITIONAL LIBERALISM in this country are thus doomed to futility. Caught up in the swiftly-moving imperatives of the cold war, their cry for social reform abroad and their often heroic stand for civil liberties at home begins to look like an anachronism. In the liberal camp itself their voices are blanketed and jammed by the strident cries of the “tough,” “realistic,” school represented by Sidney Hook and his co-thinkers.

These gentlemen can best be described as “Americanoids.” This term is designed to be the symmetrical opposite of the term “Stalinoid,” since it describes a symmetrically opposite political and ideological tendency.

The Stalinoids are not Stalinists. They are people whose disillusionment with capitalism has failed to become organized in a socialist ideology. Thus, lacking an alternative for which to work, they are fatally attracted by the power structure of Stalinism without, however, becoming soldiers in its cause. Instead, they become apologists for it. They are uneasy about its “excesses,” but see hope in its “dynamic.” Their distinguishing mark is not that they urge support for a Stalinist victory, but they ignore or minimize the horrors and dangers of Stalinism while concentrating all their fire on the horrors and dangers of decaying capitalism.

The Americanoids are their opposite numbers. They are uneasy about the “excesses” of the genuine 100 percent Americaneers who are actually conducting the witch-hunt, who support reaction all over the world, and actually intend to use the concentration camp at home and the atom bomb abroad as their real weapons against Stalinism. But also they have no real political alternative with which to defeat Stalinism, they are fatally attracted by the military and economic power of America and become the apologists for its employment all over the world. They ignore or minimize the anti-democratic forces in America while concentrating all their fire on the horrors and dangers of Stalinist imperialism.

Both the Stalinoids and Americanoids profess an abstract devotion to democratic principles, and claim to be acting in their interests. But when it comes to the concrete defense of democracy where it is utterly destroyed as in the Stalinist empire, or where it is under serious attack as in the United States, each in his own way turns from the concrete struggle against the immediate menace to democracy, in order to do battle with the enemy in the cold war.

In so doing, both Stalinoids and Americanoids abandon the struggle for democracy and human progress. They become camp followers of one of the two imperialist power-structures which are fighting for world domination. Each twists and turns the concepts of civil liberties, of economic equality, of social justice, of democracy in the interest of the side chosen in the global conflict. Both are compelled to similarly twist their description of the social forces involved in the struggle, their character, their method of operation, their social dynamic in ways which will make them fit the slogans and battle-cries of Russian or American governments.



3. The bulk of the chapter dealing with activities of teacher Stalinists outside the classroom is devoted to a long list of quotations from Teacher-Worker, a one-time Stalinist publication. There is a total of fourteen quotations. Not one of the quotations is from an issue later than 1938, and six of them appeared in 1935 numbers.

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Last updated on 28.9.2005