Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

The Issue of Free Speech


First Published: January 1972.
Reprinted: January 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Free Speech
For Which Class?

The Shockley incident at California State University at Sacramento brought a number of issues to the surface. One of the most important was the issue of free speech. Before the details of the struggle are entirely forgotten, it is desirable to draw the proper conclusions from what occurred.

In the three weeks or so preceding Shockley’s scheduled address on the genetic inferiority of black people, resistance to his appearance developed. The opponents of Shockley and his racism took the position that liars and criminals should not be given a platform on campus. Free speech or academic freedom applied only to those subjects that had some merit and/or about the truth of which there was still some doubt. The theories of the Shockleys, Jensens, etc, did not meet these criteria. Why didn’t their theories meet these criteria? We can do no better than to quote from a Students for Radical Action (SRA) flyer put out during the organization campaign against Shockley preceding his visit on November 22, 1971 to California State University, Sacramento.

Some people, including some faculty members, think that everyone has the right to express and propagate any opinion, whether true or false, speculative or proven, criminal or innocuous, etc.

No one has the right to propagate lies and criminal opinions. A criminal opinion is an opinion that leads to criminal acts. Genocide, as well as discrimination, exploitation and deprivation on the basis of race or religion are examples of such criminal acts. The propagation of racist and anti-semitic opinions is what creates the racists and anti-semites who help commit the criminal acts.

The material that racists like Jensen and Shockley use to support their criminal opinions have been proven false long ago. (I.Q. tests measure certain types of achievement, not intelligence.) Their evidence consists of proven lies. It is that simple. Shockley and his sponsors are liars as well as criminals.

The only way to fight racism is to fight racists and the racist opinions they seek to spread. Anyone who sponsors a debate on the merits of opinions already known to be criminal and false is a liar and a criminal himself, whether he realizes it or not. Racist opinions do not need to be refuted, they only need to be exposed.

Well, why should we allow the racists, Shockley and his sponsors, to spread racist lies and contribute to the creation of new racists? Shockley and his sponsors are criminals and liars and should be exposed as such.

This pretty well summarized the position of most people who actively opposed the appearance of Shockley on the CSUS campus, in the period before he arrived.

What was the principal argument put forward by those who supported bringing Shockley on and/or supported his right to speak here after he had gone? In one form or another it boiled down to the argument of the “right of free speech.” A few examples will be given to document this.

1.) A sociology professor, who sponsored Shockley’s visit, in the course, of defending her actions after the event, wrote, “To deny the right to speak to someone whose views are repugnant to us is to agree with those politicians and others who say that education consists of indoctrination rather than fair consideration of all ideas .... The Students for Radical Action and the Pan African Students’ Union may have been the judges of ’truth’ last week, but it will be the Board of Trustees next time. You can’t make an argument you aren’t willing to have used against you.” (Sac State Hornet, 12/3/71)

2.) The Sacramento ACLU representative wrote, “The Sacramento Valley chapter of the ACLU objects to the denial of free speech at the time of Professor William Shockley’s appearance at Sacramento State College. Institutions of higher learning are arenas in which all ideas, whatever their merits, may be presented, challenged, and analyzed .... We who want a free society must be as zealous in protecting the rights of those with objectionable views as we are in protecting our own. Otherwise, all our Constitutional rights to protest and dissent and to speak our minds-will quickly disappear.” (Hornet, 11/24/71)

3.) A biology professor wrote, “This morning I watched some of our black students and some of their white supporters degrade themselves in a show of hysterical hatred and lack of understanding of the meaning of academic, even human, freedom of expression which I have rarely seen equaled on this campus .... Professor Shockley’s views are repugnant to me as a human being, and as a scientist his work is obviously based on erroneous assumptions from which he has drawn false conclusions .... The error-riddled theories of the Shockleys will collapse of their own weight in the light of cold truth.” (Hornet, 11/24/71)

4.) A psychology professor wrote, “Every once in a while the ’controversial speaker’ issue arises here on campus. Back in 1967 it was Eldridge Cleaver; in 1970 it was Tom Hayden; and now we have some people who would prevent William Shockley from speaking. . .. There is a simple answer to the controversial speaker problem. . .. The answer is: allow anybody to speak. Yes, anybody. Communists, Birchers, Panthers, Kluxers, Krishnas, wounded tennis players. . . . Those of us in the academic setting can certainly support a policy of really free speech on our campus.” (Hornet, 11/24/71)

5.) And finally a student cries out in anguish, “I have been taught in this school that the first amendment of the constitution gives every person the freedom of speech – am I wrong?” (Hornet, 11/24/71)

Since many people hold views similar to those just quoted, it seems that it is necessary to demonstrate that free speech does not now, and never has existed for all the people in this country.

All “free speech” advocates make certain assumptions about the character of U.S. society. These assumptions are: 1) That all citizens can express their opinions if they want to (first amendment); 2) that every citizen can reach as many persons as any other person. These two assumptions are based on further assumptions 3) that there are no economic classes in this society; 4) that the distribution of income and wealth is approximately equal; and 5) that the government (federal, state, and local) merely acts as a neutral force seeing to it that all people get a fair shake.

Now these conditions are necessary for the institution of “free speech” to have the possibility of existing. But merely stating these necessary assumptions shows how ridiculous the assertion is that free speech exists in this country.

All persons do not enjoy “freedom of speech” and their opinions do not get equal circulation (assumptions 1 and 2), because assumptions 3, 4 and 5 do not exist. That is, 3) there are economic classes in society (businessmen, landlords, and wage and salary earners); 4) the distribution of income and wealth is very unequal, and 5) the various levels of government are not neutral and have almost always used the mechanisms of the state in the interests of the substantial property owners (businessmen and landlords).

The communications media in this country (the newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, etc.) are owned and controlled directly or indirectly by wealthy people. And, insofar as their policy is influenced by non-owners, it is influenced by other wealthy people, that is, the well-to-do advertisers. The opinions of the owners of the New York Times, CBS, etc. reach tens of millions of people every day. The schools at all levels are primarily controlled by people of substantial property. For an indication of this, just look at the composition of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents of the State University and University systems of the state of California. The great majority of them are well-to-do businessmen or representatives of giant corporations. With insignificant exceptions, only opinions that have the support of one or another group of substantial citizens can find expression in the communications media and the school system in this country. In other words, we have “freedom of speech” for the well-to-do substantial property owners (that is, the businessmen and landlords).

The overwhelming majority of the population in this country (wage and salary earners) do not have “freedom of speech.” Some people object to this statement and point out that, even though the average person may not have access to the newspaper, the TV news broadcast, or the school system to express his opinions, he can still set up a soap box in Hyde Park in London and talk to the other crackpots. (Our erudite psychology professor made this point.) This may have the beneficial function of relieving the person’s feelings of frustration, a meritorious accomplishment no doubt, but it does not represent effective freedom of speech.

If in exercising one’s rights under the First Amendment and speaking to crowds on public or private property one should express opinions which the substantial citizens regard as detrimental to their economic and political interests and as reaching too large an audience, then action will be taken to put an end to such nonsense. The appropriate organs of government will find that this exercise in peaceful assembly is an inconvenience and a public nuisance, and they will promptly break it up. Innumerable examples can be given of this. Let us take a recent one brought up by a protest against racism.

In the fall and winter of 1968-69 a strike against racism at San Francisco State College developed. In January various student organizations called for a peaceful assembly and demonstration on the SFS campus. About 450 persons assembled for the rally and they were suddenly surrounded by police. The commander of the police “ordered” the persons assembled to disperse and to cease and desist in attempting to exercise their rights of “peaceful assembly” and “free speech.” If they failed to do so, they would be arrested and forcibly subdued if necessary and thrown into jail for “failing to disperse” and “disturbing the peace.” And that is exactly what the police did.

At this point certain things should be made clear. This is necessary because some people think that the San Francisco police, the college and city officials, the public prosecutors, and the judges acted legally and were not engaged in blatant criminal activity. After all, didn’t the president of San Francisco State tell the people assembled that they could not assemble on the SFS campus? Didn’t he call the mayor and ask him to send the police to break up the meeting? And didn’t the San Francisco police merely follow the orders of the Mayor and Chief of Police in attacking, arresting, and jailing the people assembled? According to some persons, there was no violation of the right to assemble peacefully and to speak freely. It was just the S.I. Hayakawa, the President of San Francisco State College, found the assembly and the character of the opinions expressed not to his liking, so he forbade the implementation of the First Amendment on the public property over which he had administration. He was given this authority by the Board of Trustees (representing the State government of California).

Thus, it turns out that “peaceful assembly” and “freedom of speech” has to take place in this country either on private or public property. And the way the government has been interpreting the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is that people may exercise the First Amendment only if the owner or administrator of the property on which the speech is to take place is willing to grant his permission to do so. Now, few attempts to exercise assembly and free speech on private property are made by wage and salary earners, since few in this economic class own large pieces of property in large population centers. For the majority of people, public property is the only place where these rights might be exercised.

But, as we have seen, if the public official in charge of the public property or the persons primarily responsible for putting him into office (substantial citizens) find the opinions to be expressed distasteful, then permission to exercise these “inalienable rights” is either not granted or is summarily withdrawn. So it turns out that “freedom of speech” may be exercised only if the government gives permission. This interpretation is a blatant violation of the Constitution, since the rights of “peaceful assembly” and “free speech” were meant to protect citizens against the contrary actions of government. But now (and it has always been interpreted as such), these rights may be exercised only if the government decides to grant permission.

But, says the liberal, this doesn’t mean that free speech still does not exist. It still exists within the privacy of one’s own home, or apartment, or room (so long as you get far enough away from the telephone). A citizen who is a wage and salary earner can still go into his bathroom and harangue the medicine cabinet or the toilet bowl. Or, if he desires a bigger audience, he can regale the bathtub with his proletarian sentiments.

For if he attempts to exercise expression of his opinions to a wider audience and is effective, he will find himself on the receiving end of police batons and jail sentences. The first ten Amendments were never meant to be enforced, but only to “gull the simple Simons,” to quote a famous political economist. This is the way it has always been in the U.S. Those who have opposed the economic and political interests of the businessmen, such as labor organizers, are well aware of this. The communications media and all branches of government, particularly the executive and judicial, almost always come down on the side of the businessmen and against the wage and salary earners. This is because in a class society, the dominant economic class dominates government as well.


Now let us go back and look at the issue of free speech in the light of the realities of the economic and social system as just reviewed. The basic point is that businessmen and landlords have freedom of speech, while the overwhelming majority of the population (the wage and salary earners) do not. The opinions which are in the interests of the businessman (such as: (a) “labor unions are bad and irresponsible”; (b) unthinking patriotism; (c) aggressive capitalist nationalism (imperialism); or (d) racism) receive and have always received the widest possible circulation. Free speech for opinions that oppose these opinions has never been allowed. What free speech they achieved had to be taken in the face of bitter media and government opposition.

So when the liberal tells us that one has to grant freedom of speech to racists (representing the businessmen) and other criminals and liars or free speech may be denied to wage and salary earners, we can see that such a statement represents either ignorance or interested falsehood. There never has been free speech for opinions that were in the interests of wage and salary earners. Denying freedom of speech to criminals, liars, or lunatics cannot cause us to lose something we never had.

Some may ask, how is the propagation of racism in the economic interest of businessmen? At first, the connection is not obvious. The businessman is in business to make a profit. The lower his costs, other things remaining the same, the higher his profits. Now, labor cost is one of his principal costs. Therefore, the lower the wage, the higher the profit.

The primary function of racism is in keeping wage and salary earners split, economically and politically. It is one of the principal weapons on the “divide and conquer” arsenal. If their ability to join together in unions is cut down, then their ability to raise their wages or prevent cuts will be impaired.

Thus, their wages and working conditions will be worse than if they worked together. The lower wages represent higher profits for the businessman. Racism benefits the businessman and hurts the wage and salary earners of all races.

Businessmen also profit from another form of racism known as “liberal racism.” This form of racism appears on the surface to be “anti-racist.” Its manifestations are familiar to us all. Here are a few typical examples of it: (a) “The subject of Shockley’s talk is insulting to the Black community.” (b) “racism is a moral problem. It is a problem in the heart of the white American.” (c) “the main obstacle to fighting racism is the racism in all of us.” (d) “the principal bulwark of racism and its principal beneficiary is the white worker (particularly blue collar).”

This form of racism is not only common among academics and students but is pushed by the movie and TV industries. “All in the Family” immediately comes to mind. Liberal racism is a form of racism because it pushes the idea that only blacks, Chicanos, etc. suffer from racism and not the whites. In fact, this is not the case.

How does the businessman split the wage and salary earners on the basis of race? What is the racist ideology that the businessman wants the worker to have? He wants the white worker to believe that he profits from racism and racial discrimination, that he has a “privileged” position, being hired first and fired last, getting the better job and education, and getting higher pay. The businessman wants the white wage and salary earner to think that his economic interests are different and opposed to that of the blacks, Chicanos, etc. He wants the white worker to think that the only basis for fight against racism is for ethical and moral reasons, and that only the non-whites have an economic reason for opposing racism.

The businessman says that white workers profit by racism. This is false, of course. Superficially, it appears to have some truth to it. This is the material basis for the “divide and conquer” tactic. Non-whites do make out less well than whites. That is, the non-white is kept in a significantly lower position, economically, socially, and politically, than is the white. But the truth is that both white and non-white workers make out worse than if they were united (namely, wages are lower, unemployment higher, and political consciousness and power lower). To verify this, one need only look at the South – where supposedly the white wage and salary earner is more highly privileged vis-a-vis the black worker than in any other region of the country. The white working class in the South has the lowest wages and least political power of white workers in any part of this country. This degraded position is due mostly to the success of racist propaganda. Thus, it can be seen that racist propaganda (Shockley, Jensen, et al) is an insult to the white wage and salary class as well as the non-white, since it works against the economic and political interests of all wage and salary earners.

The businessman’s message to the black worker is that the white worker is his or her main enemy. He or she is the one with whom you have to compete for jobs; he or she is the one you most often hear give expression to racist remarks; and he or she is the one hired first and fired last. This distortion, which amounts to falsehood, is pushed at all non-whites, particularly by the liberals (All in the Family). On the other hand, who is the black’s truest friend? You guessed it. The well-educated white businessman, and those well-educated groups which hope to rise high in his management or professional hierarchy. You seldom hear members of these groups uttering racist remarks in public. Instead, they sponsor “brotherhood” weeks, and they are always happy to hire racial minorities in case of strikes. All this talk addressed to black workers is the other side of the “divide and conquer” coin.

Thus, we see that the examples quoted above of apparently “anti-racist” sentiments are really pro-racist. This is so since they reflect the assumptions (1) that only non-whites suffer from racism; (2) that the interests of whites and non-whites are opposed; (3) that whites profit from racism; and (4) that racism is a moral problem, not an economic and political phenomenon.


There is another aspect of the “free speech” argument that should be noticed. It was put forward by our psychology professor, and it is a standard one for most liberals. This point is the position that objective truth is impossible to arrive at in any area. That is, it is a bald-faced rejection of the possibility of science and scientific knowledge. It takes the form of lumping together humanitarian, democratic opinions with criminal, oligarchic opinions, as if it were impossible to tell which is which. The only common denominator was that the opinions were “unpopular.” Unpopular with whom! In a class society, all opinions are bound to be unpopular with one group or another. Thus, to a rational person, humanitarian, democratic opinions as represented by the opinions of Communists, Panthers, etc. are in the interests of wage and salary earners, while the criminal, oligarchic opinions of the Birchers, Kluxers, Shockleys, etc. are obviously in the interests of the businessman. If this seems paradoxical, it is not really – because the business class represents a tiny minority and a society run in their interests is by definition an oligarchy. Conversely, the wage and salary class being in the great majority, a society run in their interests (a socialist society) is by definition a democracy.

This rejection of science and scientific knowledge (that is, the rejection of objective standards) was also part of the argument of the sociology professor when she wrote, “The Students for Radical Action and the Pan African Students’ Union may have been the judges of ’truth’ last week, but it will the Board of Trustees next time.” This means that truth and falsehood, criminal and non-criminal acts, just and unjust opinions, are impossible to ascertain. Truth and justice are just a matter of opinion. It depends on your point of view. We are all familial with this anti-scientific, cynical, relativist, anti-rational ideology. It has always been one of the favorite ideological defenses for criminal, disintegrating societies and their ruling classes, who maneuver desperately to hold on to their privileged positions. After all, if it is impossible to tell truth from falsehood, or justice from injustice, then it is impossible to object to the actions or continued existence of any society. One could not oppose a capitalist, a feudal, or a slave society on a rational basis, since no objective standards are possible.

Another facet of the “free speech” argument that should be dealt with is one put forward by the biology professor. In a sense his argument is the opposite of the one just considered. He is in favor of free speech because “The error-riddled theories of the Shockleys will collapse of their own weight in the light of cold truth.” Now, people who adhere to this position believe that there are no economic classes in this society, classes with different economic interests. They believe that true ideas, once they have been proven to be so, will be incorporated into the educational and ideological super-structure, and false ideas will be discarded.

But these assumptions are demonstrably false. One need only take the most recent illustration of this – the Shockley case. That so-called IQ tests measure only achievement and not intelligence was conclusively demonstrated over fifty years ago. Shockley, Jensen & Co. have brought forward no new evidence in this field. But pseudo-scientific “experts,” with the enthusiastic support of the big businessmen’s universities and communications media, keep bringing forward for “debate” propositions that have been proven false over and over and over again. The real situation in a class society is that unless people are willing to fight for truth (in the long run this is in the interest of a majority of people), falsehood will win out in the marketplace of ideas. In the long run, the interests of a minority ruling class must be in falsehood. This is so because this is the only way that they can maintain their privileges at the expense of the rest (the majority) of the community.

So our prominent “liberals” defended Shockley’s right to propagandize in favor of racist discrimination, sterilization, etc. on the basis of free speech, even though Shockley and his cohorts Jensen, Banfield and Herrnstein get the full treatment from the national newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and appointments to the more prestigious schools.

And when anti-racists speak plainly and attempt to exercise their freedom of speech to label these people for what they are, that is, criminals, liars, and intellectual thugs, hands are raised in horror. This is not the proper use of freedom of speech. One should not write plainly if it will provoke opposition to oligarchic opinions. Instead, one should use euphemisms (erudite lying).

And when Shockley was discouraged from speaking at Sacramento State College, the most liberal radio and TV stations rushed forward to give him all the time he wanted to air his racist filth. It is interesting to note that neither before nor after the event did these stations go hunting for people to give anti-racist speeches. We wonder why?

We also wonder why the majority of these “freedom of speechers” only crawl out of the woodwork, when reactionaries are denied freedom of speech. The almost daily suppression of freedom of speech in spectacular fashion produces nothing but silence and indifference from the prominent liberals. For instance, where were the bellows of rage when the police attacked, arrested, and jailed 450 persons at San Francisco State College and suppressed a number of speeches against racism? Where was the outrage when a labor leader asking people to support a boycott against lettuce growers was thrown into jail until he repudiated such an anti-business opinion? But when one racist has a microphone taken from his hand and is allowed to go peacefully on his way, cries of pain and outrage fill the air. Civil rights lawyers quiver with indignation. How strange!

No, many of our “freedom of speechers” have an uncanny sense of when it is proper and safe to come out for freedom of speech. Many others are just naive. It is for this second group that this article is written.

A brief summary may be convenient. The argument that the defense of the rights of “freedom of speech” (academic freedom, on the campus) is necessary is raised every time there is a movement to combat criminal opinions. The people who take this stance assert (1) that freedom of speech exists; (2) that there are no objective standards by which criminal opinions may be separated from non-criminal, true from false, democratic from oligarchical, etc.; (3) that false opinions once exposed in public will be permanently discredited (“truth will out”). Thus, the argument that it is good to expose pseudo-scientists of racism by having public debates on genetics, IQ, etc. All these positions are based on the assumptions that (1) we do not have a class society; (2) we do not have a ruling class; (3) that the distribution of income and wealth is approximately equal; and (4) that the government (federal, state, and local) merely acts as a neutral force, seeing to it that all individuals get a fair shake.

All of these assumptions are false. The opposite is the truth. “Freedom of speech” does not exist for wage and salary earners. It does exist for big businessmen who are the ruling class in this country. In the long run, falsehood and criminal opinions are in the interests of this minority ruling class. The best way to fight liars and criminals is to expose their class and political affiliations and motivations. Expose them politically, not debate the merits of their lies and distortions. (If necessary, this can be done in other ways.) The only “freedom of speech” that wage and salary earners have is what they can enforce against the ruling class and its state apparatus. By the same token, the only limitation to the “freedom of speech” of the ruling class is what the workers and students can impose.