Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter: Citizens should not be forced to reveal their affiliations

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 197, Issue 70, 5 June 1990.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The distribution of anonymous leaflets attacking Gordon Chang for his political beliefs preceded by a similar attack in The Stanford Review and followed by a series of articles in The Daily purporting to investigate the activities of the League of Revolutionary Struggle at Stanford threaten to create an unhealthy climate of suspicion on campus.

Since many people regard The Stanford Review and the anonymous leaflets as plain silly, there may be a tendency to disregard them and hope that they will be ignored. But those with longer historical memories than The Daily who may be innocently pursuing what appears to be merely a hot story cannot but be reminded of the corrosive and destructive effects that similar campaigns to expose political organizations and purify political life from subversive influences have had in the not too distant past.

We have been here before; it is called McCarthyism. During the 19505, similar witch hunts were conducted on college campuses to ferret out communists and “un-American” types so as to prevent them from polluting the minds of the young. Many professors, along with others in all walks of life, lost their livelihood and careers as anticommunist hysteria overcame the nation.

In retrospect, it is clear that the infringement of personal liberty, the denial of academic freedom, the atmosphere of fear and the narrowing of the minds of that generation were far more dangerous to democratic political life than anything communists or those suspected of being communist could have accomplished.

It is especially unfortunate that allegations about the League have been focused on the activities of the minority students on campus. Minority students are capable of running their organizations without advice from others. Political disagreements about how such organizations should be run and what tactics to adopt to pursue various objectives are a normal and legitimate part of their activity.

Accusations and innuendos about the political beliefs and affiliations of students, faculty and staff at Stanford should be met with a clear and unequivocal response. In this country, citizens have the right to reveal or not reveal their membership in a political organization, be it the League of Revolutionary Struggle or the Republican Party. Membership or non-membership in a political organization is not a valid criterion for employment in any position at Stanford University or anywhere else.

Joel Beinin Professor, history,
representing 24 professors