MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II 2.
Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line
—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—
Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II
Section Three: Protests Against the American Nazi Party
Wagner Hands Rockwell an Issue
Editorial reprinted from the July 4, 1960, issue of the Militant
George Lincoln Rockwell, the American Nazi who advocates Hitler’s gas-chamber way of ending “the menace” of “Jews and Negroes,” announced June 27 that he is calling off his plans to stage a rally in New York’s Union Square on July 4. At the same time he is pressing the New York Civil Liberties Union to protect his right to speak.
“The New York Civil Liberties Union hates my guts,” he is quoted as saying, “but they have a terrific stake in protecting my right to speak. They can’t afford to protect the rights of Communists and Jews, and look the other way while my rights are being denied.”
Mayor Wagner is to be blamed for handing this grievance to Hitler’s American admirer. At a court hearing June 22 over an injunction to bar city officials from issuing a permit for Rockwell’s rally, a crowd expressed its opposition to Rockwell’s provocative statements in such vigorous fashion that the police intervened and rushed the Nazi out of town. Utilizing this incident as a pretext, Wagner denied the permit for the rally.
The groups that first took notice of Rockwell’s plan to stage a Nazi rally in Union Square did not question his right to free speech. The Committee to Protest Racist Defamation, for instance, did not seek to stop Rockwell from speaking. The New York Local of the Socialist Workers Party likewise did not question his right to address a crowd in Union Square. What the antifascist forces proposed was that everyone interested in the issue should come down to Union Square on July 4 and exercise their right of free speech, too, by expressing their opinions of Rockwell’s racist views.
Conrad J. Lynn, representing the Committee to Protest Racial Defamation, put it like this in a letter to the Department of Parks in which he pressed for a permit for a public meeting in Union Square on July 4 to answer the Nazis: “We believe that evil thought must be allowed to express itself as long as truth is free to combat it.”
The New York Post, after first publicizing the Nazi rally, closed its columns to further news until the court incident occurred. Then, in an editorial, it advocated a policy of silence toward Nazis like Rockwell. The logic of this view is that opponents of would-be American Hitlers should not exercise their own right of free speech in the form of rallies—or even discussion in the press!
The latest moves are to illegalize the American Nazis and put them on the so-called “subversive” list. New York State Supreme Court Justice Louis L. Friedman signed a temporary injunction June 28 “restraining” the party and its commander “from engaging in any subversive activities in New York State,” according to the press. The judge also accepted a disorderly conduct complaint made by the Jewish War Veterans and signed a warrant of arrest for Rockwell if and when he comes back to the state.
In our opinion, such moves are wrong on two counts. First of all, they are infringements of the right of free speech and the right to engage in politics. Such infringements of anyone’s rights, no matter who it may be, inevitably put in question everyone’s democratic rights. Didn’t America learn that to its cost in the witch-hunting days of President Truman and Senator McCarthy?
Secondly, such moves are ineffective in counteracting the poisonous racist views of the Rockwells. In fact, by victimizing them, it helps them win sympathy.
We think the most effective way of handling these vermin is to keep them out in the open, to meet them in the public forum and through the exercise of democratic rights, including free speech and free political activity, to defeat them before they can get started as a serious menace.
To follow any other course is to betray lack of confidence in democratic rights and democratic institutions.