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New International, July–August 1953


Julius Falk & Gordon Haskell

Civil Liberties and the Philosopher of the Cold War

(July 1953)


From New International, Vol. XIX No. 4, July–August 1953, pp. 184–227.
Marked up up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


IS THERE A WITCH-HUNT ON in America today? Or, to put it in terms which are less figurative and more precise, is there in this country an attack, governmental and extra-governmental, legal and extra-legal on the body of civil liberties and freedoms which in their sum total make up what is commonly understood as “democracy”?

Why should such a question need to be discussed, at least in a magazine which is directed to the socialist and liberal sectors of our society? Every day the papers are full of news about the expulsion of teachers from their jobs because of their real or alleged political affiliations. Hundreds of books have been thrown out of the government’s overseas libraries because their authors are suspect of pro-Stalinism, or other “controversial” ideas. In one state after another laws have been passed which make membership in the Communist Party, or other “subversive” organizations subject to legal disabilities and penalties. In fact, the list is endless. What, then, is there to discuss or to demonstrate?

It needs to be discussed because there is a danger that the very idea of civil liberties and democracy in all its variety of forms is being wrenched and distorted to fit the conveniences of the cold war. If this degradation of the idea of democracy were solely the work of the Westbrook Peglers and Walter Winchells, of the Hearst Press and of Senator McCarthy, there would be little need for the New International to argue against it, except in the same way in which we attack all openly reactionary ideology. But to the voices of the far right which demand the suppression of all “un-American” ideas, organizations and individuals, there are now added voices from within the liberal camp. Of course, these do not cry for the destruction of our civil liberties, or at least, they would strictly limit this destruction to a select group of Stalinists whom they arbitrarily designate as “conspirators.” Of course, they abhor whatever excesses may have been committed by the government or its agencies, and deplore the existence of “cultural vigilantism” at the hands of private patrioteers. But from beginning to end they insist that in fact there is no witch-hunt on in America today, that our civil liberties are under no greater attack than they have been at any time during the past thirty years, and to cap it all, that anyone who disagrees with them and claims that civil liberties are under attack is either simply parroting the Stalinist Party line, or at best is outrageously falsifying the picture of American democracy.

The loudest and most persistent of these voices has been that of Sidney Hook, chairman of the Department of Philosophy at New York University. And it has been far from a voice crying in the wilderness. His reputation as a former Marxist, a Deweyan liberal and an anti-Communist confer on his arguments an authority which is widely respected among all those liberals who are anxiously looking for a rationale with which to justify their abandonment of the struggle for civil liberties in the interest of their desire to support America’s struggle in the cold war.

Here is the most concentrated dose of what Sidney Hook has to say about the question. The reader will forgive the length of the quotation, for it is only in its entirety that its full significance can be grasped.

Barely a few months after Mr. Russell [Bertrand Russell] proclaimed to the entire world, and to the delight of neutralists and Communists, that the United States was being swept by a “reign of terror,” the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the American Jewish Committee made public reports on the state of civil rights in America in connection with the celebration of the 161st anniversary of the Bill of Rights Day. Neither organization is inclined to easy optimism and they have consistently and properly played the role of Cassandra in discussing threats to freedom. Although it is admitted that the record is far from shining, both organizations express some satisfaction with the rate of progress, and a moderate optimism for the future progress of civil rights in various fields of American life. Indeed, the report of the American Jewish Committee states that especially in the field of racial relations unprecedented progress in maintaining and extending civil rights has been achieved in the five-year period from 1948 to 1953 – a period which roughly covers the cold war. (New York Times, Dec. 15, 1952.) Neither report, it is almost gratuitous to add, received any notice abroad.

I believe a case can be made out for the view, on Mr. Russell’s own criteria, that the state of freedom when he was last domiciled in this country was not too unlike that of today. He was the victim of an outrage, first at CCNY and then at the Barnes Institute. In 1940 over forty teachers were dismissed for membership in the Communist Party for refusing to testify concerning their membership. The Sedition Trials against members of domestic Fascist groups were begun, and the eighteen members of the Trotskyist group were convicted under the Smith Act. But Mr. Russell never even dreamed of characterizing this complex of events as a “reign of terror.”

Mr. Russell as a visitor may not have experienced a representative side of American life. But what shall we say of the following remark of Mr. Robert M. Hutchins: “Everywhere in the US university professors, whether or not they have tenure, are silenced by the general atmosphere of repression that now prevails.” And this at a time when professors have actually been more outspoken than ever in the past against arbitrary actions by university and state authorities as was clearly evidenced in the universities of Ohio, Chicago and California. Aside from a few members of the Communist Party, whose case is discussed below, the facts are that no professor who was in the habit of speaking up five years ago has been silenced, many who were silent five years ago are speaking up, while those who were silent five, ten, fifteen years ago and are still silent cannot be regarded as victims of a reign of terror. It is not necessary to picture the situation as ideal – or to deny the episodic outbreaks of intolerance towards professors with unpopular views (when was the US free of them?) to recognize Mr. Hutchins’ statement as a fantastic exaggeration, and no more accurate in its description of the situation than a characterization of the state of academic freedom at the University of Chicago under Mr. Hutchins would be if it were based only on Mr. Hutchins’ outrageous dismissal of Mr. Couch. Why, it was not so many years ago that college professors were regarded by visitors from abroad as “the third sex” in American life. Today as a group they are as intellectually bold as any profession in the nation. The number of attempts to impose tests for loyalty has undoubtedly risen but whereas in the past such tests Would have been accepted supinely either with equanimity or without protest, today there is more vigorous opposition on the part of teachers to arbitrary action by legislatures and boards of trustees than ever before in the history of American education.

Now and again other individuals, some even in official posts, take up Mr. Hutchins’ cry and assert that American college, teachers are petrified with fear, unwilling to discuss controversial issues or to protest measures of which they disapprove. Many different things are here confused. It is true that the number of criticisms and attacks on the schools has increased, and here and there some fantastic things have occurred like the dismissal from a rural college in the West of a temporary teacher on a one-year appointment because he signed a petition to the President asking for amnesty for the defendants convicted under the Smith Act. But it is just as true that college teachers have never fought back so unitedly, spiritedly, and so successfully as today. They won on the key point in the University of California case; they helped put to route the House Committee on Un-American Activities when it sought to check on textbooks; they are slowly turning the tide against loyalty oaths; they have condemned investigations by Congressional committees often and vigorously.

To circulate the myth that “everywhere in the US university professors” have been cowed or silenced by Senators McCarthy and McCarran or whoever else is identified with the spirit of repression is not only to circulate an untruth but may, if given credence, actually contribute to bringing about such a state of affairs. It is to discourage teachers from continuing their role as active defenders of academic freedom. My own impression is that teachers today are more aroused and more active in behalf of academic freedom than they have ever been in my thirty-five years of experience as college student and teacher.

* * *

TO DISCUSS WHETHER OR NOT Bertrand Russell is right in describing the state of affairs which exists in the United States as a “reign of terror” is, at best, to engage in a semantic argument. We do not favor exaggerated statements about the degree to which the intimidation of public expression and organization has developed in this country, because we agree with Hook that people can act most intelligently when they understand the actual situation and not when all states and degrees of reaction are lumped under the single phrase “fascism” or “police state.”

But Hook’s own argumentation is not just a matter of exaggeration, this time in the direction of understating the assault on our civil liberties. He baldly proclaims that because some courageous teachers and others have refused to be intimidated, are resisting ,the assault on their own particular professional freedoms, the assault itself can be said hardly to exist at all.

For the moment, let us confine ourselves to the problem of civil liberties as it relates specifically to the narrow field of the schools in America. To start with, it is interesting, though not decisive, to note that the “other individuals” who agree with Hutchins comprise an important section of the experts in the field, i.e., professors, deans and school administrators.

In a recent article (June 29) the New York Times records that the National Education Association has made a study of 522 school systems, covering every section of the United States, and finds that American school teachers are reluctant to consider controversial issues in the classroom. The subjects considered most controversial by school superintendents are: religious education, sex education, communism, socialized medicine, local politics, race relations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the United Nations. The report notes that criticism of teachers and of schools has become more common than usual and that subjects previously considered dispassionately have become debatable issues.

Dr. Ernest O. Melby, Dean of New York University’s School of Education, told 600 teachers at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, that: “I wish I could be prouder than I am of the way in which our profession has fought the battle of freedom.” He said that schools are open to criticism, but that recent attacks are

“... so ill-founded and unsound in terms of our historic tradition that we can be certain that these recent years will constitute one of the strategic battles for public education in the history of this country. Nowhere in the free world is there a fear and hysteria comparable to that which we evidence in this country.” (New York Herald Tribune, March 28, 1953.)

On March 15th of this year the chapter of the American Association of University Professors at Princeton University adopted a statement which warned against “inquisitorial procedures” to determine “fitness to teach.” “We deplore,” said the Princeton AAUP, “the failure of many of our educational, religious and political leaders to define the true nature of this growing threat to our intellectual and spiritual heritage and to protest against it ...”

“... Political misuse of legal processes,” the statement continued, “the stifling of controversy, the suppression of dissent, the banning and censorship of books either because “of their ideas or because of what their authors believe, the boycotting of the creative mind – these and other methods of control are the most dangerous enemies of a free society.”

Statements from eminent individuals and organizations in the field of education along similar lines could be reproduced by the dozens. Are all these people guilty of “fantastic exaggeration,” have they all chosen to go out of their way to “delight the neutralists and Communists” by expressing their conviction that large sections of the teaching profession are being intimidated, and that controversy and dissent are being suppressed?

It may be objected that it will not do, in such matters, to argue from authority, even if that authority be that of people most intimately connected with the defense of academic freedom. But a simple listing of cases in which academic freedom has been under attack during the past few years would take up more space than we can afford to give it. A few items may be sketched, however, simply to refresh the reader’s memory on the matter:

Item: Academic freedom in California. Hook says that the professors “won the key point in the University of California case.” Far from true. They conceded the key point before the battle was fully joined, namely, the right of people to teach based on their competence rather than their political views or affiliations. As the fight developed, this basic tenet of academic freedom was abandoned and the struggle began to revolve around issues of university administration and the efficacy of loyalty oaths. The final result: under the Levering Act all California employees now have to take an oath of the kind which the faculty at the University of California found offensive in the first place. What a victory!

But that is not all. Senator Jenner claims that more than twenty colleges and universities in California are cooperating in a blacklisting program under which about 100 members of their faculties have been removed, “and at least as many had been rejected for teaching posts since last June 24th, when the plan was put into effect.” According to testimony before the House Un-American Committee by an expert (Richard E. Combs, for 14 years chief counsel of the California Senate Committee on Un-American Activities)

“some schools ... had retained full-time investigators with FBI, naval intelligence or military intelligence service or men trained in counter-communistic activities. These investigators worked in the classroom and on the campuses ...” (New York Times, May 18, 1953.)

We do not pretend to know how many of the 100 men fired and the “at least a hundred” not hired were members or close sympathizers of the Communist party. From the point of view of freedom on the campus, the question is irrelevant though it might be relevant to other considerations, such as intimidating anyone whose intellectual development has led him to pro-Stalinist conclusions from following his convictions ... if he ever wants to teach in California. Can anyone seriously doubt that the presence of these ex-FBI men and their colleagues on the campuses of California and other states endanger academic freedom?

Item: New York City Superintendent of schools Jansen has stated that 81 teachers in the city schools have resigned, retired or been removed while under investigation since 1950. As of March 27th of this year, 180 teachers in the city school system are under investigation.

The method employed in this purge of the city school system has become notorious and is now in the process of being imitated in many cities and states across the nation. By one means or another the school officials come to suspect a teacher of Stalinist affiliations. He is called before a special examiner, and asked whether he is or ever has been a member of the CP. He refuses to answer, and is then automatically suspended and eventually fired. The same fate befalls anyone who is called before a Congressional committee and avails himself of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution in refusing to say whether he is or has been a Stalinist.

We are not concerned at this point with the legal technicalities or hairsplitting argumentation as to whether a teacher is entitled to invoke the Fifth Amendment and retain his job. The country is fairly inundated with magazine articles which deal with this question, and the American Civil Liberties Union has found it so complicated that its officers have been pondering the problem for several months.

At the moment we are concerned only with the question: does the procedure employed by the New York schools outlined above enhance academic freedom in New York schools, or threaten it? In answering this question it will simply not do to point to the fact that “in 1940 over forty teachers were dismissed for membership in the Communist Party or refusing to testify concerning their membership,” as though that in some way lessens the impact of what is happening now. The Rapp-Coudert firings were a blow to academic freedom, and the extension of the techniques and ideology which motivated them to an accepted standard of national procedure constitutes a far heavier blow.

It should be noted that the authorities showed not the slightest interest in the competence of the teachers discharged, their relationships to their students and other faculty members, their reputations in the community, or any other factor which one might think has bearing on a person’s fitness to teach. In no case was the claim made before the Board of Education that any of the teachers had used their classrooms as arenas of indoctrination. As a matter of fact, no effort was made to prove that most of them were members of the Communist Party. They were fired on what amounts to a charge of insubordination because they refused to tell investigators whether or not they were or are members.

What effect have these firings, along with much else which is going on in the country, had on the teaching of “controversial subjects” in the city schools? It is obviously impossible to document the answer to such a question. But it is riot without significance that following on the heels of these proceedings officials of the New York school system found themselves constrained to publish a document urging teachers to handle controversial subjects in their classrooms. While preserving one’s sense of proportion, is this not reminiscent of the constant stream of exhortations issued by the top bureaucrats in Russia to their cowed and quaking subordinates to “exercize initiative,” to “boldly criticize shortcomings?” Unless teachers have been reluctant to handle controversial matters, why should it be necessary for their administrative officers to urge them to do so?

Item: Dean Carl W. Ackerman, head of the Columbia University School of Journalism recently wrote an article in the bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in which he stated that he will no longer cooperate with the FBI, Central Intelligence, the Secret-Service and Civil Service investigators in giving information on students. He wrote:

Students are “tried” secretly without their knowledge and without an opportunity of explaining and defending their records ...

Today the vast majority of teachers in all fields of instruction have learned that promotion and security depend on conformity to the prevailing community or national concept of devotion to the public welfare ...

The practical problem which confronts deans, professors, school teachers and students today is political freedom to discuss public affairs in classrooms or at lunch or during “bull” sessions without fear that someone may make a record which may be investigated secretly, either by a governmental official or a prospective employer.

Let no one think that the FBI and the other agencies named by Dean Ackerman are interested only in students who are suspected of membership in the Stalinist movement. Universities are asked to keep data on all radical students and to turn them over to the government. These then become part of the permanent file of the student; they are part of the “raw material” of the “unevaluated” derogatory information which is designed to dog him the rest of his life.

It is not only the official police net which is laid to trap the student. He must be careful not to give utterance to unorthodox views even while in high school, or he may never get to college at all! The most eloquent testimony for this comes from an ardent supporter of Sidney Hook’s views. A letter to the New Leader for April 20th of this year starts with several sentences in which the writer praises Hook’s article Freedom in American Culture which had appeared in an earlier issue of the same magazine. The letter continues:

Recently, however, in a discussion of this very issue, a student gave me an answer which left me almost ready to accept the position of alarm I had so long fought. I felt very strongly that those who did not agree that Communism was a conspiracy could never be brought to see the truth unless they could be shaken from the Communist-line hysteria about terror and intimidation. But this student quoted an important official of the school to substantiate her claim that there is unjustifiable intimidation going on. Enough other girls supported her with similar stories to make me realize that they were faced with a widespread policy.

These girls, bright, hopeful, idealistic and intellectually curious, have been told to watch what they say or they will not be recommended for college. Now I do not hold with the fatuous theory that all intelligent adolescents must have a Communist or radical “phase,” but certainly those who do fall for the errors Professor Hook and others have attacked are not forever lost souls. How can I answer their we-are-as-bad-as-they-are argument except by saying, “Don’t be ridiculous; you are free here; you can investigate ideas”? But these students have been told to be quiet, in class and out.

Most of the students warned were not in any way Communist. Some were censured for wearing Stevenson buttons, for example, or for doing volunteer work in his campaign. They were told, in effect, that it was too noisy or undignified to give out leaflets, attend rallies or address envelopes. (All of this, be it noted, was done outside school.)

It is common for responsible teachers to advise students not to be friendly with girls “of bad reputation.” This is a current euphemism for “Communistic,” but such a phrase on a college form could easily be interpreted in other ways. One teacher said, “I cannot recommend you because you go around with so-and-so.” College recommendations prepared by these teachers include references to “defiant attitude,” for example, and in today’s tight market for college admission and scholarships the high-school personality summary often makes all the difference for the applicant.

These teachers say, I know, that they wish to preserve the schools’ reputation for the sake of future college applicants. But our wised-up students who “keep quiet” in order to get into college will carry to college and beyond it a sad vulnerability to Communist propaganda about America’s “lip service” to freedom. Although it seems clear to me that these teachers and advisers are doing a disservice to democracy through fear or ignorance or bigotry, I feel a responsibility to my students who do want to get into the college of their choice.

Shall I tell them, “Yes, you should listen and be quiet”? Or shall I say, “Take a chance that the colleges will overlook these statements or evaluate them for what they are, and stick to your own principles of integrity now”?

If I tell them to be quiet, I will find myself paradoxically on the side of some other teachers whose political beliefs I would characterize as dangerously or foolishly Communist-line. These “liberal” teachers do say, “Be quiet, don’t get into trouble,” thus confirming the students in a distrust of American society. I really do not know which advice to give. I intend to show some of my troubled students your supplement, but I do not think it answers this particular problem for them. My heart goes out to these youngsters who are, I believe, the real victims of today’s civil-rights turmoil. They are subject to real reprisal or repression. At best, we will make seventeen-year-old cynics of them. (Emphasis in original throughout.)

Our own hearts may go out to this victim of confusion who bravely continues to insist that there is no witchhunt on today, that it is hysterical to think there is, but who prudently conceals his or her identity under the anonymous signature “High School Teacher” in a letter to The New Leader! The students are learning the facts of life all too quickly. They haven’t been cleared up by Hook’s articles yet. But confronted with these same facts of life, their teachers can do no better than wail about the “civil-rights turmoil” which, of course, has nothing to do with “terror or intimidation.”

If Hook’s articles have failed to provide the necessary most recent book performed this service? Let us see.

An Expert Gives a Lesson in Word Juggling

PROFESSOR SIDNEY HOOK has written an important book, Heresy YES Conspiracy No. [1] The importance of the book lies in the fact that it is a smoothly written compendium of the arguments and rationalizations of a new school of authoritarian liberalism which has come of age in the United States in but five brief years. It is a book which for the incautious reader has an impressive air of reasonableness about it; its logical constructions seem to be unassailable – that is, if one accepts Hook’s assumptions and does not investigate his reasoning too closely.

Hook’s defense of the basic legitimacy of the Smith Act, his repudiation, in effect, of the need to establish personal guilt, his denial of the existence of a witch-hunt of major proportions, his denial of the right of a Communist Party member to teach are views which, not so long ago, would have elicited a wave of indignant protest. Such protest is now barely audible, for two reasons: first, many individuals who maintain their liberal principles are simply afraid to challenge publicly the present reaction; second, and perhaps more disturbing, many of the liberals of yesteryear have come to accept the anti-liberal values of Hook. Hook’s approach to academic freedom and civil liberties, in general, has a genuine appeal for those who would like to be considered liberals and even non-conformists, but who are incapable of withstanding the psychological and social pressures of the cold war. In the name of liberalism, Hook has developed a sanctimonius conservatism.

Before discussing the Communist Party in terms of Hook’s own definition, the all important point must be made that his whole manner of discussing the Stalinist movement is completely arid. There is no social analysis, merely a series of loose definitions rigidly applied, efforts to make the Communist Party fit these definitions and then drawing what he thinks are the necessary conclusions about our responsibilities toward the Party and its members. Hook is playing a game of cops and robbers, good men and bad men, cowboys and Indians. Stalinism is evil, Stalinists are conspirators and therefore, we’ve got to lick ‘em. What are the social dynamics of the Stalinist movement? How does it operate in real life? What is the attraction Stalinism holds for millions? The problems are virtually untouched in the book. It is politically and psychologically significant to study the analogies which Hook makes, for nothing so clearly demonstrates the vacuity of his understanding of Stalinism in this book. He constantly compares our responsibilities toward a Stalinist Party member with our attitude to an assassin or thief. Just one example from his section dealing with Communist Party teachers:

... the argument for a policy of exclusion of Communist Party teachers rests not only on the specific behavior of this specific Communist here and now but on the weights we should give to various kinds of evidence we possess about the clearly expressed intentions of this party and its related activities – past and threatened. A man who joins a group of assassins is not always an assassin. But if I know he is a member of such a group and know the purposes of the group, am I not justified in denying him – I do not say his freedom or his life – but access to a position in which he has a good chance to kill me? One may be killed by an imperfect assassin.

In an unsuccessful attempt to justify a misleading analogy and succeeding only in confessing its weakness, he follows with:

This is not, of course, to accuse members of the Communist Party who are not a part of its underground liquidation squads with being assassins, or of planning assassinations. I make the comparison that one can be dangerous, sometimes lethal, even if imperfect.

Hook’s analogy is preposterous. He writes as if there were no relationship between the punishments that would be meted out to a would-be assassin and a Stalinist. If the assassin is to be fired, why not the Stalinist teacher, he asks. If all he is trying to demonstrate is the perfectability or imperfectability of individuals toward their own commitments, that could be easily demonstrated and in less prejudicial terms than “assassin”; or as he does elsewhere, with thieves hired as valets who should be fired and men who come to cheat in a game of cards who should be exposed. The type of analogy is interesting because it reveals the vein of Hook’s thinking on Stalinism. For him, it is comparable though not identical to a bunch of crooks, assassins, and card sharps. But, obviously, Hook is not only interested in demonstrating the imperfectability of a man in specific walks of life, be it cardcheating, murder, thievery or – Stalinist politics. He states that the Communist Party teacher has no right to teach not merely because of acts he may have committed but because of the “evidence we possess about the clearly expressed intentions of this party ...” Thus, if we fire a would-be assassin, why not fire a Stalinist teacher who would like to corrupt his pupils? But it is precisely because there exists the qualitative difference between the teacher who is a member of a complex, reactionary social movement and the assassin, that our operational approach toward the one is different from our approach toward the other. The legitimate firing of an individual who has proved intentions to murder is no substantiation at all for a view which calls for the punishment of a Stalinist teacher who intends to indoctrinate students. The would-be assassin is obviously a “clear and present danger” to his unfortunate employer and chosen victim. To compare him on any level with a Stalinist is not only foolish, but dangerous.

We have deviated to a discussion of this analogy only to demonstrate the total bankruptcy of Hook’s book as an explanation of the phenomenon of Stalinism. The analogies are more suitable to the stock and trade of the street corner rabble rouser than to the serious writer and scholar. But this failure of Hook’s is not unrelated to his basic thesis that the Communist Party is a conspiracy. His “logical” approach is extremely simplistic and to discuss the complexities of American or world Stalinism either accurately or intelligently, might not tax Hook so much as it would the case he is attempting to construct against the rights of Communist Party teachers, and on civil liberties as a whole.

We have sought, at the outset, to discuss Hook’s method of argumentation because unless this is grasped it is Impossible to deal with the content of his argument. As in the case with men of less pretensions to logical consistency and rigorous thought, the method and the content are intimately related. The sleight-of-pen involved in the “assassin” analogy should make the reader aware that he is in the presence of a master. There is much more to come. And it is not to be attributed to some disastrous deterioration in Hook’s faculties, but rather to the application of them to the demonstration of a thesis which is itself false to the core. We now proceed to the content of the argument.

THE FOUNDATION OF HOOK’S VIEWS is implicitly stated in the title, Heresy YES Conspiracy No. Our attitude toward the heretic, no matter how repugnant his heresy, should be tolerant, while toward the conspirator, society has no moral responsibility to either protect or tolerate. An individual with Communist ideas is a heretic, while an individual who is a member of the Communist Party is a conspirator. In Hook’s words:

Communist ideas are heresies, and liberals need have no fear of them when they are freely and openly discussed. They should be studied and evaluated in the light of all the relevant evidence. No one should be punished because he holds them. The Communist movement, however, is something quite different from a mere heresy, for wherever it exists it operates along the lines laid down by Lenin as guides to Communists of all countries, and perfected in great detail since then.

Preceding this, Hook writes:

A heresy does not shrink from publicity. It welcomes it. Not so a conspiracy. The signs of a conspiracy are secrecy, anonymity, the use of false names and labels, and the calculated lie ... There is political conspiracy, which is the concern of the state; but there may also be the conspiracy against a labor union, a cultural or professional association, or an educational institution which is not primarily the concern of the state but of its own members. In general whoever subverts the rules of a democratic organization and seeks to win by chicanery what cannot be fairly won in the process of free discussion is a conspirator. (Emphasis ours.)

Thank heavens Hook is a mere professor of philosophy and not a policeman, a judge or a lawmaker. For with his definition of a conspirator he might be placed in the awkward position of indicting, arresting, sentencing or illegalizing most of his new found friends in the conservative bourgeois and Social Democratic worlds. How many of our top legislators and other elected – not to mention appointed – officials have achieved status through subverting “the rules of a democratic organization”, and have utilized chicanery for fear of freely discussing their real views and intentions? And how many of Hook’s co-thinkers in the leadership of the trade union movement have resorted to undemocratic control of a rebellious or apathetic membership? How many secondary politicians, labor leaders and men of culture whom Hook knows and respects have managed to maintain their influence over their constituencies and followers through cheating, dishonesty, chicanery and subverting every democratic rule in the book. If Hook’s definition of a conspirator “in general” were to be taken seriously, our court calendars and jails would be filled with leading Republicans and Democrats, trade union leaders – and even Hook would be far from safe.

We have seen Hook’s definition of an individual conspirator. We know the signs of a conspiracy (“secrecy, anonymity, false names and labels, ... calculated lies”). Now for the definition of a conspiratorial movement.

A conspiracy, as distinct from a heresy, is a secret or underground movement which seeks to attain its ends not by normal political or educational processes but by playing outside the rules of the game. Because it undermines the conditions which are required in order that doctrines may freely compete for acceptance, because where successful it ruthlessly destroys all heretics and dissenters, a conspiracy cannot be tolerated without self-stultification in a liberal society.

Hook has now given us one definition of a conspirator, in general, the signs of a conspiracy and the definition of a conspiratorial organization.

From these definitions and assumptions follows, for Hook: the Communist Party is a conspiracy and the Communist Party member is a conspirator and neither the organization nor the individual is entitled to the same rights extended to more law-abiding individuals and organizations, willing to, in Hook’s opinion, play within “the rules of the game.”

There is an aspect of the Stalinist movement which can legitimately be labelled a conspiracy in the most derogatory sense in which the word can be understood. That aspect of the movement we will discuss later. But in order to make sense of his argument, Hook has lumped all aspects of the movement under the one label, and all its members under the label of “conspirators.” What is important for us to understand is that Stalinism is, in addition to other things, an ideological movement. It has an enormous appeal for millions of people on the basis of its ideas and avowed intentions. To substitute semantics for a political analysis of Stalinism is dangerous. To work out a “clever” definition of conspiracy and conspirators, then to pin these labels on the party and individuals is at best a word game, and at worst, leads to a reactionary conclusions, some of which are accepted by Hook, and others (up to this moment) inconsistently rejected by him.

How Hook Prosecutes the Main Conspirator ...

Exhibit A

Hook is out to prove that the Stalinist conspiracy originates with Lenin’s organizational and political concepts which were merely adopted, refined and intensified by Stalin. Following is one of several quotations from Lenin by Hook meant to prove the conspiratorial nature of Leninism. Following this quote and others, we will provide the reader with the quotations from Lenin directly. The reader must bear in mind that at this point of the book, Hook is trying to prove that Lenin approved of conspiracies in principle. “There may be,” says Hook, “some justification for conspiratorial activity in undemocratic countries where heresies are proscribed, but Lenin, as we have seen, makes no exceptions.” (Emphasis Ours.)

Hook quotes Lenin:

“It is necessary (so Lenin instructs all Communists – S.H.) ... to agree to any and every sacrifice and even – if need be – resort to all sorts of strategems, manoeuvers, and illegal methods, to evasions and subterfuges ... in order to carry on Communist work in them (trade unions) at all costs.”
Selected Works, English translations, Vol.X, p.95.

Here is what Lenin wrote:

Undoubtedly, messieurs the ‘leaders’ of opportunism will resort to every trick of bourgeois diplomacy, to the aid of bourgeois governments, the priests, the police and the courts, in order to prevent Communists from getting into the trade unions, to force them out by every means, to make their work in the trade unions as unpleasant as possible, to insult, to bait and to persecute them. It is necessary to be able to withstand all this, to agree to any and every sacrifice, and even – if need be – to resort to all sorts of strategems, manoeuvres and illegal methods, to evasions and subterfuges in order to penetrate the trade unions, to remain in them and carry on Communist work at all costs. (Emphasis ours.)

Note our italicized sections. Hook leaves out the words “to be able to withstand all this” because the reader might then ask: withstand what? And the answer would be found in the sentence preceding the quotation presented by Hook which makes it clear that Lenin is talking about using subterfuge when the trade union leaders proscribe the democratic rights of the Communist worker to enter the trade union. And Hook, we have seen, does not find anything necessarily wrong with a political movement resorting to such conspiratorial tactics “in undemocratic countries where heresies are proscribed.” If such tactics can be used in an undemocratic country, why not in an undemocratic union?

Let us start at the elementary component of the movement, the role of the individual Stalinist, his relationship to his party and to society as a whole.

Starting here, at the very foundation of Hook’s argument there is a glaring error. The dichotomy Hook assumes exists between a conspirator and a heretic is false. It exists for his convenience alone. Why is it excluded that a man can be both heretic and conspirator at the same time, as Hook so cavalierly assumes is the case. A heretic is simply an individual who rejects commonly accepted doctrine or dogma. There is nothing in political literature (outside of Hook’s work) leading to the conclusion that a heretic or a heresy by definition “does not shrink from publicity.” Why not? A heretic can attempt to avoid publicity for any number of reasons, ranging from a distressing personal quirk to keep his views to himself and his chosen friends, to fear of reprisals. Why is it only a conspiracy which “does not offer its wares openly”, and never a true heresy? Again, the distinction is Hook’s own. It sounds good, an important but very fine point which provides us with the key to the vault hiding the heretofore undisclosed nature of Stalinism.

After all is said and done by Hook to mesmerize his audience with his refined and largely contrived distinctions, not one of his thoughts or arguments contradicts the fact that a member of the American Communist Party is a heretic. He is a heretic because he repudiates many of the values of existing bourgeois society for the values of Stalinism. His values are corrupt, his thought processes corrupted, his methods reprehensible, but they are his values, his thought processes, his methods, and all three characteristics often run counter to capitalist society. He may be a conspirator as well, though as Hook discusses the problem, this label has no meaning. But one thing is certain: he is nevertheless a heretic.

Because the views held by a Stalinist are his views, does that mean they were arrived at as a result of his own, free, unprejudiced thought processes? Hardly. The policies of world Stalinism are dictated by the needs and interests of the Kremlin bureaucracy, and all its parties and individuals in these parties must step into line or face the consequences. All that this well known fact establishes, however, is that the Stalinist heretic is not notorious for his independent thinking, fine character or intellectual honesty. But not until Hook arrived on the scene were these virtues essential characteristics of the heretic.

Though the line is dictated by the Kremlin, it is nevertheless accepted by the individual Stalinist. It is accepted on different levels and through various mechanisms, both political and pathological but, nevertheless, as a rule, accepted. The ability of the individual Stalinist to rationalize is infinite. One day he will eulogize Tito, and the next he will proclaim to the world that Tito is now, and has always been a fascist. These political gyrations of the Stalinist movement are in greater measure accepted by the individual who remains in the party. He learns to adopt the specious reasoning of the party; he is convinced that each reversal of line was justified by “new conditions” or “tactical considerations.” For an utterly reasonable man like Hook, it is impossible to accept this weird political-psychological phenomenon: how can a man call white white on Monday and on Tuesday claim that white is black? Obviously, for Hook, these are not heretics – who must be reasonable men; they must be something else – conspirators, let us say.

The Stalinist who is at all sensitive, whose critical faculties are simply dulled, not dead, who has some strength of character, frequently does not fully accept the change of line. A new change of line will aggravate some gnawing doubts about his heresy instilled by an earlier change, or the effectiveness of a counter-argument or revelation of new facts. What invariably happens to these “conspirators” is that they find it increasingly difficult to accept the rationalizations, and they eventually reach the breaking point with the party. This isn’t conjecture; it is precisely what has happened to hundreds of thousands of Hook’s former “conspirators.”

Exhibit B

Once more Hook quotes from the same volume of Lenin (p. 169):

“In all organizations without exception ... (political, industrial, military, cooperative, educational, sports), groups or nuclei of Communists should be formed ... mainly open groups but also secret groups.”

Here is what Lenin wrote:

In all organizations without exception – unions and associations primarily proletarian, and also organizations of the non-proletarian, toiling and exploited masses (political, industrial, military, cooperative, educational sports, etc., etc.) groups or nuclei of Communists should be formed – mainly open groups, but also secret groups, which should be obligatory in every ease when their suppression, or the arrest or deportation of their members by the bourgeoisie may be expected ... (Emphasis ours.)

Hook ends his quote with a period as though it were a completed thought! But Lenin has a comma following the word “groups,” for he makes it clear immediately that he is agitating for secrecy as a means of self-defense against efforts to suppress, persecute, arrest and deport Communists. These are certainly proscriptions of democratic rights, and Hook is not arguing that these proscriptions did not exist for the Communist movement in 1920. But even if Lenin manufactured such proscriptions, it would be irrelevant to the point that Hook is making. He is attempting to establish that in principle Lenin advocated conspiracy – it was a way of life, you see. To prove it, he takes the first part of a quotation, makes a textual change and conveniently omits those conditioning clauses which prove Lenin to be perfectly consistent with Hook’s generous permissiveness on the propriety of using “conspiratorial activity in undemocratic countries where heresies are proscribed ...” Hook evidently believes in the double standard: when Stalinists use the “calculated lie” it is a sign of conspiracy, when Hook uses the calculated distortion it is a sign of patriotism and scholarship.

A distinction must be made between voluntary membership in the Communist Party in a bourgeois country, and enforced membership in a Stalinist-dominated nation. In the latter instance, membership may be dictated not by any agreement whatsoever, but merely by the powerful instinct of self-preservation. In the United States, however, where the party does not even offer the possibilities for social advancement today, as in Europe or Asia, membership is not and cannot be enforced by the party. The party can exert certain social and psychological pressures to retain its members, but this is seldom durable and cannot provide the basis for the maintenance of the organization. The American Communist Party can, in the final analysis, keep itself going as an organization with a membership other than FBI agents, because it has convinced its dupes that its ideas are politically correct and provide the solution to the ills of bourgeois society.

But, it may be objected, even though it is clear that in the United States and the rest of the capitalist world Stalinists are indeed heretics, is it not true that they are also conspirators? Even if the dichotomy Hook creates is false, is this not more a blunder in his exposition than a failure in assessing the real social role of the Stalinist movement? Are not all conspirators also in a sense heretics (even our old acquaintances, the assassins)? And if heretics also become conspirators in a democratic society, is it not the right and duty of that society to take the necessary repressive measures to protect itself against them?

These questions are perfectly legitimate. In them is at least contained a grasp of the complexity of Stalinism and hence of the problems which this unique movement presents to those who would defeat it without at the same time destroying democracy. Their answer can only be found in a real social and political analysis of the Stalinist movement, of the sources of its appeal in our society, of the relationship between its leaders, both here and abroad, and the mass of its followers.

Hook finds k possible, even, we must add, necessary, to solve these complex problems by a simple rule-of-thumb method. An investigation of the sociological dynamics of the Stalinist movement he finds totally unnecessary. All he needs to determine that the mass of the members of the Stalinist movement are in fact conspirators is a relatively simple social tool: a calendar, and an even simpler homiletical device: a vigorous assertion.

IN HOOK’S OPINION, every member of the Communist Party of more than a couple of years standing is a conspirator, and a hardened one at that. He writes in most sanguine fashion: “Whatever may have been the case in the past, a man does not today som-nambulistically stumble into the Communist Party. If he remains a member, this is prima facie evidence that he is a hardened conspirator and that he accepts its orders and directives.” Now, our good professor has the perfect right to construct any philosophical system he desires, he can devise all the definitions for classes he feels necessary, he can, if he feels it essential, utilize word symbols now in operation and invest them with other than accepted meanings; but he has no political or moral right to pretend that his singular definition of a conspiracy or a conspirator provides a clue as to attitudes a democrat should adopt toward Stalinism and Stalinists.

Hook’s qualifying phrase at the beginning of the last cited quotation, “Whatever may have been the case in the past ...” raises an interesting problem. It creates the impression that “in the past” a man who either joined with his eyes open, or even somnambulistically stumbled into the Communist Party, there to remain for some indefinite length of time was not a “hardened conspirator.” At what point did this state of affairs change? Was one simply a heretic and not a conspirator if only he left on that date when Hook ended his own flirtation with the Communist Party? Or is Hook more magnanimous? Does he allow a later cut-off date? Was it perhaps the Moscow trials that ended the era? the Stalin-Hitler Pact? No, surely it must have been later than that, for what of the thousands who joined the “benevolent” Communist Political Association during World War II because Russia was America’s wartime ally? Were they, too, after membership of “more than a couple of years standing” “hardened conspirators”?

“Anyone,” Hook writes, “acquainted with the official instructions under which members of the Communist Party operate will recognize that they are a conspiratorial group.” Here, there is no qualifying temporal phrase. We can assume then, that this has always been true, with the exception of the fact that the “official instructions” today are more rigorously applied to guard against the entrance of FBI agents, and weed them out where they have managed to join. Why then, in Hook’s view, should a CP member during the period of social fascism” have been any less a conspirator? Or one who managed to follow the convolutions of the CP line through the “Popular Front,” the Moscow Trials, the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and World War II, be any more a heretic? The “official instructions” of the Communist Party have been in effect for many a year. The content has changed depending on the line being dictated at the moment by Russia’s needs. Is Hook saying that anyone who has remained a member of the CP for more than a couple of years at any time was a conspirator? Logic would seem to dictate from his point of view that that be his attitude.

If that is so, then aside from the approximate 30,000 conspirators claimed as members of the Communist Party today, there have perhaps been as many as a million conspirators in this country since the end of the first World War. In the Communist and Stalinist movements alone there must have been a turnover in membership of three-fourths of this figure. Can one imagine a “conspiracy” where hundreds of thousands of “hardened” conspirators move in and out as though through a revolving door. Hook’s indiscriminate and flabby label is purely literary, but literary license is out of place in a book which pretends to a sober and realistic evaluation of conspiracies and conspirators.

Exhibit C

Hook has a third quotation from Lenin to prove his diabolical and utter devotion to conspiratorial methods as a way of life. It is an utter misquotation, of course, one that we might call The Case of the Three Harmless Specks. For Hook uses three innocent looking specks in his quotation, which dots actually cover about two hundred words in Lenin’s statement and completely negate the impression that Hook is attempting to convey. It is the now notorious Shub method which Hook has adopted.

Here is Lenin à la Hook:

“In all countries, even the freest, ‘legal’ and ‘peaceful’ in the sense that the class struggle is least acute in them, the time has fully matured when it is absolutely necessary for every Communist Party systematically to combine legal with illegal work, legal and illegal orgnizations ... Illegal work is particularly necessary in the army, the navy, and police.’” (pp. 172–73)

Here is what Lenin wrote:

“In all countries even the freest, ‘legal’ and ‘peaceful’ in the sense that the class struggle is least acute in them, the time has fully matured when it is absolutely necessary for every Communist Party systematically to combine legal with illegal work, legal with illegal organization. For in the most enlightened and free countries, those with the most ‘stable’ bourgeois-democratic system, the governments already, notwithstanding their false and hypocritical declarations, systematically resort to secret blacklists of Communists, to endless violations of their own constitutions in order to render semi-secret and secret support to the White Guards and to assassinations of Communists in all countries, to secret preparations for the arrest of Communists, to placing provocateurs among the Communists, etc., etc. Only the most reactionary Philistinism no matter what beautiful ‘democratic’ and pacifist phrases it may be cloaked in, can deny this fact, or the imperative conclusion that follows from it, viz., that it is necessary, immediately, for all legal Communist Parties to form illegal organizations for the purpose of systematically carrying on illegal work, and of fully preparing for the moment when the bourgeoisie resorts to persecution. Illegal work is particularly necessary in the army, the navy and police; for after the great imperialist butchery all the governments in the world began to fear a people’s army which is open to the workers and peasants, and began secretly to resort to all possible methods of forming military units especially picked from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and especially supplied with all technical improvements.” (Emphasis ours.)

Just a quick reading of the omitted sections from Lenin in Hook’s version should suffice to demonstrate Hook’s dishonesty.

But as if such significant omissions were not enough Hook decides to take another crack at repunctuating Lenin (see Exhibit B for his first attempt). Hook ends his quotation on a period, again, as if it were a completed thought. Lenin actually has a semi-colon followed by a long explanatory clause. Hook obviously wants to paint Lenin in as frightening a manner as possible. Thus he chooses to end Lenin’s remark on illegal work in the military at such a point as to straighten the hair on even an egg. If he quoted Lenin accurately, however, the democratic references to a people’s army and his (Lenin’s) opposition to the secrecy employed by the bourgeoisie in organizing the army might cushion the blow of a crooked portrayal of Lenin as a conspirator by profession.

Yet there is always that qualifying phrase: “Whatever may have been the case in the past ...” It indicates that for Hook at some point the heretic turned conspirator. A process of elimination of the twists and turns of the CP line results in the conclusion that the heretic turned conspirator with the outbreak of the cold war. Given his increasingly uncritical acceptance of American capitalism and its policies, we can see that Hook’s temporal qualification is purely political in nature, stemming not from any principle, but from the pressures of the present world conflict between Stalinism and American capitalism. This is further buttressed by the fact that although he has written much in past years about the Stalinist movement, his theory of the conspiratorial nature of the Communist Party was never aired previously. It awaited the politically expedient moment.

Hook is not satisfied with “demonstrating” that a Stalinist of a few years standing is objectively a conspirator. To clinch his case, he uses intellectual sleight of hand to show that Stalinists even think of themselves as conspirators. Hook writes:

These instructions [to infiltrate sensitive governmental posts] ... indicate that members of the Communist Party are not so much heretics as conspirators and in actual practice regard themselves as such. (Emphasis ours.)

In a political conspiracy it is hardly likely that a conspirator should not have a conscious awareness of his role for, as a rule, political conspirators know that they are conspiring. To show that thousands upon thousands of Stalinist party members are no exceptions to the rule, Hook has devised the tricky formulation “in actual practice regard themselves as such.” But even from his point of view, what does the phrase “in actual practice” have to do with “regard themselves as such.” The first phrase is objective in nature, referring to what they do; the latter phrase is subjective, referring to consciousness or self-awareness. Now according to what rule of logic, politics or psychology can Hook assume that because the Stalinists do things, they know what they are doing?

In “actual practice” Stalinist rank and file workers in the trade union movement disorient, dislocate and even destroy unions which they cannot control. Does this mean that they “regard themselves” as disrupters of the trade union movement? What Hook conveniently overlooks is the contradiction between idea and reality in the Stalinist movement. The dynamism of Stalinism resides in large measure in its ability to convince its members to regard their actions which are monstrously reactionary, as being consistent with the most noble aspects of progressive and enlightened democratic and socialist thought.

But even if there are all kinds of uncertainties, doubts, confusions and inconsistencies in the minds of members of the Stalinist movement, is it not true that they all act like conspirators, i.e., in a conspiratorial fashion? After all, even though professors of philosophy may speculate about the consciousness of Stalinists, a society in danger cannot be expected to be too concerned with what is in the minds of its opponents. Must not the defenders of democracy in America guide themselves by the way in which the Stalinists act, by the conduct of their organization? And in a free, democratic society should not people who choose to act as conspirators rather than to present themselves and their ideas in open conflict in the free market place of ideas be sought out, exposed, and removed from any social arena in which they can implement their nefarious conspiracy?

Here again, the questions are quite proper and to the point; but only it the point is understood, and the answer framed not in vacuous abstraction, but in the light of the social reality of American society. The joker lies in identifying the present situation in the United States for anyone who holds Stalinist ideas (or even socialist ones, for that matter) with that of a really free and democratic society or of an open market of ideas. We share Hook’s aversion for card sharps, and hence we object to his attempt to pass off this joker as the ace of spades.

HOOK CANNOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTENCE of a major witchhunt at home for it would weaken his stand on Communist teachers and civil liberties. He is intent on proving that the Communist Party is a vast conspiracy and nothing must be allowed to interfere; neither facts nor discriminating analysis.

The signs of a conspiracy, Hook informed us, are “secrecy, anonymity, the use of false names and labels and the calculated lie.” Hook realizes that this is not a meaningful statement unless it can be established that the organization which functions in such underhanded fashion is afforded the opportunity to operate in a perfectly free and legal manner. If a movement’s activities are circumscribed or illegalized by an undemocratic society, one cannot place moral strictures on the opposition movement for operating in a secretive manner. That would be an example of moralistic absolutism which Hook finds so offensive in other writings. Thus, he be-grudgingly admits that

“There may be some justification for conspiratorial activity in undemocratic countries where heresies are proscribed ...”

It is impossible for Hook, given his scientific method to morally condemn the secrecy and semi-underground character of the Communist Party today unless he can show that this conspiratorial character is self-imposed, i.e., that its secrecy bears no causal relationship at all to an “alleged” witchhunt. And this is just what Hook proceeds to do. He attempts to prove the impossible by asserting the absurd. There is no witchhunt in this country, asserts Hook. There are injustices, to be sure, but they are primarily the malevolent doings of a small number of “private citizens” and “some legislators.” Also

“Zealous individuals and groups, expressing themselves with anger and unrestraint on the shortcomings of national policy and leadership, have been guilty of ‘cultural vigilantism’.”

“It is merely hypocritical pretense, we often hear it declared,” Hook writes with bitterness, “to regard America as a champion of the free way of life.”

Thus, America is in Hook’s eyes a champion of the free way of life and to see an enormous grey cloud of reaction dimming this beacon of freedom is virtually playing the Stalinist game:

It is true, however, that in some respects governmental measures have fallen short of proper standards of justice. The loyalty program should be rethought and more selectively applied. The list of subversive organizations issued by the Attorney General’s office was not properly drawn up; nor were proper procedures followed in reaching decisions. Visa and passport regulations should be more intelligently administered under a thoroughly revised immigration law drafted by others than Senator McCarran. But it is emphatically not true that the Government has created the anti-Communist mood of the country or that it is prosecuting heresies rather than conspiracies. (Emphasis ours.)

Hook’s wrath is unbounded when polemizing against “ritualistic liberals” who “have become convinced that the processes of American freedom no longer function as in the past, that the critical safeguards and mechanisms by which American democracy has remedied abuses and evils in its body politic have been undermined, if not destroyed, by an hysterical anti-Communist fever. Even many Americans who are non-Communists have been repeating this line.” His vulgarity knows as few bounds as his wrath:

Recently a professional liberal figure appeared on a television program on the state of civil liberties in America. At the moment when the cameras brought him so close that one could almost look down his throat, he was shouting: “It’s getting so that a man can’t open his mouth in this country.” Whether the thousands of people who got a glimpse of his tonsils appreciated the irony of the situation is doubtful.

It is apparent from these few quotations – and there are chapters full of the same – that Hook either cannot or will not recognize that the whole structure and atmosphere of political life in America has been poisoned. Is it possible for a teacher to have his Fulbright scholarship revoked because of guilt by family association [2], for books to be burned (only a few) by the State Department, loyalty oaths and purges made widespread, the McCarran Internal Security Act passed, for a hooligan-like Senator McCarthy to wield such enormous power, etc., etc., etc., and at the same time be maintained that the “processes of American freedom” continue to “function as in the past”?

The Communist Party and the world Stalinist movement is the party and movement of the Big Lie. It has been able to achieve enormous popularity in Europe and Asia through its deceptions, lies, intrigues, etc. Parading under the banner of socialism, claiming as its own the most noble traditions of past struggles for emancipation, often utilizing the language of socialism, and capitalizing on the existing misery and the bankrupt policies of the bourgeois world, the Stalinists have employed all these techniques for facilitating the most monstrous perversion of revolutionary aspirations toward the end of establishing a dictatorship which annihilates the legitimate grievances of those they influence. The difference between the avowed and ulterior aims of the world Stalinist movement is only part of the reason for their devotion to secrecy, anonymity and false labels. Hook’s refusal to recognize that a good deal of the secrecy, anonymity, false labels and even some of the calculated lies resorted to by the Communist Party are defensive moves against the witchhunt is based on his belabored reasoning that no witch-hunt exists. How explain the fact that the mass Communist parties of Europe function with relative openness if conspiratorial functioning is so fundamentally and totally a characteristic of Stalinism. The French and Italian Communist parties utilize deception and front techniques no less than their American counterpart, but they also have open meetings carried on under their own names, their leaders and the vast majority of their members are known by their real names. Is it the Latin temperament which predisposes the French and Italian Communist parties to more public operation? The incontrovertible fact is that the American CP resorts to ultra secrecy today because that is the only way it can continue to function in the face of persecution.

There is a section of the Stalinist movement which is a conspiracy in the full sense of the word – that part of the movement whose activities are carried on in secrecy, the spy apparatus. If Hook’s remarks were devoted to this aspect of the Stalinist movement, our quarrel with him would be relatively trivial. Our concern is not with the murderers, spies and assassins operating under Kremlin supervision. But this is a fine distinction to Hook. The class of conspirators is made to include not only those presently conspiring, but potential conspirators and dupes, as well. The Stalinist spy apparatus is different and apart from the Communist Party. As a matter of fact, it is the devout Whittaker Chambers who made the noteworthy point that the Party membership and the spy apparatus are distinctly different movements and that there is a growing differentiation between the two, instead of a synthesis. It should be apparent to anyone who reads newspapers and an occasional book on the subject that the spy ring and the Communist Party are not to be treated as synonymous or even similar phenomena and cannot be placed in the same class in any meaningful sense.

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.

* * *


1. Heresy Yes Conspiracy No, by Sidney Hook, John Day, 283 pp. $3.75.

2. Naphtali Lewis, Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, had his Fulbright Scholarship revoked when be would not give testimony as to his wife’s political affiliations. Professor Lewis denied membership at any time in the Communist Party.

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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