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Lydia Bennett

Just the Right People
to Rule on Textbooks

(25 January 1941)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 4, 25 January 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

You would hardly believe it, but even political reaction has its funny phase. The Roosevelts, Bill Greens and Sidney Hillmans do the strong-arm job of clamping the leg-irons of capitalism on the workers; and that’s not funny. But then come the little, cowardly, short-sighted, thick-skulled, moronic camp-followers who highlight with their antics the whole vicious campaign of reversion which cannot be sated until mankind is pushed back into the cannibalism out of which it is just beginning to pull itself.

The National Association of Manufacturers, no less, is out to teach the teachers of America a thing or two, especially those who take modern science too literally. With $1,600,000 in hand and a staff of stooges (including one from the Stalinite-dominated periodical Science and Society) this Association of Past Masters of the Arts of Swindling, Fraud and Adulteration has set out to censor and purify the textbooks of the country. Six hundred social science works have come under the eagle eye of Dr. Ralph West Robey and his associates.

The purpose of the scrutiny is to ferret out all books which either speak in favorable terms of the theories of socialism or communism or fail to paint a glowing-enough appreciation of the profound virtues of capitalist free enterprise, which parades in the lingo of N.A.M. as “the American way of life.” These are to be consigned to the flames forthwith.

Dr. Robey should know about integrity and ethics and the deep virtue which underlies American business; he is assistant professor of banking at Nicholas Murray Butler’s University and was at one time part of the brains behind Alf M. Landon and his cohorts. He is one of the nation’s chief snooper-outers of “socialism,” having found a horrible amount of it in the New Deal.

Let us, however, live up to the high level of objectivity which Professor Robey and his N.A.M. display and observe the purposes announced by them. They are out to disseminate public information – that is all – on the content and philosophy of all the social science textbooks used in American schools. They should know about public information, too! Aren’t they the inventors and promotors of advertising, that greatest of all historical swindles? Aren’t they the ones who hail as the profoundest discovery of modern research, Barnum’s declaration that there’s a sucker born every minute?

The guiding lights of N.A.M. think the spirit of America is dying from want of a faith; and they have faith to give away, we gather. Maybe they want the kind of faith fostered by them – the kind that requires the capitalists themselves to set up a whole governmental department to look into the products marketed by members of N.A.M., in order to give some measure of assurance to a suspicious public that arsenic will be kept out of toothpaste, that horse-meat will not be sold as beef, that vermin and rats and filth will not be used to season canned soup, that chalk will not be advertised as flour. We suspect, however, that the kind of faith they really want to recapture and cultivate is that which leads a poor sucker to buy watered-down, flavored alcohol as a cure for cancer, or pink water at 69¢ a pint for antiseptic uses, or perfumed machine-oil to restore lost hair.

What hurts N.A.M. is that the system of free enterprise in America is not being talked up in the schools as it should. Now, for our side, we say we have absolutely no objection to taking a scalpel to this famous free enterprise and. in the bright light of day – every day – dismembering it with care and scientific precision, provided when we get down to Hopson and Whitney and Insull we can hold them up in their reeking nakedness for all the students to see.

Home Work for the Manufacturers

Let it not be supposed, however, that the individual manufacturers are being let off easy by N.A.M. Dear me, no! They have a series of duties to perform. Each manufacturer “should read in full any book which seems of questionable merit.” Since this means all the best books on social science written in the last two decades, this phase of organizational activity in itself ought to cut the ranks of the Association by about 50%, putting half its membership into institutions for the mentally injured. Every member of the Association is further urged to “get in close touch with school boards and individual teachers,” the closeness to the boards amounting, we suspect, to complete identity.

The final organizational directive is most subtle of all: N.A.M. members are to “encourage educators to realize the merit of the private enterprise system.” Or else! What visions of persecutions and purgings, of private examinations, of classroom spyings, of bribes and threats! N.A.M. knows its power, and that power came in a flood of gold from all the billions of lies told on all the millions of billboards in America. There lies the sole educational instrument N.A.M. knows and can appreciate; it brings in dividends.

In 1815, after reaction had caught up temporarily with the great French Revolution, the Pope issued orders to tear down the street-lighting system introduced into Rome by the Napoleonic regime, to rip up the botanical gardens planted there in the interest of science, to burn and tear and cut out every index of progress to be found in the city. These things were done, and now we laugh at them. We know when we look at the past that history never marches backward. We sometimes forget that, when we look at our crazy contemporaries.

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