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Julius Falk

Youth and Student Corner

Enter: The Era of the Feinberg Law

(12 September 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 37, 12 September 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

During the 1930’s students on entering colleges were solemnly warned against preparing for teaching careers. The depression era meant that it was impossible to obtain a job as a teacher.

Today, with the economic climate somewhat different, it is once more possible to enter the teaching profession; but it would be appropriate for college administrations to call assemblies of students to warn them that although teachers are desperately needed, many will be disqualified, and those who manage to enter the field had best be prepared for a career almost as dangerous and suspenseful as espionage. For we have entered the era of the Feinberg Law.

Introduced in the State Legislature by State Senator Feinberg, the Feinberg Law makes use of the infamous “subversive” list compiled by former Attorney General, now Supreme Court Justice, Tom Clark and provides that no individual who is a member of any “subversive” organization, adapted by the Board of Regents from this list, may teach in the public school system. It further provides that those already teaching who hold such membership are to be dismissed. As though this were not reprehensible enough, the law adds dismissal for “seditious and treasonable utterances,” whatever vague things those may be.

This law, rushed through the State Legislature without so much as a public hearing, goes into effect immediately to threaten the careers of those already part of the school system, and those about to enter.

Part of the nationwide pattern of direct onslaughts against civil liberties and academic freedom, the Feinberg Law aims at a system of perpetual investigation and spying in order to stifle the expression of dissenting opinion.

The government makes an attempt to justify its campaign against civil liberties on the basis that all the “anti-subversive” legislation is aimed against the Stalinists who in a Third World War will serve as Russian agents. But a cursory examination will prove that the campaign encompasses a much wider scope.

At Olivet College an instructor was dismissed for his pacifist views. At the University of Indiana a professor was dismissed for acting as chairman at a Wallace election rally. At Brooklyn College the E.V. Debs Society and the Independent Socialist Club were suspended from campus activity without a hearing for “supporting” a student stoppage, which they did not in fact support. A long list of such blows against academic freedom might be cited to show that the real aim of the government is its desire to prepare the road for World War III free of any opposition, of any sort.

The Stalinists, always quick to embrace any opportunity for martyrdom, have seized upon the Feinberg Law. They who are the first to deny civil liberties to others when in a position of power can only make a mockery of any real campaign for the restoration of civil liberties on the campus.

The Feinberg Law attacks a basic freedom, the freedom of belief. It acts against opinions and utterances. It provides punishment on the totalitarian basis so commonly used under the Stalinist regime in Russia: guilt by association. It makes of the school, the institution presumably based on objective inquiry, a place of fear and suspicion where conformity is the watchwold.

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