Professor Hook Replies
To the Editor:
My contention against Dr. Lynd is that in her discussion of the University of Washington cases she departed from accepted canons of scholarship. Her rejoinder does not refute the contention. The issue is not Mr. Canwell, for whom I hold no brief whatsoever. Nor is it the Legislature’s investigation of the University of Washington. I am opposed to all investigations of the loyalty of teaching faculties and approve no more of the methods of the Canwell Committee than of the Dies Committee. The issue, I repeat, is the character of Dr. Lynd’s procedures in reporting specific items of evidence. And I made clear I was not referring to “deliberate duplicity.”
1. The character of Dr. Lynd’s procedure in reporting the shocking sentence she attributed to Mr. Canwell may perhaps be made clearer if we ask what her reactions would be if a comparable damaging and reprehensible statement were publicly attributed to a Communist on the basis of private correspondence by an unrevealed person or persons. It is safe to say that Dr. Lynd would indignantly demand that the accused be confronted by his accusers, that the latter come out of hiding and face public examination and questioning.
Dr. Lynd is sensitive to safeguards when Communists are involved—and properly so. This explains, perhaps, why she made no reference to the sworn public statement of a Washington attorney before the Legislative Committee that his son, while a student at the University, had been indoctrinated by one of the dismissed teachers into Communism, influenced to leave his father’s home and join the Communist party, and set on a course which ended in enlistment in a Communist contingent for action in Spain from which he never returned. Dr. Lynd did not cite this and other public testimony, presumably because the persons accused did not accept the opportunity to testify before the Committee. She leans over backward in not citing the public evidence given against the accused while introducing as conclusive private evidence against the accusers. Why does Dr. Lynd apply one rule to Communists and another to those who are opposed to them? This is the question to which Dr. Lynd should have addressed herself.
The additional evidence she now presents does not justify citing private testimony on so grave a matter. By her own account the newspapers did carry stories of Mr. Canwell’s speech but neither quoted the statement nor attributed the particular sentiment to him. Despite this Dr. Lynd contends that there is “a presumption in favor of the greater reliability” of the report sent to her by a teacher in Cheney. The grounds she offers are completely irrelevant—a sentence paralleling one from a different speech by Mr. Canwell on another subject, and a “more careful” version of another sentence not related to the damning quotation in question.
In face of the fact that hundreds of teachers in Washington have spoken out openly and critically against the action of the University, her explanation of her refusal to disclose her sources—persons who presumably reported merely what they heard in a speech by an ex-legislator—is not convincing. How does she know they are telling the truth? If we open the door to charges made privately by undisclosed persons, no one is safe from the wildest and most irresponsible accusations.
Finally, why did not Dr. Lynd report Mr. Canwell’s emphatic disavowal of the statement attributed to him so that her readers would be informed of it? And if her collaborators concealed this from her, why did she make no effort to confirm the statement with Mr. Canwell himself? This does not mean that Mr. Canwell’s disavowal should he accepted as true, hut at the least it should have heen reported.
2. In her original discussion Dr. Lynd presented Professor Winther’s testimony as if it were merely an imaginative treatment of facts. She did not quote, as she now does, his statement that his article was based on non-imagined facts. In addition, her article ignores all the evidence that has come to light, even when it is documentary, which bears on the instructions issued to members of the Communist party about indoctrinating the party line in classes, capturing departments, and fulfilling their tasks as “professional revolutionists.”
3. It is one thing to recognize the general truth that political and financial pressures operate on public educational institutions. It is illegitimate, however, to deduce from this, in the absence of additional particular evidence, that an appropriation of $25,000,000 for a medical school influenced certain specifically named individuals, President Allen and the Regents, unjustifiably to deprive innocent teachers of their posts. Dr. Lynd now tells us that such evidence exists known to others. She was and is derelict in not telling us what this evidence is and who has it. If this evidence is valid, the individuals mentioned are not “well-intentioned.” They should be dismissed from public and academic life.
4. Dr. Lynd suggests that I am applying the term “fellow-traveler” to those who are critical of the decision taken in the University of Washington case. That this is false is evident from my explicit declaration that genuine liberals may disagree about the wisdom of this decision. If Dr. Lynd has taken the same position publicly in condemning the Communist party as the professors who disapproved the dismissal of their colleagues, if she has ever protested in behalf of the victims of Communism anywhere in the same way as she defends the rights of Communists here, it has escaped my notice. What has not escaped my notice is her signature on a petition sponsored by such a Communist-front organization as the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties (see Daily Worker, December 19, 1940, page 5, col. 5) and her support of the Fourth Congress of the League of American Writers on June 6, 1941, which accused the Roosevelt administration of leading the country to war and fascism, characterized the struggle against Hitler as an “imperialist war,” and approved the American Peace Mobilization and its picketing of the White House. Last spring she was a sponsor of the Communist-controlled Waldorf Conference for World Peace.
5. Dr. Lynd taxes me with inconsistency in advocating that the faculty alone should administer the rules against subversion of the educational process and at the same time upholding the action of the President and Board of Regents in acting contrary to the recommendation of a majority of the Faculty Committee on Tenure at the University of Washington. The plain fact is that until now I have never discussed the merits of the specific decision at the University of Washington but only the general principle whether membership in the Communist party should be considered prima facie evidence of unfitness to teach.
My position is based on the view that freedom of inquiry involves the acceptance of certain standards of professional ethics, one of which is well stated by the New School for Social Research: “The New School in its concern for academic freedom and responsibility has declared the policy that no faculty member may belong to any political party or group which asserts the right to dictate in matters of science or scientific opinion.” The evidence shows that the Communist party is such a group. Rules, however, must be administered not blindly or automatically but with an eye to the specific situation. But the rules should be openly stated, and applied by faculty committees. That is all I have ever contended.
It is possible both to agree with this policy and to hold that since the existing tenure rules at the University of Washington did not make the policy explicit, the dismissals were unjustified. This is actually the position of a majority of the Tenure Committee, which recommends the revision of the tenure rules along the policy lines I have advocated.
Whoever rejects the policy as expressed above weakens, in my opinion, the traditions of academic freedom. Whoever rejects the statement of fact about the Communist party is unaware of its nature. Dr. Lynd apparently rejects both. That is her privilege. But whether we accept or reject them, whether we are accusing members of the Communist party or their accusers, we should not cite as evidence private affidavits of unnamed persons. It is my belief that Dr. Lynd would agree if such affidavits were directed against members of the Communist party.
I agree with Professor Murphy that a tree should be judged by its fruits. But it must be its own fruit, and not foreign fruit artfully hung upon its branches, which should provide the test.
1. The main identifying characteristic of a “fellow-traveler” is membership in, and support of, a Communist-front organization. I do not know whether Professor Murphy is aware of the existence of such organizations. The leaders of the Communist movement make no bones about it. Kuusinen, the Secretary of the Comintern, wrote in the American Communist (May 1931): “We must create a whole solar system of organizations and smaller committees around the Communist party, so to speak, smaller organizations working actually under the influence of our party.” There are similar and more recent declarations by Browder and Foster. Certain well-known criteria for identifying such organizations are used: content analysis of their literature, office personnel, attitude of the party press towards them, etc., etc.
Working in complete independence of the government, the Committee for Cultural Freedom, organized in 1939 to combat all forms of totalitarianism, published two long lists of front organizations—one fascist, one Communist. As Chairman of its Executive Committee, I took personal responsibility for their accuracy and checked carefully the available data. Even before then I had studied the composition of the groups set up by the Communist party to discredit the Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow Trials. Ever since, other interests permitting, I have periodically continued these studies. And when I wrote in COMMENTARY that “to this day” the largest group of fellow-travelers is to be found in academic circles, I was referring mainly to my own statistical studies. I will give three illustrations.
When the Committee for Cultural Freedom was organized, the American Council on Soviet Relations, originally set up by the Communist party, published a denunciation of the Committee on August 14, 1939, branding as a falsehood the Committee’s reference to the Soviet Union as a totalitarian state, and hailing Stalin’s Russia as a consistent bulwark against war and aggression. It charged that the organizers of the Committee (John Dewey, Horace Kallen, Norman Thomas, and other well-known liberals) were “Fascists and allies of Fascists.” Of the 175 names appended to this declaration, some forty-odd were academic people (cf. my “Academic Freedom and the Trojan Horse in American Education,” AAUP Bulletin, 1940). On November 20, 1939, John Dewey, as Chairman, sent a personal letter to all those who had signed this denunciation, inquiring whether in the light of the Nazi-Soviet pact, they would reconsider their aspersions on the Committee. A few scattered replies were received: only two signers expressed a change of sentiment.
Last March the Waldorf Conference for World Peace, a direct outgrowth of the Communist-organized Wroclaw Peace Conference of August 1948 and precursor of the Communist Paris World Peace Conference of May 1949, issued its sponsoring list of 559 on the opening day. Of these more than 110 were academic persons. Most of them had been circularized by Americans for Intellectual Freedom, which cited the evidence that the Waldorf Conference was Communist-controlled. Eliminating those academic sponsors who had never been known before to support a Communist front and those who had at any time publicly condemned Soviet terrorism, the largest single group were still the academic fellow-travelers.
My last check was made on the Bill of Rights Conference meeting in New York in July, the month I wrote my recent article, which unanimously opposed the Communist conspiracy trial, unanimously demanded the repeal of the Smith Act, and all but unanimously rejected a resolution calling for the restoration of civil liberties to Trotskyites convicted under the very same Smith Act in 1940. (From the New York Times of July 18: “In speaking for denial of civil liberties to the Socialist Workers Party, Mr. Robeson asked the Conference: ‘Would you give civil rights to the Ku Klux Klan?’ ‘No,’ chorused the delegates.”) Of the twelve members of the initiating committee for the Bill of Rights Conference, five were professors. Of approximately 360 sponsors, almost 70 were from colleges. Eliminating the newly trapped, they were still the largest single group.
The statistical facts are unfortunate but true. However, most fellow-travelers are not really Communists by conviction or even Marxists, as I explained in my article. And the greatest care must be taken in identifying any particular individual as a fellow-traveler, for front affiliations, in addition to their number, have different relative weights depending on how open the party control or party line is.
Front organizations are of enormous usefulness to the Communist party. If it is to survive, it is safe to predict that the party will have to rely on these fronts more and more. The sledding, however, will be harder in the future. One of their special purposes is to attack groups and individuals on the Left who are hostile to Communism. No weapon in the arsenal of character assassination is left unused. In Professor Murphy’s eyes, apparently, to imply that a colleague is “fascist,” is one thing—nothing. But to criticize fellow-travelers who are willing dupes of a movement which threatens the whole structure of free society is to imperil academic freedom. On page 338 of my article I gave eight type-illustrations of fellow-traveling which deserve criticism. The reader can judge for himself by whom the integrities of academic freedom are threatened—by these individuals or their critics.
2. Academic fellow-travelers do exist whether Professor Murphy knows it or not. Many ill-considered and dangerous proposals have been made to deal with them, and I have opposed administrative measures of any kind in such situations. In this connection I endorsed President Conant’s view that a systematic study of the ideologies and practices of democracy and Communism be incorporated in the curriculum. The course of study I described was so extensive, it could hardly be introduced ad hoc. And it was to prevent interpretation of it as a “cold war” course that I wrote: “We must hasten to add—to safeguard against misunderstanding—that it cannot be the only subject of curricular emphasis. More important still, democracy is to be studied not as a conflicting ideology in a war but as a way of life to be independently explored, developed, and criticized in relation to the problems of contemporary society.” I now see there is no safeguarding oneself against the will to misunderstand.
That Professor Murphy doubts my qualifications to give such a course is not a fatal difficulty or an argument against its desirability. Better instruction is undoubtedly available. My hope was and is that “as a by-product” (page 335) of such serious study, information would be acquired about the nature and ramifications of the Communist movement.
3. In one of his remarks Professor Murphy—unwittingly I hope—amalgamates my criticism of Dr. Meiklejohn with my criticism of fellow-travelers. To remove any possibility of doubt on this score, let me emphasize as strongly as I can that I have never even dreamed of criticizing Dr. Meiklejohn as a fellow-traveler. I have criticized only his arguments on a matter of great importance. He holds that those who join and remain members of the Communist party, despite the fact that their ideas shift as the policies of the party shift, “are moved by a passionate determination to follow the truth where it seems to lead.” I may have been mistaken in my analysis and criticisms of this position. Professor Murphy would have done better to point out such defects rather than to imply that all I was trying to do was to discredit a critic of the decision at the University of Washington and “to wage war” on “a fine and courageous teacher.” He even finds it suspicious that I selected for criticism the strongest and most effectively made case in behalf of the opposing view. Would it have been more convincing evidence of good faith if I had selected the weakest and least effectively made case on the other side?
4. I have already considered some of Professor Murphy’s strictures on my criticism of Dr. lynd’s procedure in my letter above. He elaborately misses some of the main points involved. I shall try to make these explicit.
In her article, Dr. Lynd wrote: “The kind of thinking that supports the decision of the Regents is suggested by the fact that T. V. Smith, as a Congressman from Illinois, voted in January, 1940, for a continuation of the Dies Committee and that Albert F. Canwell, speaking at Cheney, Washington, on October 6, 1948, said: ‘If someone insists that there is discrimination against Negroes in this country, or that there is inequality of wealth, there is every reason to believe that person is a Communist.’” (Professor T. V. Smith had defended the decision.)
(a) If anything expresses a fascist sentiment, it is the sentence attributed to Mr. Canwell. If this is the kind of thinking that supports the decision, then not only the Regents, President Allen, the minority of the faculty committee, and Professor Smith are being smeared by innuendo, but all of Dr. Lynd’s colleagues who disagree with her about the wisdom of the decision. It is significant that Professor Murphy finds nothing offensive in this kind of criticism of his fellow scholars.
(b) Nowhere did I pass a judgment on the truth or falsity of the report of Dr. Lynd’s informants or on Mr. Canwell’s denial. I would no more do this than I would pass judgment on the truth of charges of membership in the Communist party based on private affidavits by undisclosed persons. That a person is capable of doing something is no evidence that he actually did it. It is to the use of this kind of testimony I object whether made by a House Committee OT by individuals—and no matter what the nature of the charge.
(c) It was bad enough to use this kind of testimony, but if it was going to be used it should have been put into the text so everybody would see at once on what it was based. Everybody is astute enough to find a footnote but not everybody is interested enough to look for it.
(d) I am happy to learn about Professor Rader’s vindication and hope that those who bore false witness against him will be punished. I for one never believed the charge made against him, since it was denied by former members of the Communist party unit at the University of Washington. But what Professor Murphy does not see is that precisely because the accusations against Professor Rader were not based on private or anonymous affidavits he could win vindication.
Professor Murphy seems to regard these questions of procedure, on which so much of liberal civilization rests, as a small thing. But out of violations of such small things much worse can grow.
New York University