Commentary Magazine


Teaching Anti-Communism

To the Editor:

I am very grateful for publication of Alan F. Westin’s “Anti-Communism and the Corporations” [December 1963]. It gives this reader a lot of information that he is very glad to have.

I don’t know any way in which, with due regard for free speech and so forth, we can deal through legislation with the use of Birch Society-type “in-plant” and “out-of-plant” programs supported by corporations.

I do believe that there is a legitimate objective teaching of facts about Communism, but I do not believe it can be done fairly, even if facts are pretty objectively stated by corporations which insist on identifying democracy and individual liberty with capitalism, miscalled free enterprise. I would like to see what kind of material Western Electric, praised by Mr. Westin, uses in this connection.

One thing more: This old civil libertarian is very doubtful whether the circulation of most extreme documents which really incite to violence should be permitted, whether that incitement comes from the right or from the left. In my long life, I have never seen such direct incitement as was contained in Kill magazine. On the back cover there is pictured a noose under which are the words, “Impeach the traitor John F. Kennedy for giving aid and comfort to enemies of the U.S.A.” The publishers are the American National Party, “the white working man’s party.” It has been given out, I think, in small quantities on the streets of New York.

Norman Thomas
New York City

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To the Editor:

Alan F. Westin’s article makes a major contribution in describing the growth of corporate educational programs on Communism. His analysis of this phenomenon, and his laying to rest of the “military-industrial conspiracy” explanation for it, contribute most significant additions to present-day discussion.

As Mr. Westin points out, critics of these educational programs have sometimes engaged in the same guilt-by-association techniques and over-inclusive categorizing that they have resented so bitterly when used by critics of the political left.

In the 40′s and 50′s the nature of totalitarian threats to democracy was often distorted and sometimes actually understated by those who sought to analyze these threats in terms simply of Communist conspiracy. Much the same may be said of those who today would oversimplify the hazards of the military and industrial phenomena of the cold war. The burgeoning military establishment and the unprecedentedly large segment of the private economy that is dependent upon it, pose real problems for the preservation of civil liberties and, in fact, of our democratic institutions. These will not go away if a few “bad guys” are exposed and dealt with.

John de J. Pemberton, Jr.
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union
New York City

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To the Editor:

. . . Mr. Westin asks if there is truth in the idea that a conscious military-industrial conspiracy exists. . . . But whether such a conspiracy exists or does not is immaterial. The danger lies not in a conspiracy but in the one-sided view of international realities that even well-meaning military or industrial education programs may impart to the citizens of a tolerant democracy, despite Mr. Westin’s advice about ideal, fair-minded programs.

Such a view of international politics, colored by the idea of a military and ideological conflict, could be dangerous in a society already inured or oblivious to the horrors of war. . . .

Harold J. Enrico
Cosmopolis, Washington

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To the Editor:

Alan Westin’s interesting and valuable report . . . nevertheless fails to deal, except by way of passing mention, with the crucial issues raised.

One is whether corporations, as economic institutions staffed on the basis of the contribution each man can make to profitable production, are suited for the role of educational institutions. I think the answer is that they are not; Mr. Westin has provided much evidence in support of my position. Secondly, what happens to the pluralist base of democracy if a major task of one area of autonomy is taken on by another? . . . If corporations should play any role in anti-Communist education, it seems to me that the only justifiable action is the one Westin mentions approvingly as having been taken by the Hormel Company. paying expenses for employees to study at a college.

Finally, . . . I question whether companies should make even this indirect venture into education—at least unless they leave it entirely to the employees to choose their courses. Westin mentions that certain family-held companies use company funds as “personal resources of the ‘owners.’” If the implication is one of impropriety, is it not even more improper for officers of large publicly held corporations to use company funds when they have no idea of what the wishes of the “owners” (i.e., shareholders) may be as between such use and the alternative of an additional dividend disbursement?

The problems inherent in corporate “education” cannot be handled, as Westin attempts to, by distinguishing between “responsible” and “irresponsible” education. . . . If we laud one such use, we cannot logically object to the other. As I have pointed out (in The Managed Economy), either corporations must restrict themselves to economic activity, or the community must seek new forms of social control over them.

Michael D. Reagan
Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York

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To the Editor

. . . Mr. Westin’s distinction between responsible and irresponsible educational activity on the part of the corporations is . . . of the utmost importance to the national interest. It might help combat irresponsibility if a similarly succinct, documented, and reasoned article were to describe the effect of comparable right-wing nonsense in other countries. . . . Everyone knows, of course, the effect of the loss of people like Einstein and of other German scientists and scholars in a general way, but I do not imagine that the general public or even the executives of the corporations Mr. Westin named, have a distinct and detailed idea of just how such losses affected, for instance, the German war effort. . . .

Arthur Lapan
Brooklyn, New York

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To the Editor:

It is too bad . . . that Mr. Westin nowhere found room to remark on the fact that, as evidenced by the propaganda campaigns he described, the corporations see the recognition, curtailment, and destruction of Communism as the only national goals worth our communal energy. Appeals to grownup patriotism by even the most responsible parties are made not on behalf of positive aspirations; the pledge of allegiance is not for anything . . . but always against.

. . . The use of the categorical Enemy, throughout history, has been a means of obscuring complex and critical internal problems. One could hope that Mr. Westin would have read, for instance, Paul Goodman’s remarks on what this does to American youth and point out, in his professorial capacity, how sadly insufficient is the end of Communism as even a corporate dream.

Risa E. Hirsch
New York City

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To the Editor:

As an old subscriber . . . I felt a little melancholy reading Alan Westin’s article . . . and finding a good piece of research marred by the author’s prejudice and disregard for facts . . . which show every time he touches on his bitter vendetta with Dr. Fred Schwarz.

Item: Dr. Schwarz, legitimately and honestly and publicly, acknowledged his mistake and discontinued use in his Anti-Communism Schools of the film On the Map. Nonetheless Mr. Westin, who has never publicly acknowledged any mistake, including ones about Dr. Schwarz (which he privately acknowledged to me at a Fellowship Commission meeting in Philadelphia in May 1962), snidely writes that “Even Dr. Fred Schwarz announced (etc.).”

Item: Mr. Westin in a classical use of the old double standard, which he repudiates elsewhere in his article, writes: “Characteristics of the Schwarz movement are: . . . a roster of speakers which includes many radical-right figures who add the rightist appeals that Schwarz himself avoids, etc.” He then lists W. Cleon Skouson and quotes a few views expressed by Skouson under other auspices. When I put the question that May evening in Philadelphia as to whether Mr. Westin and his hosts at the Fellowship Commission would take the responsibility for their honored chairman, Clarence Pickett, who appears on other platforms with arrant apologists for Soviet Communist evils, . . . the unsupported answer was “That was different. . . .”

Item: Mr. Westin falsely states that there is a complete absence of liberal. anti-Communists or social-democratic anti-Communists from the platform of Schwarz’s schools. Since the undersigned, who has held in his time every position in the American Socialist Party except the two reserved for Norman Thomas, has appeared by invitation at Schwarz’s schools in New York, Indianapolis, Omaha, San Diego, Cleveland, and San Francisco . . . (as has Senator Thomas Dodd, whom even ADA rates 80 to 100 per cent on his record), this statement is outrageous unless Mr. Westin denies Senator Dodd and myself (as a lifelong trade-unionist), the title of either liberal or social-democratic anti-Communists, in which case we will willingly compare records with Mr. Westin’s.

Item: Finally, Westin makes the accusation that there is a tendency to allow the Birch Society and other radical-right groups to attach themselves to the schools in order to recruit new members. He gives no facts to back it up and has never attended any of the schools. I have attended and spoken at six from coast to coast and . . . say flatly that this is false.

At Cleveland, Ohio, after a school meeting addressed by Dr. Schwarz on October 1, on the occasion of the events in Mississippi, a wild-eyed, tieless . . . Birchite rushed up to us outside the theater and said: “. . . you never said a word to protest the arrest of General Walker.” “No,” said Dr. Schwarz spontaneously, “that was because I thought he should have been arrested. . . .”

The plain fact of the matter is that Mr. Westin is following the tactic known as knocking a man down and kicking him for falling. Dr. Schwarz has tried to get many liberal and social-democratic anti-Communists and has found many of them friendly but completely intimidated by tactics like Mr. Westin’s gentle but still vicious borrowings from the late Senator McCarthy . . .

Arthur G. McDowell
Executive Secretary
Council Against Communist
Aggression and Alexis de Tocqueville Society
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Mr. Westin writes:

Mr. McDowell is wrong in thinking that I have any “bitter vendetta” with Dr. Schwarz. I did not include Dr. Schwarz; in a Harper’s magazine article on the radical right (in 1962), since I do not think the Schwarz movement should be equated with groups like the Birchers and the Christian Crusade. Dr. Schwarz thanked me personally for this omission and praised the article. I also intervened in behalf of Dr. Schwarz in 1962—as an issue of civil liberties—when it seemed as though reprisal threats by some liberal groups might keep Dr. Schwarz from buying television time to air his New York Crusade, for which Dr. Schwarz again thanked me.

I have described the Schwarz movement as a useless enterprise, and one that is exploited by the radical right, only after personally attending Schwarz lectures, reading his complete literature, examining stenographic transcripts of entire schools in several cities, and compiling a bulging file of statements by school speakers as reported in the press from New York to California. Thus Mr. Skouson did say what I said he did at Schwarz meetings in 1960-61, and if I were writing this reply from the United States (and not from Rome) I would be happy to list from my clipping files many more such rightist appeals. Mr. McDowell refers to my “responsibility” (as a guest speaker) at the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission for Clarence Pickett; I still fail to grasp the analogy. If Mr. Pickett had made comments objectionable to me at the meeting I addressed, I would have taken instantaneous exception to them; my point is that Dr. Schwarz does not do this when some of his “faculty” have voiced radical-right themes at his schools.

As for liberal and social-democratic spokesmen appearing on Dr. Schwarz’s platforms, I think Mr. McDowell will not deny that the liberal, labor, social-democratic, and socialist organizations of the United States have openly boycotted the Schwarz Crusade; Mr. McDowell seems to think this has been because of “intimidation” by writers like myself, but I prefer to think it is because the leaders of these groups, typified very vocally by Mr. McDowell’s associate, Norman Thomas, concluded that Dr. Schwarz’s approach does not lead to a balanced and insightful analysis of the Communist challenge, while it incorporates elements of anti-intellectualism and anti-liberalism that cannot be ignored. If Mr. McDowell and Senator Dodd belong within the camp of “liberals” and “social democrats,” I will be happy to cite them, in the future, as isolated mavericks on this question of Dr. Schwarz. Finally, the local press and civic groups in community after community have reported widespread additions to local radical-right groups after each Schwarz Crusade, as people are stirred to emotional heights by the “schools” and are not given any constructive program; they are then perfect recruits for the Birchers, many of whom, appreciating the dynamics of organization, were among the sponsoring committees and endorsers of the Schwarz Schools.

There is an element of tragedy in this whole situation which Mr. McDowell’s letter gives me the opportunity to note. I am convinced that Dr. Schwarz is a sincere man and an honest one, and personal conversation with him quickly shows that he is no Hargis, Welch, or Anderson. But he simply does not understand who is using him in American civic life, and how one must discard unwanted allies; nor does he understand how his analyses of Communism provide such a wholly negative contribution in the United States of the 1960′s. The point I made in my article, therefore, was that his shallow materials and doubtful faculty members had to be put into the column of useless and inflammatory “education” on Communism.

As for Mr. Reagan’s comments, I do not share his basic thesis, though I wish that space limitations had not prevented me from discussing this at greater length. First, many large corporations have put on their public affairs staffs broadly trained liberal arts graduates with advanced degrees in education or journalism. Their activities are often directed by corporate executives whose civic and political skills and activities are hardly to be dismissed by remarks about men hired to advance “profitable production.” If by “suited” Reagan means “capable of,” then the answer is that they are. Second, my reading of American pluralism is that corporations—and unions—have a legitimate right to sponsor discussion of public issues in their own organizations and in the communities, with full bias flying if they mark it as an ideological statement, or with some minimum of balance and non-compulsion if they market this as “non-political” and “educational.” God help us if “education” in public affairs is ever allowed to become the monopoly of the professional educators as their “area of autonomy.” Finally, I laud “responsible corporate education” precisely because I think corporate and union expenditure of their funds is proper, within limits set by law and civic pressure. Mr. Reagan may not know that this issue has been raised directly at shareholder meetings, such as those of Standard Oil of New Jersey, and the “owners” of shares have overwhelmingly supported the management’s policies against demands to distribute these funds as dividends or use them only for “economic” pursuits. What puzzles me is why Mr. Reagan invokes “new social controls” as a dire, future remedy. We already regulate such corporate and union activity by court decision, regulatory agency rules, and state and federal legislation, and perhaps we need some more detailed regulation. But I think it is marvelously Utopian—and a curious allegiance to American pluralism—to envisage corporations and unions limiting their activities to full-page ads in favor of Ivory soap or the ILGWU label, leaving “education” in public issues to us wise professors and the government.

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