Right-Wing Thought Police
Assault Free Speech on Campus

You read them in major newspapers. You see them on cable news. Their essays span a thousand Internet blogs. Always, the complaint is the same: they are persecuted, hounded by remorseless "elites" bent on world domination. Are these the complaints of an oppressed minority group? Embattled workers? The unemployed? Leftist protesters? No, these bleats come from the mouths of smug think tankers and hacks with intimate ties to some of the most influential policy-makers in government today. In this Orwellian campaign, the expression of views in the university that run contrary to those ruling the country equals a lack of "academic freedom." Under the spurious banner of "academic freedom," student groups are harassed, professors threatened with being purged, whole departments "investigated" for the current version of "un-American activities" reminiscent of the McCarthyite anti-red witchhunting of the 1950s, when Communists, leftists and even liberals were driven off campus and black students were largely excluded.

The current campaign to purge the campuses is not simply a vicious ideological assault. It supports and is supported by the power of the American capitalist government. Intelligence agencies have long had a sufficient presence on American campuses for CIA spokesman Sharon Foster to boast in 1988 that the agency had enough professors secretly on its payroll "to staff a large university" (CounterPunch, 26 January). Since September 2001, this has clearly accelerated. A case in point is the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP), named after its Senatorial sponsor. Designed for graduate students interested in working in intelligence, the PRISP program keeps its recipients secret. Professor David Price of St. Martins College, who publicized the case, has stated that, "These PRISP students are also secretly compiling dossiers on their professors and fellow students".

Snooping, harassment, purges: these attacks are part of an overall assault on and qualitative diminution of democratic rights that has intensified with the U.S. capitalists’ bipartisan "war on terror." Arab students, black students, women students, gays, leftists and all those opposed to imperialist slaughter and domestic repression have a stake in fighting back. And the campaign being waged by the likes of David Horowitz, Ann Coulter and the bourgeois media, including its under-crust tabloid variety, should also be opposed by the organized working class, which has the objective interest and social power to do so.

The attempted castration of intellectual dissent is an attack on all opposition to the ruling-class agenda. Today it is particularly aimed at those who oppose the bloody occupation of Iraq and voice outrage at the genocidal "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people by Israel’s Zionist rulers. Middle East studies departments, including distinguished scholars, are among the prime targets of campus witchhunts. But the same forces that would like to see campuses inhabited solely by white frat boys in khakis also want to see a union-free workforce that they can more brutally exploit. They seek a docile, regimented society, all the better to send the sons and daughters of the working people to serve as cannon fodder in U.S. imperialism’s wars abroad while ripping up even the most minimal gains of previous class and social struggles at home. And, in this country where the bedrock of the capitalist system is the racist oppression of black people, the would-be McCarthys are racist to the core.

Horowitz: Racist Apologist for Slavery

Unsurprisingly, former leftist-turned-right-wing ideologue and self-appointed Grand Inquisitor David Horowitz is up to his eyeballs in all of this. Horowitz is high in the councils of the Republican Party. His diatribes run in major newspapers. His neoconservative think tank, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, rakes in millions of dollars, his daily online FrontPage Magazine is a standard-bearer for the very right-wingers running the country at present.

In 2001, Horowitz ran an ad in around 50 campus newspapers across the country that contained nauseating apologies for slavery and spat on the gains of black struggle (see "Racism and Witchhunts on Campus," WV No. 756, 13 April 2001). Now, he is touting a grossly misnamed "Academic Bill of Rights." The bill, among other things, empowers "duly constituted authorities" to snoop into hiring and tenure decisions on college campuses, attempting to provide a basis for a purge of the left from campuses. The Georgia State Senate passed the measure, and it is up for consideration in several other states.

As Horowitz pushes his agenda in the halls of state legislatures and on the Internet, he and his ilk are pursuing a sustained and vicious campaign on the campuses. Thus, some 150 chapters of the Horowitz-inspired Students for Academic Freedom have joined with various conservative clubs, College Republican groups and the like in harassing left-wing professors and staging racist provocations. Marxists understand that it is necessary to refute the lies of right-wing propagandists and combat the corrosive effect of their retrograde ideas. Seeking to shut down right-wing ideologues when they speak on campus will only play into their hands by making it appear that the left has no answer to their demagoguery.

The campus right-wingers showed their fangs against political opponents at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in the fall of 2004. When heated arguments between four female students from predominantly Muslim countries and the College Republicans degenerated into the Republicans screaming that the women were "terrorists" amid vile racist epithets, various campus groups held an impromptu demonstration in defense of the women. Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine pilloried the women in scurrilous articles while the College Republicans concocted phony tales of the women’s "terrorist" activities, leading to government surveillance. Meanwhile, SFSU president Robert Corrigan has demanded that both groups apologize or face academic penalties under "hate speech" regulations championed by liberals. Our comrades at SFSU issued a January 21 leaflet, printed in the last issue of WV, which explained: "These are McCarthyite strategists; both their campaigns and their racist lies must be exposed" and demanded: No administration reprisals! Down with the right-wing witchhunt!

Our position is in marked contrast to ostensibly socialist groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO). At SFSU, where the four students were threatened with campus discipline, Students Against War (which includes ISO members) issued a petition with the demand that "there be no punitive action against these four women or any
organization they belong to." But the core of the petition is a call on Corrigan to act as a regulator of political speech on campus. Such regulations would be used as they always are - in the first instance, to go after the left and minority students. Quoting a line from a 2002 letter by Corrigan that read "hate speech is not free speech," the petition stated that "signatories of this petition would agree with the president’s sentiment." Such language renders the petition unsupportable. And this came after he threatened reprisals against the immigrant students for expressing their political views.

Lest there be any doubt about the supposed "neutrality" of the campus administration, when a comrade of the SFSU SYC tried to make a comment during the Q&A period at Horowitz’s recent forum at SFSU, grotesquely billed as a talk on "academic freedom," campus security was called in to silence any dissenting views, removing four SYC supporters. As we noted in a letter to the Golden Gate [X]press: "How far the right-wing witchhunt will go depends on how much labor, leftists and minorities are willing to stand up and voice their opinions. We will not be intimidated." Down with the police and administration attack on the right to free speech on campus!

Apologists for Israeli State Terror on the Warpath

The Zionists act as extra-governmental auxiliaries for the imperialists on campus and are an integral part of the racist, witchhunting cabal. The principal instigators of these assaults on campus dissent are closely linked to the Bush administration. Campus Watch, which snoops on professors critical of American and Israeli policies in the Near East, is a case in point. Campus Watch’s Daniel Pipes is part of the Project for the New American Century, which has included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his lieutenant Paul Wolfowitz. But, as the recent campaign of defamation and harassment of Professor Joseph Massad at Columbia University shows, the pro-Zionist Democrats have been no less vicious.

Columbia is today the front line of this Zionist blitzkrieg. There, a squalid, scurrilous little film, Columbia Unbecoming, launched charges that professors in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department had engaged in "academic intimidation" of pro-Israel students. The arch-Zionist New York Sun and the gutter-press Daily News embarked on a vicious campaign against the targeted professors, most notably Massad. New York City Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner called for Massad’s firing. Toeing the line, Columbia president Lee Bollinger has formed a committee that is "investigating" the charges. The New York City Council has already announced that it will demand another investigation if Columbia’s "comes up dry".

In a statement responding to the bogus charges laid out in Columbia Unbecoming, Massad, a regular recipient of death threats, wrote: "I chose under the duress of coercion and intimidation not to teach my course this year. It is my academic freedom that has been circumscribed. But not only mine." Indeed, Professor Massad’s case calls for militant united-front protest of students and workers to demand that the Columbia administration keep its hands off all the victimized professors and MEALAC. This is the perspective for which the SYC fought at Columbia. We oppose any and all snooping "investigations" of departments and faculty targeted by the Zionists and rightists. We also insisted, in a leaflet widely distributed (see "Down With Zionist Witchchunt on Campus!" WV No. 837, 26 November 2004) that "Key to defeating the witchhunt against Columbia professors and MEALAC is forthrightly taking up the defense of the Palestinian people." And we warned against, as we have before, any illusions that the union-busting Bollinger administration could be relied upon to defend free speech.

There was every reason for that warning, not least the track record of the ISO as a reformist pressure group allergic to revolutionaries who tell the truth about the society in which we live, and the necessary struggle to fundamentally change it, i.e., a workers revolution. For example, when the Columbia College Conservative Club staged a racist "affirmative action bake sale" on campus last February — a calculated insult to black and other minority students at Columbia, challenging their very right to attend — the campus seethed in anger. A series of protests erupted, in which the Spartacus Youth Club actively participated, including by initiating two protests of our own. But the leadership of the Columbia University Concerned Students of Color (CUCSC), with the ISO’s support, dissipated the protests in favor of demands that the Columbia University administration take a more active role in "protecting" students against racism.

Among the demands supported by the ISO et al. was one for "disciplinary actions and policies to prevent and handle transgressions against marginalized student populations." At the time, we warned, "One could well imagine legions of rabid Zionists, as has happened on other campuses, running to the administration with cries of ’anti-Semitism’ to encourage a crackdown on any pro-Palestinian protest".

That is in fact what happened to Massad and the MEALAC department. True to form, the ISO’s reaction to the Massad case illustrated an abiding faith in the campus administration as a potential force for justice. At a December press conference at Columbia, ISO supporter Monique Dols declared, "At a time when Arab dissenters are disappearing into deportation centers, President Bollinger should be doing a lot more than holding a symposium on civil liberties [which had occurred at Columbia earlier in the semester] — he should be protecting them." Dols took a similar tone in the pages of Socialist Worker (3 December 2004): "Rather than continue to play an active role in the witch-hunt of international students and the silencing of dissent, the Columbia University administration should take a stand against the attacks on its own professors."These remarks came at a time when the Columbia administration had already announced its intent to "investigate" the allegations purveyed by Columbia Unbecoming and moreover had been cooperating with the Feds’ "war on terror" harassment of and spying on immigrant students for years!

And the hits just keep on coming. On February 7, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a rabid Zionist who recently and infamously championed the use of torture as part of the "war on terror," was sponsored on campus by Columbia Students for Israel; Columbia Law School’s Israel advocacy club; Columbians for Academic Freedom and others. Dershowitz urged students to cooperate with the committee "investigating" allegations against MEALAC and Massad, denounced critics of Israel as "encourag[ing] the terrorists," and threw in his defense of "regulated" torture.

Dershowitz also used the "anti-Zionism means anti-Semitism" slander typically used by Zionists. In the statement defending himself against the charges in Columbia Unbecoming, Massad eloquently refuted this assertion:

"Unlike the pro-Israel groups, I do not think that Israeli actions are ‘Jewish’ actions or that they reflect the will of the Jewish people worldwide! All those pro-Israeli propagandists who want to reduce the Jewish people to the State of Israel are the anti-Semites who want to eliminate the existing pluralism among Jews. The majority of Israel’s supporters in the United States are, in fact, not Jews but Christian fundamentalist anti-Semites who seek to convert Jews.... Therefore, it is not anti-Semitism that offends pro-Israel groups; what offends them is anti-Israel criticism."

Equating anti-Zionism with "anti-Semitism" has the effect of cheapening anti-Semitism, which is a very real phenomenon needing to be fought both in the West and the Islamic world. In fact, the Zionists have always reserved special venom for Jewish historians who defend Palestinian rights like Joel Beinin and Norman Finkelstein.

As revolutionary Trotskyists, we seek to win students and youth to a Marxist worldview, to taking a side with the exploited and oppressed against capitalist imperialism. Against the Zionists and all variants of Arab nationalism, we understand that the only solution to the problem of Israel/Palestine, where two peoples have valid, conflicting claims to a small territory, lies through the joint class struggle of Hebrew and Palestinian Arab workers, connected to class struggle throughout the region. In the first instance, this means that workers and their allies throughout the world must defend the Palestinian people against Zionist aggression and demand: All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories! A just solution is not possible under capitalism. The only road to peace in the Near East lies through socialist revolution. This requires not only a revolutionary struggle against the Zionist butchers and the collection of dictators, corpulent imperialist puppets, mullahs and monarchs who rule the remainder of the region, but also against the paymaster of oppression in the Near East - the American bourgeoisie at whose teat the likes of Daniel Pipes suckle. U.S. out of Iraq now! Hands off the world!

"Culture Wars" on Campus

The focus on area studies, Middle East studies in particular, is not accidental. After World War II, U.S. government-funded area studies programs were established primarily to provide the U.S. imperialists with expertise on strategic regions in the Cold War. Following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government developed a heightened interest in Middle East studies as part of the "war on terror." The Zionists and their allies in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, who object to any criticism of Israel in any public forum, have sought to drive out professors critical of Israeli and U.S. policy.

It is in this context that the ominous International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003, or House Resolution (H.R.) 3077, has reared its ugly head. With the support of several Zionist organizations, notably the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, it passed the House unanimously and awaits a vote in the Senate. If passed, it would, among other things, lead to the establishment of a government "advisory board" including representatives of national security agencies to oversee federally funded university programs, Middle East studies in particular. Columbia’s professor Rashid Khalidi warned: "If implemented as its proponents intend, it would impose the pseudo-sciences of terrorology and the demonization of Islam and Muslims as integral parts of teaching and research about the Middle East"

The attacks on area studies like Middle East studies are but the sharp end of a larger wedge. With the far right in the lead, the ruling class wants big-time rollback: from abortion rights to the teaching of evolution in schools, from affirmative action to union rights. While their howls about "rampaging radicalism" on the university campuses are, unfortunately, a bad joke, the fact remains that they have not successfully established seamless ideological dominance. Therefore, those leftist faculty members who continue to work and teach are now particularly under the gun.

And the effects of the witchhunts on their targets can be devastating. The case of Oneida Meranto, a Navajo professor at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, is particularly telling. Two right-wing students who complained of her supposed "liberal bias" filed grievances against Dr. Meranto in the fall of 2003. In the meantime, one of the students, Nick Bahl, wrote an article denouncing Meranto in FrontPage Magazine. The other student, George Gordon Culpepper Jr., testified against Meranto before the Colorado Senate during deliberations on the "Academic Bill of Rights." Culpepper subsequently became an intern in the office of the bill’s sponsor. Then the death threats against Dr. Meranto began rolling in, laced with revolting racist and sexist epithets, including, "Shoot this commie bitch." (Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 November 2004). Though the university ruled the grievances to be without merit, two vicious right-wingers with a vendetta still managed to make Meranto’s life a living hell.

Longtime American Indian activist and University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill is, at the time of this writing, the most recent target of a high-level onslaught. Churchill is well known in leftist circles for the history of the FBI’s murderous COINTELPRO program he co-authored with Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent, his writings on the U.S. government’s genocidal treatment of Native Americans and his exposés of the UN sanctions against Iraq that resulted in well over a million deaths.

When Churchill was slated to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York on February 3, some students and faculty protested his appearing, based on an essay he had written titled, "’Some People Push Back’: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." Just after the September 11 attacks, Churchill wrote an angry liberal response to the crimes of U.S. imperialism, especially the murderous sanctions against Iraq. In this, he implied that Americans in general, due to their indifference to the suffering the U.S. government was causing abroad, were all guilty to an extent of these crimes. Thus, Churchill argues that the attack on the World Trade Center was a counterstroke in a war between the First and Third Worlds. In the course of this, Churchill referred to the "technocrats" in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns."

As Marxists, we find Churchill's interpretation of the attack on the World Trade Center —a criminal act that resulted in massive loss of innocent life and a godsend to the imperialist rulers — a grotesque version of liberal collective guilt. Churchill’s outlook divides the world into good peoples and bad peoples rather than into opposing classes. Those who carried out that attack embraced the same mentality as the racist rulers of America — identifying the working masses with their capitalist exploiters and oppressors. Unlike the World Trade Center, the Pentagon is the command and administrative center of the U.S. imperialist military, and as a military installation the possibility of getting hit comes with the territory. That recognition does not make the attack an "anti-imperialist" act, nor does it change the fact that terrorism almost always gets innocent people — in this case, the passengers on the plane as well as the maintenance workers, janitors and secretaries at the Pentagon. Nevertheless, we vigorously oppose the persecution of Professor Churchill for his unpopular views. The witchhunters, transparently, have seized on his World Trade Center statement in order to censor him, as payback for his long-time activism and exposure of the crimes of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad.

Thus, Churchill’s appearance at Hamilton was canceled due to a flurry of death threats. He has already stepped down as the head of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, and the state’s right-wing governor, Bill Owens, as well as Colorado Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald have called for his resignation. On campus, the board of regents has met to consider Churchill’s future at the university. An injury to one is an injury to all! Defend Ward Churchill!

The very movements that returned leftists to campus and got significant numbers of black people into the universities, like the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley and the New Left, were themselves born of the tumultuous struggles of the time-notably the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Likewise, the attempts to overturn these gains are part of a push by the emboldened right-wing rulers against all of the advances of previous struggles against ppression, repression and stultifying conformity.

Universities are repositories of knowledge, and, as Karl Marx remarked, ignorance never did anyone any good. Broader social struggles often find their reflection in student activism, which is by its very nature transitory (and by no means always leftist). Like any institution under capitalism, the universities are run to benefit the capitalists, in the first place by training the administrative, technical and cultural personnel the capitalist system needs. This can range from the benign (high school math teachers, say) to the deeply malignant (State Department cadres, researchers for the military-industrial complex, ROTC, CIA operatives, strikebreaking "industrial relations" experts). At the same time, universities serve to provide scientific, cultural and technical knowledge needed by those who will be ideologists and spokesmen for all classes in society.

As part of our work on universities, seeking to win "class traitors" to a lifetime of service to the cause of international workers revolution, we fight for the maximum access to and democracy within the groves of academe and to obstruct the university from being direct instruments of class rule and class discrimination. Thus we call for open admissions and no tuition along with a paid living stipend. Education, quality education, is a democratic right and should be readily available to all, not merely to the fewer and fewer who can pay for it — or whose parents can pay for it. The elite private schools should be nationalized — and Columbia should be open to Harlem residents and Harvard to those of Roxbury! For the universities to genuinely serve the needs of those who study there, the campus administrations should be abolished for student, worker, teacher control! To impede the universities from being direct agents of U.S. imperialism we call for an end to ROTC and all forms of military research.

The Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth/student auxiliaries of the Marxist Spartacist League, seek to develop young radicals into communist militants, through socialist education and struggle, and to organize and link them, through the vanguard party, to the working class. Our goal is nothing less than the destruction of this rotten capitalist society through the seizure of state power by the working class. While many partial battles loom, it is only the revolutionary transformation of society that will put an end to the racist, witchhunting, warmongering offensive. Join us in the struggle against world filth and for a socialist future!

Reprinted from Young Spartacus - Workers Vanguard, February 2005


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