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
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 Israels 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. imperialisms 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
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. Horowitzs FrontPage
Magazine pilloried the women in scurrilous articles while the
College Republicans concocted phony tales of the womens "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 presidents 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 Horowitzs 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
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 Watchs 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 Massads 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 Columbias "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 Massads
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 ISOs 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 ISOs 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 Schools
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
"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 Israels 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
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.
Columbias 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 bills
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 Merantos 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 FBIs murderous
COINTELPRO program he co-authored with Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO
Papers: Documents from the FBIs Secret Wars Against Domestic
Dissent, his writings on the U.S. governments 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. Churchills
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, Churchills 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 states
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 Churchills future at
the university. An injury to one is an injury to all! Defend Ward
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
Reprinted from Young Spartacus - Workers Vanguard, February