Friday, 9 December 2016

Solidarity with those listed on the "professor watchlist"

The list in question is of course disgusting - an attempt at intimidation that evokes unpleasant memories of fascist witchhunts. In view of my earlier criticism of John Bellamy Foster, I'd like to take the opportunity to express my solidarity with him and others on the list. Fortunately this thing is not (yet) a state project. Here's the message from him, which is now circulating on the Internet:

Dear Colleagues,

This is no game. We are a different period. I have not yet seen the environmental sociology discussion on this, but I am a PEWS, Environmental Sociology, and Marxist Theory section member (a former head of the section) and I am on the list. I believe I am the only one on the list in this region (the Pacific Northwest). In my case I am on it because of the Horowitz Dangerous Professors List of a decade ago, where I was listed. The Professor Watchlist has taken over the statements by Horowitz there word for word, I believe, but now it is more serious. There is a University of Oregon Chapter of the Professor Watchlist established over the last week and I am the principal target. Next week an NPR affiliated local radio station will be interviewing the head of the Chapter in a call-in show, where that individual will no doubt pinpoint me as the local rotten apple and use that as a weapon for threatening other professors. One of my sins is to be editor of Monthly Review. I have been asked to do a separate, “adjacent” interview on the same station, in which I will be able to respond.

Here we have to learn from history. The key to developing a coherent response is the Einstein First Amendment Strategy from 1953 developed in the midst of the McCarthy Era (the initial attempt to use the First in the case of the Hollywood Ten failed) in which Einstein declared that there should be determined non-cooperation and that the goal should be to use the First to attack the inquisition itself. His letter appeared in the NYT in June 1953 and let writers Leo Huberman and Harvey O’Connor, and then Corliss Lamont, Lilian Hellan, and Paul Sweezy, all of whom were closely connected, and linked to Einstein and MR, put it into practice in a succession of attempts to break McCarthyism. Sweezy was the most successful because he refused to turn over his lecture notes and to name names and they hit him with contempt of court and consigned him to county jail and he fought it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Things are obviously not at that critical state yet (we are not talking about subpoenas and prosecutions with possible imprisonment at the moment), though there are calls to reestablish the House on Un-American Activities Committee. But I think that the Einstein strategy is what we need to adopt from the start. If such a stance is taken from the beginning we may be able to head off further disasters. There should no arguing of specifics of charges, rather freedom of speech and academic freedom and challenging the goon squads should be everything. You might want to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Sweezy v. New Hampshire of 1957. You can find it online under its case number (354 U.S. 234). Welcome to Gleichschaltung.

P.S. The list has already attracted protests. One way is to turn being listed into a badge of honor and expressing solidarity by demanding to be on the list, as these academics on Notre Dame.

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