The Double Standard

Rogoff, Harry

The Battle of San Francisco Further Adventure on a Lecture lour Through the I.and of Free Speech By Bertram D. Wolfe WHILE .poking at Mills Celiacs in Oakland I received aa invitation from the...

...They wain me that if we permit you to talk the Center will be in danger...
...They tell me you are a Peace Now leader, an American Firster, an agent of Hitler...
...Yes, and you are being interviewed...
...I have more confidence in the people than you have...
...We assume that among those who hear him on our program will be persons who will disagree with some of the things he says, just as others have disagreed with things other people on our program have said...
...Protest against Bertram Wolfe, writer and lecturer, being permitted to spesk at the Jewish Cematunity Center on July 25 as scheduled, was made by the San Francisco branch of the National Maritime Union, CIO...
...I found a number of men at the newspaper who knew my writing, among them the Labor Kditor...
...Our forum is an open forum, which means that it permits any serious viewpoint seriously presented by an informed speaker...
...Christian Cemtnrg is an outatanding magazine of Protestant liberalism...
...I left them explaining things to their fellow-travelers and to the union on which they had put over the disgraceful resolution...
...Whatever the motives of the individuals who induced a trade union to adopt a resolution containing false statements condemning a man without a hearing, they have been guilty of a serious abuse against the union in question...
...All this was extremely helpful...
...The significant thing is tke sttempt to break ap a calm and orderly discussion of Important current issues, the use of s wounded veteran as tke spearhead of he attack, and the employment of the bond drive aa a stalking horse under cover of which, with pseudo patriotic fervor, to make sn ssssnlt upon a basic principle of Americanism, the right of free discussion...
...If I could have located you, 1 would have interviewed on it...
...I told her the story of 'the battle of Seattle," warned her that her Iastitution might prove more viilneiable than the Quakers and the churches of Seattle "This has been going on for weeks now," she responded...
...The guests present extended further invitations, and I met yet other persons...
...Thus it seems that the Stalinist ssssnlt on free speech net only aroused the labor snd civic orgsnixstions of Sesttle, but has helped to counteract the subtle work which Kenneth Leslie in The Protestant has been doing for the Stalinists in religious and church circles...
...So ended "the battle of San Francisco," like that of Seattle, with a victory for free discussion snd a defeat for the Stalinites...
...I am not now, nor hare I ever been a Trotskyile...
...The speaker, and as far as 1 could judge, the audience, enjoyed the proceedings immensely...
...The Battle of San Francisco Further Adventure on a Lecture lour Through the I.and of Free Speech By Bertram D. Wolfe WHILE .poking at Mills Celiacs in Oakland I received aa invitation from the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco to address their monthly Open Forum...
...When I reached the Community ('enter the night of my talk, they were all there, the old-fashioned Communists and the innocent fellow-travelers, along with a crowd so large that several hundreds had to be turned away...
...The resolution, Introduced by Communist lesders of the Union, was reported to have been unanimous...
...In last week's issue Bertram D. Wolfe teU the atery of "the Battle of Seattle," which demonstrated once more that the American pablic values ear tradition of free apaeck ceaaideraMy mare than aa the Commanists...
...Russia and the Peace...
...ffMU PROTESTS "PEACE NOW SPEAKER HERE This was the headline with which the San Francisco Chremicle greeted me on the day of my arrival...
...November Elections May Bar Closed Shop in Three States California, Arkansas and Florida voters are being harangued by the National Association of Manufacturers and their allies to vote in November for an amendment to their state constitutions which, under the guise of protecting the "right to work" would practically smash the labor movement by outlawing every closed shop contract...
...1 was rewarded at last for my old habit of carrying a briefcase full of documentary proofs around when I lecture...
...All three statements concerning me are falsehoods," read the interview published on July 22...
...They answer: We have it on good authority.' 'Who is your authority?' They refuse to answer...
...The astonishing publicity the Stalinists gave me served to enlarge their number...
...Well, here I am...
...I have never written or uttered a slanderous statement concerning the Soviet peoples...
...We have an open forum...
...I remind them of it: you need free speech, too, I tell them...
...I should have preferred a more dispassionate atmosphere for such difficult discussion...
...There were unpleasant moments in my tour, but on the whole I must ssy I enjoyed it...
...I tell them that we of the Center believe in free discussion...
...If Mr...
...I have been bombarded by twenty to thirty telephone calls a day, some from CIO officials, others from prominent persons in the community...
...The topic they chose was am mast difficult of the series I had delivered at Mills...
...I did not go out to the West Coast to pick a quarrel with them...
...One dinner was given by a couple of old-fashioned Communists (trade union officials) who still believe in class struggle and socialism and are irked by Harry Bridges' "no-strikes-for-ten-yearsafter-the-War" and Earl Browder'a "friendly hand loth.- i bamber of Commerce...
...We let these same people have a speaker, too, and we got just such a telephone campaign from their opponents...
...They were genuinely shocked at the lies and frame-up methods and the attempt to prevent my speaking...
...I was invited to dinner by citizens who wanted to know the truth behind the attacks...
...Moscow has not withdrawn from the war: the Red Army continues to chase the Germans across Poland...
...The questions and arguments enabled me to prove to the hilt points which hail been called in question...
...What they mean is that I have been critical of Stalin...
...Wolfe spoke at Mills College and his speeches are said to be interesting...
...As a precautionary measure, I sent to Seattle for printed copies of the talk I had delivered there, so that I might hand it out if the Stalinites prevented me from speaking...
...Wolfe is what you say he is, an audience used to free discussion has brain enough to recognize it and not be misled by it People will get up and answer bun You are welcome to answer him...
...Moreover, if they had let me alone, only small circles would have heard me...
...Evidently the Communist Politicsl Association has net, for sll its chsnge of nsme and announced purpose, lesrned the elcmentsry a-b-r's of American democracy...
...To a Chronicle reporter she said: "This is a democracy, and we don't have to agree with all that a apeaker says...
...Though there were many of their stalwarts in my audience, the Stalinites let me deliver my talk without a whisper Then, one by one, their people got up with little talks meant to "expose' me,' with typewritten qutstions or arguments...
...It declared that I was "a known Trotskyite, had made slanderous statements against the heroic Soviet peoples .. . was propounding a program of Hitler and Hitler's sIIim...
...rrasured me to know that there are organizations like the Institutes.of International Relations, the Quakers, the churches, the universities, the unions, the Jewish Center, and countless individuals, who refused to he coerced by political gangsterism, intimidated by slander, who believe in giving men a hearing and judg...
...Wolfe spoke...
...It petitioned the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to bar roe from speaking in San Francisco...
...If your authority is good ruthority for me as well as you, why don't you name names?' No answer...
...But you must admit that a unanimous resolution of the National Maritime Union is news...
...We are listening to speakers who express many viewpoints...
...Commenting editorially an the episode, The Christ ism Csmturg said: "If any bat Qaakers has been renduetiag the institute of international relations ia Seattle when a gaag of Cemmnniats ranked to the platform and attempted to break np the meeting, doubtless police protection weald have been Invoked and the disturbers weald bare been pat in jail, where they belong...
...Locally, we have noted no visible damage from this exercise of free opinion in San Francisco...
...We have more faith than you in the ordinary American's capacity to listen, judge and answer" "In that case 1 shall lie glad to speak under your auspices " * End of Round On* 1 WKNT ii[i to sec the editor of the Son h'ranrieco Chronicle...
...An Example of Civic Valor I WENT to Miss Loewy ami asked her whether she would like to cancel the engagement...
...My object was to contribute to a necessary discussion of the problems that arise for us In America out of the fact that we are cooperating and must continue to cooperate in war and in the peace with a totalitarian power...
...I told the story of Seattle...
...The story began...
...The issues would not havs been raised in the press, in the unions, in the circles of their sympathizers...
...So long as there is freedom of discussion no one man can do so much damage as you say...
...I am not connected with nor have I ever had any connection with the Peace Now movement nor do I favor a peace with Hitler or the present regimes in Germany or Japan...
...The disturbance waa aat a sporadic outburst of rowdyism bat a planned campaign for the suppression af free discussion . . . odious to the Cemmaaiet agitators...
...I knew it wasn't so, when I wrote the story," he told me...
...I have many friends in the city, even among Communists and fellow-trsvlers...
...I did not know whether I should be able to deliver my scheduled lecture...
...But when I saw the interview (it was about three times as long as the above quotation) I knew that Round One had not turned out badly...
...Miss Emma Loewy of the Jewish Community Center had never heard me apeak...
...Years ago I lived in San Francisco and was active in the labor movement there...
...Next day the Chronicle reported on it under the heading : WOLFE CIVES THAT LECTURE ON RUSSIA A day later, July 27, the same paper ran a long editorial on the Hill of Rights a little appended editorial : "NO THUNDERBOLTS" "Hertram l> Wolfe, writer and lecturer, spoke as scheduled at the Jewish Community Center over the protest of the (TO National Maritime Union that hr is a Trotnkyite' and his appearance would offend our Russian allies and hart the war effort...
...ing them by what they say, not by what others say about them, who really believe in free speech and honest discussion and are ready to fight to defend it...
...Such were the opening salvos which greeted my arrival in San Francisco...
...Louis Burgess, who had written up the NMU resolution...
...But she stood up bravely under the unexpected Are...
...The advance publicity of the NMU had been very effective...
...During the few weeks I lived in San Francisco I met scores of innocent snd decent fellow-travelers, honest believers in one or another fine-sounding slogsn of the Communists...
...I ask for proof...

Vol. 27 • October 1944 • No. 42


 
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