Revolution #83 Online Edition
Report to Readers…
Response to Special Revolution Supplement "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University"
Issue #81 of Revolution featured a special supplement, "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University.” The title was not chosen lightly. A deeply intertwined agenda of right-wing political forces and Christian fascists, which finds concentrated expression at this time in the Bush regime, is working to remold the institutions of higher learning and turn them into active partners of empire, repression, and theocracy (a significant degree of rule by religion).
Several thousand copies of this special supplement were distributed at 90 universities and colleges and across the country. Correspondence from distributors of this issue gives a deeper picture of the chill descending on college campuses, traditionally places where a some space has existed for critical thinking and dissent. At campus after campus, professors and students told us stories of overt as well as “extracurricular” suppression of critical thinking. And even while this is rapidly intensifying, there is dangerously low awareness on campuses about the whole range of repressive measures encircling critical thinking in academia. On nearly every campus where this issue of Revolution reached, people were jolted by hearing about these developments, and needed analysis and exposure that made the case for what some of them sensed.
Along with the distribution of this special supplement of Revolution, in many cases people got connected the talk "'Balance' Is the Wrong Criterion—And a Cover for a Witch-hunt—What We Need Is the Search for the Truth: Education, Real Academic Freedom, Critical Thinking and Dissent” and other work by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. (This talk is part of the 7 Talks given by Bob Avakian in 2006. Audio files of this talk by and others of the 7 Talks, along with Q&A sessions and Concluding Remarks for those talks, are available for listening and dowloading at bobavakian.net and revcom.us/avakian.)
In the course of engaging with students and professors around this issue of Revolution, a picture emerged of how the Ward Churchill case (an overtly politically motivated attack at the University of Colorado to fire Prof. Churchill, stemming from an essay he wrote after 9/11) is reverberating and having a “trickle down” effect across the country. (See the article in the special supplement, "The Case of Ward Churchill: A Witch-Hunt That Must Be Defeated!") While the attempt to fire Churchill rolls toward its final stages in Colorado, other campuses have been seeing this same method employed, where one or two professors are singled out by the administration, politicians, and/or organized reactionaries for harassment, or worse, with chilling effect.
And it became even more clear that as David Horowitz tours campuses, he leaves in his wake well-funded, officially sanctioned student brownshirt organizations who make up "watch lists" of "dangerous professors," stage “immigrant hunts” and bake sales that charge non-white students more for baked goods, and organize campaigns to harass and drive off campuses or silence teachers who pose important questions in classes. Horowitz's so-called Academic Bill of Rights has been introduced into something like half the country's state legislatures as a way to suppress free speech and dissent. (See the article "The Right-wing Demand for 'Balance' in Education: A Stalking Horse for Indoctrination.")
And all this is sending a chill into classrooms very broadly. A student at DePaul University described being told in class that he shouldn't be criticizing Bush in class because of the consequences he would face for his career—and consequences for his professor. Teachers at a community college in Los Angeles told of suspecting they have “spotters” in their classrooms who will turn them in if they don't “watch what they say.” One professor described very heavy pressure put on faculty and students to not organize against anything the U.S. was doing, including preparations for and carrying out of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.
And, in the wake of moves from very high levels in the power structure to drive Ward Churchill out of academia, and the ongoing barrage of attacks from the Horowitz machine, university administrators are “getting the message” and acting as enforcers of the status quo. A professor at a prestigious California university said that while he didn't want to underplay Horowitz, his opinion was that “even more important are attacks on critical thinking by administration officials.” He described a situation where there is pressure to not present controversial ideas or politics that oppose the status quo—or else.
Another dimension to the increasing repressive situation on campuses that some professors and students spoke about is the increasing corporatization of the universities. The Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, attacked critics of a multi-million dollar program run by the British Petroleum oil monopoly as opposing “academic freedom.” (See article this issue)
On many campuses, where one or two professors have been singled out for attack, students had mobilized to support them but didn't perceive the attacks on their professors as being part of a larger pattern. In other cases, professors expressed fear of repercussions for bringing controversial speakers to campuses, particularly those who oppose the war or who are critical of Israel. Overall, there is far too little awareness of what is going on, and far too little conscious understanding of the whole assault on critical thinking and the larger picture that fits into.
Bringing Revolution newspaper and Bob Avakian into all this helped begin to put the big picture together for people. Distributors in the San Francisco Bay Area wrote that students “often didn't know about Horowitz and/or Churchill, didn't see a connection between the two if they did know, thought the characterization of 'nazification' was exaggeration, and thought their campus was not affected by the assault on critical thinking. When we were able to get into some engagement with people and do more agitation about the substance of what has been developing, we did find some awareness of Horowitz, but not his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. We found some people who had heard about Churchill but didn't know the whole picture. Most people on campuses were unaware of the legislation being considered. When we were able to get into this with professors, they did tend to see this as part of the overall dangerous direction society is going in, they are concerned about, but don't know what to do about it. The more we exposed what is going on, using the content of the paper when we could get that far, the more we were able to draw out examples of how this is really coming down. The question that followed the acknowledgment that the characterization of nazification was correct often was why was this happening now, which was a good way to get into Bob Avakian's talk "'Balance' Is the Wrong Criterion—And a Cover for a Witch-hunt—What We Need Is the Search for the Truth: Education, Real Academic Freedom, Critical Thinking and Dissent.”
Students checking out this talk got reflected in an item in the student newspaper at DePaul University which reported on an appearance on campus by David Horowitz. The Depaulia reported, “Before Horowitz’s speech, several grass-roots discussions occurred featuring Bob Avakian’s speech '"Balance" Is the Wrong Criterion—And a Cover For a Witch-hunt' took place around campus addressing some of the more philosophical implications of Horowitz’s speech and presence on campus.”
For many students, connecting for the first time with Revolution was desperately needed and appreciated fresh air. A student in Georgia who got the paper and Bob Avakian's “…Search for the Truth…” talk told the person who got it to him that he was listening to the talk, and that the paper “made my day.” A student in Mississippi who has been doing research project to expose Horowitz and Co. was overwhelmed to get this issue of Revolution and promised to immediately go online to read everything and to order a bundle from Chicago to spread around her campus.
Distributors of Revolution reported that some professors brought the supplement to the attention of their students to provoke discussion of this controversy in their classes.
While there was important emphasis distributing this issue of Revolution on the university campuses, the theme of nazification of campuses struck a chord on community college campuses, in housing projects, and high schools. Among the basic masses, as these readers of the paper became aware of the nazification on campuses, many people weren't really surprised. They have seen evidence of intensifying repression everywhere, even if they have not spontaneously thought about the way universities have been places where there has been relatively more freedom for critical thinking and dissent, and the profound meaning for the whole society that this is being suffocated in the universities. One distributor reported that several people commented on what is going on in public schools—teaching for the test, forcing people to drop out, and so on—and said these kids aren’t being educated for anything but drudgery or prison.
We found more widespread awareness of Horowitz among Black students, and on campuses of predominantly Black schools—mainly because of his infamous statement about Blacks being fortunate for their slavery and also his opposition to reparations. Some of these students had also heard about the persecution of Ward Churchill, but thought it was all over and hadn't connected the attempted firing of Churchill with Horowitz's whole campaign.
In Los Angeles, high school students at proletarian schools were interested in the issue. A number of the students had heard about the “catch an illegal immigrant game” at NYU because it had been on Spanish radio. Some Latino students and other Latino immigrants were very impacted by the pictures in the paper and wanted to know more about the comparison being made between the situation here and now, and the role of campuses in the rise of fascism in Germany. Many people didn’t know these attacks were happening at this level at the universities, but some began to make connections on the spot, drawing on the experience of and talking about attacks on “subversive” thought at universities in their countries.
In one housing project in the Midwest, 99 papers were distributed, $56 raised, and 27 copies of Bob Avakian's "…Search for the Truth…" talk were distributed.
In an important initiative, several proletarian high school youth, who read the paper in Berkeley, came out to be part of a selling team that took this issue of Revolution out to the UC Berkeley campus. They joined a Revolution selling team at UC Berkeley when Stephen Hawking, the world-famous theoretical physicist, spoke on campus. They were excited about being on campus and grappling with some of Hawking's ideas—and the fact that people thought this was something they would be interested in doing and that they had something important to bring to the students and professors at UC Berkeley.
The appearance of this special Revolution supplement "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University" captured an important moment of reckoning—and has begun to contribute to a conscious understanding of this moment. Much is at stake for society as a whole on whether this attack on the university as a place for dissent and critical thinking is understood, in its full meaning, and fought—or isn't. Especially in these dangerous times.
The experience of distributing this special issue of Revolution on campuses, and beyond, showed the urgent need for the exposure and analysis found only in Revolution newspaper—on this and on a whole range of subjects—to be much more broadly out there on campuses. And the urgent need for this special supplement to continue now to be distributed very broadly on campuses.
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