A comment to my "the ACLU, Communists, and private organizations" post asked for evidence supporting my claims about Roger Baldwin, the ACLU's Founding Director (for the details of those claims, see that post). That's a very fair question; part of the answer is to point people to Robert C. Cottrell's Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (Columbia University Press 2000), which I believe is generally seen as a fair-minded and on balance positive biography. But I thought I'd also quote excerpts from a rather striking article published by Mr. Baldwin in Soviet Russia Today in 1934 (I've also put a copy of the entire text here) (emphasis in original):
I believe in non-violent methods of struggle as most effective in the long run for building up successful working class power. Where they cannot be followed or where they are not even permitted by the ruling class, obviously only violent tactics remain. I champion civil liberty as the best of the non-violent means of building the power on which workers rule must be based. If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties. The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental.
Proletarian Liberty in Practice
When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever. Dictatorship is the obvious means in a world of enemies at home and abroad. I dislike it in principle as dangerous to its own objects. But the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world. They are liberties that most closely affect the lives of the people — power in the trade unions, in peasant organizations, in the cultural life of nationalities, freedom of women in public and private life, and a tremendous development of education for adults and children. . . .
I saw in the Soviet Union many opponents of the regime. I visited a dozen prisons — the political sections among them. I saw considerable of the work of the OGPU. I heard a good many stories of severity, even of brutality, and many of them from the victims. While I sympathized with personal distress I just could not bring myself to get excited over the suppression of opposition when I stacked it up against what I saw of fresh, vigorous expressions of free living by workers and peasants all over the land. And further, no champion of a socialist society could fail to see that some suppression was necessary to achieve it. It could not all be done by persuasion. . . .
[I]f American champions of civil liberty could all think in terms of economic freedom as the goal of their labors, they too would accept “workers’ democracy” as far superior to what the capitalist world offers to any but a small minority. Yes, and they would accept — regretfully, of course — the necessity of dictatorship while the job of reorganizing society on a socialist basis is being done.
Quite remarkable words, it seems to me, from the head of an American civil liberties organization. To his credit, Baldwin apparently recanted in 1939 (though, as I said, that was mighty late), and turned into a severe critic of the Soviet regime. And of course even in the 1930s, many in the ACLU were anti-Communist, and today's ACLU ought not be judged because of the failings of an ACLU leader in the 1930s. Still, it seems to me that once one reads these words, it becomes hard to call Baldwin an "FDR socialist," unless one has a very dim view of FDR.
All Related Posts (on one page) | Some Related Posts:
- The ACLU and Bigoted Speech in Public:
- ACLU of Texas and Gun Rights:
- Why Do I Keep Blogging About Unsound Criticisms of the ACLU?...
- More on the ACLU's Exclusion of Communists:
- Roger Baldwin (the ACLU's Founding Director):
- The ACLU, Communists, and Private Organizations:...
- More on Nebraska ACLU seeking gag order on the press:
- Nebraska ACLU and lawyers' ethical obligations:
- Nebraska ACLU asks for injunction against speech: