"There Are Enemies From Within" [speech excerpt]
This indicates the swiftness of the tempo of Communist victories and American defeats in the cold war. As one of our outstanding historical figures once said, "When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within." . . .
The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores . . . but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate, or members of minority groups who have been traitorous to this Nation, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest Nation on earth has had to offer . . . the finest homes, the finest college education and the finest jobs in government we can give.
Paul Robeson "You Are The Un-Americans And You Ought To Be Ashamed Of Yourselves"
Mr. ARENS: Now I would invite your attention, if you please, to the Daily Worker of June 29, 1949, with reference to a get-together with you and Ben Davis. Do you know Ben Davis?
Mr. ROBESON: One of my dearest friends, one of the finest Americans you can imagine, born of a fine family, who went to Amherst and was a great man.
THE CHAIRMAN: The answer is yes?
Mr. ROBESON: Nothing could make me prouder than to know him.
THE CHAIRMAN: That answers the question.
Mr. ARENS: Did I understand you to laud his patriotism?
Mr. ROBESON: I say that he is as patriotic an American as there can be, and you gentlemen belong with the Alien and Sedition Acts, and you are the nonpatriots, and you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
Joseph Welch "Have You No Sense Of Decency?"
Mr. WELCH: Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
John Howard "They Want To Puzzle Public Opinion"
Mr. LAWSON. You have spent 1 week vilifying me before the American public—
The CHAIRMAN. Just a minute—
Mr. LAWSON. And you refuse to allow me to make a statement on my rights as an American citizen.
The CHAIRMAN. I refuse you to make the statement, because of the first sentence in your statement. That statement is not pertinent to the inquiry.
Now, this is a congressional committee— a congressional committee set up by law. We must have orderly procedure, and we are going to have orderly procedure.
Mr. Stripling, identify the witness.
Mr. LAWSON. The rights of American citizens are important in this room here, and I intend to stand up for those rights, Congressman Thomas.
Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Lawson, will you state your full name, please?
Mr. LAWSON. I wish to protest against the unwillingness of this committee to read a statement, when you permitted Mr. Warner, Mr. Mayer, and others to read statements in this room.
My name is John Howard Lawson. . . .
Mr. STRIPLING. What is your occupation, Mr. Lawson?
Mr. LAWSON. I am a writer.
Mr. STRIPLING. How long have you been a writer?
Mr. LAWSON. All my life—at least 35 years—my adult life.
Mr. STRIPLING. Are you a member of the Screen Writers Guild?
Mr. LAWSON. The raising of any question here in regard to membership, political beliefs, or affiliation—
Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Chairman—
Mr. LAWSON. Is absolutely beyond the powers of this committee.
Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Chairman—
Mr. LAWSON. But—
(The chairman pounding gavel.)
Mr. LAWSON. It is a matter of public record that I am a member of the Screen Writers Guild.
Mr. STRIPLING. I ask—
Statement by John Howard, which was never read into the record:
Today, we face a serious crisis in the determination of national policy. The only way to solve that crisis is by free discussion. Americans must know the facts. The only plot against American safety is the plot to conceal facts. I am plastered with mud because I happen to be an American who expresses opinions that the House Un-American Activities Committee does not like. But my opinions are not an issue in this case. The issue is my right to have opinions. The Committee’s logic is obviously: Lawson’s opinions are properly subject to censorship; he writes for the motion picture industry, so the industry is properly subject to censorship; the industry makes pictures for the American people, so the minds of the people must be censored and controlled.
Why? What are J. Parnell Thomas and the Un-American interests he serves, afraid of? They’re afraid of the American people. They don’t want to muzzle me. They want to muzzle public opinion. They want to muzzle the great Voice of democracy. Because they’re conspiring against the American way of life. They want to cut living standards, introduce an economy of poverty, wipe out labor’s rights, attack Negroes, Jews, and other minorities, drive us into a disastrous and unnecessary war.
The struggle between thought-control and freedom of expression is the struggle between the people and a greedy unpatriotic minority which hates and fears the people. I wish to present as an integral part of this statement, a paper which I read at a Conference on Thought Control in the United States held in Hollywood on July 9th to 13th. The paper presents the historical background of the threatening situation that we face today, and shows that the attack on freedom of communication is, and has always been, an attack on the American people.
The American people will know how to answer that attack. They will rally, as they have always rallied, to protect their birthright.
Howard Zinn: While some people think that dissent is unpatriotic, I would argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we're exercising that right to dissent, it's a patriotic act.
One of the great mistakes made in discussing patriotism -- a very common mistake -- is to think that patriotism means support for your government. And that view of patriotism ignores the founding principles of the country expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That is: the Declaration of Independence makes it clear that governments are artificial creations set up to achieve certain ends -- equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness -- and when governments become destructive of those ends it is the right of the people in the words of the Declaration, to alter or abolish the government.
In other words, obedience to government certainly is not a form of patriotism. Governments are the instruments to achieve certain ends. And if the government goes against those ends, if the government is not defending our liberties, but is diminishing our liberties, if the government is sending young people into war or making war which is unjustified, well then the government is not following the principles of caring about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When the government is taking huge sums of money from education and health, and using that money for military purposes, that's a violation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. And a government like that cannot be obeyed. To obey a government like that is not being patriotic. At that point, when a government behaves like that, it is the most patriotic thing to disobey the government.
And more from Howard Zinn about the importance of not being cheerleaders to the Obama administration:
Our job is not to give him a blank check or simply be cheerleaders. It was good that we were cheerleaders while he was running for office, but it’s not good to be cheerleaders now. Because we want the country to go beyond where it has been in the past. We want to make a clean break from what it has been in the past.
What’s required is a total turnaround. We want a country that uses its resources, its wealth, and its power to help people, not to hurt them. That’s what we need. This is a vision we have to keep alive. We shouldn’t be easily satisfied and say, "Oh well, give him a break. Obama deserves respect." But you don’t respect somebody when you give them a blank check. You respect somebody when you treat them as an equal to you, and as somebody you can talk to and somebody who will listen to you. Not only is Obama a politician. Worse, he’s surrounded by politicians. And some of them he picked himself. He picked Hillary Clinton, he picked Lawrence Summers, he picked people who show no sign of breaking from the past.
We are citizens. We must not put ourselves in the position of looking at the world from their eyes and say, "Well, we have to compromise, we have to do this for political reasons." No, we have to speak our minds.
That’s been the story of this country. Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.
And that is the story that we face time and time again. It's the same old story, as I have written about previously. So, let us think about history, and ask ourselves whether it's right to label any progressive critic of the White House administration as a "troll" because in this diary, the brush was so broad that it would've tarred Howard Zinn, of all people, with the troll label. When a brush is that broad, then we have problems in which almost anyone is designated as a "troll" or somehow unacceptable as a part of our community.
That sort of exclusion, finger-pointing, and calling other names because they voice different opinions does not serve our community well. If we seek on marginalizing people just because they don't show "sufficient loyalty" to the President simply by voicing concerns on policy issues, then this site will become smaller and smaller, and we're all inside our own bubbles with people we choose to speak with and to listen from. That sort of ideological bubble does not sit well with me, because what good is hiding from criticism?
When things need to be said, they will be said, and you cannot fear that sort of criticism because it is needed and demanded of our elected officials in our democracy. Dissent is healthy, it is American, and it is patriotic. It keeps politicians from becoming complacent, makes people think about what could be, instead of what is merely possible within the political status quo.
If not for dissent or criticism, the abolitionists and suffragists would have been told to wait their turn at the table for the right sort of timing. Instead, they got up, marched, wrote, protested, and held their leaders accountable. Back in their time, suffragists were seen as trouble-makers, and were vilified for protesting their own President. In today's society, they'd have been classified as "trolls" for criticizing their President and protesting so vociferously.
And that's something to contemplate for tonight.
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