I know there’s a lot of crap in the news to post about. There always is. But I’m taking a little break from all that right now. Finally got some book shelves up and pulled my books out of storage. Came across Bill Mandel’s Saying No to Power, which I received from Mandel a few years back after I interviewed him on KMUD. He aired a show about Soviet/Russian issues for decades on KPFA. He’s in his late 90s now. I tried to contact him through his website, but his son informed me that he is of severely diminished capacity now – unable to conduct an interview.
So I’m reading through his book. Lots of very important history, including his somewhat defiant HUAC testimony which got him blacklisted and cost him a job.
I always thought he was on the dogmatic side, until 1992 when he freaked out his old time CPUSA KPFA audience by announcing that he was convinced that central planning of an economy was an inherently bad idea. “Whether or not you think it is desirable to centrally plan an economy, it is simply impossible.” He advocated that the communist movement fight instead for a western European style social democracy. He had been an advocate for Lenin. He was now an advocate for Kautsky.
He had also separated from the Communist Party as a result of the Kruschev revelations – a bit later than many, but also before many.
From what will obviously have been his final book, this passage about his HUAC testimony.
“James Allen immediately preceded me as a witness. That, at least, was the name under which he lived and wrote his books, and it was the name under which the questioning began. Midway through the public hearing, Senator Mundt, knowing the answer he would get, because it was already in the record of the executive session, asked him to state his real name. The reply was: “Sol Auerbach.” The entire audience gasped. The meaning of that gasp was unmistakable to any Jew: “That dirty kike, hiding behind an Anglo-Saxon name!”
I was standing in the back of the packed hearing room waiting to be called. I grew livid, but understood that I now had the chance to rally the country’s Jewish community behind me. So when Roy Cohn, the committee counsel, opened with the routine question as to my full name, I shot back: “My name is William Marx Mandel, and to save you the trouble of bringing out any possible pseudonym, as you did in the matter of Mr. Auerbach, I would like to make clear that I am a Jew.”
Cohn, totally flustered, had no meaningful rejoinder: “That you are what?”
“That I am a Jew.”
Cohn: “So am I, and I don’t see that that is an issue here.”
I replied, “A Jew who works for McCarthy is thought of very ill by most of the Jewish people in his country.”
(Later) McCarthy was finally reduced to saying, “If you put on a campaign against the Committee, you will not put on the campaign within the Committee room.”
I responded, “Poor Senator McCarthy. You can dish it out, but you can’t take it. O.K.”
—-William Mandel, Saying No to Power
Here are some clips of the 1953 testimony.
That wouldn’t be the last time he raised his voice at a HUAC hearing. In 1960, for whatever reason, they called him to the hearings they held at City Hall in San Francisco. Between the defiance inside the chamber, and the protest outside, it was HUAC’s last gasp. The fear it needed to thrive was gone. It limped along for a few more years before it was nixed in the mid to late 60s.