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The Daily Worker - May 28, 1956
The Current Scene

The Disclaimer

Howard Fast

The disclaimer makes curious bedfellows. I read two stories in the press on a single day. In one of them, a business man addressed a meeting of Rotary International, and in decrying the national accent on war and armaments, he hastened to point out that he was not a Communist. In the other story, the Workman's Circle, reviewing their benefits to the working man and his family, their services and children's camps, felt equally called upon to point out that they were bitterly anti-Communist.
At that point, the obvious broke upon me; which is not as silly as it sounds, for very often – as Edgar Allan Poe pointed out so brilliantly – the obvious is the most obscure. Brooding upon this matter, my thoughts were interrupted by a phone call. A good citizen was enlisting signatures for a public nursery, and knowing little more about me than my name, she declared that this was not a Communist front, in spite of the fact that children would benefit.
So casual was this comment that I ordinarily would not have given a second thought to it; it has become a part of the "American way," as they so glibly put it, and its content of sheer madness is deeply submerged. I had taken the New York Post home to read that evening, and I decided I would continue my investigation of the disclaimer in its pages. As you might expect I was not disappointed.
To my way of thinking, the New York Post is a good newspaper – an unusual and courageous newspaper, all things considered. It is not such a paper as I would edit, nor do I go along with it in many of the things it does; but if one measures it according to the standards set by the average American commercial daily, it is certainly if not the best, then one of the best. Its position on civil liberties has often been forthright and bold; it has hit out against the Smith Act and similar idiocies; it has defended the cause and struggle of the Negro people on most issues; it has exposed municipal graft and corruption at times when such exposures were not very fashionable; and it has pointed out the asinine aspects of the Eisenhower foreign policy, and it has reported honestly labor's side of many stories.

* * *

This adds up to quite a record, and of course it makes the editors of the Post very conscious of the need and use of the disclaimer. I wish that were not so; for the obvious realization that struck me, as I mentioned earlier, is that the disclaimer has become necessary in the undertaking of any decent or humanistic act. Nor has anyone, insofar as I can recall, undertaken to investigate seriously what the result of this has been upon American life and morality in general.
I am not attempting such an investigation here, but I have no doubt that any serious study of the subject would reveal that the anti-Communist campaign of the past 10 years has done tremendous and perhaps mortal damage to the soul and morality of the American people.
Take for example the case of the New York Post. No fair-minded person will deny that it is a democratic and brave newspaper; and for that very reason, I choose to note its achievements. I would certainly speak in no similar term concerning the World-Telegram or the Journal-American; but the Eastland Committee, in its foolish and frenetic brochure on Communism in the United States, points out that proof of the conditioned fellow traveler is favorable mention in the Daily Worker, per se. And it is precisely because of the humanistic content of the Post's editorial position, that the Eastland accusation focuses upon them. If I praised the Journal-American, it would be proof of the relinquishment of my own principles; but since the positive and fine qualities of the New York Post are based to such an extent on principles we hold in common, they are forced to fall back upon the disclaimer.

* * *

I do not propose that the editors of the Post will do anything so childish as to disclaim what I have written here and attack me on the basis of it. Most likely, they will simply ignore this, if it comes to their attention; but I think they will also feel called upon to exercise the disclaimer in an attack upon the Communist Party in the near future. And even though such attacks are formalistic exercises without any real venom or belief, they do their share of damage, not upon the Communist Party, but upon the New York Post.
I plead a very earnest case here. The record of the Communist Party, U.S.A., irrespective of whatever mistakes and tactical blunders it has committed, reveals a principled and dedicated position as follows: against fascism and for peace; for the trade union movement; for trade union unity; for the full rights of the Negro people; for civil liberties and against anti-Semitism; for social medical care; for public child care; for more and better schools; for more and better hospitals; for a social welfare program and against a war economy; for social security and unemployment benefits; for an end to imperialism and colonialism; for low cost housing – and these are only a part of an entire humanistic position.
The whole position condemns any thoughtful, earnest, decent and patriotic American to the judgment of parallelism – which constitutes a crime whenever the government so decides. No such person considers it necessary to disclaim being a fascist when he acts; but often enough he fear of parallelism prevents his acting at all.

* * *

It may be in the way of a palliative for such people to embrace a technically anti-Communist position, to scorn the Communist Party and condemn it as a conspiracy, tool of the Kremlin, subversion, etc., etc.,; but such a position only feeds the fire. At best, the disclaimer is a cowardly and self-defeating device; at worst it is monstrous. Honest men must come to realize that sooner or later they will have to stand up and say:
"This is what I believe, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I am anti-Communist. As a matter of fact, my own feelings about communism are beside the point. This I believe, and I will make common cause with anyone else who believes it and is willing to work for it. I will judge men only by their acts, not by what others say of them.