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Peekskill USA

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Part Seven

A Point of View

At the time of this writing it is fifteen months since the Peekskill Affair; and the onrush of events, moving with bewildering rapidity, has made of those two nights of horror isolated incidents of the past. Since then the McCarran Act has legalized the police state in America, and the creeping rot of fascism is infesting the country. Since then, the Korean war – and the immense war propaganda which accompanies it – has put severe penalties upon any form of protest or dissent, and thousands of "liberals" and "progressives" have run for cover. At the time of Peekskill, there was almost no political prisoner in American jails; today there are a great many. At the time of Peekskill, the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States were on trial; since then they have been found guilty and the Communist Party has been placed under indictment by the McCarran Act. At the time of Peekskill, mass deportation of aliens had not yet begun nor was the concentration camp at Ellis Island in operation as it is today. At the time of Peekskill, this was not wholly a land of loyalty oaths, witch hunts, and terror for all who might hate war and love peace and democracy. And at the time of Peekskill, the plan to divide and betray the American labor movement had not yet been brought to fruition.

Such is the speed of history today that, when this is published, so many new and perhaps more shocking developments may have taken place that the events herein detailed may seem even more remote. But even if that is the case, they will not thereby be less important. Peekskill was a decisive step in the preparation for American fascism and it was a proving ground for a great deal that came afterwards.

Unfortunately, much about both Peekskill incidents remains unknown and will, perhaps, not be revealed for years to come. The degree to which high state and county officials were implicated has not been determined yet, but the above narration and appendix which follows contain ample proof that they were implicated. What private discussions, plots and agreements led up to Peekskill, I do not know – but again there seems no doubt that there were such discussions, plots and agreements. I would like to know, for example, how the three Department of Justice agents happened to be upon the scene; I would like to know what happened to the three lost deputy sheriffs; I would like to know what withheld the state police, who apparently were on the scene long before they intervened, from coming down into the hollow at Lakeland Acres and halting the attack; I would like to know who gave them their orders to enter when the possibility of frame-up finally arose; I would like to know who the two marksmen with the high-powered rifles and the telescopic sights were, and whether they were operating on their own or in agreement with others.

It is also wholly proper to ask a number of questions concerning the role of the police in general. Why were the ringleaders of the first attack not arrested, when their names were known to hundreds in the area? Why were no police – except the three sheriffs – on hand when the Saturday night trouble began? Why were the police so insistent that the guards at the second concert be moved into the actual area of the concert itself? Why and through whose instructions did the police take on the task of protecting the rock-throwing units? Why did the police attack and arrest so many of the guards after the concert was over and the audience had gone?

In asking these questions I do not refer to police brutality in general, to the clubbing and beating of Negroes, and to the frenetic attacks upon automobiles and the people in them which the police carried out, a number of which I witnessed personally. These are so universally the mode of police behavior in relation to any sort of left wing or working class demonstration that they can be considered the natural – or unnatural – and ordinary role of police in America.

Many more questions of this sort can be asked, but I think those questions are explicit in the account I have given here as well as in the appendix which follows. The important thing is, I think, to see the manifestation of Peekskill in relation to national and world events which followed and which still go on. Anyone who participated in any way in either of the two incidents cannot help but be struck by the extraordinary difference in the behavior of the two factions – the fascists on the one hand (and fascist is the only correct, scientific term for them, whether they called themselves legionnaires, veterans, patriots or what you will), and the people rallied around Paul Robeson on the other.

It must be noted that no aggressive act of violence came from the progressives; it must be noted that all trouble was provoked by the fascist elements; and it must be noted that all recourse to force was on the part of the fascists. The behavior of each side was dictated – as any intelligent person must concede – not by directives but by the forces represented and the ideology of the group itself; and here I refer to behavior in terms of violence rather than overall intent and plan.

This becomes all the more interesting in the light of the fact that during the time of both concerts, the eleven leaders of the Communist Party were on trial for the promulgation of ideas in terms of "force and violence." (And even today, as I write, I have before me an editorial in the New York Journal American which calls upon the American people to recognize that communism is "force and violence" disguised as an idea – if such a notion is conceivable.)

I know well enough how exceedingly late it is for the voices of logic and reason to be raised. Yet I think that they must be raised, even if those who raise them go down to defeat. A small light of civilization was kept burning over Germany from 1933 to 1945 by such voices, and regardless of what happens in the moment, history will eventually record the truth.

The Peekskill affair was an important step in the preparation for the fascization of America and for the creation of receptive soil for the promulgation of World War III. It was a candid display of force and violence by those constant and conscienceless advocates of force and violence, the masters and the tools within the scheme of American reaction. It was undoubtedly planned toward a twofold result, the "entrapment" of numbers of progressives within a pattern of force and violence, for which they could be made to bear the burden of blame; and secondly, to arouse lumpen elements throughout America toward a fascist pattern of force and violence. Its profound usefulness to American reaction lay precisely in this content which it potentially contained; and therefore it is impossible for any thoughtful person not to relate it to the Communist trials in New York City.

The first purpose was foiled by the discipline and dignity of the progressive masses involved; the second purpose was foiled by the reaction of the American public in general, a reaction which is noted in the appendix. The American people not only were not ready for this particular combination of blood and filth which Adolf Hitler had so popularized, but serious doubts began to be entertained by the ruling class of the United States as to whether they could be made ready for this particular pattern quickly enough. Therefore, we saw an immediate turn to legalized, "police" fascism, as exemplified by the McCarran Act and the wholesale jailings of political prisoners. Since the "day of violence" had fallen short of its goal, the "day in court" was put forward once again.

Peekskill was one among many incidents of "force and violence" against the left and not by the left. A similar study of any one of a hundred other incidents of a provocative nature would yield much the same results. For example, Henry David's History of the Haymarket Affair illustrates this point well, as did my own study of the affair at Republic Steel. In each case, a careful inquiry established the fact that force and violence were introduced not by the left but by the right . To support this, it must be noted that not a single incident of like nature in the past can be laid, in terms of force and violence, in the camp of the left . The most exhaustive research, intelligence and study on the part of the Department of Justice, backed by their mighty financial resources, has failed to produce one single instance of force and violence on the part of the left . It becomes particularly meaningful, therefore, that during a trial of eleven Communist leaders on charges of "advocating the teaching" of certain philosophical concepts which, in the language of the indictment, led to "force and violence," the Peekskill affairs should occur. What a boon it would have been to the prosecution if they could have introduced Peekskill at the trial as evidence in their case! And what exemplary witnesses the three calm, neutral FBI agents could have been!

I think that I, personally, suffer from fewer illusions today than I did at the time of Peekskill. My books on American history, done with love of my country and pride in my country, are today interdicted as "false" and "vicious" and "treasonable." My refusal to play the role of a Louis Budenz was rewarded with a sentence in a federal prison. And my current unwillingness to repudiate all that is good and generous and honest in my past and in the past of my country has been met by a campaign of vilification in the press and a denial of any passport rights by my government. However, I still cling to the belief that if the facts are presented to the American people, they will act upon these facts. Facts are stubborn and frightening things, and people who cling to facts are considered dangerous these days. It is very difficult for me to consider myself a dangerous person, but if devotion to facts requires that, then I accept the description.

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