Brooklyn CollegePolitical Flyers & Papers

  Wednesday, September 24, 1952

     Senator FERGUSON. Raise your right hand, Doctor.
     You do solemnly swear in the matter now pending before this subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate, that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I do, sir.
     Mr. MORRIS. Will you give your full name and address to the reporter, please?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. My name is Harry Slochower, S-1-o-c-h-o-w-e-r, and I live at 221 East Eighteenth Street, Brooklyn 26, N. Y.
     Mr. MORRIS. What do you do, Mr. Slochower?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You mean: What is my occupation?
     Mr. MORRIS. What is your occupation?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I teach and write and lecture.
     Mr. MORRIS. What do you teach?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am officially in the department of German, but it so happens that various developments within the college, that most of my courses are in comparative literature, and world literature.
     Mr. MORRIS. Are you a full professor?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I was hoping to become one next year, but what this will do to that chance, I don't know. As a matter of fact, yesterday morning I was asked to hand in some data on my contributions to publications. That was yesterday morning. They didn't know about the subpena and I didn't tell them, because I was hoping that they wouldn't know. The very fact of the hearings, the very mention of the name in this type of thing, you are aware of it, Senator, is enough to indict one. You have only to be accused, then you are guilty. First comes the verdict and then comes the trial.
     Senator FERGUSON. That has been a very fine speech on your part. In other words, you are criticizing this committee for trying to look into the question of the internal security of the United States of America?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. No, sir.
     Senator FERGUSON. Let us proceed along the line of getting the facts.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. No, sir; I am not. May I say something about your allegation?

Page 199

     Senator FERGUSON. I, of course, heard what you had to say, and now you may start the examination.
     Mr. MORRIS. Were you mentioned in the 1940-41 hearings, or identified in the hearings of the New York legislative committee, as a Communist?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I wasn't present there when the testimony was given, but I was told that one of my colleagues by the name of Bernard Grebanier had mentioned the fact that I was, had been, or was a member of the Communist Party.
     Mr. MORRIS. Were you called in as a witness in that inquiry?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You mean before the Rapp-Coudert? Oh, yes-twice. Once it was a meeting with--well, yes; there was an investigation. It was a private hearing, though. It never became public. 
     Mr. MORRIS. Were you at that time a member of the Communist Party?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Well now, Mr. Morris, if you allow me to answer this question fully, I will have to begin with a literary allusion.
     Mr. MORRIS. Well, it calls for a "yes" or "no" answer, unless you want to invoke some kind of privilege.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. This is a very serious matter and I think you ought to allow me a little leeway. I beg your indulgence.
     Senator FERGUSON. I might ask this: Are you going to answer the question?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am going to answer, in my way.
     Senator FERGUSON. That is what I mean. You are going to answer the question?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am going to answer in my way; yes. I am going to communicate to you with respect to the question which you put.
     Senator FERGUSON. As to whether or not you ever were a Communist?
     Mr. MORRIS. The question is whether or not you were at that time when you were investigated in another investigation, and I would like to know whether or not you were at that time a member of the Communist Party.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I understand the question, and I would like to answer in my own way.
     Chances are that Senator Ferguson and the others are acquainted with a famous novel called The Trial.
     Senator FERGUSON. Has that anything to do with your answer?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. It has a lot. In that novel there is a character who is accused by somebody of something he did not know what it was, and for the rest of his life is investigated and reinvestigated until the end, when they starved him to death. I was asked in 1940 or 1941--I have forgotten the date--this question which you are asking me again.
     Since 1940, 12 years, this question has been asked again and again by the Rapp-Coudert, by the board and faculty and so on, and I have had 12 years of the utmost difficulty of living, in trying to live down the accusation that was made.
     Senator FERGUSON. Have you ever answered that question?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Yes; I did answer it.
     Senator FERGUSON. Go ahead and answer it now.
Page 200

     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I want you to understand the difficulty of facing the prospect of answering this question for the rest of your life. Is it original sin? Once somebody has accused you, you are guilty for the rest of your life?
     Mr. MORRIS. What is your answer?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am not a member of the Communist Party.
     Mr. MORRIS. That is not the question: Were you at the time you are referring to, when you state some charge was made against you, were you at that time a member of the Community Party?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I hope that the time is coming when the higher courts are going to declare that a question of this sort is in violation of those traditions of America which I have learned to cherish.
     I came here as an immigrant and I came from a country which knew oppression. I have the hope and expectation that the higher courts will declare that this question is not proper. I should like to protest on that basis of the first amendment.
     Senator FERGUSON. I cannot recognize the first amendment, as a lawyer and a member of the United States Senate. I cannot allow you to invoke that as a reason.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. There is a possibility that the high courts might reverse you.
     Senator FERGUSON. I do not believe they will or I would rule otherwise.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. The other thing is that I am hoping also that the time may come when it will be declared that this Federal body has no jurisdiction in a matter which concerns a city or State educational system. This is another ground on which I should like to protest against the question.
     Senator FERGUSON. I will deny that ground.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. O. K., sir. In that case I am left with only one answer, and that is I have to invoke the fifth amendment with regard to the question of whether I had been a member of the Communist Party in the years 1940 or 1941. I believe those were the years you mentioned.
     Mr. MORRIS. At the time you were identified before that committee.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. However, I want to add I am not implying I am guilty. I understand that the fifth amendment has been put into the Constitution for the purpose of protecting the innocent. I am availing myself of that privilege.
     Senator FERGUSON. Under the fifth amendment I will allow you to refuse to answer.
     Mr. MORRIS. In 1950, Professor Slochower, did you sign a letter addressed to President Truman, urging freedom for the leaders of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Yes, sir; I did.
     Mr. MORRIS. That was reported in the Daily Worker of August 22, 1950, page 2.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You would know that, but I didn't, because I don't read the Daily Worker.
     Mr. Monnrs. You do recall it?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Yes; I wrote the letter. I can tell you what I wrote in it.
     Mr. MORRIS. Could you tell us?
Page 201

     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I was concerned with one member of the committee, Professor Bradley.
     Mr. MORRIS. Prof. Lyman R. Bradley?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Yes; whom I knew personally, and who was a professor of German. My field was originally German, and we had many, many conversations about culture, and I found him to be a completely decent human being. I don't know anybody more so than Professor Bradley. It was out of a personal feeling that this man was put in jail and lost his job. Another person can go in another city and change his name or something, but this is an investment in which you lose it and you lose everything.
     I felt so strongly about this friend of mine that I took this steps unprecedented in my case. I am not a political person. This was a personal appeal on behalf of Dick Bradley.
     Senator FERGUSON. Did you know at that time whether or not he was a Communist?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. How could I?
     Senator FERGUSON. I am asking you.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You are implying that I have a basis of information.
     Senator FERGUSON. I asked you whether you did.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. No.
     Mr. MORRIS. Do you know of any individual now living who was the past a member of the Communist Party?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Living or dead?
     Mr. MORRIS. Any man now living. Do you know now any individual now living who was in the past a member of the Communist Party?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am sure Joe Stalin is a member.
     Mr. MORRIS. Do you know any professor or any teacher on to Brooklyn faculty who was at some time a member of the Communist Party?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  Mr. Morris, as I told you in executive hearing,1 am willing to answer all questions pertaining to this nature which cover roughly the past 10 to 12 years. Beyond that, well, I would say I would always answer your questions about my birth and confirmation and things like that, but beyond the 12 years, questions of this type, I am forced to refuse.
     Senator FERGUSON. In other words, there is a certain period that you refuse to answer about, under the fifth amendment?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Yes, sir.
     Senator FERGUSON. And outside of that period you are perfectly willing to answer the questions?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Anything you want, sir.
     Senator FERGUSON. I understand that.
     Mr. MORRIS. Professor Slochower, have you done anything in the last 10 or 12 years which would indicate, in your opinion, opposition to the Communist organization?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You see, Mr. Morris, I should address myself to you.
     Senator FERGUSON. That is perfectly all right.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. My field is not politics. My field is philosophy, literature, art, and now it is the myth. Now, within that field, by implication one might say I am for or against, but the difficulty of

Page 202

the question is this: So far as I know, there is no Communist doctrine which is dogmatic, as far as I know.
     Mr. MORRIS. You know the question refers to the Communist organization, not the Communist theory.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. The Communist Party that I have done anything against it?
     Mr. MORRIS. Yes.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. What chance would I have?
     Mr. MORRIS. I am asking if you have.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I would have to join a political party of some kind. I don't know how that is possible. I could tell you this: that within my field I have expressed myself in many ways which directly and by implication accounted to some doctrines held by many Communists.
     Senator FERGUSON. I did not quite get that.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I say, that in my field I could point to a number of things I differ, if not, am opposed, to positions held on these questions; let us say literature and philosophy, opposed to positions held by many Communists. I say "many" because there is no dogma as far as I know on philosophy.
     Senator FERGUSON. Do you think there is freedom of thought in philosophy?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You mean in the Soviet Union? You mean in our sense?
     Senator FERGUSON. Yes.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I will tell you.
     Senator FERGUSON. I wish you would.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. The thing has to be viewed historically. Russia and the whole East has never known economic, social, political, and intellectual freedom. They never had an American Revolution and never a French Revolution. Absence of a middle class prevented all of those wonderful things.
     Senator FERGUSON. They lacked the idea of freedom of religion and freedom of thought and assembly?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. It is conceivable to me why most of the Russian people might accept certain lines, because they don't miss them. So freedom of thought in our sense certainly cannot be present anywhere in the East, and I don't even mean Russia. China or Greece or Turkey or Africa, any of those countries which never had a French Revolution or an American Revolution, with all the ideals of laissez faire. We have had them and we had to fight for them to keep them and not fall into the very trap that we think we are being led by them.
     Mr. MORRIS. Professor Slochower, have you ever advocated that violence is justified?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I am a man of peace. I am praying for peace. I have a little daughter.
     Mr. MORRIS. Do you remember writing a book review, Prospects of American Democracy, by George Counts, and this book review appeared in the New York Teacher in 1939?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I recall that the review was published. I hardly recognized the review, but I remember having written one.
     Senator FERGUSON. You claim it is not a proper quote?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I don't know what the quote is.
Page 203

     Mr. MORRIS.  You say:

     It must be admitted that the problem of means and ends in its theoretical formulation represents something like an irresolvable antimony.
     Democracy is used at times in the sense of its ultimata form, i.e., a classless order; at other times, it stands for relative democracy as it exists under class rule. B ut, in his advocacy of means, Counts neglects to differentiate between the two kinds of democracies.
     The point seems to be that in class society, where democracy is relative, methods too must be relative.
     If means are viewed in context, as means-end fascism, in which violence is an end, cannot be lumped with communism, where it is intended, at worst, as a transitory weapon.

     Mr. SLOCKOWER.  I recognize that somewhat–not the formulation, you see.
     Mr. MORRIS.  There you say with respect to communism, “Violence is intended, at worst, as a transitory weapon.”
     Senator FERGUSON.  What did you mean by that?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  I had reference to the famous theoretical position of one of the Marxist writers, what they call the dictation of the proletariat is a transitory phase.
     Senator FERGUSON.  In other words, you must have the dictatorship as a means of going over into communism.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  That isn’t precisely the point that they make.  I think the point they make is that it may be necessary to have what they called dictatorship of the proletariat.
     Senator FERGUSON.  That is what Russia claims she has now–the dictatorship, prior to transferring over to pure communism?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  I think so, although some of them make more ambitious claims that they have gone already into the stage of socialism and not already advanced into the stage of communism.  I am not sure of this.  I was here formulating the philosophy and nat the practice.
    By the way, this “means to an end”–did I use quotations?  That isn’t my phrase.  It is John Dewey’s, and I here make public acknowledgment to John Dewey that this is his phrase and not mine.
     Mr. MORRIS.  That hyphenated word, you mean, not the whole paragraph?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  In one part of his development he held that position, and I was a student of his.
     Mr. MORRIS.  Have you ever written for the New Masses?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  Yes.
     Mr. MORRIS.  What did you write for New Masses?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  It is long ago, but I think it was primarily during the time of Hitler, during the thirties, when, to my mind, New Masses was identical with anti-Hitler.  So was Science and Society.
     Mr. MORRIS.  Are you now a member of the Teachers’ Union?
      Mr. SLOCHOWER.  Yes; I am.
     Mr. MORRIS.  Have you any reason to believe that any Communists exist now and have existed in the past in the Teachers’ Union?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER.  I may be praised for this or damned, but my contacts in the Teachers’ Union have been so tenuous that the only thing I know is I send my dues in and then I get the newsletter, and I see the kind of things which they do, which I think are worth while–and that is why I belong.
     Senator FERGUSON.  Do you ever see anything that they do in that newsletter that is not worth while?

Page 204

     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I don't recall, offhand. What I am concerned with about the Teachers' Union first is it is an organization in which the officers, and so on, are elected by ballot, and I always get the ballot.
     Senator FERGUSON. Well, did you know Bella Dodd?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Very slightly.
     Senator FERGUSON. Did you know that she told how they did it by ballot, but the Communists rigged it?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Bella Dodd, I understand, is now in a personal state of mind where maybe she is seeing visions.
     Mr. MORRIS. Who told you that?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. That is a literary term.
     Senator FERGUSON. Suppose she is telling the truth?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Suppose she is.
     Senator FERGUSON. Do you think she might be?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I have no way of knowing.
     Senator FERGUSON. Have you any evidence to show that she was wrong when she told, in effect that she rigged the elections and rigged the passing of resolutions?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Senator Ferguson, as a lawyer and former judge, you know it is impossible, logically, ever to prove the negative, somebody said.
     Senator FERGUSON. You indicated that she was seeing visions.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Well, it is possible. She has had a very, very difficult time.
     Senator FERGUSON. I wondered whether you wanted it to stand as your answer.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. With regard to this, no. My point is you can never prove a negative.
     Senator FERGUSON. And you do not know whether or not they did riot the elections?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Certainly not, but to prove what they didn't do--"When did you stop beating your wife?" You cannot prove a negative, legally, and I think it is recognized as such.
     Mr. MORRIS. Professor, the question is: While you were in the Teachers' Union, did you ever encounter any evidence of present-day or past Communist activity?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. As I said, my contacts have been so limited, because of my interest in writing and so on, and so forth, that I do not recall anything which suggests that, Mr. Morris.
     Mr. MORRIS. Even when you were in local 537?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. What was that?
     Mr. MORRIS. The Teachers' Union local when it was a separate local.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. When was that?
     Mr.MORRIS. Certainly it existed in that form in 1940 and 1941.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You see, as soon as you bring up the dates, I have to--
     Senator FERGUSON. He has to invoke the fifth amendment back of that time, he indicates to the committee.
     Mr. MORRIS. Mr. Chairman, may I raise one point, as a legal matter?
     If we go back 10 and 12 years, I wonder what statute of limitations runs that long and what kind of crime would be outlawed by it?

Page 205

     Senator FERGUSON. The difficulty is that there are some crimes that are not barred by the statute of limitations, such as absence from the country extending the period; also the fact that something there could connect a person with a crime now. And in all rulings here I want to use the Constitution in its broadest sense, and i just feel that and think that this man is conscientiously claiming this on the ground that it might tend to incriminate him.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. I have very good reasons for doing it, but I cannot tell the reasons. The reasons are very good, and it has to do not with implying anything about guilt, Senator--nothing at all.
     Senator FERGUSON. So, I just merely give him the benefit of the doubt, and do not require him to answer.
     Mr. MORRIS. Have you ever used an alias, a name other than your own?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. That sounds like an embarrassing question. You mean--well, when I went somewhere with somebody or what?
     Mr. MORRIS. I don't mean that, Professor. I mean, have you ever been known over a long period of time by a name other than your own name?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. In the old country, my mother used to call me Hirschel. First it was anglicized in this country to Hirsch, and then Harry, and when people want to compliment me they call me Henry.
     Mr. MORRIS. You know the ordinary implications of the question: Have you ever been known by an alias?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. You are referring to political things?
     Senator FERGUSON. Did you write under another name?
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. Again, if it is a question with regard to the past 10 to 12 years
     Senator FERGUSON. You refuse to answer on the grounds of the fifth amendment.
     Mr. SLOCHOWER. That is, whether I was known under any other name? Again for very good reasons, which do not imply guilt.
     Mr. MORRIS. Mr. Chairman, may this whole book review be introduced into the record?
     Senator FERGUSON. Yes.
     (The book review referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 32" and is as follows:)


[From The New York Teacher, January 1939]



(By George S. Counts)

     The attempt to stem the Fascist juggernaut is prompting many of our contemporaries to plumb the past for support of the persuasion that the democratic idea is rooted in man's history. As here conceived, democracy appears as an eternal category.
     Professor Counts' The Prospect of American Democracy argues that the American past offers such heritage on which fascism is likely to founder. The uniqueness of America consists in that its people early threw off the shackles of feudal mores and mentality, not permitting the congealments of "classification, caste, and legitimacy" from which the Old World suffers. Today, however; American democracy is in a dilemma. Economic individualism has given way
Page 206

to a collectivism in favor of the few. And the problem we face is how to rescue democracy from "America's 60 Families."
     Professor Counts offers a nine-point program. It consists of two main planks: Education and organization of the many "as producers, consumers, and citizens." But this program--and this is Counts' leading emphasis--requires faith in the democratic temper and process, willingness to grant civil liberties "to all elements of the population, * * exercise of moderation and tolerance." The democratic attitude is, for Counts, fundamental in our struggle against fascism.
     The study contains a fundamental ambiguity in its employment of the term "democracy." Democracy is used at times in the sense of its ultimate form--i. e., a classless order--at other times, it stands for relative democracy, as it exists under class rule. But, in his advocacy of means, Counts neglects to differentiate between the two kinds of democracies. He insists that democratic procedure must at all times be uniformly practiced. Otherwise, there will result loss of faith in the democratic method, which will open the way to dictatorships. And dictatorships, regardless of their program are, for Counts, inimical to the democratic idea. He would stake everything on education and organization; that is, on reason and group-affiliation.
     Now, the essence of Counts' nine-point program prevailed in Germany before Hitler. Yet, it did not stop nazism. Counts advances a curious claim to account for this, saying that it was violent acts of the Left that gave the dictators "no inconsiderate measure of support." The fact is that Hitler's sole weapons were emotionalism and the truncheon, whereas the Social Democracy relied almost exclusively on reason and education. And one may well say that, by following a literal democratic process, by allowing liberty to the enemy who used this privilege to abolish liberty, that fascism was able to flourish.
     It must be admitted that the problem of means and ends, in its theoretical formulation, presents something like an irresolvable antinomy. In practice, there is danger and hope in both democratic and undemocratic procedure. The point seems to me that, in class societies, that is, where democracy is relative methods too must be relative. If means are viewed in context (as means-ends) fascism, in which violence is an end, cannot be lumped with communism, where it is intended, at worst, as a transitory weapon.
Harry Slochower.        

     Mr. MORRIS. That is all. The next witness will be Prof. Gene Weltfish.
     Senator FERGUSON.  Mr. Morris, it is about 5 minutes to 5. I do not know that we can finish this witness. I think we ought to go over to 9 in the morning.
     Mr. MORRIS.  Mr. Chairman, may we have the open session at 10, and continue the practice of having our executive session at 9?
     Senator FERGUSON. The executive session will be at 9, and the open session at 10 in the morning. You will all come back at 10 o'clock.
     The committee will rise until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
     Mr. MORRIS. Will the witnesses in open session who have not been heard be here at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning?
     (Whereupon, at 4:50 p. m., the committee recessed to reconvene at 10 a. m. Thursday, September 25, 1952.)

Return to SISS Page   ||  Radical Politics Page

                      December 31, 2009