AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS ABOUT THE ORIGINS
By: Roderick T. Beaman
Probably like most other libertarians, I have come
to this philosophy from the Right end of the political spectrum. Over the years, I
have been very critical and, I must admit hostile, to The American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU). That said, our movement must welcome all to our cause. We have been
receiving interest also, for quite a while, from the Left end of the spectrum.
Many libertarians have found reason to work with ACLU on certain issues and there is no
doubt that there is firm common ground on which we stand. In those matters, we can
join them. I have been having some exchanges with members of two libertarian
e-groups and decided to do some more intense study of ACLU. I wish I could say that
this mollified my feelings but it made it worse. What I found out about its origins
horrified me. It was the political goal of many of the founders of ACLU to destroy
this country and everything it stood for.
ACLU was founded on January 19, 1920. It grew out of a predecessor group, The
National Civil Liberties Bureau which in turn had grown out of the American Union Against
Militarism, and a soiree that was held in New York City and attended by just about
every radical from the thriving New York scene of the time. The founders numbered
over 60 but the bulk of the work was assumed by the following core:
Roger Nash Baldwin - the founding, long time, director of ACLU.
Born to wealth, at the time of the founding, he was deeply involved in the communist
movement. As late as 1935, he gave a speech stating that his political vision was
communist. During the 1940s, Baldwin would participate in the purging of communists
from ACLU, against a lot of opposition, and, in the 1950s, endorsed the work of Sen.
Norman Thomas - a Presbyterian minister and radical socialist who advocated the total
abolition of capitalism. He was also a eugenicist who warned against the excessive
reproduction of undesirables. Thomas was a six time Socialist Party presidential
candidate. Also a committed pacifist, he joined Charles Lindbergh's American First
Committee to keep us out of World War II. Then as now, politics made very strange
bedfellows. He joined Baldwin in the 1940s purge of communists from ACLU.
John Haynes Holmes - a Unitarian minister, a pacifist, socialist and also a founder of
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
L. Hollingsworth Wood - a Quaker, pacifist and a co-founder of the Urban League..
I could find nothing that indicated his politics.
John Nevin Sayre - an ordained Episcopal minister, Sayre was a pacifist and believed
that Jesus Christ was also. I could discern no other political agenda.
Sayre was likely the most sincere of ACLU's founders.
The following is a random selection of others who were among the founders:
Crystal Eastman - pacifist, socialist and feminist. She had been active as a
supporter of the radical International Workers of the World (I.W.W.), a radical group with
very strong ties to communism. She would have been in the core group but for an
illness at the time of ACLU's inception.
Helen Keller - a communist. This astonished me. Libertarians have long
maintained that you can't believe what you learn from government sponsored schools and
Hollywood. Never was that better illustrated than in the case of Helen Keller.
'The Miracle Worker' told us that she was a great teacher and struggled after being
left blind and deaf from a childhood fever. For that, she must be admired.
But during the early 1920s, she wrote and spoke flatteringly about the two competing
and emerging German variations of socialism, the national socialism of Adolf Hitler and
international revolutionary socialism, or communism.
Radicalized at Radcliffe, she addressed others, as she was often addressed, as
'Comrade'. Ironically, under the eugenics of German National Socialism, Keller would
likely have been judged as flawed and exterminated for having been so vulnerable to have
been left damaged by her illness.
Elizabeth Flynn Gurley - a communist, she later became chairman of CPUSA.
Felix Frankfurter - a social reformer, became interested in ACLU when pacifists and
socialists were being harassed by the government. Frankfurter would later be
appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was known for
judicial restraint and deference to the legislative and executive branches, which may have
endeared him to FDR who had already steamrollered congress into obeisance. Later,
this attitude would irritate liberals who looked to the courts for the furtherance of
John Dewey - radical socialist educator who believed that the function of the
educational system was to train future agents for the goals of the state. His
educational theories dominate our system today.
Clarence Darrow - lionized by Hollywood in 'Inherit The Wind' and the Left for
defending teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution. I could find nothing about his
politics other than that he was a social reformer. He was an agnostic.
Jane Addams - social activist, feminist, and pacifist. She was also a founder of
Upton Sinclair - socialist and author of many novels. He began his career by
writing ethnic jokes and mini-novels. 'The Jungle' , a full novel, was an
expose of disgusting conditions in the Chicago meat packing industry. It led
to the Pure Food and Drug Act which established the FDA. Not even his supporters
maintain that he produced anything of literary value. His stories were long on
sensationalism and short on character and plot.
A. J. Muste - at the time, a communist who was committed to revolutionary politics.
He later later became a Christian pacifist after a trip to the Soviet Union
and a meeting with Leon Trotsky. Many associates maintained though that he never
completely abandoned his attachment to Marxism.
Harry F. Ward - a lifetime communist, he authored "Soviet Democracy" and
"Soviet Spirit," two pro-Communist books.
Albert DeSilver - radical socialist attorney who had worked with the I.W.W. He
willed his entire fortune to ACLU.
This is the cast of characters; in a steering committee of five, one communist, two
socialists and three pacifists. In a random selection of eleven additional members,
four communists, five radical socialists, two pacifists, two feminists and two
social reformers. It's not difficult to discern an ideologic tilt to the
And it got worse afterwards. By the 1940s, so many ACLU members were communists
and members of other radical and communist organizations that Roger Baldwin grew alarmed
at the attention that American security agencies were focusing on it. Aided by
others, such as Norman Thomas, he led a purge of communists from the top leadership.
It was indeed unfortunate that pacifists had to make common cause with communists and
others at the time because their movement was forever tainted by it. Many communists
agitated for pacifism to facilitate communist insurgencies across the world. For
them it was a means to the end of accomplishing their Nirvana, the total subjugation of
humanity to the communist jackboot.
"Published originally at
EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Dr. Roderick T. Beaman is a board
certified family osteopathic physician who practices in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a
published poet, has composed a blues song and is trying to have his first novel published.
It deals with the dangers of big government. He offers anyone who wishes to dignify the
trash he writes with a comment, to do so. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
He can be reached at:TheFreedomBeam@aol.com
Published in the September 16, 2004 issue of Ether Zone.
Copyright © 1997 - 2004 Ether
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