Are we censoring our discussion?

 
BY: Scott Hiley| November 8, 2019
QI am writing to you, knowing that you will probably delete this email instantly, to express my opinions and ideas on communism. In a picture from your website, here, you portray two young boys, one with a sign saying “Youngsters need a future too”, and the other saying “Pro young future”. I do not believe that these boys would be guaranteed a good future if they were told their whole life that they would always be in the middle class, and receive the same pay even if they were more trained and skilled than the average unskilled worker out there. I also do not like that you said that your discussion is to share and discuss ideas, but the last rule you put on was that an argument can’t be anti-communist. I think that this is actually quite funny because it represents the way that you would make anybody that tries to speak out against you if you established your way of governing. They would feel helpless after being throw in prison or hated against just for their opinion in politics. I hope that my letter isn’t simply discarded in the same manner that our freedom of speech , which you happen to use in your protests, would be if your way of government was established. --Braden, high school freshman
A
Hi Braden,


Before I get to your allegations of censorship, I want to clear up a couple of misconceptions. First, we do not seek to rule a single-party state.  Socialism in the United States will almost certainly involve multiple parties, sharing a basic vision of society even though they differ on how to best implement those principles (just as most Democrats and Republicans basically agree on capitalism).  Second, socialism doesn't mean that everyone makes the same amount of money.  It means that the working class, which includes everyone from fast food workers to doctors and engineers, will receive the full value that its labor produces. Since we'll no longer have to hand over half of the value we produce to a small class of billionaires, we'll have money to raise wages across the board and provide things like guaranteed housing, free health care and education, etc.


But on to what I think is the more important issue: the idea that we are opposed to free speech.


Throughout its history, our party has played a leading role in the fight for First Amendment freedoms.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that no organization in the United States has faced more attempts to silence and destroy it than the CPUSA, from the Smith Act, to the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism, to the purging of our members and allies from the unions they helped found, to COINTELPRO where the FBI attempted to infiltrate and destroy us (along with other left organizations). One personal example is that of my wife’s grandfather, who was fired from his job and blacklisted for membership in the party and for refusing to “name names” of other Communists.  Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who would later become the head of our party, was one of the founding members of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with people like Helen Keller, Felix Frankfurter, and Jane Addams.  Our political program is based on the defense and expansion of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, which today is under attack from both right-wing extremists and corporate media monopolies.


At the same time, we should be clear about what “freedom of speech” in the First Amendment means.  It limits the government’s ability to regulate speech on public property based on the political content of that speech.  We are not the government.  We’re a legal political party, operating a website with our own resources, so I think there’s a double standard at work in your criticism .  Would you accuse a Christian organization of censorship for not publishing articles endorsing atheism on its website?  Would you accuse an environmental group of not respecting free speech if it didn’t invite a representative of the fossil fuel industry to  participate in its discussions?  Does the Republican Party have to ask Nancy Pelosi to speak at their convention? Of course not.  So why should we be expected to publish things from people and groups who oppose us?


Regarding your contribution specifically, we can’t publish it as part of our discussion—but not because of anti-communism.  The difficulty is that our discussion this month focuses on the environment, which you do not address.  If it were a discussion about socialism and the First Amendment, we would probably welcome your contribution.  As it stands, though, I’d like to publish your question and my response in the Mailbag section of our website.


Hope this clarifies things a bit.  I’m working on another piece as well, about freedom of the press.  I’ll send it on when it’s finished. Thanks again for writing in.


Solidarity,

Scott

 

 
Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

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