imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

William Mandel, American Dissident

by Dwayne Eutsey Sunday, Apr. 06, 2003 at 4:12 AM

"If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any manner whatsoever, you are insane!" From William Mandel’s 1960 testimony before HUAC

As the title of his autobiography Saying No to Power suggests, William Mandel’s remarkable life is one characterized by a defiant rejection of his right to remain silent.

Throughout his 85 years, Mandel’s outspoken activism has left a deep impression on those he has encountered. In his introduction to Saying No to Power, Howard Zinn counts Mandel among “those dissenters whose words and actions kept alive the hopes and dreams that we might build a just society, a peaceful world.”

William Mandel is probably best known for his words to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1960 (for his complete testimony, actuality audio as well as text, visit His provocative appearance before the Committee is considered by many to be one of the sparks that ignited a decade of rebellion in the 1960s. It has been featured in six documentary films, a dozen TV specials, a play, and was even sampled by the reggae band Latin Quarter in their ‘80s release, Modern Times.

I am among those who find inspiration in his testimony as well. When I told him that I thought his testimony was one of the great moments of American history, Mandel thought I was going “over the top.” Perhaps I am overstating its significance, but in today’s increasingly controlled society—where presidential press conferences and mainstream war coverage are so carefully scripted—it’s refreshing to hear someone speak truth so passionately, even if it happened 43 years ago.

Mandel’s confrontation with HUAC is only one of many aspects of his lifelong activism and scholarship that has earned him both praise and notoriety as a tireless fighter for social justice and free speech in America and around the world.

He was expelled from the City College of New York in 1933 for his role in anti-ROTC demonstrations; participated in a “premature Freedom Ride” in 1951 to save seven Black men from execution in the South; and basically created the format now known as talk radio during his nearly 40 years with Pacifica Radio (

A highly regarded Soviet-affairs scholar who has worked for United Press International and was a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Mandel found a home at Pacifica in 1958 after his academic and professional career had been destroyed by McCarthyism.

Because of his books on Soviet culture and membership in the Communist Party USA (which he left in the late ‘50s), Mandel was among the many American intellectuals on the Left who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Today, Mandel lives in Oakland, California where he says a major part of his activism involves the Internet (you can visit his web site at, through which he broadcasts messages as events warrant to over 7,000 subscribers and receives hundreds of emails a day from all over the world.

It was through the Internet that I interviewed William Mandel on the day the American-led invasion of Iraq began.


Question: So, it’s war with Iraq. What are your thoughts today?

William Mandel: War with Iraq? As soon as Bush announced it, I posted that we now need actions that would be American equivalents of Rachel Corrie's heroism (Ed. Note: Corrie was the American peace activist killed while trying to prevent an Israeli soldier from bulldozing a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip). I have her picture on my wall. I can tell you that the first appeal by anyone, anywhere, for foreigners to insert themselves between physically contending forces in Israel-Palestine was a broadcast of mine after Rabin's assassination. I also posted yesterday to Left and labor-oriented lists that the resolution by the San Francisco Central Labor Council denouncing the war means nothing now that hostilities have begun. All that would count is shutting down the port, and I added that, regrettably, that would not be done. That's why the direct-actionists messing up San Fran traffic today was a necessary step in the right direction.

Once in my life I offered a prediction of the world scene that proved accurate for a ten-year period. That was when Stalin and Mao signed their treaty of alliance in 1950. (It was the occasion of my first appearance on KPFA, through which I was passing on a lecture tour.) Today such a prediction is impossible. The next decade can bring anything from great prosperity for the United States thanks to successful establishment of a world empire (remember that that's how the people of Britain experienced a marked increase in living standard) to a collapse worse than 1929, thanks to the costs of wars, the destruction of the world market system, and the rebellions, intifadas, that will occur in response to the attack on Iraq, never mind more ingenious acts of terror against American cities. Forecasting of time-lines for predictable occurrences has always been a hopeless undertaking.

The only concrete proposal I would make, beyond direct action resistance, is for a Democratic ticket of Byrd and Kucinich. I have no use for either of the major parties, but war makes the election of 2004 critical for the future of humanity. No winnable third-party movement has appeared. Byrd's age and his many negatives in the domestic sphere are simply secondary at a time when the one thing that must be done is to turn foreign policy around. Kucinich has the youth and the positives in internal policy. I do not insist on Kucinich. I'd love to see Barbara Lee get that nomination, but I don't think that is realistic. I do say that Byrd is a winner, and no one else in sight is.

Question: Why did you name your autobiography “Saying No to Power”?

Mandel: The title of my autobiography? The Acknowledgments page explains that a variety of sources (more than I list) asked me to write it, in 1969 and 1970. The working title was A Part of My Own Country, because I wanted people to know that my life had consisted of more than being an expert on the Soviet Union. So it was changed to the obvious: Speaking Truth to Power. But titles cannot be copyrighted, and one with that title appeared just as mine was to go to press. So I asked the family for suggestions. One son and his wife came up with Saying No to Power, which is certainly an accurate description of what I've done.

Question: What is the value of dissent? Wouldn’t the world be nicer if we all just shut up and waved our flags?

Mandel: The value of dissent? A nicer world if we shut up and waved our flags? Come off it. This afternoon I saw Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly Last Summer," in which starving kids in the Galapagos literally eat a rich American alive. Keep up what Washington is doing now, and that can happen.

Question: In the 1950s, you were among the initiators of talk radio. How did this format become so dominated by the rightwing in this country, which uses it to stifle dissent and promote propaganda?

I didn't think I was inventing anything. As a professional lecturer, I had always asked hosts, usually unsuccessfully, to permit me to start not with a presentation but with questions from the floor, so as to get a feel for the particular audience and a given city's or student body's perspective. When I started on KPFA in the 1950s, the audience was still an epistolary generation. I went to the manager, saying I was getting masses of mail, and that most of the questions were of broad interest, so why don't we do it by phone? He said yes, and that was it. Why me, and why KPFA? Because HUAC was still riding high, while we and I believed in freedom of speech.

I don't have an answer regarding talk radio. Maybe it's because right-wingers latched on to it early in its history (except for Pacifica) when the paid commentators didn't froth at the mouth enough to suit them.

Question: Newt Gingrich believed the 1950s, characterized by racial segregation, McCarthyism, blacklists, repression of women, etc., were the golden age of American civilization. He apparently wanted to bring our society back to that era after taking Congress in 1994. It seems like he and his cohorts on the right are succeeding in doing this. What do you think?

Mandel: I don't think today's Gingriches are winning. Read the wonderful speech by Dr. Robert Muller, retired assistant secretary-general of the UN (link: The world movement against the war, and at that even before it began, is without precedent in history. I've been e-mailing that view for months, but he has the prestige to make it carry weight, and he expressed it beautifully.

Question: Why do you think the Left in America is largely so ineffective and marginalized?

Mandel: The Left in America is no longer marginalized, nor would I call it ineffective. The anti-war movement is led by ANSWER, which is fundamentally the Workers' World Party, essentially Stalinist, although the chief figure in ANSWER is a former attorney-general of the U.S. The movement did not start with ANSWER but in Seattle, and went on to a very strong and clear anti-corporate emphasis. When the war in Vietnam was ended by Ho's military victories aided by a huge movement led by the Trotskyist-led Mobilization Against the War, people went back to their knitting. When the war against Hitler and Mussolini was won, on the one hand the Communist parties in Italy, France, and virtually every mainland European country had won such prestige both by their heroism as guerrillas and by the reflected glory of the Red Army that they were admitted to the cabinets of just about every country east of England. In the U.S. Communists won great prestige for leading support for the Spanish Republic and much else both internationally and at home. But that was lost when the leaders of the CIO, Phil Murray and others belonging to the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, said to labor, relative to the Cold War: "If you believe the Reds that there's no danger from Russia, arms appropriations will drop and you'll be back out in the streets. If you believe us about the Soviet menace, we'll have to build tanks and planes and nukes, and you'll have jobs." Labor chose jobs.

Had we won the struggle to prevent the present war, the new radicalism might well have quickly disappeared as with the CP after World War II, and the Trotskyists after the Vietnam War. Today I don't think it will. So we'll have to defend our rights to think what we please and say what we please and write what we please and broadcast and e-mail what we please, and build organizations to do and defend all that.

Question: What motivated you to be so confrontational with HUAC in 1960 when you called the men on the committee “Judases” who were “in violation of the United States Constitution”?

Mandel: My motivation versus HUAC and my much more important, but unknown to the Sixties and later generations, destruction of Joe McCarthy in 1953, was two-fold. Normally as a speaker, I am conversational or professorial. Get me mad, and a charisma appears because what makes me mad are attacks on my human dignity and beliefs for which I have paid a high price all my life. That latter is the second motivation. As to such specifics as "violation of the United States Constitution," that had to do with the chair being from Louisiana, and having been elected in consequence of Blacks being barred from voting.

Question: For old time’s sake: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party? What attracted you to communism?

Mandel: A more complete answer to this question is set forth in detail in the book. I was raised a Communist by my father. I saw it as a student at Moscow University in 1932, and it was working. The Party threw me out in the winter of 1952-3 because I was asking questions. Because it believed (contrary to Stalin) that World War III and fascism were around the corner, it assumed that people who asked questions would crack under those circumstances. It invited me back in 1956, after Khrushchev said that what anti-Communists had been saying about Stalin was true. I thought the Party was hopeless, but rejoined on condition that at its 1957 Convention it declare that henceforth it would draw all its conclusions, not only about the U.S. and the world, but even about the Soviet Union, independently. It didn't, and I quit, with a loud blast reported in the NY Times.

Question: As a dissident and apologist for the Soviet Union, how do you reconcile your advocacy of free speech with the fact that the Soviet government regularly cracked down on dissidents?

Mandel: I was never an apologist for the Soviet Union, and I resent that. The head of the Hoover Institution at Stanford invited me to be Senior Fellow for the year 1947, a rank otherwise reserved for Ph.Ds, of whom there were only a fraction then of the number today, I had (and still have) only one year of college, having been expelled from CCNY in 1933 for activism and having refused ever to apologize. When I delivered lectures on and off campus denouncing the Truman Doctrine then just enunciated, the head of the Hoover Institution, a personal friend and protégé of Herbert Hoover, was asked at a reception: "What's Mandel doing here?" I wasn't present, but was told next morning by a graduate student that his answer was: "Because he knows more about the Soviet Union than anyone in the United States." My first two books had been published, and were in use at Yale, Stanford, and elsewhere.

I was a STUDENT of the Soviet Union, which no one else in the Communist Party was, and it broke its neck over that.

As to the Soviet government's cracking down on dissidents, you'd have to understand, which you don't, that that had a history, as did people's (including my) attitude toward it. There was no civil libertarianism in the U.S. armed intervention, along with every other major power (14 countries in all) to destroy the Soviet government in 1918-1920. So those who supported the USSR in those years ridiculed our pretensions to democracy exactly as many opponents of the war in Iraq do today. When I was there in 1931-2, I could talk to anybody, anywhere, about anything, and did. So did they. I learned Russian very quickly, and already knew German, which was widely known, and French. The purges started in 1935. The stories of terror were totally contrary to my experience and, as I knew from personal observation, that most of what was written about the USSR was lies, I thought that was too. I was wrong, and only realized that after Stalin died, and the Russian press began to circulate information most foreign Communists weren't able to read, and virtually none bothered to. I did.

Anyone (there are such people) who concluded that I was an apologist from listening to my Pacifica programs was accepting State Department bullshit or the more subtle Trotskyist or Bukharinist stuff that the State Department became wise enough to integrate into its own arsenal. If I am worth a biography (as distinct from an autobiography), I hope whoever does it will listen to the tapes of my broadcasts and consult on such matters with an academic who knows facts. I will tell you that, way back in 1960, Pacifica hired the RAND Corporation to monitor my broadcasts, and was told that they were an accurate reflection of what the Soviet press was writing. The program's initial title was "Soviet Press and Periodicals."

Question: Your speech before HUAC, which I think is one of the greatest moments in American history, helped to ignite what Todd Gitlin called a “bursting open of the body politic” that characterized the Sixties. Do the Patriot Act and Homeland Security mark the clamping back down of the body politic? Are these things just cyclical or can we effectively resist this clamp down?

Mandel: Thank you for your words about my HUAC testimony, although you go over the top. As it is still alive more than four decades later, my conclusion is that it will be remembered as long as today's English is understood. That is to say, its merit lies more in the reason given me by a brand-new Ph.D. in English at Ohio State who invited me to speak in 1962 because my testimony was "in the classical English tradition of verbal utterance." I'm not putting down its political significance, or that it played a role in launching the Sixties among whites. It's just that, as I wrote above, my McCarthy testimony of 1953 took incomparably more guts and skill, but is forgotten because people weren't ready for a movement against him.

Question: Although we say we value freedom of expression in this country, there always seems to be a high cost that dissidents pay for voicing unpopular opinions. The flap over the Dixie Chicks’ critical remarks of Bush comes to mind; there are reports of anti-war spokespersons being harassed by organized rightwing efforts. Some are even calling for the arrest of anti-war activists for sedition. What are your thoughts on the current state of free speech in America?


Mandel: There is no law of cycles here, but we have had them before: the Alien and Sedition Laws which Jefferson beat down, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus (there was no greater president, but nothing is simple), the Red Scare after the Russian Revolution, McCarthyism. Of course the Patriot Act and Homeland Security mark a clamping down on the body politic. The answer is to resist, and to nullify, as the state legislature of New Mexico has just officially done by instructing law enforcement not to cooperate with the federal government.

I am currently urging my publisher to take the 200 pages in my autobiography covering the Truman-McCarthy era, to which I will provide a preface explaining how our nullification of those efforts to destroy American democracy are pertinent to the present situation, and an "afterward" of as many chapters and pages as needed to describe the restrictions on freedom already being practiced under the Patriot Act and by the Homeland Security Department. He has sat on the idea for a couple of months (as he did with my autobiography itself), and I guess I have six months of work to do on it, so if it goes through it won't be out for a year.

Despite the clampdowns you list, and the longer list I have compiled with that book in mind, the current state of free speech in America is the best in our history until 9/11, and not much worse than then. Taking the country as a whole, and all its components (Blacks, Latinos, Indians, women, gays and lesbians), it is incomparably better than at any time in my lifetime, and I remember back to when my father worked in Siberia in 1925-6 (to help "build socialism"), and I understood to use phrases like "over there" in my letters to him.

Question: The term “fascism” is bandied about on dissident web sites in reference to the Bush administration. How close to fascism do you think America actually is?

Mandel: America now has the legal framework to become a police state. It isn't yet, remotely, except for people from the Near and Middle East, and Moslems in general. Fascism is something else. Fascism ALWAYS requires a body of citizens who are willing personally to deprive fellow-citizens of civil liberties: Storm Troops, Fascisti, Falange. The closest we ever got to that was in the South when the Klan rode high. But even there it was directed against a single racial element, although it didn't care for Jews and Catholics. So it was possible to overturn its rule by legal means.

Question: A reviewer of your autobiography said your central story is your loss of faith in a kind of religion, communism. Yet, you remain, the reviewer said, “an optimist, a believer that, even amid the wrecks of the 20th century, something will come.” As war erupts, our civil liberties continue to be stripped away, and a century of progress is being rolled back, how optimistic are you these days?

Mandel: As to that review of my book, I disagree with the reviewer (a KPFA broadcaster) and told him so. If the central story were my disillusionment with communism, I would have joined, literally or figuratively, some other political or millenarian organization, and I would certainly not be doing the thinking expressed in this post. He is also wrong about my being an optimist, although my family laughed at me for decades when I said that I didn't believe there would be World War III (US/USSR). My position was best formulated by Frederick Engels: "Human beings make their own history, but they make it within the conditions in which they find themselves." Optimism or pessimism are both best defined as Calvinist. Absolutely nothing is preordained, except that human beings will struggle, individually and collectively, for their own continued existence.

And, of course, now that we have nukes, that too can end.


Report this post as:

Local News


lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Xyloglossie attitudinale A23 8:07AM

Shadowgun Legends Hack and Cheats A23 7:24AM

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man A08 9:50PM

Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes A08 9:48PM

Paraphysique de l'autorité A08 12:11AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy