Arthur Lovejoy on communists and academic freedom

Arthur Lovejoy (1873-1962) was a great historian of ideas and an important philosopher in the US ranking second to John Dewey between the wars. In 1913 Lovejoy raised a protest at the dismissal of an economist from Stanford because the wife of the President objected to his ideas about economic reform.

This led to the American Association of University Professors founded in 1915 to promote and protect academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher learning, to ensure the economic security of those engaged in teaching and research at colleges and universities, and to define and promote professional values and standards for higher education in the United States.

He argued that the faculty should be a professional association and should not organize like a trade union or affiliate with the trade union movement.

His 1933 speech to the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress on the threat of Hitler is prescient, and he was highly engaged as well in discussions about peace and the prospects for Europe following World War II. His position on communism after the war remains controversial, as he argued that membership in the communist party was incompatible with the duties of a University professor.

This is his defence of the contention that there are cogent reasons against admitting members of the Communist Party in America to university faculties.

1. Freedom of inquiry, of opinion, and of teaching in universities is a prerequisite, if the academic scholar is to perform the function proper to his profession.
2. The Communist Party in the United States is an organization whose aim is to bring about the establishment in this country of a political as well as an economic system essentially similar to that which now exists in the Soviet Union.
3. That system does not permit freedom of inquiry, of opinion, and of teaching, either in or outside of universities; in it the political government claims and exercises the right to dictate to scholars what conclusions they must accept, or at least profess to accept, even on questions lying within their own specialties – for example, in philosophy, in history, in aesthetics and literary criticism, in economics, in biology.
4. A member of the Communist Party is therefore engaged in a movement which has already extinguished academic freedom in many countries and would – if it were successful here – result in the abolition of such freedom in American universities. 5. No one, therefore, who desires to maintain academic freedom in America can consistently favor that movement, or give in- direct assistance to it by accepting as fit members of the faculties of universities, persons who have voluntarily adhered to an organization one of whose aims is to abolish academic freedom.

The broad question is – What are the limits of freedom and tolerance in a free society, can we tolerate the activities of people who are sawing the branch we are sitting on? And when there are more of them than us, what do we do about it?

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22 Responses to Arthur Lovejoy on communists and academic freedom

  1. stackja

    Communists against free speech. I am shocked.

  2. duncanm

    do we tolerate the intolerant..

  3. stackja

    Duncan – the intolerant don’t tolerate.

  4. Myrddin Seren

    do we tolerate the intolerant..

    The Intolerant are the Thought-and-Speech Police now. see Triggs G – HRC

    The real question is – how much longer will the Intolerant tolerate the non-collectivists ?

    The second term of a Shorten-CFMEU-Greens 1000-year Reich is not looking good.

  5. stackja

    MS – I assume Australians need a reminder of the disaster that befell Australia in 1949. And BS will deliver the lesson good and hard.

  6. Pyrmonter

    Rafe – you know the story of Max Hartwell – surely worth a developed argument?

    On the subject of academic controversies of the past, anyone want to speculate on what would happen in a repeat of the Orr case today?

  7. Caviar

    The intolerant always win out over the tolerant if the tolerant continue to tolerate them

  8. struth

    It has always been at the heart of the problem and an easy fix.

    The lie that we should tolerate communism in Australia and allow a communist party, and communist beliefs aired, is like allowing a pedo…party to exist and have their views aired.
    Look at the crack down on anything deemed by out left wing masters as right wing.
    If you are against western values of democracy and freedom, you are an enemy of our state.
    Those things are central to who we are.
    We are not a free for all of all sick and perverted extremist ideas.
    Like Islam, some things can not be tolerated.
    And the intolerance of totalitarianism cannot be “allowed” in a free western nation.

    We must understand that the reason we cannot tolerate, and should never had allowed the existence of totalitarianism is that it cannot be successfully fought in some fairyland of exchange of ideas.
    It isn’t beaten by persuasive argument.
    It is violent and corrupt and cares not for reasoned debate.
    That’s the essence of it.
    It’s purely evil enemy of the west.
    Free speech does not beat it.
    It doesn’t care what you say.

  9. Ellen of Tasmania

    “While political correctness on college campuses is discussed, NYU professor Michael Rectenwald has lived it and faced significant blowback for speaking uncomfortable truths. Professor Michael Rectenwald joins Stefan Molyneux to discuss his lawsuit against NYU, the startling opposition he faced from both his colleagues and the NYU administration for being politically incorrect.”

  10. Rafe Champion

    Thanks Pyrmonter, I only know Hartwell as a British-based academic and historian of the Mont Pelerin Society. His experience in Australia escaped me.

  11. Roger

    What are the limits of freedom and tolerance in a free society, can we tolerate the activities of people who are sawing the branch we are sitting on?

    Er…self-evidently, no.

    And when there are more of them than us, what do we do about it?

    Move to another branch.

  12. Caviar

    Move to another branch.

    We are rapidly running out of branches

  13. stackja

    struth
    #2641592, posted on February 20, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Doc Evatt to the rescue.

  14. duncanm

    We are rapidly running out of branches

    Worse still, they are sawing at the trunk.

  15. Roger

    We are rapidly running out of branches

    Things are changing and quite rapidly.

    Dissenters from the EU’s agenda are moving east or to Israel or the US.

    Failing that option, we need to create enclaves – both literal and metaphorical – where the Western Tradition is studied and lived for the sake of the preservation of ourselves and the Tradition. Think of the monasteries in the dark ages as a model of sorts.

  16. stackja

    Inside Gough Whitlam’s office
    EVAN WILLIAMS
    21 OCTOBER 2014

    I had an early taste of the attitudes of the Canberra bureaucracy on the day I joined Whitlam’s staff, in January 1973, as his press secretary. I was asked to report in the first instance to Sir John Bunting, permanent head of the Prime Minister’s Department. After greeting me with some affability, Sir John insisted I take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, which he proceeded to administer himself, using a Bible produced from a drawer in his desk and presumably kept for the purpose. When I inquired why an oath was necessary, Sir John explained that it was normal procedure. When I pointed out that I was not joining the public service but working as a temporary member of the PM’s staff, I was told that the same rule applied. Sir John managed to convey that such rules were even more necessary for former journalists and other ministerial hangers-on than they were for career officers, whose loyalty might be taken for granted.

    Wheeler, Sir Frederick Henry (1914–1994) by John Farquharson
    Sir Frederick Henry Wheeler was once described as a “legendary public servant and a master of guerrilla warfare in the bureaucracy.”

    There is a story that at one stage when Sir Frederick started lecturing the Prime Minister on the dangers of the loans affair, Mr Whitlam’s response was, “Shut up. I’ve heard everything.”

    Sir Frederick was reported to have come back with, “Prime Minister, you will listen to me. I am drawing to your attention facts, your ignorance of which, will bring you down.” These proved to be prophetic words, as Mr Whitlam was to learn the hard way when Mr Connor revived the loan arrangement with Mr Khemlani after his authority to do so had been terminated.

    But Sir Frederick and Treasury fought every step of the way to stop the deal going through. Just how he was able to bring it off is now a matter of public record. Over a critical period on December 20, 1974, as the Government sought to conclude the loan deal, Sir Frederick taperecorded his phone calls to ministers and senior public servants. Eight years later, in November 1982, in a remarkable “exclusive”, the now defunct National Times, published transcripts of Sir Frederick’s phone conversations.

    It also detailed how he continued the fight through the course of the subsequent attempt by Mr Connor to bring off a loan deal with Mr Khemlani. And Sir Frederick was just as blunt and forthright in expressing his view to his public service colleagues as he was to the Prime Minister. During the course of his phone calls, he:

    Told John Menadue, then permanent head of the Prime Minister’s Department, that it was “time he started to keep in touch with things”, that he “ought to get his head read”, and suggested that he “was utterly misguided.”
    Castigated the Attorney-General’s and Minerals and Energy Departments for failing to involve Treasury.
    Interrupted the Acting Prime Minister, Dr Jim Cairns, at a dinner at the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne and persuaded him to cancel an Executive Council meeting called to facilitate the Khemlani loan.

  17. Habib

    Old bastard had his finger on the pulse. Commies might’ve lost the shooting and economic war, but the won the stupid war hands down. The idiocracy is entirely in their thrall.

  18. Bruce of Newcastle

    This led to the American Association of University Professors founded in 1915 to promote and protect academic freedom

    Things might’ve changed since then…

    100 Chicago Professors “Propose To Exclude Viewpoints They Find Objectionable” (yesterday)

  19. Jeremy

    Government funding of Universities remains the problem.
    Few people would send their children to be taught by communists if there was genuine competition.
    De-fund them now!

  20. ArthurB

    I have always been puzzled by academics who believed in communism. Under Communist regimes, the Party exerts absolute power, its first priority is its own survival, and all dissent has to be crushed. Universities are supposed to encourage freedom of thought, and yet the academics of the West have had a long love affair with totalitarian regimes, from Stalin and Mao onwards. Even today, many academics won’t criticise the North Korean regime, preferring to direct their hate at Trump.

    In idle moments, I have speculated on what would have happened if Communism had been imposed on Australia, either by the Red Army or through the efforts of the trade unions and other traitors. I am sure that many academics, and literary lions such as Katharine Susannah Pritchard, would have co-operated, and would have helped to set up our own nomenclature, and to have purged all dissent.

    In the past, academics refused to condemn Communism. Today, they refuse to condemn Islam. Nothing changes.

  21. Adelagado

    2. The Communist Party in the United States is an organization whose aim is to bring about the establishment in this country of a political as well as an economic system essentially similar to that which now exists in the Soviet Union.

    Just swap ‘Islam’ for ‘Communist’ in this and the other 3 points and you have the situation we see today. Trouble is, most people can’t see it.

  22. Jannie

    Ellen of Tasmania #2641594, posted on February 20, 2018 at 10:56 am

    While political correctness on college campuses is discussed, NYU professor Michael Rectenwald has lived it and faced significant blowback for speaking uncomfortable truths. Professor Michael Rectenwald joins Stefan Molyneux to discuss his lawsuit against NYU, the startling opposition he faced from both his colleagues and the NYU administration for being politically incorrect.”

    Excellent interview. Thanks for the link.

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