Exclusive Interview with Phillip A. Luce EX-COMMUNIST
Plain Truth Staff
"CAMPUS Erupts in Violence," "University Shut Down," "Demonstrating Students Jailed" — these are today's headlines. Parents, educators, students are becoming concerned. A few have dared to say Communism is, in major part, responsible for the chaos at our universities. In order to get the facts about what is going on in our universities and WHY, we asked former Communist Phillip Abbott Luce for an exclusive interview. Mr. Luce was a former editor of the monthly publication of the Progressive Labor Party. He labels it Communist, says it follows the line of immediate violent overthrow of society set down by the Chinese Communist Party. Phillip Luce was also a member of the party's national committee. The Progressive Labor Party is very influential among dissident university students. As a result, Mr. Luce is in the key position of knowing how to evaluate what is happening on our campuses — and WHY! Phillip Luce left the world of Communism in 1965. Today he is a national symbol of resistance to the violent ultra-left movement. He lectures at many universities. He has written several books, The New Left, Intelligent Student's Guide to Survival and Road to Revolution: Communist Guerrilla Warfare in the U.S.A. He has written numerous articles for leading magazines. Among them, Reader's Digest and National Review. In this article, a composite of several interviews for The PLAIN TRUTH and The WORLD TOMORROW TV broadcast, Mr. Luce gives us the inside story of what is really happening on our campuses. He tells us how he personally got involved with Communism and the events which caused him to leave the movement.
QUESTION: As a former New Left leader, you had a key position in the movement. Yet today, you are a national symbol of resistance to the radical New Left. Can you briefly tell us what you're doing?
ANSWER: Yes, I spend a large part of my time touring various college campuses. I talk to young people about the pitfalls of Communism and the New Left. Our parents and elders are in a state of wonderment over young people joining the new Communist groups. Perhaps my story will help to convince them that the road to political reality does not lie with the Communists.
QUESTION: Would you tell us what was your direct affiliation with the extreme left? What organizations were you in?
ANSWER: I was on the national committee of the Progressive Labor Party. The Progressive Labor Party is the Communist organization in the United States which follows the ideological line laid down by Peking and the Communist Chinese. It considers itself to be the most revolutionary party in the United States.
QUESTION: What was your job?
ANSWER: I was editor of their monthly publication and also a member of the national committee. I helped to organize trips to Cuba in 1963 and 1964. I was involved in a number of violent demonstrations in New York. I helped secrete guns into the city of New York and had a small role organizing in the Harlem area prior to and during the riot situation in 1964. I was also a member of a small select cadre of people being trained to go abroad for a year. We were then to return to the United States and drop out of sight to take on different responsibilities in this country.
QUESTION: When in Cuba did you meet Cuban leaders?
ANSWER: Yes, we spent time with, I think, almost all of the Cuban leaders. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, all of them on various levels. Sometimes openly and a few of us met with them privately. We also — a few of us, two or three of us, had long conversations with the Chinese Communist delegation in Cuba. We met with the Albanian delegation and a number of the Latin American delegations. We were promised at one point by the Venezuelan Communist group that if we returned to the United States and were arrested and imprisoned that they would blow up a couple of oil wells for us!
QUESTION: Did they reveal any of their particular plans so far as the future is concerned?
ANSWER: Just the belief again that revolutionary Communism would take place throughout the Western Hemisphere. They contended on a number of occasions that they couldn't tell us what to do in the United States because each country has its own individual problems and individual revolutionary potential. The Cubans said they wouldn't try to superimpose on us what they had learned in their own country.
QUESTION: Would you describe briefly your own personal involvement in the New Left and Communism? There was certainly some set of circumstances in your life that led you to become active in the movement?
ANSWER: As a matter of fact, my parents were relatively well-to-do. Extremely conservative. Politically I had a good childhood. All the comforts and love that one would need. In high school or early college, I just joined in that general state of rebellion against parents, home, family life, politics, everything. Then I went to school to get my Bachelor's degree in Mississippi. I began to do a lot of reading about socialism and social change at that time. And when I went to graduate school at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, I met many young people that were openly Marxist-Leninists. Some had been members of various far-left groups. Those people with whom I was working at the graduate level all considered themselves to be Marxists. Some claimed to be Marxist-Leninists. That had an influence on me. While I was at graduate school in Columbus, Ohio — Columbus, Ohio being a relatively conservative area of the country — it was quite the thing to be one of the flaming radicals on the campus. It certainly assured you of newspaper coverage and interviews. It assured you from time to time of just plain popularity.
QUESTION: Did you seek these people out as a result of your political beliefs which had been acquired in your education, or did they come to you because of some set of circumstances?
ANSWER: It was a combination of both. I was certainly at that time considering myself to be kind of a quasi-intellectual, Marxist-Leninist. And over a period of time, I decided that I had an obligation to myself and to my acquired ideology to join a party, an organization. About this time I met people in the Progressive Labor Party. They talked to me, and I talked with them. And then finally, I decided to join. It didn't happen overnight. Nobody duped me. I made a horrible, incredible mistake both psychologically and politically. Something I will have to live with all my life. But nobody duped me, and I went into it feeling, at least, this is what I wanted. Once I became a member, once I became an intricate part of the Communist movement, I began to discover any number of things that I had simply passed over. I discovered that we weren't really talking about freedom in the United States. We weren't talking about freedom for anybody! What we were simply doing was saying, "We want power so that we can control the country ourselves!" There was tremendous repression within the organization. For example, we were involved in many illegal actions. But we weren't telling the membership, for instance, that guns were being stored illegally in New York City. All of these things began to bear on my mind.
QUESTION: Would you give us a little more background on how you became associated with the New Left?
ANSWER: I first became aware of the concept of the New Left when I entered Ohio State in 1958 to do graduate work in political science. And the first time I heard the phrase was in connection with the development of New Left clubs and the New Left Review in England. In the fall of 1958, the civil-rights struggle was in full bloom. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts, and freedom rides all captured the imagination of many young American students. Here was an issue of importance activated by other young people. But more than that, the civil-rights struggle became an emotional outlet for protest against the entire system that bred the problem. Human rights and constitutional freedoms were considered vital. There was a strong feeling that no one had a right to discriminate and humiliate any other citizen because of his race. By the time I got my Master's degree I began to involve myself halfheartedly in support of the activities of the Communist Party. I felt that this was the only organization of any radical significance around. I had come to believe that only through a radical change in society could we find the answers to our political problems. Political science courses had taught me that the democratic process "worked," but its pace was extremely slow. As my reading of Marxist literature increased, I became convinced that the capitalist system was bound to create and continue the disparity between rich and poor that existed, and that the two-party political system in this country was designed to perpetuate a ruling-class mentality. As I look back on this period in my life, I recognize that while I was drawn to Marxism as an intellectual concept, I was really involved in a general rebellion.
QUESTION: To what extent is hard-core Communism to be found and identified inside various student organizations which are involved in campus demonstrations today?
ANSWER: I spend most of my time today on the campuses, traveling around speaking to student groups, helping to organize a counteroffensive against the new leftists on these campuses. I'm constantly running into people that I knew years ago — some of whom were Communists — but all of whom were certainly revolutionaries in the early '60's. I find these people in many of these demonstrations and organizations. I also know and have talked with a number of younger people who are members of SDS — Students for a Democratic Society. Some of them are extremely concerned that the Progressive Labor Party — the organization I used to work with and for — is coming very close to taking over their policy-making decisions. And if this happens, then certainly SDS will simply be nothing but a pawn for the Peking-oriented Progressive Labor Party in the United States. Communists have taken over every organization they've ever gone into! They will attempt at all times to take over an organization such as SDS and mold it to their own plans and their own policies. However, a distinction must be made between those Communists, such as in the Progressive Labor Party that are trying to take over SDS, and individual students on the campuses that are involved in demonstrations. Because there are Communists in student movements does not mean that all students are Communists that are engaged in it. And I'm afraid that some people have this impression. It limits their understanding of the student revolt and it also limits their capability of countering these problems on the campuses.
QUESTION: Do you think that there has been a false image created by the press which tends to make people think that in everyone of these protests there is Communist influence?
ANSWER: I think it certainly does, because if a person is called a Communist long enough, he begins to almost feel that he is. The other thing is that the Communists love it! It helps them to organize because then they can say, "Look, you know you're not a Communist. But look, everybody's calling you a Communist. Why don't you come and join us — actually be one! If people are going to identify you as one, then why don't you be one!" We're constantly fighting this concept that all of them are Communists. I think that the majority of those students that are actively engaged in "revolutionary activities" on the campuses are anarchists or nihilists. Many of them have no concept of Communism as a philosophy at all. There is an abysmal lack of education regarding political science, history and philosophy among the student radicals. They've never really read Marx; they've never read Lenin. They pick up a little Mao and a little bit of Che Guevara from reports that happen to appear in their local "free presses." But they've never read about Communism; they don't understand it.
QUESTION: How much student unrest is Communist directed?
ANSWER: There are Communists of course in many demonstrations and campus upheavals. They admit it. You can see them, you can point them out. That does not necessarily mean that all demonstrations are Communist controlled and inspired. It simply means that over a period of time the Communists in the United States have done a very effective job of propagandizing. They have helped to create a climate wherein students will take to violent actions. It doesn't mean that a Communist has to be in a riot to direct it. Besides, Communists don't like to be in violent demonstrations, not leadership Communists. They would rather have other people go out and do it.
QUESTION: What is the relationship between traditional Communism and the New Left?
ANSWER: The rise of the young Communist groups is a result of a concerted membership drive by the elder Communists to enlist those desiring to be "different." Rebellion against parents and social mores, a belief that Communism may hold the answers to the future, a nonfunctional democratic left that has left the field open to the Communists, a McCarthy backlash, the civil-rights struggle, antagonism with our present involvement in Vietnam — all these helped to drive young students toward the Communist left. The rise of China and Cuba as Communist powers also caused a number of young people to feel that Communism is the wave of the future, and, of course, they want to make sure they will be on the winning team. Although the New Left has come to identify itself more and more with the precepts and ideology of the elders of Communism, it still holds some hostility for its forebears. The youthful New Left had been filled with hostility toward the adult world. The New Left has been losing its "newness" and has become more and more a mere radical outcropping of the Old Left. C. Wright Mills was replaced by Mao, and the prospect of free men acting rationally to change society became infused with and was then replaced by the concept of revolution and armed conflict. Not only did the ideology begin to change, but the very nature of the groups involved also changed. No longer do we see the anarchistic approach of the young radicals to individual social problems. All this has been replaced by a controlled logic that strongly resembles the editorials in the Chinese Communist weekly, The Peking Review.
QUESTION: We hear a lot about the generation gap. But if we look at student leaders, many of them are 30 or older. Why are the ones who dictate New Left policies over thirty?
ANSWER: Certainly for the left, revolutionary left, the generation gap means nothing. Any number of so-called leaders of the New Left would have to be discounted if age were the only criterion because almost all of them are over 30. Many of them are much older. Yet, they have the respect, toleration and possess the leadership ability that the younger people follow. Younger people do look to older individuals for knowledge, for authority in any number of situations. Of course, Communists take on many different appearances. I was with the Progressive Labor Party in 1965. Beginning that year, an order went out in the Progressive Labor movement that every leader, if not every member of the organization, had to cut his hair and shave and begin to wear coats and ties. If you go onto a campus today where Progressive Labor has strength, you look at them, and you begin to think, "Look at those nice fraternity boys standing there!" Well, in some cases, these are the people with bombs.
QUESTION: Why is the "New Left" so successful in attracting young people?
ANSWER: The New Left and the Communist Left act. We somewhat later decry their actions and condemn their fervor. The New Left is vital; we are passive. The New Left is concerned with changing society; we seem only concerned with basking in the rewards of our free enterprise system. The New Left is out to destroy not only our heritage of freedom and democracy, but possibly the whole of our country. We seem only willing to play coffee-cup politics. So who is really to blame for the seriousness of this very real threat to our freedom? The Communists? No! We are. I know full well that this is not the kind of talk that people want to hear. I realize that it would be much better (and easier) to assure everyone that the New Left and the Communists are really only a figment of our imagination and that the anticommunist student groups are a vital force on our college campuses. It would be easier to say this, but it just wouldn't be true.
QUESTION: What type of student is drawn into various dissident groups — and also into Communist organizations?
ANSWER: It is the young student who feels frustrated, alienated, and angry with the university, the system, and the apparent dichotomy between the theory and reality of our democratic scheme. He is usually fair game for young Communists. Young Communists want to capture these rebels and use their anger for various left-wing programs. Berkeley is a case in point, where the young Communists tried to capture the rebels, once they "revolted" against the university. It's obviously more exciting, self-fulfilling and politically active to be marching around the block with a sign demanding "something" rather than sitting in the fraternity house and watching "Peyton Place." The great appeal of the Cuban Revolution for the generation of the New Left was similar in many respects to the appeal the Russian Revolution held for the generation of my parents. Of course, those older and wiser knew of the pitfalls of Communism and revolution. They knew all about the purges, the splits, the faded hopes. For us, however, the past held few lessons. At the time of the Cuban Revolution, we were not concerned with the past. Into this state of flux come the young Communists. This Communist Left is now actively at work on many campuses to capture the alienated and frustrated student, and to make him or her a pawn in their particular game. "Pawn" is the correct word, as the Marxists and Leninists will use the rebel for their own ends, while pretending their purpose is only to strike at the evil aspects of American society. Not only has the rebel been used by the Communists, but he has been misled, if he believes that they have any answers to the problems he seeks to solve.
QUESTION: In surveying the whole field of campus disturbances, ghetto riots and general civil unrest — what is it Communists hope to gain?
ANSWER: When it comes to seizing power against the will of the people, terror and deception are the only means that work. Because through the use of violence, terror and deception, a highly disciplined minority can seize power over a majority. Mao Tse-tung summed up the Communist concept when he said: "Every Communist must grasp the truth, 'political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' " In 1905 V.I. Lenin, the architect of worldwide Communist revolution, wrote, "Go to the youth: let them arm themselves with whatever weapons they can get — knife, revolver, oil-soaked rags for setting fires... some can undertake to assassinate a spy or blow up a police station, others can attack a bank to gain funds for the uprising. Let every squad learn if only by beating up police." Let's not mince words: The Communists (no matter what Mecca of Communism they relate to) are not exactly friendly used-car dealers. They will use violence and terror. But they have a variety of other means in their arsenal designed to gain the end result of communizing the free world and specifically the United States. They lacquer together their more direct methods with deceit, propaganda, and instigated confusion and anarchy. The peace marches and rallies (partially organized, financed and dominated by the Communists) are used as a psychological wedge to attempt to influence world opinion against any United States action to withstand Communist aggression. They create the illusion that a majority of Americans are opposed to the United States lending assistance to a country threatened by Communist imperialism.
QUESTION: One wonders how so few left-wing militants are able to cause so much trouble. What do you feel is the role of the college professors and the administrators? Why do the administrators and professors allow such violence on campus?
ANSWER: They are really part of an established kind of bureaucracy within the school system. They are often afraid to confront issues. For an administrator to be confronted by a problem is the worst thing that could happen to him. He'd much rather just sign papers.
QUESTION: Do you feel the press has overplayed the extent of student rebellion on campuses?
ANSWER: Yes. Throughout the country, we have good examples of the majority of students on a campus or a local strong minority standing up to the New Left and the New Left being defeated. We have just such an example — the University of California, San Diego. The Left Wing in the liberal arts department called for a student strike. But they couldn't get a student strike going down there. They went into classrooms and they shouted and they did everything. But the chemistry students wouldn't go out; the engineering students wouldn't go out; the physics students wouldn't go out. And they formed the majority of the student population of the campus. So it failed. Nobody notices that. The fact that the majority of the faculty at San Diego State College and at San Jose State College signed petitions opposing violence on the campus, refusing to go out on strike, refusing to support the strike at San Francisco State is ignored by the press. The press is caught in its own quagmire at this point. It helped initially to promote violence by making people believe that the only thing anybody wanted to see on television was violence. It then came to the point where a New Left leader on a campus would pick up the phone and call the local press. He'd say, "We've got an organization here at this school, and if things aren't changed within twenty-four hours, we intend to blow it up." And he makes front page news. The point is that he may have three members in his organization, none of whom could even ignite a stick of dynamite, let alone a bomb.
QUESTION: Would you summarize exactly why you broke with the extremists on the left.
ANSWER: I left because of the activities I was involved in, because I felt like I was lying to myself. And mostly, because the realization came to me that, although we kept espousing freedom, although we kept saying that if we took power in the United States we would have real freedom, it was all a fraud! I had lied to myself about it. I contended that party members should at least know what we were doing. The organization argued "No." And I decided over a period of time that I was lying to those young people I was trying to bring into the organization. I tried to push through changes within the organization. It was impossible. And I said — I have made a horrible mistake! The only thing that I can do is to leave, to try to bring a few people with me, and to try to start in anew. When one has been part and parcel of an ideology for many years, with strong beliefs and ties accompanying them, it is not easily challenged or dispensed with. I then had to make a most difficult decision. Should I leave the movement silently, quietly, as so many others had done before or risk the censure of those who had once been my friends and tell of the personal experience, political truths, and illegal activities that forced me to "split"? The friends who were no longer friendly, the attempts at personal slander, the chorus that now sang out my name as the most dangerous enemy of all, the attempts to isolate me — all were expected. But the contemptuous and defamatory quality of the attacks was not. The only thing one can say is that the Old and New Left have this in common — they have no scruples when it comes to one who sways from their prescribed faith.