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Marx’s Disenchanted Salesman
December 1971 | Volume 23, Issue 1
To give you a typical example, the so-called Left demonstrations in Washington against the inauguration of Nixon. They did more to build up Nixon than Nixon ever did. The Left is responsible for him by that kind of silly tactic. It’s a declaration that they don’t want an election. It’s a declaration against American democracy. They prefer any way to choose the President to the majority decision.
No, I don’t go along with the Left at all, except to feel sorry for them and sympathize with them. Youth today is very superficially Leftist, very superficially. They haven’t learned a single thing from our mistakes.
If you then had it to do all over again, do you think you would do anything differently?
I don’t suppose so. You can’t rewrite history.
You were called before the McCarthy committee in the early fifties, weren’t you?
What are your recollections of that experience?
It was a very confused time.
Did they treat you well?
Yes. In fact, when I was on trial for contempt of Congress, McCarthy, who had caused the indictment, appeared as my witness. He testified that I couldn’t very well have been in contempt of Congress since I had done exactly what the committee under Tydings had wanted me to do. McCarthy confirmed what I said, but it didn’t matter. The outcome was certain before the contempt hearing even began. [Browder appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then under Chairman Millard Tydings, of Maryland, in April, 1950, to testify about alleged Communist influence in the State Department. He stated that the party had never tried to get its members into the government and that Owen Lattimore, accused by Senator McCarthy of being a Communist, had never been a party member. He refused, however, to state whether he knew assorted other individuals named by committee members. In December, 1950, he was cited for contempt of Congress and spent a week in jail.]
Did you meet Richard Nixon during that period?
Yes, I bumped up against him once or twice.
What was your reaction to him?
It was one of shuddering. I haven’t gotten rid of it since. I try to be fair to him, but I’m indelibly prejudiced. He is not a likable man. I don’t believe even his closest associates like him.
Did you meet Robert Kennedy, who served as a counsel to the Democratic minority on the McCarthy committee, during that time?
Yes. I got acquainted with Kennedy when he first entered politics. He came to my house when he became the minority counsel, and we spent an afternoon together. He wanted to know about my career in the party. I found he was quite knowledgeable. He had read all my books.
I was always a little bit prejudiced against the Kennedy boys because of the father. He won a second fortune out of his ambassadorship to Britain. I never could forgive him for that, and his whole family was guilty by association for me. Only the intense pressure of my sons forced me to support Jack for the Presidency.
You have three sons?
Yes, and they’re all professors of mathematics at major universities. One is at Brown, one is at the University of Chicago, and one is here at Princeton.
Was it your influence that got them all interested in mathematics?
(With a laugh) I think it was probably a reaction against my influence. My sons had a difficult time of it when they were growing up because of my association with the party. Later, when it came time for them to find jobs, they had a great deal of trouble finding colleges that would hire them.
Something I meant to ask you—When you were the head of the party, was there a great deal of government surveillance? For example, how pervasive was the F.B.I.?
Not at all pervasive. It was a negative influence. The F.B.I, agents—we had them—were easily recognizable; there was an infallible sign. They always posed as extreme Leftists, and, thereby, under my leadership of the party, they became ostracized.
The F.B.I., from its inception, was Leftist among the Communists. It was their tactic to make the Communists violent. And whenever they succeeded, they had won a great victory.
How about some of the people who were later accused of being Communists? Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs … did you know oj any of them within the party.?