To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
James A. Walker's letter in the July 22 CRIMSON has just come to my attention. I wonder if it is not too late for one who actively participated in the demonstration against Gerald L.K. Smith to comment on some of the questions raised in Walker's letter and in the CRIMSON editorial.
It should be made clear that every individual who participated in the demonstration shares with the CRIMSON and Mr. Walker complete devotion to the principles of free speech. However, we also are devoted to the rights and safety of minority groups, and we believe that no one can be permitted to use "free speech" as an excuse to incite violence against Jews and Negroes. One need not call up Holmes' now hackneyed, but still valid warning against granting free speech to him who would shout fire in a crowded theatre. The last time Smith spoke in Boston, his visit was followed by the beatings of young Jewish boys in Dorchester and several attacks on Negroes. To quote from the leaflet circulated by the Boston Youth Council: "We believe in free speech, but we will not permit the lecture platform to be used as a center for pogroms and lynchings." We tried long and hard to stop Smith through legalistic channels, but a telephone barrage and many personal visits failed to persuade Acting Mayor Hines or the trustees of the Old South Association to call off the meeting in the interest of public safety. When the municipal authorities so shamefully negelect their duty, it leaves only one recourse to the citizenry--their own action.
As for tactics, there were those who felt with the CRIMSON that protesting against Smith would serve his ends, by according him free publicity... We believe that there is only one way to fight fascists--and that is by fighting them! Smith may have had only 35 supporters at this meeting, but it would be the height of folly, and danger, to allow Smith to continue speaking in Boston until, aided by the approaching depression, he can build himself a following of 3500 or 35,000. Smith had to be taught that fascists are unwelcome in Boston, and equally important, the people of Boston had to learn that they are not powerless against the brazen emergence of all the gutter -fascists who dared not show their faces during the war.
One final word on the question to which Walker saw fit to devote two thirds of his letter: was the demonstration Communist? Certainly there were Communists among the demonstrators. So what? Is it surprising that the Communists, who are always the first, but by no means the only victims of fascism and who have always taken pride in their militant anti-fascism should participate in a demonstration against a fascist like Gerald L. K. Smith? It is alarming, as well as more than a little revolting, to see Harvard students diverted from the real issue at hand by the game which seems to have become the new national pastime--"I Spy--a Red!" Are we to seek out the Communist position on any question and thereupon, automatically, to support the opposite side? Unless we are prepared to accept such a patently absurd criterion for political thinking, we must be prepared to find the Communists at least occasionally in agreement with us, and, as in the Smith demonstration, fighting side by side with us against a common enemy.
Walker comments that "The thing was led by Harry A. Mendelsohn and his AYD friends. Mendelsohn may not be a member of the party, but in two years acquaintance with him, I've never seen his disagree with the party or fail to support its local front groups." I can only say of the first statement that I find it highly flattering, because the "thing" was one of the finest demonstrations ever to take place in Boston, and, indeed, ranks high on the long list of demonstrations which have been organized against Smith throughout the country. As for the second statement, I think it hardly necessary or even proper to answer, and thus render legitimate, such an obvious bit of name-calling. I do think it unfortunate that a person of Walker's intelligence should think it possible in a Harvard publication to pin a label on his opponents and thereby dispense with the method, more customary in a University, of rationally discussing diverse viewpoints on the basis of their merits alone. Harry A. Mendelsohn Chairman, Harvard Youth for Democracy