On the eve of this year's Yale game, the Alumni Association's Committee to Nominate Candidates for Overseers met in Boston and worked out a ten man slate that included the name of United Nations Under-Secretary Ralphe Bunche. Three months later, when the list had been published, Archibald B. Roosevelt '17 (son of T.R.) dispatched a long letter (see box) to President Pusey, expressing his horror at reading of Bunche's candidacy for the Board of Overseers, and urging Pusey to "find means to quash this most inappropriate nomination."
Faced with an unsympathetic reply from Massachusetts Hall, an organization called the Veritas Foundation--of which Roosevelt is President--decided to take the case to the voters. Forty-five thousand copies of the letter were printed and recently mailed to every living College alumnus. His fellow Trustees--Arthur Brooks Harlow '25 and William A. Robertson '33--joined Roosevelt in signing a covering letter which outlined the "general objective" of their Foundation:
"To educate the officials, teaching staffs, governing bodies, undergraduates and graduates of American colleges and universities upon the subject of communism, the international communist conspiracy and its methods of infiltration in to the United States."
Furthermore, the Foundation promised "supporting documentation" on Bunche's "left-wing activities" to any alumnus, curious or upset, who would contribute a dollar or more to the cause. Prepared and published by a New York research firm known as The Alliance, Inc--of which Roosevelt is both founder and President--the documentation fills a 49-page mimeographed book-let which opens with a carefully worded statement:
"This report intends to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that Dr. Bunche for a number of years had expressed himself in writings, speeches, and organizational activity in a manner which paralleled the communist line in its major aspects. Further evidence is hereby presented to prove his expressions were of such a nature that they could only have been arrived at as a result of his going through a thorough indoctrination in communist methods and techniques. It will also be shown that his affiliations and activities were such as to fill the requirements necessary for a top level operative for the Kremlin apparatus."
Bunche's nomination for high University office however, is just the latest in a series of issues raised by the Veritas group and its supporters. In 1956, when the Harvard Cooperation invited physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer to deliver the William James Lectures on Science and Philosophy, five Bostonians organized the original Veritas Committee--the Foundation's ideological godfather.
Two items in Oppenheimer's past should disqualify him for such an honor, Veritas claimed: his pre-war Communist associations, and an admitted lie to Government investigators. This second point dominated the anti-Oppenheimer campaign. With heavy logic, Veritas drummed away at the charge that a proved liar was coming to lecture on ethics "to the young students at Harvard." As a matter of fact, ethics had nothing to do with Oppenheimer's lecture series, which dealt with the philosophical implications of modern science.
Veritas members nevertheless sent out hundreds of letters to classmates and alumni acquaintances, urging protest against the appointment. Kenneth D. Robertson, Jr. '29 wrote to the Hon. Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr. '27 (then Chairman of the Board of Overseers), asking "whether or not you now approve of the Oppenheimer appointment as William James lecturer," and "your views as to Dr. Oppenheimer's moral qualifications to lecture on the subject of ethics and philosophy." Though Robertson's letter began with some valid questions (the second never answered), it ended with a polemic:
"If this letter makes you angry by speaking too plainly, please don't take it out on me. After all, I didn't have a Communist as a an intimate 'girl friend,' didn't contribute money to the Communist party, didn't associate with Communists and employ them in secret Government work or fail to pass security tests. Nor have I lied about the forgoing when questioned thereon. Finally, don't blame me for appointing him."
Though it failed to block the lectures, this campaign was not without its effects. The Harvard Administration was quite thoroughly alienated by what it considered a vindictive and useless attack. Edwin Ginn '18, an agent of the Harvard Fund, dramatically resigned his post in protest against Oppenheimer's appointment. A group of undergraduates revived a small organization called the Harvard Athenaeum in support of Veritas and later the Committee gave financial support to the conservative review Fortnightly.
Finally, in an attempt at direct action, Veritas collected the 200 signatures necessary to nominate one of its supporters by petition as a candidate for the Board of Overseers. Though the name of Col. Laurence E. Bunker '26 a former aide of Gen. MacArthur) did appear on the official ballot, and though half-page ads supporting him were inserted in Cleveland and Philadelphia newspapers, the Veritas candidate failed to gain election. In consequence, the group was reduced to its alumni mailings and sporadic contact with Harvard officials.
Oppenheimer came and spoke, of course, and left. But the Veritas group soon made it clear that their protest extended beyond Oppenheimer's appointment to "communist infiltration at Harvard," and the College's "trend to the left." In '57 and '58, two further issues were raised: the professional integrity of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. '38, and the appointment of Mark Zborowski as a Research Assistant in Social Anthropology.
On April 22, 1958, the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined, "Harvard Aide Held in $20,000 Bail as Red Purjurer." The aide was Zborowski, who, according to the authorities, was for 25 years "a trusted Soviet secret police agent whose reports were read personally by Stalin." When Kenneth Robertson asked for the "essential facts surrounding the case of Comrade Zborowski," Pusey replied only that he had been "appointed last Spring by the President and Fellows." Robertson wrote back as follows:
"It seems to me that you, the Fellows, and most of the Board of Overseers have consistently revealed--and are still revealing--apathetic naivete about the whole question of the Kremlin-inspired subversion of our Blessed Country. Were it otherwise, you and they would know that one of the prime objectives of the Soviet is to place as many of their agents as possible inside the major schools and colleges of our Country. That they have done so, successfully, can hardly be denied by you or by any member of the Harvard Corporation. Indeed, it would be interesting to know whether, today, you would be as sure of yourself in saying: 'You know, Mr. Robertson, there aren't any Communists at Harvard.'"
In order to "cut down on all future infiltration as well as to pin the blame for those subversives who slip by," Robertson proposed a special committee to pass on all Faculty and staff appointments. Presumably, its members would include Veritas sympathizers and others who would "oppose, vigorously, all attempts at Harvard, to shackle, to suppress or to discourage the expression of the Constitutional, conservative, free enterprise point of view."
The Veritas group first questioned Schlesinger's professional integrity late in 1957, when Robert H. Montgomery '30 initiated a long and detailed correspondence with Dean Bundy. Attempting to prove "deliberate falsehood" and "suppression of the truth" in Schlesinger's treatment of the Sacco-Vanzetti murder case, Montgomery pointed out at least three factual errors, and the omission of the "single most damning piece of evidence"--the .32 calibre pistol carried by Saco and containing the rare and absolete type of cartridge that killed the guard.
Montgomery's main objection, however, centered on the following passage in Schlesinger's Crisis of the Old Order: "In May 1920, following the murder of a paymaster in South Braintree, Massachusetts, Brockton police picked up two Italians in an automobile filled with the innocent and febrile literature of anarchistic propoganda." This passage is factually incorrect, said Montgomery, and designed to make Sacco and Vanzetti appear the martyr-victims of a purge murder by the "Old Order."
When Montgomery mimeographed his correspondence on the Schlesinger issue, it reached 16 pages. Still unsatisfied, he spoke of "sophistry and evasion." His conclusion: "a sorry state of affairs."
By this time, members of the Veritas Committee had made themselves unpopular in both University and Massachusetts Halls. Though often well documented, their letters assumed a belligerent tone; when their efforts to elicit certain information were frustrated, the Veritas group resorted to polemic. Realizing their position and wanting to continue the fight, Kenneth Robertson and others decided that a completely new organization with fresh personnel might make more progress.
On 9 June 1958, therefore, the official headquarters of Veritas action moved from Boston to New York, where the Foundation was formed with three new officers as Trustees. Set up as an "educational group," the Foundation claims tax-exempt status, "in the opinion of counsel"--an opinion which has yet to be tested. As any member of either group will admit, the now inactive Committee and the new Foundation are one in spirit, and cooperate closely.
In addition, the Veritas group enjoys the cooperation of a small network of research bureaus, newspapers and magazines. Roosevelt serves as President and main financial supporter of The Alliance, Inc., a firm specializing in such publications as "Red Intrigue and Race Turmoil," "Color, Communism, and Common Sense," and "Manual for American Action"--the last written by Roosevelt himself. In addition, at least two New England newspapers--Manchester's Union-Leader and New Bedford's Standard-Times--appear especially sympathetic to Veritas publicity.
In the magazine field, the American Mercury has done a flip-flop from the iconoclastic days of H. L. Mencken, and in September 1957, a strongly worded article entitled "Harvard Betrays its Heritage" appeared under the byline of Harold Lord Varney, managing editor. Criticizing the Harvard Corporation for its "mawkish tolerance of communism," Varney spoke of "intellectual mushiness," and concluded that the College had "fallen into an era of little men and little men and little safety haunted minds at the Harvard summit."
Basically, the Veritas group objects to the "liberal monopoly" at Harvard and elsewhere, which allows "subversives" to slip unnoticed into the Faculty, and which permits smug and "fuzzy-minded" liberalism to stand unchallenged within the academic community. Few deny the validity of their second criticism. Among most university faculties (and especially at Harvard) there is a certain devotion--often unquestioning--to Keynesian economics and the Democratic party, which, though hardly "subversive," shows an unhealthy onesidedness. Perhaps well-qualified and articulate spokesmen of the conservative position are hard to come by, but it is unfortunate that Harvard's faculty ranks do not include more voices to challenge those of Seymour Harris and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
In the view of Veritas, glib liberalism gives aid and comfort to something more extreme: "socialism prepares the ground for communism." Though they draw a reluctant distinction between well-meaning, patriotic liberals and communist subversives, Veritas members insist that the first inexorably fosters the second. Veritas never accuses Schlesinger of direct subversion in writing Crisis of the Old Order, but it argues that his "socialistic" views unwittingly abet the communist conspiracy.
This conspiracy, they warn, is a shrewd and insidious campaign that has spun its web deep in American society. Kenneth Robertson is fond of reciting from memory one of 1200 quotations he is trying to get published in book form--this one from Dmitri Manuilski's speech to Moscow's Lenin School of Political Warfare in 1931:
"War to the hilt between communism and capitalism is inevitable. Today, of course, we are not strong enough to attack. Our time will come in twenty or thirty years. To win we will need the element of surprise. The bourgeoisie will have to be put to sleep. So we shall begin by launching the most spectacular peace movement on record. There will be electrifying overtones and unheard-of concessions. The capitalistic countries, stupid and decadent, will rejoice to cooperate. As soon as their guard is down, we shall smash them with our clenched fist."
Such tough-minded Communist speeches show part of what the Veritas group is worried about. Its members also recognize the following as major Communist tactics at the present time: nullification of the Smith Act and other anti-communist legislation, muzzling the FBI and congressional investigations, eliminations of Federal and State security programs, the "peace offensive," summit conferences, cultural exchanges, recognition of Red China, nuclear test bans, East-West trade, and humiliation of the West ("brainwashing" in Korea, Nixon's South American trip).
Harvard is being duped by this conspiracy, Veritas asserts, and it has thus come to favor "left-wingers" in all branches of University activity: in conferring honorary degrees, of fering lectureships, appointing to the Faculty, nominating for the Board of Overseers. Of course, Veritas members employ a fairly inclusive definition of "left-wing"; they condemn the "Welfare State" (social security, farm price supports) and and "subversive internationalism" (United Nations, foreign aid programs).
Their disillusionment with Harvard and with intellectuals in general, one suspects, dates back to the 1930's when the University provided a fair proportion of "brain-trusters" for FDR's New Deal. Yet, the sincerity of Veritas members cannot be questioned. Only strong conviction and deep concern explain the printing of Roosevelt's letter to Pusey, or his writing it in the first place; only a firm sense of patriotism can account for the large amounts of time and money spent on mailings and preparation of the 49-page documentation on Bunche's past activities.
When asked recently about the booklet, Bunche had this to say: "A few years ago Roosevelt got up a mimeographed booklet of 40 or 50 pages attacking me, and has been peddling it ever since--mailing it out broadside all over the country. I've heard these charges before, and pay no attention to them. I don't believe in taking a defensive attitude toward an attack of this kind. The best defense is the statement of the Loyalty Board itself, which went to unprecedented lengths in stating that there was absolutely no quesion about my loyalty. This was in reply to charges similar to those Roosevelt has been making ever since."
Roosevelt, however, dismissed this argument in his letter to Pusey: "To give the excuse that the Loyalty Board had cleared Dr. Bunche--if so be the case--does not excuse the nominating committee. The past decade has shown what type of people often creep into the Loyalty Boards from mysterious sources." In its booklet of documentation, The Alliance, Inc. states that Bunche:
1. Toed the communist line in the 30's as a champion of Negro rights hailing the Soviet Union's "leadership" in this cause, advocating "class struggle," attacking American education as slanted to back the "dominant capitalistic order," and writing for a magazine that prominently advocated "a social upheaval that will plow up our present institutions to their very roots and substitute a socialist order for the present capitalist imperialist order."
2. Served as an organizer of the National Negro Congress ("a carefully planned maneuver of the Kremlin...to organize millions of Negoes behind the Soviets throughout the world") and as an official of the Institute for Pacific Relations ("one of the main channels of Soviet espionage and communist betrayal").
3. Repeatedly urged persons in charge of UN employment to hire a "notorious communist agent" in 1945, "in spite of the fact that there