WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS
RANDOM HOUSE NEW YORK
Copyright © 1969, 1970 by William O. Douglas
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc.,
New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited,
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 79-107197
A portion of this book appeared in Playboy in
somewhat different form.
Manufactured in the United States of America
I. How America Views Dissent 1
II. The Legions of Dissent 35
III. A Start Towards Restructuring Our Society 59
How America Views Dissent
The continuing episodes of protest and dissent in the United States have
their basis in the First Amendment to the Constitution, a great safety valve
that is lacking in most other nations of the world. The First Amendment creates
a sanctuary around the citizen's beliefs. His ideas, his conscience, his
convictions are his own concern, not the government's.
After an American has been in a totalitarian country for several months, he
is greatly relieved when he reaches home. He feels that bonds have been
released and that he is free. He can speak above a whisper, and he walks
relaxed and unguarded as though he were no longer being followed. After a
recent trip I said to a neighbor, "It's wonderful to be back in a nation
where even a riot may be tolerated."
All dissenters are protected by the First Amendment. A
"communist" can be prosecuted for actions against society, but not
for expressing his views as to what the world order should be. Although
television and radio time as well as newspaper space is available to the
affluent members of this society to disseminate their views, most people cannot
afford that space. Hence, the means of protest, and the customary manner of
dissent in America, from the days of the American Revolution, has been
Other methods of expression, however, are also protected by the First
Amendment — from picketing, to marching on the city streets, to walking to
the State Capital or to Congress, to assembling in parks and the like.
It was historically the practice of state police to use such labels as
"breach of the peace" or "disorderly conduct" to break up
groups of minorities who were protesting in these unorthodox ways. The real
crime of the dissenters was that they were out of favor with the Establishment,
and breach of the peace or disorderly conduct was used merely as a cloak to
conceal the true nature of the prosecution.
In 1931 the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Charles Evans
Hughes, held that the First Amendment was applicable to the States by reason of
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That Clause provides that
no State shall deny any person "liberty" without "due
process." The Hughes Court held that the right to dissent, protest, and
march for that purpose was within the purview of the First Amendment. Breach of
the peace and disorderly conduct could, therefore, no longer be used as an
excuse for the prosecution of minorities.
Parades, of course, can be regulated to avoid traffic problems and to allow
for easy access to public offices by other people. Pickets may be regulated as
to numbers and times and places. But the basic right of public protest may not
While violence is not protected by the Constitution, lawful conduct, such
as marching and picketing, often boils over into unlawful conduct because
people are emotional, not rational, beings. So are the police; and very often
they arrest the wrong people. For the police are an arm of the Establishment
and view protesters with suspicion. Yet American protesters need not be
submissive. A speaker who resists arrest is acting as a free man. The police do
not have carte blanche to interfere with his freedom. They do not have
the license to arrest at will or to silence people at will.
This is one of the many instances showing how the Constitution was designed
to keep government off the backs of the people.
Our Constitutional right to protest allows us more freedom than most other
people in the world enjoy. Yet the stresses and strains in our system have
become so great and the dissents so violent and continuous that a great sense
of insecurity has possessed much of the country.
This insecurity reflects international as well as local worries and
concerns. At the international level we have become virtually paranoid. The
world is filled with dangerous people. Every troublemaker across the globe is a
communist. Our obsession is in part the product of a fear generated by Joseph
McCarthy. Indeed a black silence of fear possesses the nation and is causing us
to jettison some of our libertarian traditions.
Truman nurtured that fear. Johnson promoted it, preaching the doctrine that
the people of the world want what we have and, unless suppressed, will take it
from us. That fear has made us all military experts — we all know what
missiles to keep, what troop deployments to make, what overseas wars to search
out and join. Military strategy has indeed become dominant in our thinking; and
the dominance of the military attitude has had a sad effect at home.
Domestic issues also have aroused people as seldom before. The release of
the Blacks from the residual institutions of slavery has filled many white
communities with fear; and the backlash has had profound political
The affluent society with its marketing mechanisms and its vivid television
commercials has whetted the appetites of the poorest of the poor for the good
things of the material world.
The spreading awareness of the impoverished conditions of humanity across
the globe, and of the needless deprivations of the masses, has stirred even the
illiterates to action.
There have always been grievances and youth has always been the agitator.
Why then is today different? Why does dissent loom so ominously? Some attribute
the current regime of dissent to provocateurs inspired by foreign interest. The
Soviets are accused by some; Peking is blamed by others. Yet, there can be no
doubt that ideas of revolution have long been loose in the world. The concepts
behind our revolution of 1776 spread overseas and greatly bothered more people
than those who wore crowns. The French revolution of 1789 and its ideas of
liberty, equality, and the right to resist oppression shook up the
Establishment of that age. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the
Citizen, August 26, 1789, became the creed of several European nations.
The theories of Marx and Lenin had an even greater world impact because of
the arrival of the age of communications. And the Maoist Chinese, with their
very special competence in propaganda, have greatly exploited the weaknesses
both in developing nations and in affluent societies.
But the fact that communists may have provoked some of the present dissent
in the United States is not, as some would have it, the end of the matter. The
voices are not communist, for those in rebellion see communism as an even more
vicious form of a status quo. The merits must be voted up or voted down. For
there is no doubt that the elements of discord in our lives reveal major issues
that are causing a serious domestic dislocation.
Forces too numerous to catalogue have produced a decade of protests that is
in many ways unique:
(1) It comes during a time of prolonged affluence, not of
(2) It is not ideological in its orientation, but is essentially activist;
(3) It is led by the young people who, though not unanimous in tactics or
in objectives, have given these protests a revolutionary tone. The goal of
their revolution is not to destroy the regime of technology. It is to make the
existing system more human, to make the machine subservient to man, to allow
for the flowering of a society where all the idiosyncracies of man can be
honored and respected.
Older people are not receptive to these protests nor do they understand
them. The older generation might well have resisted all change in any case, but
they are doomed to resist because of the conditioning they have experienced
over the last few decades.
I speak now of two forces working to that end. First is the growing
subservience of man to the machine. Man has come to realize that if he is to
have material "success," he must honor the folklore of the
corporation state, respect its desires, and walk to the measure of its
thinking. The interests of the corporation state are to convert all the riches
of the earth into dollars. Its techniques, fashioned mainly on Madison Avenue
and followed in Washington, D. C., are to produce climates of conformity that
make any competing idea practically un-American. The older generation has in
the main become mindless when it comes to criticism of the system. For it,
perpetuation of the corporation state and its glorification represent the true
Americanism. "If only the world were like us, everything would be
perfect." The second force which is shaping resistance to change is the
way in which our First Amendment traditions have been watered down or discarded
The First Amendment was designed so as to permit a flowering of man and his
idiosyncracies, but we have greatly diluted it. Although the Amendment says
that Congress shall make "no law" abridging freedom of speech and
press, this has been construed to mean that Congress may make "some
laws" that abridge that freedom.
The courts have written some astonishing decisions in that area. Here are a
A person may not be punished for believing a so-called noxious
or communist doctrine; but he may be punished for being an "active"
advocate of that ideology.
A person may not be prosecuted for reading or teaching Karl Marx; but he
may be sent to prison for "conspiring" with others to conduct classes
or seminars on the Marxist creed.
A person may be convicted for making a speech or for pamphleteering if a
judge rules ex post facto that the speaker or publisher created a
"clear and present danger" that his forbidden or revolutionary thesis
would be accepted by at least some of the audience.
A person may be convicted of publishing a book if the highest Court, in
time, decides that the book has no "socially redeeming value."
In these and in many other respects we have fostered a climate of
In O'Henry Junior High School, Austin, Texas, some thirteen-year-old boys
were threatened with expulsion for getting out a home-mimeographed paper
calling for an end to compulsory daily prayers over the public address system,
which practice is, of course, contrary to the Court's ruling in Engle v.
Vitale, 370 U. S. 421. One boy was actually called an atheist and a
communist because he maintained that the requirement of compulsory prayers was
teaching the pupils to break the law of the land.
Throughout the country the climate within our public schools has been
against the full flowering of First Amendment traditions.
The great rewards are in the Establishment and in work for the
Establishment. While the Establishment welcomes inventive genius at the
scientific level (provided it can get the patent and lock it up against
competitive use), it does not welcome dissent on the great racial, ideological,
and social issues that face our people.
Our colleges and universities reflect primarily the interests of the
Establishment and the status quo. Heavy infiltration of CIA funds has stilled
critical thought in some areas. The use of Pentagon funds for classified
research has developed enclaves within our universities for favored professors,
excluding research participation by students. The Pentagon now has, for
example, contracts with forty-eight universities for research on how to make
birds useful in aerial photography, gunnery, steering of missiles, detection of
mines, and search-and-destroy operations.
The University of California has been up to its ears in research on nuclear
explosives with huge grants from the Atomic Energy Commission. MIT and Johns
Hopkins — in terms of the dollar volume of their contracts — have
been among the hundred major military-aerospace corporations. Stanford,
Columbia, and Michigan have been rich with defense contracts. And so the list
Only revolutionary-minded faculties would provide a curriculum relevant to
either domestic or foreign political problems. Very few faculty members have a
revolutionary fervor or insight.
Our private universities are self-perpetuating. As Kenneth Galbraith has
said, the trustees are drawn from such a "narrow spectrum of social and
political opinion" as to make them insensitive to issues of the real
world. Even their faculties are subordinate to the orthodoxy of the trustees
and the students have little voice in affairs that vitally affect their
interests. For example, much of modern education fills young, tender minds with
information that is utterly irrelevant to modern problems of the nation or to
the critical conditions of the world. Students rightfully protest; and while
all of their complaints do not have merit, they too should be heard, as of
right, and not be compelled to resort to violence to obtain a hearing.
The university — symbol of the Establishment — is used to having
its way in a community. Its pressure is commonly applied to Black areas; as it
needs to expand, Black tenements provide an easy target. The university action
that triggers a violent reaction from the Black community may also be of a
different kind. Morningside Park in New York City has long been a rather rugged
green belt between Columbia University and Harlem. It was indeed one of
Harlem's few escapes — to shade, playground, and recreation. When Columbia
started to build its gymnasium there, many of us in the conservation field were
up in arms. But none of us had the personal stake in that piece of woods that
the people of Harlem had. And it was they who rebelled and joined the ominous
confrontation at Columbia.
But the case against the university is that it is chiefly a handmaiden of
the state or of industry or, worse yet, of the military-industrial complex. In
this connection Dr. Robert M. Hutchins recently stated:
It seems probable that we are entering a post-industrial age in
which the issue is not how to produce or even distribute goods, but how to live
human lives, not how to strengthen and enrich the nation state, but how to make
the world a decent habitation for mankind. The causes of the present unrest
among students are of course very complicated, but one of them is a feeling
among young people that contemporary institutions, and particularly the
university, cannot in their present form deal with the dangers and
opportunities of the coming age.
The dangers are obvious enough, and the opportunities, though less often
referred to, are equally great. The chance is there to have what Julian Huxley
has called the 'fulfillment society' and what others have called the learning
society, or simply a human society. We have no very clear conception of what
such a society would be like. But we have all learned from 1984 and
Brave New World what some other possibilities are.
When the university does not sit apart, critical of industry, the Pentagon,
and government, there is no fermentative force at work in our society. The
university becomes a collection of technicians in a service station, trying to
turn out better technocrats for the technological society. Then all voices
become a chorus supporting the status quo; there is no challenger from the
opposition warning of dangers to come. The result is a form of goose-stepping
and the installation of conformity as king. Such has been the increasing
tendency in this country for the last quarter century.
Our search for the ideological stray, through loyalty and security
hearings, has vastly accelerated our trend to conformity.
Anyone who works for the federal or for any state government must run the
gauntlet. Everyone who works for contractors or subcontractors on defense work
must also be cleared. We have run at least twenty million people through those
security hearings since Truman established the tests in 1947. The casualties
have been staggering in the past and they continue to mount. People have been
disqualified for governmental work particularly during the McCarthy days,
— opposed our support of the French in Vietnam.
— attended a social gathering sponsored by a group that turned out to
— predicted the fall of Chiang Kai-Shek in China and the victory of
The hearings seldom dealt with overt acts against the United States. They
probed thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. At various times a man was suspect
— and often suspended — if he believed in the U. N., if he thought
schools should be segregated, if he thought Peking should be admitted to the U.
Our loyalty and security boards developed many "badges" that
marked a "subversive" employee, or one who was a poor "security
risk." "Do you own Paul Robeson records?" "Do you own any
works of Picasso or Matisse?"
"Did you vote for Henry Wallace?" "Have you ever studied the
Thousands lost their jobs because of these trivia. Others were suspended
and turned into the outer darkness because of their membership in organizations
deemed "subversive." The organization may or may not have had
Communist members; the employee's association with it may have been only
nominal or fleeting. I remember one file of an honored Negro in the Seattle
community who lost his job because he innocently attended a "coffee
hour" of one such organization.
Membership in the Communist Party was of course fatal even though those
memberships, at least in the early years, were often not "knowing"
associations with the aim of overthrowing the government.
Apart from the improper use of data which are highly subjective and not
subject to refutation by the victim, there are some data which are of no
concern to government. All branches of the government are bound by the Bill of
Rights. It is of no concern to government what a person believes, what he
thinks, what philosophy he embraces.
— "What church do you belong to?"
— "Are you an atheist?"
— "What are your views on the United Nations?"
These and like inquiries are irrelevant.
A man's belief is his own; he is the keeper of his conscience; Big Brother
has no rightful concern in these areas.
There never was an end to these investigations. Hearings followed hearings,
as each succeeding administrator hoped to trap an employee, label him a
"subversive," and add to the administrator's popular image. This
shabby business was illustrated by the pursuit of John Paton Davies, our
foremost China expert in the forties and fifties. He was cleared by eight
loyalty-security boards. Then, in 1954, he was tried the ninth time and
dismissed from the Foreign Service by John Foster Dulles. In 1968 he was
"tried" for the tenth time and this time given a security clearance.
In the sixties employees were still being screened for association with
so-called communist "front" organizations, not especially present
associations but associations dating way in the past when friendship with
Russia, welded in World War II, was considered a national virtue. In the
sixties, even association with the Civil Liberties Union was considered by some
hearing officers as a badge of a poor security risk.
These hearings have had a powerful leveling effect; they indeed have
resulted in a bureaucracy more staid, more conservative, and more timid than a
nation can afford in a revolutionary world.
The growing dossiers on people, in employment files and in security files,
have been a parallel phenomenon. Age, income, place of birth, education are
innocuous points of information.
But much of the data in present personnel files is highly subjective. Is
the applicant "reliable," "cooperative,"
"stable," "loyal," or "subversive?" has been
asked of former teachers, associates, or employers. The answers may reflect an
emotional rift between the applicant and the person being interviewed. The
latter may be "rightist," the applicant "leftist." The
answer may reflect an old grudge or a casual episode that has no present
significance. Yet the applicant has no chance to see the report, to challenge
it, or to have it corrected.
The data collected on an applicant may reflect one youthful transgression
that never was repeated. One private group, keeping tabs on people who join
demonstrations or march in protests, has files covering five million or more,
available for a fee.
An ominous trend is the increasing FBI activity on present-day college and
university campuses. They put under complete surveillance a member or leader of
the Students for a Democratic Society group (SDS), monitoring every minute of
months of his life. The following message from an educator with administrative
responsibilities on the Atlantic seaboard tells the story in a nutshell, though
the FBI will deny it:
I want to reiterate my concern about the activities of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation on college campuses. Your help in stopping what
most Americans would consider to be invasion of privacy and the beginnings of a
police state is solicited.
In addition to the usual investigative procedures for security clearances
in criminal cases, the FBI has been conducting field checks on individual
students and faculty members who are suspected of being members of 'activist'
groups. What it has come to mean is that any faculty member or student who
speaks out or attends meetings of such groups (e.g., SDS) is apt to be
It is not unusual for the FBI to 'plant' a student in such groups as SDS
and reimburse the student for his information. Furthermore, leaders of these
organizations are placed under a system of national surveillance.
These 'spy' activities have also moved to other levels of police activity.
At our local State Police barracks, for example, there are files, including
pictures, of members of SDS.
I include myself among those who consider SDS to be a most harmful force on
American campuses. I am willing to concede the possibility that there may, at
the national level, be individuals who are solely interested in the destruction
of our way of life. I am not willing, however, to say that we must sacrifice
personal liberties to rid ourselves of these cancers.
In the past, I have made college records freely available to investigating
officers who presented proper credentials and I have cooperated in these
investigations. On reflection in the light of the above developments, I propose
to withdraw myself and this institution from such cooperation, except in
instances of security clearance for government positions when the individual
understands he is subject to scrutiny and in investigations for specific
One so-called "fact" usually collected is "were you ever
arrested?" While an "arrest" seems definite enough, it is often
an oppressive act aimed at a minority. Arrests for "breach of the
peace" are often cloaks for the arrest of people promoting unpopular
ideas. Those arrests are therefore unconstitutional, since the states are
subject to the First Amendment as a result of the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth. Moreover, an arrest may be followed by an acquittal; or the case
against the accused may be dismissed. Yet there are very few jurisdictions in
the United States that provide procedures for "erasing" arrests.
There is, moreover, no established procedure for giving an applicant a hearing
on his "arrests" before they are fed into the computer and become
cold, authentic "facts."
Charles Luce, when head of Bonneville Dam Authority, approved personality
tests, including choices such as these:
"I go to church every week" and "I believe in
the second coming of Christ." (The latter would obviously penalize a Jew
or a Moslem.)
A. "I would like to accomplish something of great significance."
B. "I like to kiss attractive persons of the opposite sex."
A. "I like to praise someone I admire."
B. "I like to be regarded as physically attractive by those of the
A. "I like to keep my things neat and orderly on my desk or work
B. "I like to be in love with someone of the opposite sex."
A number of federal agencies also use personality tests. One included the
following choices: — my father was a good man, I am very seldom troubled
by constipation, my sex life is satisfactory, evil spirits possess me at times,
at times I feel like swearing, I have had very peculiar and strange
experiences, I have never been in trouble because of my sex behavior, during
one period when I was a youngster I engaged in petty thievery, my sleep is
fitful and disturbed, I do not always tell the truth, as a youngster I was
suspended from school one or more times for cutting up, everything is turning
out just like the prophets of the Bible said it would.
The experts are at odds about these personality tests. These tests commonly
grade a person by eight, nine, or ten traits while twenty-five thousand traits
might approximate an accurate personality portrayal. Moreover, the creator of
the test fashions his own neurotic world as, for example, to daydream is
neurotic — the thesis that is present in one personality test.
A premise of another test is that belief in God is normal, but being
very religious is bad. (Some psychiatrists affirm that
"excessive religiosity" may be a symptom of mental illness.)
The most famous of these personality tests, known as MMPI, was originally
designed to sort out the mentally ill. Yet some administrators have used it not
for that purpose, but to determine who should be hired. MMPI has been defended
by some as experimentally derived. Its defenders say that an item counts not
because some clinician thought it was significant but because, in
well-diagnosed groups of maladjusted or mentally ill persons, those being
interviewed answered the item with an average frequency differing from the
average frequency of the normative group. They point out that the item "I
go to church almost every week" is counted on a scale for estimating the
amount of a person's depression. Those who were depressed answered
"true" with a frequency of only 20 per cent, while the normals
answered "true" with a frequency of 42 per cent. So those who
composed the MMPI test said that a "false" answer to this item was a
count on the depression scale, although they have no idea as to why depressed
people are apt to say they go to church less often than so-called normal
The search for the mentally ill is well-organized. So are the psychologists
who clamor for a permanent place in the screening and selection of employees.
And they are not resisted because the trend to conformity has made laymen less
and less critical of these massive inroads on their privacy.
Industry uses the personality tests to weed out those who are
individualistic and assertive and to find those who tend to conform and who
will therefore fit into the social climate of the industry.
A drive is on now to spot potential student protesters before they are
admitted to college. A preliminary report indicates that a student is likely to
be a troublemaker if he has no religious preference, if he is politically
liberal rather than conservative, if he is interested in artistic pursuits and
rates himself high in originality, and if he comes from a well-educated and
Personality testing is held in awe by many people because its scales sound
so definitely scientific and certain: psychopathic deviates, hypo-mania,
schizophrenics, and so on. The psychiatrists join forces as they work on the
periphery of what is "normal" and are interested in people who show
"pathology." If used, these tests should cover only cases which
observation, interviews, and case histories suggest are marginal. If given at
all, they should be administered only by eminently qualified people; and the
data collected should never enter the personnel file. The reason is plain.
Someone's label "schizophrenic," "neurotic," etc., can give
a person a lifetime brand, ruinous to his career, though the label may have
been improperly attached to begin with. Even if it was valid at one time, the
condition may have been completely cleared up. But a computer does not know any
of those things.
Ideological data — like personality data — is treacherous when
fed into a computer. For by its use the loyalty and security board's failure or
refusal to clear a person becomes a virtually incontestable "fact."
All one has to do now is to press the "subversive" button and all the
names of "dangerous" people come tumbling out.
The computer has now taken place alongside the A-Bomb to mark two
phenomenal revolutions in this generation. With electronics, an idea can now be
transmitted around the world in one-seventh of a second. And so the recurring
question is, what ideas will be disseminated? If they concern people, how will
people be evaluated?
Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an
increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons
why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to
efficiency of operations, to scientific advancement, and the like. The cause of
privacy will be won or lost essentially in legislative halls and in
constitutional assemblies. If it is won, this pluralistic society of ours will
experience a spiritual renewal. If it is lost we will have written our own
prescription for mediocrity and conformity.
The tendency of these mounting invasions of privacy is the creation of a
creeping conformity that makes us timid in our thinking at a time when the
problems which envelop us demand bold and adventuresome attitudes.
Electronic surveillance, as well as old-fashioned wire tapping, has brought
Big Brother closer to everyone and has produced a like leveling effect. In 1968
Congress made wiretapping and electronic surveillance lawful provided it was
done with a warrant, as provided in the Fourth Amendment, issued by a judge on
a showing of probable cause that certain specified crimes had been or were
being committed. Exempted altogether from any supervision were national
security cases where the President was given large authority to proceed against
suspected spies and subversives. But the Administration soon broadened that
category to include domestic groups who attempt to use unlawful means to
"attack the existing structure of government." The Wall Street
Journal sounded the alarm that such broad surveillance "could lead to
the harassment of lawful dissenters." And the New York Times, in
reply to the claim that Presidential power extends to surveillance of groups
which threaten the government, observed that that was the theory behind the
oppressive search warrants authorized by George III and they were the reason we
got the Fourth Amendment.
The FBI and the CIA are the most notorious offenders, but lesser lights
Every phone in every federal or state agency is suspect. Every conference
room in government buildings is assumed to be bugged. Every Embassy phone is an
open transmitter. Certain hotels in Washington have allotments of rooms that
are wired for sound and even contain two-way mirrors, so that the occupants can
be taped or filmed.
It is safe to assume that in the federal capital, as well as in each state
capital, there is no such thing as secret classified information.
The leveling effect of the numerous influences I have discussed is
appalling. The tense and perilous times in which we live demand an
in-invigorating dialogue. Yet we seem largely incapable of conducting one
because of the growing rightist tendencies in the nation that demand conformity
— or else. We are inhibited when we should be unrestrained. We are
hesitant when we should be bold. It is not enough to be anticommunist. We need
the irrepressible urge to rejoin the human race. We need to contribute moral
and political leadership — as well as technical and financial help —
to rebuilding a new world order controlled by Law rather than by Force.
This, in summary, is the mood in which America has viewed the forces of
real "revolution" that have been sweeping the nation.
But what about the forces of dissent?
There are many facets to that problem, but they all lead, I think, to what
has been called "the diminished man." There is more knowledge and
information than ever before: the experts have so multiplied that man has a new
sense of impotence; man is indeed about to be delivered over to them. Man is
about to be an automaton; he is identifiable only in the computer. As a person
of worth and creativity, as a being with an infinite potential, he retreats and
battles the forces that make him inhuman.
The dissent we witness is a reaffirmation of faith in man; it is protest
against living under rules and prejudices and attitudes that produce the
extremes of wealth and poverty and that make us dedicated to the destruction of
people through arms, bombs, and gases, and that prepare us to think alike and
be submissive objects for the regime of the computer.
One young man wrote me his dissent in a poem:
Humans exist only to consume
We the living have entered a tomb
Machines are this world's best
So humans are purchased to do the rest.
The dissent we witness is a protest against the belittling of man, against
his debasement, against a society that makes "lawful" the
exploitation of humans.
This period of dissent based on belief in man will indeed be our great
The Legions of Dissent
Students in West Germany are denouncing NATO because NATO is supposed to
defend freedom, yet Greece, a cruel dictatorship, is a member. German students
are inflamed at our use of napalm in Vietnam, putting to us the embarrassing
question, "It's a war crime, isn't it?"
A sixteen-year-old boy in Tokyo is symbolic of the dissent that is sweeping
Japan has become identified with United States militarism; and some say
Japan is now thoroughly subdued by the U. S. military approach to world
problems. Japan is a huge U. S. air force base. It is also the only means by
which the Seventh Fleet replenishes its supplies and is able to continue its
operations in Far Eastern waters.
What worries the sixteen-year-old from Tokyo? The American fear of Peking
is the major reason for our conversion of Japan into a military base. Yet
neither the youth of Japan nor the older generation fears China. "We are
blood brothers and have lived side by side for centuries."
Why then does Japan tolerate U. S. military bases in her country? The
answer is, an overwhelming fear of Russia.
That fear by the Japanese is as senseless as our own fear of Peking. Each
senseless fear feeds the other. Whatever the Japanese youth may think of
Russia, he sees the American military presence in Japan as inexorably involving
Japan in a conflict with Peking. Our presence there has already had dire
consequences from the Japanese international viewpoint. They were pressured by
us into recognizing Taipei, a step that many Japanese — young and old
— deem morally wrong. For the real China is Mainland China with her 800
million people. Peking, not Taipei, is the mirror of the twenty-first century
with all of its troublesome problems. The Japanese — especially the young
— want to get on with those problems so that they will not fester and
The youthful dissenter in the U. S. probably does not see the Asian
situation as clearly as the Japanese dissenter unless he gets to Vietnam or
nearby. Yet more and more of the youth of America are instinctively horrified
at the way President Johnson avoided all constitutional procedures and slyly
maneuvered us into an Asian war.
There was no national debate over a declaration of war.
The lies and half-truths that were told, and the phony excuses gradually
advanced, made most Americans dubious of the integrity of our leadership.
Moreover, the lack of any apparent threat to American interests —
whether Vietnam was fascist, communist, or governed in the ancient Chinese
mandarin tradition (as it was for years) — compounded the American doubts
concerning our Vietnam venture. Our youth rebelled violently when Mr. Johnson
used his long arm to try to get colleges to discipline the dissenters and when
he turned the Selective Service System into a vindictive weapon for use against
There is, I believe, a common suspicion among youth around the world that
the design for living, fashioned for them by their politically bankrupt elders,
destines them either to the nuclear incinerator or to a life filled with a
constant fear of it.
Various aspects of militarism have produced kindred protests among the
youth both here and in Japan. The Japanese say that the most dreadful time in
history was the period when only one nation (the United States) had the atomic
bomb. Hiroshima is not forgotten. To the Japanese a sense of security came when
Russia acquired the same bomb. They reason that that created a deterrent force
to the use of nuclear force by any of the great powers.
But we know that preparedness and the armament race inevitably lead to war.
Thus it ever has been and ever will be. Armaments are no more of a deterrent to
war than the death sentence is to murder. We know from our own experience that
among felonies the incidence of murder is no higher in Michigan and Minnesota
(where the death penalty was abolished years ago) than in California and New
York. Moreover, when Delaware restored the death penalty ten years ago there
was an increase, not a decrease, in the rate of criminal homicides.
If the war that comes is a nuclear conflict, the end of planetary life is
probable. If it is a war with conventional weapons, bankruptcy is inevitable.
modern technological war is much too expensive to fight. Vietnam has bled our
country at the rate of 2.5 billion dollars a month.
The Pentagon has a fantastic budget that enables it to dream of putting
down the much-needed revolutions which will arise in Peru, in the Philippines,
and in other benighted countries.
Where is the force that will restrain the Pentagon?
Would a President dare face it down?
The strength of a center of power like the Pentagon is measured in part by
the billions of dollars it commands. Its present budget is indeed greater than
the total federal budget in 1957.
In the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1969, the Pentagon will spend about 82
billion dollars, or 40 per cent of the federal budget. Health and welfare will
spend about 5.5 billion, or 27.2 percent, while community development and
housing will spend 2.8 billion, or 1.4 per cent.
Beyond that inequity is the self-perpetuating character of the Pentagon.
Its officer elite is of course subject to some controls; but those controls are
The Pentagon has a magnetism and energy of its own. It exercises, moreover,
a powerful impact on the public mind. A phone call or a personal visit by the
Pentagon propels its numerous public spokesmen into action. On Capitol Hill it
maintains one public relations man for every two or three Congressmen and
Senators. The mass media — essentially the voice of the Establishment
— much of the time reflects the mood of the Pentagon and the causes which
the military-industrial complex espouses. So, we the people are relentlessly
pushed in the direction that the Pentagon desires.
The push in that direction is increased by powerful foreign interests. The
China Lobby, financed by the millions extorted and extracted from America by
the Kuomintang, uses vast sums to brainwash us about Asia. The Shah of Iran
hires Madison Avenue advertising houses to give a democratic luster to his
military, repressive dictatorship. And so it goes.
Secrecy about the crucial facts concerning Soviet or Chinese plans is the
Pentagon's most powerful weapon. No one without that knowledge is qualified to
speak. That knowledge cannot be made public, as it involves matters of national
security. Senior members of the armed services are in the know; so are their
industrial allies and their scientific allies; so are members of the Armed
Services Committee of Congress. This is indeed a small club that holds all the
secrets and therefore has the only qualifications to make the crucial
decisions. This kind of prestigious club exerts a powerful influence. Its
members are so potent that they can — and do — exclude critics or
skeptics as security risks. So we sail off into the nuclear sunset under orders
of those who think only in terms of death.
We have perhaps put into words the worries and concerns of modern youth.
Their wisdom is often instinctive; or they may acquire a revealing insight from
gross statements made by their elders. But part of their overwhelming fear is
the prospect of the military regime that has ruled us since the Truman
administrations and of the ominous threat that the picture holds.
Is our destiny to kill Russians? to kill Chinese?
Why cannot we work at cooperative schemes and search for the common ground
binding all mankind together?
We seem to be going in the other direction. In 1970 we will spend 2 billion
dollars for developing the ABM, which is more than we will allocate to
community action and model cities programs combined; we will spend 2.4 billion
dollars on new Navy ships, which is about twice what we will spend on education
for the poor; we will spend 8 billion dollars on new weapons research, which is
more than twice the current cost of the medicare program; and so on.
Race is another source of dissent. As this is written, conflict over jobs
for Blacks has erupted in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. Blacks claim
precious few jobs in ten crafts. In Chicago, they constitute 18 per cent of
cement masons but only 1.7 per cent of carpenters, 0.3 per cent of
pipe-fitters, and 0.2 per cent of sheet metal workers, 0.9 per cent of
structural ironworkers, 2.9 per cent of plumbers.
Negroes want parity as respects human dignity — parity as respects
equal justice and parity in economic opportunities. Yet, in recent years:
Two out of three Negro families have earned less than $4,000 a year, as
opposed to only 27 per cent of the whites.
Only one out of five Negro families has made $6,000 or more, as opposed to
one out of two white families.
The chance of a Negro, age 24, of making $3,000 or more a year is 41 per
cent while the chance of a 24-year-old white is 78 per cent.
In April, 1968, only 3.5 per cent of the general population were
unemployed, while for those in the slum areas it was 7 per cent, with 5.7 per
cent for whites and 8.7 per cent for Negroes.
The national white unemployment rate has been about 3.1 per cent and the
national Negro unemployment rate 6.7 per cent.
Police practices are anti-Negro.
Employment practices are anti-Negro.
Housing allocation is anti-Negro.
Education is anti-Negro.
The federal government, with its hundreds of federally-financed public road
contracts, and its thousands of procurement contracts negotiated each year by
the Pentagon and other agencies to purchase munitions, towels, stationery,
pens, automobiles and the like, is admonished by Congress to make sure that the
contractors for these goods make jobs available without discrimination.
President Johnson gave hardly more than lip service to that mandate.
Under Richard Nixon, enforcement at first became even more lax; and then in
mid-1969 the Labor Department announced that all federal contractors on
projects costing more than $500,000 must submit as part of their bids
"affirmative-action plans" that set specific goals for hiring Blacks
and other minorities. Seven trades were selected where the new plan would be
applied and Philadelphia was made the starting point. How long it will take to
make this pilot project a vital force in American business is anyone's guess.
Over half of the six-and-a-half million Americans of Mexican descent in the
Southwest live in poverty. Their unemployment rate is twice the national
average and higher than the rate for the Blacks. The Black child in spite of
the discrimination in our system completes an average of nine years of
schooling. That is about two more years of schooling than the average American
child of Mexican ancestry finishes. In Texas he finishes only 4.8 years on the
Many cities make being poor a crime. A man who wanders about looking for a
job is suspect; and he and his kind are arrested by the thousands each year.
The police, indeed, use "vagrancy" as the excuse for arresting people
on suspicion — a wholly unconstitutional procedure in our country.
Bias against the poor is present in the usury laws and in the practices of
consumer credit. The fine print in the contract often raises havoc. It may
authorize not only reclaiming the TV set on default of an installment, but also
reclaiming articles sold by the same merchant under a prior contract. If the
dealer sells the note of the purchaser to a finance company, the latter is a
so-called "holder in due course" and normally a defense of fraud,
good against the dealer, is not good against the finance house. Moreover, the
finance company may collect even though the dealer skips town and never
delivers the articles purchased.
For the poor, the interest rates have been known to rise to 1000 per cent a
We got rid of our debtors' prisons in the last century. But today's
garnishment proceedings are as destructive and vicious as the debtors'
dungeons. Employers have often discharged workers whose wages are garnisheed;
and the total runs over 250,00 a year. In many states the percentage of wages
garnisheed has been so high that a man and his family are often reduced to a
Congress in 1968 passed a law requiring full disclosure of all consumer
credit charges. It also banned the discharge of employees whose wages are
garnisheed; and it reduced the percentage of the weekly wage that may be
But the charges for consumer credit are governed almost entirely by state
law; and in 1969 practically all the states (at least forty-eight out of fifty)
were asked by finance company lobbies to adopt a so-called model code which
increases permissible charges and makes the power of the lender even tighter
over the poor. Needless to say, the finance company lobby is not recommending
the introduction of neighborhood credit unions whose interest is notoriously
Landlord-tenant laws are also filled with bias against the poor. They have
been written by the landlords' lobby, making the tenant's duty to pay rent
absolute and the landlord's duty to make repairs practically non-existent. In
seven or more states, laws have been passed authorizing tenants to withhold
rent, placing it in escrow until the landlord makes necessary repairs and
meanwhile protecting the tenant against eviction. In a few states, a receiver
may be appointed to collect the rent and spend it on repairs.
Yet another major source of disaffection among our youth stems from the
reckless way in which the Establishment has despoiled the earth. The matter was
put by a 16-year-old boy who asked his father, "Why did you let me be
His father, taken aback, asked the reason for the silly question.
The question turned out to be relevant, not silly.
At the present rate of the use of oxygen in the air, it may not be long
until there is not enough for people to breathe. The percentage of carbon
dioxide in some areas is already dangerously high. Sunshine and the green
leaves may not be able to make up the growing deficiency of oxygen which exists
only in a thin belt around the earth.
Everyone knows — including the youthful dissenters — that Lake
Erie is now only a tub filled with stinking sewage and wastes.
Many of our rivers are open sewers.
Our estuaries are fast being either destroyed by construction projects or
poisoned by pollution. Yet these estuaries are essential breeding grounds for
marine life: eighty per cent of the fish, shrimp, crabs, and the like spend a
critical period of their lives in some estuary.
Virgin stands of timber are virtually gone.
Only remnants of the once immortal redwoods remain.
Pesticides have killed millions of birds, putting some of them in line for
DDT, now in dangerous solution in our oceans, causes birds to produce eggs
with shells too fragile for nesting. That is why the Bermuda petrel, peregrine
osprey and brown pelican are doomed to extinction.
DDT makes female fish sterile. Along the Atlantic coast commercial fish are
reproducing at an alarmingly low rate.
Hundreds of trout streams have been destroyed by highway engineers and
their faulty plans.
The wilderness disappears each year under the ravages of bulldozers,
highway builders, and men in search of metals that will make them rich.
Our coastlines are being ruined by men who search for oil yet have not
mastered the technology enough to know how to protect the public interest in
Youthful dissenters are not experts in these matters. But when they see all
the wonders of nature being ruined they ask, "What natural law gives the
Establishment the right to ruin the rivers, the lakes, the ocean, the beaches,
and even the air?"
And if one tells them that the important thing is making money and
increasing the Gross National Product they turn away in disgust.
Their protest is not only against what the Establishment is doing to the
earth but against the callous attitude of those who claim the God-given right
to wreak that damage on the nation without rectifying the wrong.
There are "colonies" within the United States. West Virginia is
in a sense a microcosm of such a colony. It is partially owned and effectively
controlled by coal, power, and railroad companies, which in turn are controlled
by vast financial interests of the East and Middle West. The state legislature
answers to the beck and call of those interests. Strip mining, the curse of
several States, has easy going in West Virginia. Black lung cancer takes an
awful toll among miners. The Establishment gave in a little and allowed the
legislature to pass a sort of a law under which a man totally disabled from
black lung cancer gets, at the most, $2500 a year — guaranteed to keep him
at the poverty level. The Establishment controls, of course, the agencies and
commissions that administer the welfare, compensation, and unemployment systems
of the State. The "mother" interests that own the wealth of West
Virginia appear secure. But under the surface there is violence boiling.
There have always been grievances and youth has been the agitator. Why then
is today different? Why does dissent loom so ominously?
At the consumer credit level and at the level of housing, the deceptive
practices of the Establishment have multiplied. Beyond that is the factor of
communication which in the field of consumer credit implicates more and more
people who, no matter how poor, with all their beings are taught to want the
merchandise they see displayed. Beyond that there is another, more basic
problem: that political action today is most difficult. The major parties are
controlled by the Establishment and the result is a form of political
An American GI in Vietnam wrote me in early 1969, stating that bald truth:
"Somewhere in our history — though not intentionally — we slowly
moved from a government of the people to a government of a chosen few ... who,
either by birth, family tradition or social standing — a minority
possessing all the wealth and power — now ... control the destiny of
This GI ended by saying, "You see, Mr. Douglas, the greatest cause of
alienation is that my generation has no one to turn to." And he added,
"With all the hatred and violence that exist throughout the world it is
time someone, regardless of personal risk, must stand up and represent the
feelings, the hopes, the dreams, the visions and desires of the hundreds of
thousands of Americans who died, are dying, and will die in the search of
This young man, as a result of his experiences in the crucible of Vietnam
and in the riots at home, has decided to enter politics and run for office as
spokesman for the poor and underprivileged of our people.
Political action that will recast the balance will take years.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming sense of futility possesses the young
generation. How can any pressing, needed reforms or changes or reversals be
achieved? There is in the end a feeling that the individual is caught in a pot
of glue and is utterly helpless.
The truth is that a vast bureaucracy now runs the country, irrespective of
what party is in power. The decision to spray sagebrush or mesquite trees in
order to increase the production of grass and make a cattle baron richer is
that of a faceless person in some federal agency. Those who prefer horned owls
or coyotes do not even have a chance to be heard.
How does one fight an entrenched farm lobby or an entrenched highway lobby?
How does one get even a thin slice of the farm benefits, that go to the
rich, into the lunch boxes of the poor?
How does one give HEW, and its state counterparts, a humane approach which
would rob from the bureaucrats their ability to discriminate against an
illegitimate child or to conduct midnight raids without the search warrants
needed before even a poor man's home may be entered by the police?
Most of the questions are beyond the reach of any remedy for the average
As the President of Amherst, Dr. Calvin H. Plimpton, wrote President Nixon
on May 2, 1969:
"The pervasive and insistent disquiet on many campuses
throughout the nation indicates that unrest results, not from a conspiracy by a
few, but from a shared sense that the nation has no adequate plans for meeting
the crises of our society. ... We do not say that all of the problems faced by
colleges and universities are a reflection of the malaise of the larger
society. That is not true. But we do say that until political leadership
addresses itself to the major problems of our society — the huge
expenditure of national resources for military purposes, the inequities
practiced by the present draft system, the critical needs of America's
23,000,000 poor, the unequal division of our life on racial issues — until
this happens, the concern and energy of those who know the need for change will
seek outlets for their frustration."
The truth is that a vast restructuring of our society is needed if remedies
are to become available to the average person. Without that restructuring the
good will that holds society together will be slowly dissipated.
It is that sense of futility which permeates the present series of protests
and dissents. Where there is a persistent sense of futility, there is violence;
and that is where we are today.
The use of violence is deep in our history.
Shay's Rebellion in 1786-1787 was sparked by a financial depression when
land taxes were said to have become intolerable.
The Whiskey Rebellion of 1784 was a farmers' protest against a federal tax
on distilled whiskeys.
Every subsequent decade showed fleeting examples of a similar kind.
In the 1930's we had "sit-down" strikes by which workers seized
factories, an act which Chief Justice Hughes called "a high-handed
proceeding without shadow of right."
The historic instances of violence have been episodic and have never become
a constant feature of American life. Today that pattern has changed. Some
demonstrations go on for months; and the protests at colleges have spread like
a prairie grass fire.
We are witnessing, I think, a new American phenomenon. The two parties have
become almost indistinguishable; and each is controlled by the Establishment.
The modern day dissenters and protesters are functioning as the loyal
opposition functions in England. They are the mounting voice of political
opposition to the status quo, calling for revolutionary changes in our
Yet the powers-that-be faintly echo Adolf Hitler, who said in 1932:
The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are
filled with students rebelling and rioting.
Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us
with her might and the republic is in danger. Yes, danger from within and
We need law and order.
A Start Towards Reconstructing Our
There always have been — and always will be — aggrieved persons.
The lower their estate the more difficult it is to find a right to fit the
wrong being done. Part of our problem starts at that point. In New York City a
housing complaint must go to one of the nineteen bureaus that deal with those
problems. It takes a sharp and energetic layman or lawyer to find the proper
desk in the bureaucracy where the complaint must be lodged.
The finance company's motion for summary judgment might be defeated if the
borrower had a lawyer who could show that the hidden charges, when cumulated,
resulted in usurious charges.
But since no one appears in defense, a judgment is entered which is shortly
used to garnishee the wages of the defendant.
The landlord's motion for eviction might be defeated, if the tenant had a
lawyer who could prove that the real basis of eviction was the tenant's
activities on civil rights. Perhaps he refused to pay rent until the landlord
made repairs. Normally that is no defense. The historic rule disallows the
failure to make repairs as a defense to the failure to pay rent. The theory was
that the duty to pay rent was dependent on the conveyance of the agreed-upon
space irrespective of its condition. But in recent years lawyers have pressed
the opposite position and have sometimes won. The fact is that a person with a
competent lawyer has some chance; one without a lawyer has only a little
The examples are as numerous as the woes and complaints of people. Most
cases — civil, certainly, and many criminal ones also — are lost and
neglected in the onrush of daily life for lack of any spokesmen for indigents
before courts or administrative agencies.
There are at least thirty million people in this category in the country.
It was to service them that the Office of Economic Opportunity established
Neighborhood Legal Services in some 250 centers. In 1968 NLS processed cases
involving from 750,000 to 1,000,000 people in a total of 500,000 cases. But the
need is astronomical: it is estimated that the annual caseload produced by the
poor alone is somewhere between five million and fifteen million.
The demand for an Ombudsman — especially in metropolitan areas —
constantly recurs, and reflects a complaint of rich and poor alike that the
laws have become much too complex. What is irritating to the rich is often
suffocating to the poor.
Our fourth Chief Justice, John Marshall, who served from 1801 to 1834,
"The very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of
every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an
Finding a right to correct a wrong is, however, the least of all the modern
pressing problems. If poor and rich alike had lawyers to assert their claims,
we would still be left with staggering problems.
The vital problems will require a great restructuring of our society. Many
issues will emerge. The most immediate, though perhaps minor in the overall
picture, concern two important areas.
First is the problem of reallocating our resources.
Second is the problem of creating some control or surveillance over key
The most explosive issues involve the reallocation of resources. For
example, the 80 billion dollar budget of the Pentagon poses inflammatory
If we prepare for wars, which ones are we to fight?
Should we prepare for war or for cooperative international programs
designed to prevent war and to provide suitable substitutes for it?
Should not domestic problems — racial discrimination, housing, food
for the hungry, education, and the like — receive priority?
The Pentagon is ready to start constructing the ABM system and is helping
scientists prepare their articles praising it. The electronics industry is
firmly entrenched in the Pentagon and that industry will reap huge profits from
ABM which started as a five billion dollar item, quickly jumped to ten billion
and 200 billion and even 400 billion. Congress has approved this program,
though by a slim majority. The voices and pressures of the military-industrial
complex seem always to suffocate the pleas of the poor as well as the pleas of
those who want to be done with wars and create a cooperative world pattern for
the solution of international problems.
Does social and economic justice always serve a secondary role in our
General David M. Shoup of the Marines has called the Pentagon and the
defense industry "a powerful public opinion lobby." War has become to
American civilians "an exciting adventure, a competitive game, and an
escape from the dull routine of peacetime."
Our whole approach to world problems has changed. We now have what General
Shoup calls the "military task force" type of diplomacy. We have
eight treaties to help defend forty-eight nations if they ask us — or if
we choose to intervene. Our militarism threatens to become more and more the
dominant force in our lives. This is an inflammatory issue; and dissent on it
will not be stilled.
The advances of technology present the problem of increasing disemployment
in the private sector. We brag about our present low unemployment. But that is
due to Vietnam. Without Vietnam we would have 15 per cent or more unemployment.
Must we fight wars to have full employment?
Technology is in the saddle and displaces manpower. The old problem of
unemployment has become the new problem of disemployment. How many of the
present eighteen-year-old men and women will be permanently disemployed?
Thoughts such as these fill the hearts of the young with dismay.
Automation is more complete in the petrochemical industry than in any
others. From the mid-1950s on, there has been an almost steady decline in the
number of "all employees" in petroleum refineries; and the same is
true of "production workers" — from 147,000 in 1953 to 90,000 in
1967. An ever-increasing quantity of food and industrial goods is produced by a
rapidly decreasing fraction of workers. Those displaced sometimes end up making
what is called "redundant" goods, items and services of value, but
quite secondary or even needless measured by basic human requirements. Those
engaged in various aspects of the moon project are an illustration. Most
"redundant" goods projects do not produce what the people need, e.g.
more hospital beds, urban projects that replace dirty ghettos, and the like.
Some who are presently "on welfare" represent the third
generation in one family on the relief rolls. There is no work available and
some of these people now think they are caught as victims of a system that pays
people to be poor.
Training for industrial work can take care of a portion of these people,
but with the great onrush of population, private industry — unless aided
by wars — will not be able to meet the employment needs.
The answer, of course, is the creation of a public sector in which people
will do more than rake leaves or sell apples on street corners.
A Senate Subcommittee in 1968 proposed that 1.2 million socially useful
jobs be created within the next four years in the public sector. But the
proposal seemed to die there.
Where is the blueprint for a public sector?
How do the disadvantaged go about the promotion of such a blueprint?
If history is a guide, the powers-that-be will not respond until there are
great crises, for those in power are blind devotees to private enterprise. They
accept that degree of socialism implicit in the vast subsidies to the
military-industrial complex, but not that type of socialism which maintains
public projects for the disemployed and the unemployed alike.
I believe it was Charles Adams who described our upside down welfare state
as "socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor." The great
welfare scandal of the age concerns the dole we give rich people. Percentage
depletion for oil interests is, of course, the most notorious. But there are
others. Any tax deduction is in reality a "tax expenditure," for it
means that on the average the Treasury pays 52 per cent of the deduction. When
we get deeply into the subject we learn that the cost of public housing for the
poorest twenty per cent of the people is picayune compared to federal subsidy
of the housing costs of the wealthiest twenty per cent. Thus, for 1962, Alvin
Schoor in Explorations in Social Policy, computed that, while we spent
870 million dollars on housing for the poor, the tax de-deductions for the top
twenty per cent amounted to 1.7 billion dollars.
And the 1968 Report of the National Commission on Civil Disorder
tells us that during a thirty-year period when the federal government was
subsidizing 650,000 units of low-cost housing, it provided invisible supports,
such as cheap credit and tax deductions, for the construction of more than 10
million units of middle- and upper-class housing.
The big corporate farmer who has varied business interests has a large
advantage over the small farmer. The farm corporation can write off profits
from non-farm enterprises against farm losses. Moreover, it gets a low capital
gains rate of tax in situations such as the following: a corporation buys
cattle and keeps them for several years, taking the maintenance costs as a
farming loss and thereby reducing its profits from other sources. Then it sells
the herd and any profit on the sale is taxed at 25 per cent.
Like examples are numerous in our tax laws, each marking a victory for some
The upside down welfare state helps the rich get richer and the poor,
Other subsidies receive a greater reverence. Railroads, airlines, shipping
— these are all subsidized; and those companies' doors are not kicked down
by the police at night.
Publishers get a handsome subsidy in the form of low second-class mail
rates, and publishers' rights are meticulously honored.
The subsidies given farmers are treated, not as gratuities, but as matters
The airspace used by radio and TV is public property. But the permittees
are not charged for the use of it.
Of all these only the welfare recipient is singled out for degrading
supervision and control. Moreover, the poor man's welfare may be cut off
without any hearing.
Mr. Justice Holmes uttered a careless dictum when he said that no one has
"a constitutional right to be a policeman." The idea took hold that
public employment was a privilege, not a right, and therefore conditions could
be attached to it. The notion spread to public welfare: a needy person could be
denied public help if he did not maintain the type of abode the welfare worker
approved; a person on welfare has no Fourth Amendment rights: the police are
empowered to kick down the door of his home at midnight without any search
warrant in order to investigate welfare violations.
But the largesse granted the radio and TV industry through permits issued
may not be revoked without meticulous regard for procedural due process.
The specter of hunger that stalks the land is likely to ignite people to
Families that make less than $3,000 a year number 13 million.
Families making less than $2,000 a year, 11 million.
Families making less than $1,000 a year, 5 million.
The condition is not peculiar to any particular State, but is nationwide.
Of course, a rural family making in the neighborhood of $3,000 a year may be
relatively well-off — if it has a cow, chickens, and vegetable garden.
But, as the poor are driven from the land by the technological revolution in
agriculture and pile up in the urban centers, these statistics on our
"poor" become ominous.
The federal food program is not responsive to that growing need. It is
designed by the agro-business lobby to restrict production, keep prices high,
and assure profits to the producers. That lobby controls the Department of
Agriculture, which as a result has made feeding the poor a subordinate and
In one year Texas producers, who constitute .02 per cent of the Texas
population, received 250 million dollars in subsidies, while the Texas poor,
who constitute 28.8 per cent of the Texas population, received 7 million
dollars in food assistance.
Of the thirty million poor, less than six million participate in either the
national food stamp program or the surplus commodity program.
A pilot food stamp project was established in two counties of South
Carolina in 1969. If a poor family makes under $360 a year, it gets food stamps
free under that pilot project. A poor family making more than that but less
than $ 1,000 a year pays for food stamps, even though the family income is not
sufficient to meet family necessities. Nationwide, 17 per cent of the family
budget goes for food — on the average. The poor who buy food stamps
pay much more.
A family of four makes, say, $1,000 a year and pays $40 a month for food
stamps that are worth $70. That helps; but the families still cannot afford it.
Moreover, these food stamp programs do not exist as a matter of right. While
the federal government pays some of their costs, the state or local government,
not Washington, D. C., must initiate the food stamp program.
What do local people think of their poor? That they are a worthless lot?
That hard work and industry would cure their lot? That if the local poor are
well-fed they may stay; but if they are left on their own, they may emigrate
and settle down in some metropolitan ghetto?
The local agencies also determine what families are "eligible"
for food stamps. Their word is the law, for there are no procedures and no
agency or surveillance to make sure that people are not made
"ineligible" because of race, creed, or ideological views. Retailers
who may receive food stamps and turn them into the local bank for cash have
prescribed remedies if they are discriminated against. But the faceless,
voiceless poor have no such recourse.
The hungry people have to go to the County Courthouse to be processed for
"eligibility." This chore, an easy one for the sophisticated, is very
nearly a barrier to the illiterate poor. Getting to town, some thirty or forty
miles away, is one difficulty. Standing in line a day or more and being
interrogated on personal affairs by complete strangers is another barrier. If
the food program is to be effective, the agency people must take it into the
hovels of the poor.
One aspect of the hunger problem concerns school lunches, originally
started to help dispose of surpluses and thus protect the producers against
declines in the market. They are now part of a "feeding the hungry"
project. Official reports give glowing accounts of the progress made; and there
has been some. But, again, whether there are school lunches in any community
depends on the local school board. In schools where there are few poor
students, the poor are fed. In schools where most children are poor, the school
board often does not supply enough money to feed them all.
The person who must pick those allowed to eat on the limited budget is the
principal. The result is that some hungry children go without lunches —
80.8 per cent in Virginia, 70.4 per cent in West Virginia, 73.5 per cent in
Pennsylvania, and 86.8 per cent in Maryland. Overall, the national figures show
that at least two out of three needy children do not receive school lunches.
Yet, the total number of school children from families at the rock-bottom
poverty level is six million.
We do not know how the two million is chosen from the six. But we do know
that at times the principal disqualifies a hungry child based on his judgment
of the moral character of the parents, not on the child's need.
And there is no way for the parents or the child to review that ruling of
Ninety-nine of the 253 counties in Texas took no part in the federal food
program in 1968. Texas has the largest farm subsidy total in the nation but
denies food aid to more poor people than any other State.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, forty-nine producers divided $605,000 for not
growing crops, while 21,409 poor people had no access to the federal food
Some States — notably New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and South
Carolina — contribute to the cost of school lunches. But in the other
States the local contribution is minor. The federal government pays about
one-third of the cost of lunches (if donated food is included); the children
pay the rest.
No matter what the propagandists say, hungry school children who have had
lunches, in the main, either pay for the food themselves or are beneficiaries
of the meager amount the federal government has put into the program.
In 1968 when Resurrection City was erected in Washington, D. C., there were
Congressional hearings on this problem. An American of Mexican ancestry
We are here with brothers of other races, here in unity, in
love for each other. We are all poor. We speak for the oppressed, for the
hungry thousands that exist in this country, to the tortures of many kinds that
have been applied to us.
We have become immune and still exist, because our pride and honesty keep
us going. We are the ghosts, the sons of chiefs, gods, kings and
revolutionists, here to haunt you for what is rightfully ours — the human
right to exist. We come here with the same problems and the same objectives. We
are a proud race of people in a racist society. We look, we feel, we eat
sometimes, we sleep, we walk, we love, and we die the same.
If we are to be heard here and across the country today — it has taken
a long time for you to hear the complaints up to now but don't forget we
Mexican-American people have waited four hundred years to be heard — if
you intend to help us, do so now. Don't pass the buck or stall any longer.
The problem of hunger — like the ghetto problem and the racial problem
— has festered for years. The Puritan ethic that hard work and thrift will
take anyone to the top has conditioned much of our thinking and has made us
slow to deal with the problems of hunger and ghettos. Those problems suddenly
loom large and ominous because of the mounting population and the growing
dependence of people on government.
Property has assumed a different form. To the average man it is no longer
cows, horses, chickens, and a plot of land. It is government largesse —
farm subsidies, social security, veterans' benefits, unemployment insurance,
old-age pensions, medicare, and the like. Even business has a towering stake in
government largesse, as witness the $80 billion dollar budget of the Pentagon.
The political struggles ahead are for increasing shares of government
largesse. The opposed forces are numerous. On one side are powerful lobbies
such as the industrial-military complex, the agro-business lobby, and the
highway lobby. These have powerful spokesmen. The poor, the unemployed, and the
disemployed are opposed — and they are not well organized.
The use of violence as an instrument of persuasion is therefore inviting
and seems to the discontented to be the only effective protest.
Our second great task is to control the American bureaucracy. As the
problems of the nation and the states multiplied, the laws became more prolix
and the discretion granted the administrators became greater and greater.
Licenses or permits are issued if the agency deems it to be "in the public
interest." Management of national forests and national parks is left to
federal agencies which in turn promulgate regulations governing the use of
these properties but seldom allow a public voice to be heard against any plan
of the agency.
The examples are legion and they cover a wide range of subjects from food
stamps, to highway locations, to spraying of forests or grasslands to eliminate
certain species of trees or shrubs, to the location of missile bases, to the
disposal of sewage or industrial wastes, to the granting of off-shore oil
Corporate interests, as well as poor people — unemployed people as
well as the average member of this affluent society — are affected by
these broad generalized grants of authority to administrative agencies. The
corporate interests have been largely taken care of by highly qualified lawyers
acting in individual cases and by Bar Associations proposing procedural reforms
that define, for example, the "aggrieved" persons who have standing
to object to agency orders or decisions. But the voices of the mass of people
are not heard; and the administrative agencies largely have their own way.
Moreover, the Establishment controls those agencies. That control does not
come from corrupt practices or from venality. It results from close alliances
made out of working relations, from memberships in the same or similar clubs,
from the warp and woof of social relations, and from the prospects offered the
administrator for work in the ranks of the Establishment, if he is the
right and proper man. The administrative office is indeed the staging ground
where men are trained and culled and finally chosen to the high salaried posts
in the Establishment that carry many desirable fringe benefits. The New Dealers
mostly ended up there. Under Lyndon Johnson there was lively competition for
administrative men who would in two years have made a million working for the
Establishment. That is a powerful influence among many agencies; and it results
in those who have agency discretion exercising it for the benefit of those who
run the corporation state. And those people are by and large the exploiters.
Anyone who opposes one of those federal agencies whose decision may destroy
a lake or river or mountain knows something about the feeling of futility that
is abroad in the land.
Agencies — notably the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
— spray public lands to get rid of a shrub like the sagebrush or a tree
like the mesquite. It is said that riddance of those species increases the
supply of grass. The driving force behind the scene is the cattle baron who
grazes his stock on public lands.
Neither his request for spraying nor the agency's decision to authorize it
is put down for a hearing. Though Rachel Carson's Silent Spring has been
out some years and though the dangers of pesticides are increasingly known, the
agency has no "control" plot where the precise effect of the
particular herbicide on our ecology has been studied. The agency, in other
words, goes at the problem blindly. It will learn what damage the spray does
only years after the spraying has been completed. Moreover, the public is not
allowed to protest at a hearing or tender expert testimony as to what this
particular spray will do to the environment. This is public land. Why should
not members of the public have a right to be heard? No satisfactory answer has
been given — only the desire of the agency to be rid of all outside
Once in a blue moon a hearing is held. Early in 1969 the Forest Service's
proposal to spray the Dry Fork in the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming was
put down for a hearing so that Norma Ketchum — but no other member of the
public — could be heard. Why only that one lady? Senator Gale McGee at her
request spoke to the Forest Service about the project. Because of his political
pressure, this one lady was heard.
But spraying regularly takes place with no one being heard.
Private persons, as well as government agencies, do this spraying. Why
should a private owner not be required to put his spraying project down for a
public hearing? He may own the mesquite trees; but he does not own the wildlife
that comes and goes across his property.
In 1968 and 1969 great stretches of the Sonora Desert in Arizona were
sprayed to kill mesquite in order to help the cattlemen. Such a large number of
kangaroo rats and other rodents were killed that the horned owls left the
country for lack of food.
Does not the horned owl have value to the environment?
I remember an alpine meadow in Wyoming where willows lined a clear, cold
brook. Moose browsed the willow. Beaver came and made a dam which in time
created a lovely pond which produced eastern brook trout up to five pounds. A
cattle baron said that sagebrush was killing the grass. So the Forest Service
sprayed the entire area. It killed the sagebrush and the willow too. The moose
disappeared and so did the beaver. In time the dam washed out and the pond was
drained. Ten years later some of the willow was still killed out; the beaver
never returned; nor did the moose.
Why should a thing of beauty that hundreds of people enjoy be destroyed to
line the pockets of one cattle baron?
The agency decision that destroys the environment may be the cutting of a
virgin stand of timber or the construction of a road up a wilderness valley.
Hundreds of actions of this kind take place every year; and it is the unusual
case on which the public is heard.
In 1961-1962 the Forest Service made plans to build a road up the beautiful
Minam River in Oregon — one of the few roadless valleys in the State. It
is choice wilderness — delicate in structure, sparse in timber, and filled
with game. We who knew the Minam pleaded against the road. The excuse was
cutting timber — a poor excuse because of the thin stand. The real reason
was road building on which the lumber company would make a million dollars. The
road would be permanent, bringing automobiles in by the thousands and making a
shambles of the Minam.
We spoke to Senator Wayne Morse about the problem and he called over
Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture, the agency that supervises the
Forest Service. Morse pounded the table and demanded a public hearing. One was
reluctantly given. Dozens of people appeared on the designated day in La
Grande, Oregon, not a blessed one speaking in favor of the plan. Public
opposition was so great that the plan was suffocated.
Why should not the public be heard whenever an agency decides to take
action that will or may despoil the environment?
The design of a highway, as well as its location, may be ruinous to
economic, aesthetic, scenic, recreational, or health interests.
By highway design and construction the Bureau of Public Roads has ruined
fifty trout streams in the Pacific Northwest. Gravel and rocks have been dumped
in the streams, making the water too fast for trout or salmon. Rivers have been
dredged, with the result that they have become sterile sluiceways.
Why should not the public be allowed to speak before damage of that
character is done?
Racial problems often are the key to a freeway crisis. In Washington, D.
C., the pressure from the Establishment was so great on the planners that the
natural corridor for the freeway was abandoned and the freeway laid out so it
would roar through the Black community. That experience was not unique. Many
urban areas have felt the same discrimination. The Blacks — having no
voice in the decision — rise up in protest, some reacting violently.
Why should not all people — Blacks as well as Whites — be allowed
to appear, by right, before a tribunal that is impartial and not a stooge for
the powerful Highway Lobby, to air their complaints and state their views?
Why should any special interest be allowed to relocate a freeway merely to
serve its private purposes?
The Highway Lobby makes the Bureau of Public Roads almost king. In 1968,
when Alan Boyd proposed hearing procedures before federally supported highways
were either located or designed, public hearings on the proposed
regulations were held. Every one of our fifty governors appeared or sent word
opposing the regulations. Why? Because the national highway lobby and
the state highway departments have such a close working partnership that
nothing should be done to disrupt it. That means that they think that
individuals should have no voice in planning. Yet the location of a highway
may: (a) ruin a park, as those in Washington, D.C. know from the repeated
threats to Glover Archbold Park; (b) ruin the scenic values of a river; (c)
needlessly divide a unitary suburban area into separate entities; (d) ruin a
trout stream (as some fifty highways have done in the Pacific Northwest); (e)
have an ugly racial overtone, as where a freeway is diverted by the Bureau from
a white area and sent roaring through the middle of a Black section.
The values at stake are both aesthetic and spiritual, social and economic;
and they bear heavily on human dignity and responsibility. Is a faceless
bureaucrat to tell us what is beautiful? Whether a particular type of highway
is more socially desirable than the country's best trout stream? Whether a
particularly described highway is more desirable than a wilderness park?
Whether the Blacks should be sent scurrying so that the whites can live in
peace and quiet? Where do the Blacks go but into more crowded neighboring
slums, as there are no suburban slums yet created?
Offshore leasing of oil lands has become another explosive issue. Offshore
oil wells may result in leakages that ruin a vast stretch of beaches, as
recently happened at Santa Barbara. Conservationists, if heard, could have
built a strong case against the permits. Without any hearings, Secretary of the
Interior Udall was allowed to do the bidding of the oil companies and knuckle
under to the pressure of President Johnson to start more money coming into the
federal treasury to wage war in Vietnam. The result was that the beaches of
Santa Barbara were ruined by one man's ipse dixit.
The tragedies that are happening to our environment as a result of agency
actions are too numerous to list. They reach into every State and mount in
intensity as our resources diminish.
People march and protest but they are not heard.
As a result, Congressman Richard L. Ottinger of New York has recently
proposed that a National Council on the Environment be created and granted
power to stay impending agency action that may despoil the natural resources
and to carry the controversy into the courts or before Congress, if necessary.
Violence has no constitutional sanction; and every government from the
beginning has moved against it.
But where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent
the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response.
In some parts of the world the choice is between peaceful revolution and
violent revolution to get rid of an unbearable yoke on the backs of people,
either religious, military, or economic. The Melville account from Guatemala is
in point. Thomas R. Melville and Arthur Melville are two Maryknoll Fathers and
Marian P. Bradford, a nun, who later married Thomas.
These three worked primarily among the Indians who make up about 56 per
cent of the population of Guatemala. They saw the status quo, solidly aligned
against the Indians, being financed by our Alliance For Progress and endowed
with secret intelligence service to ferret out all "social
disturbers." Between 1966 and 1967 they saw more than 2800 intellectuals,
students, labor leaders, and peasants assassinated by right-wing groups because
they were trying to combat the ills of Guatemalan society. Men trying to
organize unions were shot, as were men trying to form cooperatives. The
Melvilles helped the Indians get a truck to transport lime from the hills to
the processing plant, an operation historically performed by Indians who
carried one hundred-pound packs on their backs. A truck would increase the
production of the Indians and help raise their standard of living. But the
powers-that-be ran this truck off the road into a deep canyon and did
everything else possible to defeat this slight change in the habits of the
And so the Indians faced the issue of whether the use of violence in
self-defense was justified. The simple question they asked their priests was
whether they would go to hell if they used violence.
The Melvilles said:
Having come to the conclusion that the actual state of
violence, composed of the malnutrition, ignorance, sickness and hunger of the
vast majority of the Guatemalan population, is the direct result of a
capitalistic system that makes the defenseless Indian compete against the
powerful and well-armed landowner, my brother and I decided not to be silent
accomplices of the mass murder that this system generates.
We began teaching the Indians that no one will defend their rights if they
do not defend them themselves. If the government and oligarchy are using arms
to maintain them in their position of misery, then they have the obligation to
take up arms and defend their God-given right to be men.
Their final conclusion was "Our response to the present situation is
not because we have read either Marx or Lenin, but because we have read the New
That is also what Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, was
telling the world in 1969. "My vocation," he said, "is to argue,
argue, argue for moral pressure upon the lords." The "lords" are
the "slavemasters" — the Establishment in Brazil and the United
States, now dedicated to crushing any move towards violent upheaval. Though
violence is not open to Archbishop Camara, he said, "I respect the option
Guatemala and Brazil are token feudal situations characteristic of the
whole world. They represent a status quo that must be abolished.
We of the United States are not in that category. But the risk of violence
is a continuing one in our own society, because the oncoming generation has two
First The welfare program works in reverse by syphoning
off billions of dollars to the rich and leaving millions of people hungry and
other millions feeling the sting of discrimination.
Second The special interests that control government use its powers
to favor themselves and to perpetuate regimes of oppression, exploitation, and
discrimination against the many.
There are only two choices: A police state in which all dissent is
suppressed or rigidly controlled; or a society where law is responsive to human
If society is to be responsive to human needs, a vast restructuring of our
laws is essential.
Realization of this need means adults must awaken to the urgency of the
young people's unrest — in other words there must be created an adult
unrest against the inequities and injustices in the present system. If the
government is in jeopardy, it is not because we are unable to cope with
revolutionary situations. Jeopardy means that either the leaders or the people
do not realize they have all the tools required to make the revolution come
true. The tools and the opportunity exist. Only the moral imagination is
If the budget of the Pentagon were reduced from 80 billion dollars to 20
billion it would still be over twice as large as that of any other agency of
government. Starting with vast reductions in its budget, we must make the
Pentagon totally subordinate in our lives.
The poor and disadvantaged must have lawyers to represent them in the
normal civil problems that now haunt them.
Laws must be revised so as to eliminate their present bias against the
poor. Neighborhood credit unions would be vastly superior to the finance
companies with their record of anguished garnishments.
Hearings must be made available so that the important decisions of federal
agencies may be exposed to public criticism before they are put into effect.
The food program must be drastically revised so that its primary purpose is
to feed the hungry rather than to make the corporate farmer rich.
A public sector for employment must be created that extends to meaningful
and valuable work. It must include many arts and crafts, the theatre,
industries; training of psychiatric and social workers, and specialists in the
whole gamut of human interest.
The universities should be completely freed from CIA and from Pentagon
control, through grants of money or otherwise. Faculties and students should
have the basic controls so that the university will be a revolutionary force
that helps shape the restructuring of society. A university should not be an
adjunct of business, nor of the military, nor of government. Its curriculum
should teach change, not the status quo. Then, the dialogue between the people
and the powers-that-be can start; and it may possibly keep us all from being
victims of the corporate state.
The constitutional battle of the Blacks has been won, but equality of
opportunity has, in practice, not yet been achieved. There are many, many steps
still necessary. The secret is continuous progress.
Whatever the problem, those who see no escape are hopelessly embittered. A
minimum necessity is measurable change.
George III was the symbol against which our Founders made a revolution now
considered bright and glorious. George III had not crossed the seas to fasten a
foreign yoke on us. George III and his dynasty had established and nurtured us
and all that he did was by no means oppressive. But a vast restructuring of
laws and institutions was necessary if the people were to be content. That
restructuring was not forthcoming and there was revolution.
We must realize that today's Establishment is the new George III. Whether
it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the
redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.
Poets and authors have told us that our society has been surfeited with
goods, that our people are mostly well-fed, that marketing and advertising
devices have put into our hands all manner and form of gadgets to meet any
whim, but that we are unhappy and not free.
The young generation sees this more clearly than their parents do. The
youngsters who rise up in protest have not formulated a program for action. Few
want to destroy the system. The aim of most of them is to regain the freedom of
choice that their ancestors lost, to be free, to be masters of their destiny.
We know by now that technology can be toxic as well as tonic. We know by
now that if we make technology the predestined force in our lives, man will
walk to the measure of its demands. We know how leveling that influence can be,
how easy it is to computerize man and make him a servile thing in a vast
This means we must subject the machine — technology — to control
and cease despoiling the earth and filling people with goodies merely to make
money. The search of the young today is more specific than the ancient search
for the Holy Grail. The search of the youth today is for ways and means to make
the machine — and the vast bureaucracy of the corporation state and of
government that runs that machine — the servant of man.
That is the revolution that is coming.
That revolution — now that the people hold the residual powers of
government — need not be a repetition of 1776. It could be a revolution in
the nature of an explosive political regeneration. It depends on how wise the
Establishment is. If, with its stockpile of arms, it resolves to suppress the
dissenters, America will face, I fear, an awful ordeal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS was a practicing lawyer in New York City
and the state of Washington, a law professor at Columbia and Yale Universities;
and Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He has been a member of
the Supreme Court since 1939. Justice Douglas' hobbies include hiking,
conservation, foreign travel and exploration. He is the author of thirty books,
including: Towards a Global Federalism, Russian Journey, Beyond the High
Himalayas, Almanac of Liberty, Farewell to Texas. The present book,
Points of Rebellion, is the first of three volumes dealing with dissent
and rebellion. The second, International Dissent, will deal with world
problems, and the third book, A Hemispheric Co-op, will consider the
special problems of Latin America.