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'Big Brother on Campus'

December 09, 1985

Arnold Beichman's article (Editorial Pages, Nov. 21) in support of Accuracy in Academia, the new right-wing watchdog organization that aims to smoke out Marxists on our campuses, is disturbing. I am one of those Marxist professors who would be deemed to be so dangerous, so I can speak from that point of view.

Beichman and AIA claim that Marxists are one-sided and ideological--that Marxists aim to propagandize their students. Beichman is disturbed when Marxists mainly teach Marxism in their classes because he sees that as imbalanced, that each instructor ought to teach a variety of perspectives.

I will not try to argue that Marxism is non-ideological, but rather, that all knowledge, Marxist and non-Marxist, has ideology embedded in it. Instructors who teach neo-classical economics, for example, are certainly teaching a world view that has social and political content. They are, in a sense, engaging in "propaganda" for capitalism. I don't hear calls for a balanced approach here.

No one says that each class in neo-classical economics should make sure it gives equal time to Marxism, as the chief critical perspective on neo-classical thought. Instead, like Marxist instructors, neo-classical economists believe they have a body of material to cover that requires full attention and discipline. Some courses compare ideas and systems of thought, but not all do or should.

Most university teaching takes a uni-dimensional, implicitly pro-capitalist point of view. This is so taken for granted that it isn't visible. It isn't seen as ideology because it is so pervasive. AIA and Beichman would like to snuff out the one small voice of criticism that might lead students at least to consider the possibility that there is not only one point of view on how society works and how it might be organized.

As a Marxist, I believe firmly in freedom of speech. All ideas should have a chance to be voiced. Their truth will be gauged by those who listen and read. If an idea is patently false, it will die from lack of interest.

Those who want to crush Marxism on our campuses apparently are afraid of it. They are afraid it will attract a following. They are afraid it might become popular. If an idea is so frightening that it must be crushed, one wonders whether those who want to crush it fear that it has sufficient truth to draw attention and interest.

The very idea of a university involves the notion of a sanctuary for the free debate of ideas, whether or not they are perceived to be dangerous by those in power. Those who want to curtail such debate and only let one side be heard are much more threatening to the university and the American Constitution than are those Marxists who speak their minds.

It is not Marxist professors who threaten freedom of speech--they are merely exercising it. It is anti-Marxist ideologues who threaten freedom of speech by trying to deny it to others.


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