A Fine Old Conflict

In Jessica Mitford’s hilarious memoir of her time in the Communist Party, “A Fine Old Conflict,” she outlines the indignities great and small suffered by Americans who, for one reason or another, were “premature anti-fascists,” and thus subject to the long arm of the law for decades thereafter.  A product of an eccentric and famous upper class British family, she landed in the US a young widow with a newborn daughter, her first husband, Winston Churchill’s nephew Esmond Romilly, having been killed in action in the RAF in 1941.  She managed to nail a job with the OPA as a “sub-eligible typist,” (“the wartime shortage of clerical workers was so severe that the applicant for a government job was taken into a room with a typewriter and a washing machine; if she could identify the typewriter, she was hired…”)  There she met her future husband, Robert Treuhaft, and together they became Communist thorns in the side of racists, chiselers, HUAC, and the FBI for the rest of their lives, happily.

Though the book deserves a full Book Saloon at some point, what brought it to mind today was the the multiple incidents in which “Decca,” as she was known, was drummed out of the most menial jobs because of her party affiliation, and later denied a position as a Distinguished Professor with the University of California for refusing to sign a loyalty oath; this after her book, “The American Way of Death,” had made her  an internationally famous author and muckraking journalist.  UC students would therefore be denied the privilege of learning from this remarkable woman because, y’know, she used to be a commie. (Alert Hag reader Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel points out that it was San Jose State, not UC, that leveled the boom on Decca; my apologies…)  She was dead before California finally rescinded its McCarthyite loyalty oaths in 2008.  Enter Glenn Beck:  (h/t newshounds.us)

Standing in front of his trusty chalkboard, “Professor Beck” first complained that FDR was “surrounded by people who were communists” before sneering that John Sweeney, the former president of the AFL-CIO removed the anti-Communist clause from the union by-laws. Unions, of course, are one of Beck’s regular scapegoats. “Question,” Beck said, pretending he was “only asking.” “Why would you need to repeal this old law on your by-laws… of your union unless there was some new demand or desire for communists to join your ranks?”

“Now let me take you to California,” Beck said self-importantly. He was referring to a 2008 bill that, he said, “amazingly, allowed communists to teach in school, to become schoolteachers in California. Oh, and public employees would no longer have to take an oath of office which reads in part, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies foreign and domestic.” His voice rising, Beck added, “And I do further swear or affirm that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise that now advocates the overthrow the government of the United States or the State of California by force or violence.”

“Why would you want people to stop taking that oath? Who wouldn’t want that taken, especially by teachers, other than people… looking for social justice?” Beck asked accusingly, before moving on to suggest that it was all somehow related to the fact that unions are big supporters of President Obama.

It’s sad how little we learn from even the most embarrassing elements of our past.  Now that McCarthy has been rehabilitated by Coulter, Beck, The Texas Textbook Commission, you name it, can ol’ J. Edgar be far behind?  Of course, Beck is either too craven or stupid to know the difference between the communism he deplores and the fascism he is unwittingly supporting, but he would benefit a bit by reading some of Mitford’s work; on civil rights, economic justice, peace, women’s rights, and nearly everything else she was right more often than FOX News has been in its dismal 15-year run as the voice of American Fascism.  Mitford was something Glenn Beck will never be; a true American patriot.  Would that she were alive today to eviscerate this doughy nitwit with her scathing humor;  ”The Fine Old Conflict” goes on.


  1. dirigo says:

    No doubt some here have read last week’s piece by Howell Raines, former editor of the Times, essentially calling Fox News more a propaganda operation than a journalistic one.

    Glenn Beck is a clown in a clown suit, and although he has a very sharp pointer to underline his memes, and a lucrative platform provided by Rupert Murdoch, he has no – NO – journalistic experience whatsoever. So his “commentaries,” such as they are, really have little credibility.

    I would like to offer a link to MSNBC’s Olbermann program in which Lawrence O’Donnell asks Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, ex chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to comment on Karl Rove’s book.

    As a veteran, I’d like to call attention, sharply, to Wilkerson’s point that Karl Rove, as a political operative in the Bush White House, should not have qualified in any way for secret or top secret access to classified materials, and if he did see such material, Wilkerson suggests it may logically have been steered to him by Dick Cheney.

    This is important, and no amount of Rovian bullshit or turdblossom jokes will cut it.

    Also, in a BBC interview which preceded the MSNBC segment, Rove simply says the famous Yoo memos on torture were just fine, regardless of what Geneva says, when it came to administering waterboarding on terror suspects.

    So Rove is giving the nation legal advice too.




  2. cocktailhag says:

    I read the transcript of that interview at C&L; too bad more people don’t call out these phonies for what they are.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Clearly, that’s what the State of California belatedly concluded. What Beck is proposing is actually worse, since not only members of subversive parties are to be culled, but according to his dogma, the majority of voters, anyone whose religion advocates for social justice, and on and on.

  3. Glenn Beck is the ultimate asshole. If he’s not shrilly declaring that America is marching toward Communism, he’s shrilly declaring that America is marching toward Fascism. I really don’t think he understands the difference between the two.

    It’s odd, yet interesting, to hear the wingnuts project their Fascism label on progressives. As defined by the father of Fascism, Benito Mussolini, Fascism is the perfect marriage of military, government and business. In our current military industrial complex, the wingnuts need look no further than a mirror to find the Fascists that they’re looking for.

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s why I think a ham-handed propagandist like Jonah Goldberg preemptively came out with “Liberal Fascism.” They needed to do some rebranding in a hurry before people caught on.

  4. Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel says:

    Decca Mitford became, as she put it as wittily as everything else she ever said, “an extinguished professor” at San Jose State University. However, before she died she learned that her name had been placed on a chair in Investigative Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. Yay, Berkeley!

    • cocktailhag says:

      Oops. The San Jose State incident, to my chagrin, wasn’t in “A Fine Old Conflict,” but rather in “Poison Penmanship,” my copy of which no doubt ended up in the paws of one Heel or other and was thus unavailable to me for reference. Thanks for the clarification; and it’s always nice to find other Mitford fans out there.
      PS… Yeah, Berkeley, except for the John Yoo thingy….

  5. One of my biggest regrets was signing that loyalty oath. I still remember my 27 year-old incarnation — about to get married, and worried about making a living — trying to persuade himself that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. I worked with that on my conscience for 33 years. Then, five years after I retired, UC gave it up.

    I’m grateful, but it doesn’t help relieve me of the shame of not standing up when I should have.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Wouldn’t have done a lot of good, so you probably did, if not the right thing, the reasonable thing. After all, it was decades after Mitford made her stand before the damn thing was finally rescinded.