||CHAPTER 8: WORLD-HISTORIC CONSCIOUSNESS VS. SECTARIANISM||Page 25|
For world-historic consciousness one does not have to become a socialist or communist, but one must work with them. One must recognize them as powerful allies in the present struggle against war and that they help provide a concrete vision for a future peaceful world. Anti-communism is the most destructive form of sectarianism. It weakens the unity that needed for strength and the vision needed for inspiration. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this fact. Although he was not a communist, himself, King acknowledged that DuBois was a "radical all of his life" and "some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years." King concluded that "our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking." (footnote 10)
Of course, not every activist rises to the step of world-historic consciousness. For example, despite the great intellectual talents of Bertrand Russell, his temperamental inability to affiliate stunted his development and kept him from working with groups where he could have developed world-historic consciousness. Instead, the older he grew, the more cynical he became:
The way in which the world has developed during the last fifty years has brought about in me changes opposite to those which are supposed to be typical of old age. One is frequently assured by men who have no doubt of their own wisdom that old age should bring serenity and a larger vision in which seeming evils are viewed as means to ultimate good. I cannot accept any such view.
It is ironic that Russell should blame "the way in which the world has developed" rather than the way in which he himself developed for the failure to achieve a "larger vision." Dorothy Day also failed to achieve a world-historic vision. In her preface to The Long Loneliness she asks "What is man, where is he going, what is his destiny?" and answers, "It is a mystery. We are sons of God, and 'it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.'" She concludes that in her life, "I feel that I have done nothing well." Such a conclusion is quite similar to the one that Bertrand Russell came to: "I cannot pretend that what I have done in regard to social and political problems has had any great importance." In each case, it was impossible for them to appreciate the great importance of their work because they lacked the world-historic consciousness with which to evaluate it.
The failure of Russell and Day to achieve world-historic consciousness had serious historical consequences. Although both ended up playing progressive roles in opposing the Vietnam War, each played a reactionary role with respect to the rise of the Cold War. Bertrand Russell's anti-communism led him for several years to work for British Cold War propaganda agencies and even to publicly advocate a nuclear attack upon the Soviet Union. Later on, however, he reversed his position and the Russell-Einstein manifesto of 1955 set the stage for the first East-West scientific cooperation for peace, the Pugwash Conference of 1957.
Dorothy Day became caught up in the contradictory approaches of the catholics and communists; although she made a personal integration in her own life, she could not resolve the historical contradictions between them. As a result, she had a major negative impact on the Cold War, without even having to take a public position concerning it. The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, which grew out of a study group she had started at the Catholic Worker in the depression years, developed into a sectarian organization that attacked communists in the trade unions. They were largely responsible for destroying the labor involvement of the CIO in the peace movement during the critical early years of the Cold War. As I recount in The American Peace Movements (see footnote 3), the Association did....
"its utmost to turn the key Catholic CIO leaders.... into anti-Communists." The Catholic attack on the labor movement was carried out by spies, informers, infiltrators, and "ACT" cells" in the CIO that were "pledged to keep Communists out" of key areas in the labor movement. Once the CIO withdrew its organized labor support, the Wallace campaign had no chance of victory.
The defeat of the Wallace campaign not only ended mass opposition to the Cold War, but it also led into the period of McCarthyism, the worst period in U.S. peace movement history.
(continued on next page)