nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

signals, signals everywhere / and not a thought to think

A case study in American Communism

with 10 comments

Born in 1945, Lee [Felsenstein] grew up in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia, a neighborhood of row homes populated by first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants. His mother was the daughter of an engineer who had invented an important diesel fuel injector, and his father, a commercial artist, had worked in a locomotive plant. Later, in an unpublished autobiographical sketch, Lee would write that his father Jake “was a modernist who believed in the ‘perfectability’ of man and the machine as the model for human society. In play with his children he would often imitate a steam locomotive as other men would imitate animals.”

… His father Jake’s political adventures as a member of the Communist Party had ended in the mid-fifties when infighting led to Jake’s losing his post as district organizer, but politics were central to the family. Lee participated in marches on Washington, D.C. at the age of twelve and thirteen, and once picketed Woolworth’s in an early civil rights demonstration.

… After graduation, he went to the University of California at Berkeley to matriculate in Electrical Engineering. … He got … a work-study job at NASA’s Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, at the edge of the Mohave Desert. To Lee, it was admission to Paradise—the language people spoke there was electronics, rocket electronics, and the schematics he had studied would now be transmogrified into the stuff of science fiction come alive. … Then, after two months of that “seventh heaven,” as he later called it, he was summoned to a meeting with a security officer.

The officer seemed ill at ease. He was accompanied by a witness to the proceedings. The officer kept notes and had Lee sign each page as he finished it. He also had the form Lee had filled out upon entering Edwards, Security Form 398. The officer kept asking Lee if he knew anyone who was a member of the Communist Party. And Lee kept saying no. Finally he asked, in a gentle voice, “Don’t you understand that your parents were Communists?”

Lee had never been told. He had assumed that “Communist” was just a term—red-baiting—that people flung at activist liberals like his parents. His brother had known—his brother had been named after Stalin!—but Lee had not been told. He had been perfectly honest when he filled out Form 398 with a clear “no” on the line that asked if you knew any known Communists.

Steven Levy, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

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Written by nydwracu

May 18, 2013 at 04:29

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

10 Responses

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  1. As American as Apple Pie and Chevrolet!

    Nick B. Steves

    May 18, 2013 at 08:18

  2. I don’t know any racists either

    Anonymous

    May 18, 2013 at 09:03

  3. Born in 1945, Hans [von Braun] grew up in the little-Berlin section of Dallas, a neighborhood of row homes populated by first- and second-generation German immigrants. … his father, Dieter, “was a modernist who believed in the ‘perfectability’ of man and that the position of the backyard fence favored the neighbors too much and should be relocated. In play with his children he would often display a strange aversion to anything related to locomotives – he was pretty sensitive about it for some reason, apparently.

    … His father Dieter’s political adventures as a member of the Nazi party had ended in the mid-fifties when infighting led to Dieter’s losing his post as obergruppenfuhrer, but politics were central to the family. Hans participated in marches on Washington, D.C. at the age of twelve and thirteen, and once picketed the Soviet embassy for their brutal oppressions of East Germany, where some of his relatives lived after being allowed to return, after many years, from their exile in Kazakhstan.

    … After graduation … the language people spoke there was rocket science, his uncle’s field, and the schematics he had studied would one day send Americans to the moon … Then, after two months of that “seventh heaven,” as he later called it, he was summoned to a meeting with a security officer.

    The officer seemed ill at ease. He was accompanied by a witness to the proceedings. The officer kept notes and had Hans sign each page as he finished it. He also had the form Hans had filled out upon entering Edwards, Security Form 398. The officer kept asking Hans if he knew anyone who was a Fascist. And Hans kept saying no. Finally he asked, in a gentle voice, “Don’t you understand that your parents were Nazi Fascists?”

    Hans had never been told. He had assumed that “Nazi” and “Fascist” were just a terms—brown-baiting—that people flung at activist conservatives like his parents. His brother Adolf had known—but Hans had not been told. He had been perfectly honest when he filled out Form 398 with a clear “no” on the line that asked if you knew any known Nazis or Fascists.

    Reads just a little different, neh?

    Handle

    May 18, 2013 at 18:27

  4. Yep

    Here I was thumbing through that book like an excited nerd, when I came across that passage and there it was! – a perfect snapshot of the futility of McCarthy and the ignorant mendacity of anti-anti-commies.

    Contemplationist

    May 30, 2013 at 15:27

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    August 3, 2014 at 01:26

  6. Great post. I will be experiencing a few of these issues as well..

    Su Kaçağı

    October 8, 2014 at 12:19

  7. So. Blog dead?

    Rollory

    April 7, 2016 at 01:01

  8. […] envy engine. Invisible communism. Capitalism plus. “Explain yourselves”. The weekly round, plus […]


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