Bruin Alumni Association

Maurice Zeitlin Denies Reality

By Andrew Jones
August 24, 2005

In Monday’s UCLA Daily Bruin article about the Bruin Alumni Association, a number of outrageous criticisms were leveled at the BAA by faculty radicals.  The most usual of the usual suspects, Sociology professor Maurice Zeitlin, made the laughable claim that I or other concerned Bruin alumni don’t have a “shred of evidence anywhere about the suppression” of conservative voices at UCLA.

Not a shred, Maurice?  What about my personal experience with the Executive Director of the Southern California ACLU, Ramona Ripston?  What about the 12-1 ratio of Democrat to Republican professors in the UCLA departments of Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology?

And if Maurice wants to talk literally about ‘voices’ – well, in the past 10 years (1994-2003), UCLA has not featured a single conservative or Republican speaker at a graduation ceremony.  And that’s out of 39 speakers (the high number accounts for the fact that UCLA, from 1994-2001, had separate speakers at every single Letters and Science division).  Surely, if UCLA were so scrupulously evenhanded, we would find a conservative or Republican somewhere in that group. 

I could go on like this, but ultimately, I have to admit that Maurice is right.  It’s true that I don’t have a “shred of evidence.”  I’ve got reams of it.

The “who me?” rhetoric from Zeitlin is not all that surprising.  As conservative legend David Horowitz revealed in 2003, Zeitlin is not just your garden variety white-guilt liberal.

Horowitz, Zeitlin, and LA Times columnist Robert Scheer founded in 1960 the first journal of the New Left, titled Root and Branch.  That first issue featured Zeitlin’s interview with the blood-soaked revolutionary Che Guevara.  As Horowitz tells it:

In 1960, long before the creation of Ramparts, Zeitlin had visited Cuba and interviewed Che Guevara, who was then the second most powerful man in the dictatorship. We published the interview in the first issue of our Berkeley magazine, Root and Branch, which one of the political journals that launched the new left (Robert Scheer was also an editor). The rest of us were both shocked and impressed when we read the interview and realized what Maurice had done.

He had not just interviewed Guevara, already a radical legend. He had challenged Guevara's policies and in effect called into question his revolutionary credentials. Maurice had asked Guevara about the role he thought the trade unions should play in a socialist country, specifically Cuba. Should they be independent - as new left socialists like us wanted - or would they be appendages of the state, as Lenin and Stalin had made them? Maurice reminded Guevara that the elimination of independent unions, the organizations after all of the revolutionary class, had paved the way for the Soviet gulag. Guevara was angered by the question and by Maurice's temerity in raising the question, would not criticize the Soviets and abruptly changed the subject.

Zeitlin had put Guevara to the test and Guevara had failed. The interview revealed that Guevara was a Stalinist himself. We all recognized the significance of what he had said. Yet to our shame, we continued to support the Cuban regime anyway, knowing that it was destined to be a totalitarian gulag - because that was the intention of its creators. Maurice did write a subsequent critique for Ramparts. But like us, he continued to support the regime and to attack the United States and its efforts to restore freedom to Cuba. Later, when I had second thoughts about my political commitments and left the political left and comrades like Maurice Zeitlin, I wrote about my regrets for defending a regime that has become the most sadistic dictatorship in Latin American history. Except for Ronald Radosh and other "second thoughters" who have also turned their backs on the left, I don't know of any new radicals who have done the same.

            Zeitlin has no regrets about his support for Fidel Castro, Che Geuvara, and the other socialist revolutionaries who ensured that for nearly half a century, Cuba has remained an island prison.  Indeed, Zeitlin, at a 1997 academic conference, proclaimed Guevara “a leader of the first socialist revolution in this hemisphere,” and that Guevara’s “legacy is embodied in the fact that Cuban revolution is alive today despite the collapse of the Soviet bloc.”  Completing his endorsement, Zeitlin declared, “No social justice is possible without a vision like Che’s.”

            It is this “revolutionary spirit” which sends radicals like Zeitlin on contradictory flights of rhetorical fancy.  The revolution which would sweep in this long-desired age of “social justice” would also result in the slaughter, as it always has, of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie – of which college professors are most certainly a part.  Zeitlin would do well to remember the old saying about getting what you wish for. 

            Zeitlin is a man of contradictions.  The underlying incongruity between Zeitlin’s social vision and the inevitable outcome should that vision be realized, is one such example.  Just as illustrative is the dissonance between his status as an American, and his hatred for this country.  Because of this country’s religious and political tolerance, and generous taxpayer funding for the University of California system, Zeitlin has achieved a rare level of material comfort and professional success.  But that’s not enough.  And it never will be.  Because with radicals like Zeitlin, the greater their success, the greater the feelings of inadequacy.

            All of this points directly to a new area of sociological study, one in which Zeitlin could play both doctor and patient: investigating political radicals’ irrational hatred of America, and the psychological disturbance underpinning that loathing.