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Interview with: Dan Fein
Date: August 12, 2010
Archive Number: OH 050
N: 00:00:03 Would you give us, by way of background, a thumbnail sketch of the history of the Socialist Workers Party in Houston?
DF: Just in Houston, we have been in existence since 1970. The history of the Socialist Workers Party goes back since we were expelled from the Communist Party in 1928. We are simply one of 20 or 30 different branches of the Socialist Workers Party throughout the United States. We, the Houston branch, were set up in 1970. If you want to know more about the party nationally, I can go back into the history of that.
N: Perhaps. That would be fine. (speaking at same time) Briefly, I don’t really expect you to give me a complete narrative (speaking at same time).
DF: Okay, the Socialist Workers Party is commonly called a Trotskyist organization. We consider ourselves Marxists, and our members are encouraged to read Marx and Engels, Lenin. The origins, or the beginnings, of the Socialist Workers Party were at one time in the Communist Party, which was founded in the United States in 1921. Inside the Soviet Union there was a big fight within the Communist Party between Stalin on the one hand and Trotsky on the other hand, over a lot of different issues, including democracy within the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Stalin and his group eventually won, and what they did was expel everyone from the Communist Party inside the Soviet Union who would dare challenge anything Stalin said. Internationally, the other Communist Parties which had been set up carried out the same problem, the same procedures. So the people in the United States, who wanted to know what was this dispute happening in Russia and would raise any questions at all on Stalin’s policy, were immediately thrown out. That took place in 1928, and James P. Cannon was one of those persons who then immediately set up another organization to carry on the struggle for Trotsky’s ideas. And that’s the origin of the Socialist Workers Party; although, right after the group was thrown out of the Communist Party, they were known as the Communist League of America and fused with another group that formed the Workers Party. And 1938 was the actual formation of the group that now is called the Socialist Workers Party. But the militant newspaper, which we still sell every week, actually first had its edition in 1928, briefly after the group was expelled from the Communist Party for just wanting to know some information, essentially.
N: 02:45 Is there still tension between the Socialist Workers Party and the CP?
DF: 02:50 Oh, yes, of course. Not only in this country but around the world. The Communist Party we label as a Stalinist party that purges the undemocratic policies inside the Soviet Union and particularly the extremely conservative foreign policy. The concept that it is possible to build socialism in one country, which is an idea that Stalin came up with—(child talking throughout). It was Stalin’s conception that it would be possible to build socialism in one country and only one country. And what this concept meant in practice was that the communist parties around the world were not supposed to do anything, as far as making a revolution goes, in supporting the worker’s struggles, but simply to act as a frontier guard to prevent the capitalist countries from invading the Soviet Union, nothing more than that. They still carry out that policy today, which we’re opposed to. And in practice, what this means—we can see a couple of years ago in Chile where they were telling the workers and peasants there that the army was on their side, the army was a friend of the people. And in essence, they just set the people up for slaughter, because the army, of course, supported the capitalists who were just looking for the most opportune time to take back the gains that the Andean government had made, and we see the mass slaughter there. In Portugal, right now, we have bitter fights with the Communist Party, who right now are supporting the military government there. The military, just like in Chile, supports the capitalist system, are defenders of the capitalist system, and they’re supporting the government which puts them up against the masses of the workers and peasants who are struggling there for change. Within the Soviet Union itself, the publications of Leon Trotsky are outlawed or banned. If I went to the Soviet Union, of course I would be thrown in jail, precisely because I am a Marxist and a revolutionist. The same policy actually holds for China as well. The Socialist Workers Party and the Trotskyist movement believe that there is no fundamental difference between the internal policies or the foreign policies of either the Kremlin or Peking, that they are both undemocratic countries with a very conservative foreign policy, and where we are interested in promoting the world revolution and building socialism on a world scale, what their major strategy is, is to try to prevent this revolution. In country after country after country, we find ourselves on different sides of the barricades when the situation heats up. In the United States, one of our biggest points of contention is over the question of the Democratic Party. The Communist Party supports the Democratic Party. Once in a while they will run their own candidate, but usually it is for a very minor office and gives support to liberal democrats. The Socialist Workers Party is totally opposed to that. It is our belief that the Democratic Party and Republican Party both represent big business, represent the status quo, and to support either one of them is, like Malcolm X used to say, like a slave voting for a slave owner. It doesn’t make any sense to vote for the people who exploit you and oppress you. That is a major point of contention we have with the Communist Party, that their whole strategy is based on getting liberal democrats elected. Our strategy is based on the working class, and the black and Chicanos, to rely on their own strength, build their own organizations, through street marches and demonstrations and strikes as a strategy to win gains and keep up with inflation, unemployment, and eventually make a revolution. The Communist Party counterposes simply voting for democrats and discourages independent organizations of the oppressed. So we, by reading the militant newspaper—our weekly publication—there are often articles arguing against Communist Party policies and all sorts of different questions, but some of the examples I just outlined.
N: 06:52 Which party is more numerous in Houston?
DF: The Communist Party does not even exist in Houston. I believe they have a few people in San Antonio, but that’s all I know of about the existence of the Communist Party in the state of Texas. But they do have large, large groups in New York City, and Philadelphia, and some of the other cities. On a national scale, I believe the size of the organizations are about the same, but there is something else that is more important, because the level of activity is a lot different, and part of the reason is because many members of the Communist Party are well over fifty and sixty years old. They joined back in the 30s, and in spite of all the numerous zigzags that the Communist Party has made—change in their position on whether to support Hitler or whether to support FDR—even with the revelations—the minor ones that were made in 1956—the Khrushchev revelations, and zigzagging back and forth, some of the people have managed to stay with the organization, and they are now not very active, although they stay on their rolls. Anyone who would be interest—who was active in the anti-war movement or just politics in general, would never—would never believe that after the Communist Party had as many members as the Socialist Workers Party, simply because their level of activity is much lower. The Socialist Workers Party has gained many new members, just within the last five or ten years. A lot of those people were young, and the average age of the Socialist Workers Party member, I’m sure, is at least ten or twenty years below Communist Party members, if not more than that.
N: Would you go so far as to say that the Socialist Workers Party has deep roots in the New Left?
DF: 08:43 Well, the New Left is a phrase, I think, that was coined by SDS in the early 60s, and what that referred to, I believe, is that many people who were beginning to question American foreign policy, especially with regards to Vietnam, seeing the existence of poverty in a country as rich as ours, and were questioning the whole system and became radicals, but they viewed the old disputes of the left as irrelevant. They didn’t want to hear about the disputes between Stalin and Trotsky, were not particularly interested in Marx, because their theory was that all that was outdated—that the new world situation would take entirely new ideas, and that there was nothing to learn from past discussions and past experiences. Now, many people in the Socialist Workers Party were once new leftists. I myself was. I myself believed the ideas I just outlined and eventually came to change those ideas by seeing the—by learning more about the Young Socialists Alliance, which is the youth group of the Socialist Workers Party.
N: 09:51 You had anticipated my next question, which was if many former SDS members and New Left members had been assimilated into the party?
DF: Yes, yes. The anti-war movement was the main arena, you might say, for recruitment into the Young Socialists Alliance, which is an independent organization from the Socialist Workers Party. They have their own conventions and make their own decisions, but they work very closely in collaboration with the Socialist Workers Party. They have common ideas on how to struggle and what the world situation is today. So, many, many people who were in what you might call the New Left joined the Young Socialists Alliance and then eventually joined the Socialist Workers Party.
N: Are there any other groups to speak of in Houston the size of the Socialist Workers Party on the left?
DF: There are other groups, but they are all minute in membership compared to the Socialist Workers Party. There is a Maoist group called Revolutionary Union with a handful of members—three or four, five. Another Maoist organization called the October League with—again, you can count on one hand how many members they have. There is another group that is sympathetic to Maoism. I would not necessarily call them a Maoist organization. Youth Against War and Fascism—they have maybe ten or twelve members. Like I said, the Communist Party doesn’t exist here.
DF: But those are very, very small compared to what is in Houston, and that is the same case nationally as well.
N: How do you go about heightening the class of consciousness of Houston workers, other than your newspaper?
DF: 11:41 Well, we run political campaigns. For example, I am running for school board now. I ran for mayor last election in ’73. Pedro Vasquez is running for mayor now. The campaign isn’t very active right now. None of the candidates are out there speaking. There are not a lot of speaking engagements, but when strikes break out, we like to be there and talk to the workers and explain to them the source of their problem is the capitalist system—that socialism is necessary in order for the problems that they face to fully be met. We like to be invited to union meetings. We do a lot of campaigning on the campus, and there are a lot of events taking place right now. Right now, the biggest world-wide event is Portugal, and we have a lot to say on Portugal. Even though we are running for school board and mayor, we don’t confine ourselves just to the issues here; although we certainly have stands on them and are informed about them. We want to talk about our ideas locally and internationally. And a lot of ears are open now to socialist ideas. It wasn’t too long ago where, if you mentioned you were a socialist or a Marxist, that kind of ended the debate; no one would listen to that. But now, because of the economic crisis, the fact that the democrats and republicans are not really debating what to do and they essentially go along with the same things, we are getting more and more of an idea, so we continue to explain our ideas to as many people as possible. We are able to get on radio and TV, and people who want to know more phone into the headquarters, write us letters. We have public classes that we give on the fundamentals of Marxism that we invite people to come to. But what is actually more important than even those examples is we participate in the struggles that are actually going on and put forward our ideas about how they can best win. Like I mentioned before, many of our members came from the anti-war movement. Well, that wasn’t just by running campaigns and showing why the war in Vietnam was the result of the capitalist system; although we did that, and it wasn’t just from having classes. The decisive factor was being involved in the anti-war movement, going down to the anti-war headquarters, helping out and building the demonstrations as big as possible, and explaining to other members in the anti-war movement that we thought the best way to end the war was to involve millions and millions of people into the street where we rely on our own strength and not on some politician’s promises. Right now we don’t have an anti-war movement, but there is— Last year there was a movement to support desegregation of the schools and the busing in Boston. There were a couple of solidarity demonstrations that were held here in Houston, and we got right in on the ground floor of that, and we did the best we could to pitch in and build the movement as broad as possible, get as many people involved, and by example, showing how to struggle and how to win by building big, broad movements involving many people, so that we don’t just have some ideas that we think are correct. But we show an action that we are the best builders of these movements, that we are a serious organization. So we are not on the sidelines giving advice, but we are right there in the middle doing that as well.
N: 14:54 How are you received by workers when you go to a strike line, for example?
DF: A strike situation is the best. We are right in the middle of a strike because that is when the politic—the politics and questions of how to struggle and win is on everyone’s mind, and they want to hear different points of view on that question. We get a real good exam— We get a good response in strike situations. We get a good response in unions that are predominately Black and Chicano. On the other hand, us running for candidates, there are all sorts of meetings that are set up for all the candidates to come and speak, and I have spoken some places where I was the worst received and almost booed out of the place. That was over on the west side of town where when you talk about taxing the corporations and the workers getting more pay, you’re talking about the corp—you’re talking to the corporation executives, and they don’t want to hear any of that. Then, like I said, I was almost booed off. I spoke to a postal union that was almost all black, and the comments that came from the crowd was that no one up there was worth a damn, except for Dan Fein, the socialist candidate; he was the only one that is talking about what we really need. So it depends on who—which audiences you talk with. And the campuses, UofH, we have had some of our most successful rallies. A lot of people will come out and listen to what we have to say. Another thing that is significant is—(phone ringing). The Young Socialists Alliance runs their own campaigns in the student government elections at the University of Houston, and last spring, when the elections were held, we did better than we ever did before with our candidates averaging more than 20 percent, which we thought was real good. We were real glad about that. It is much better, of course, than we do in the general elections, because the people there, well, young people are just more open to socialist ideas right now. So that is another source of getting a lot of support is on the college campuses.
N: 16:57 What about union leaders. How do they feel about—?
DF: The union leaders are very much opposed to our campaign and even our ideas (phone ringing) and our whole existence. The union leadership in this country is tied to the Democratic Party completely. Our campaigns are against the Democratic Party. As far as the Republican Party, so they view us as a threat to their policy of maintaining the union movement completely tied to the Democratic Party. We view this alliance between labor and the Democratic Party as the major roadblock for the working class being able to make any gains to fight against unemployment, inflation, and all the other problems that we have. Because the working class, over the last few years, has conducted more and more strikes in order to keep up with inflation and had this big demonstration in Washington, DC, on April 26, to fight for more jobs, and in this sense, they fight against their employers to try to get a better deal. Then on Election Day, the labor leaders turned around and told their membership to vote for the very parties who represent the capitalists, who represent the rich people. And that—that is just completely contradictory, in my way of thinking—that the next major step, if the labor movement is going to be able to move forward, is to break this tie it has with the Democratic Party and launch its own party, a labor party, that is built on the trade unions. That way, in all these big decisions that are made in Washington and stuff, the working class will have a voice, will be able to say something. But right now, the Congress is run totally by the capitalist parties. The democrats, republicans, and labor go there and give all this money to elect what they call a veto-proof congress. Congress doesn’t do anything that supports the workers. There is no debate right now between democrats and republicans on how to eliminate unemployment or inflation, so there is not even a—on the surface—there is not even any differences, yet the labor movement continues to throw millions of dollars into getting the democrats elected who never deliver anything. For them, a labor party, where workers would be relying on their own strength and their own unions, would give them a voice and a say in the decisions that are made in Washington. Right now, they give a lot of money to get their class enemies elected, and then during congress, they will have these big lobbying efforts where really, when they get down on their knees and beg, the capitalists and politicians to do something for them, but they don’t have their own voice at all. So we urged formation of a labor party. At the end of the Second World War, there was a lot of sentiment for a labor party, but that has to be the next step forward, from the Socialist Workers Party point of view, because as long as the labor movement is tied politically to capitalist politics, they will always face these problems and have no way out, because they will have no voice politically.
N: 19:56 What about, where do the white-collar workers fit in? There are more and more white-collar workers nowadays.
DF: Yes, this—there is—well, we appeal to them as well. They face many of the problems as the lower-paid workers, and they also have a lot of unemp—a lot of layoffs and unemployment, and people who graduate from college find a real hard time getting jobs. So, whether you have the college diploma or not, you still face problems with getting a job, and inflation hurts everyone that works for a living the most. There is not a great big distinction between our support between a white-collar worker and blue collar. I would say that we would probably get more votes in the black and Chicano areas than in the white areas, but we’re interested in talking to and feel that we can recruit and certainly get votes from white collar workers.
N: Who was the founder of the party here in Houston?
DF: Well, I am not sure there was a particular individual who founded the Houston branch. The decision of where a branch of the Socialist Workers Party will be built is not up to an individual who moves somewhere and decides that they are going to build a branch of the Socialist Workers Party. Where it is important to have branches and where it is less important are things that are discussed nationally, and the largest cities, of course, are the main places you want to have one. Nationally, the Socialist Workers Party decided that it would be fruitful and worthwhile to build a branch in Houston, and a number of people came here, not just one person, to start putting together an office and an organization and get new members to join, to grow to where to we are now. So there’s really not one person.
N: 22:03 Let’s discuss the 1971 and 1973 elections now. The ’71 race was the first one in which you participated in force, and that was very controversial, with Mayor Welch saying some nasty things about your candidates. Would you recount for us the events of that election?
DF: Well, I will as best as I can. Debbie Leonard was our candidate for mayor at that time, and we got on the ballot by collecting signatures. Simultaneously we challenged a whole number of provisions that were on the book restricting a person from becoming a candidate. There was an enormous filing fee, there was a long residency requirement, and I believe you had to own property in order to be a candidate. And the American Civil Liberties Union, I believe, took up a number of those issues, with us as the plaintiffs, and we were actually able to win, I believe, all of those suits, which put us on the ballot. Louie Welch ran a ant—in a lot of ways just a typical McCarthy-type anti-Communist campaign against us, and, I believe, brought up accusations of— in a war between Russia and the United States, we would support the dirty Commies. That is the kind of things that he used against us. It was—our campaign headquarters was blown up by the Ku Klux Klan, and the police refused to do anything about it. As a matter of fact, the federal agents were sent in, who turned around and accused us of blowing up our own headquarters. As a matter of fact, recent FBI files that we’ve just got, document the fact that they had conspired with the local police and the federal authorities to try to make it like it was a publicity stunt for us.
N: 24: 06 Hmm.
DF: Eventually, because we had got together kind of a loose coalition with other groups who had been victims of Ku Klux Klan harassment—Pacifica Radio, some other anti-war groups, and I believe the underground newspaper, Space City. We got together and held press conferences where we turned over more and more information proving the fact that the Ku Klux Klan was involved in this and pointing—(disruption).
N: Of what did this evidence consist that the Klan had actually done the bombing?
DF: Well, I can’t say this with 100% assurance on my part, but I believe that there were license plates that were gotten from peo—(disruption)— I believe there were license plates which were recorded of persons who had been involved, not only in blowing up the headquarters, but also the other incidences of blowing up Pacifica Radio station and the underground newspaper and these other groups who had been victims of Klan violence. There was an anti-war demonstration once where the Ku Klux Klan came by and punctured all the tires, and I believe that these—that the common license plates that occurred at these and tracing them back to leaders, who were publicly known leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, was part of that evidence.
N: And you think that Herman Short turned his back on all of this?
DF: 25:42 It eventually got too embarrassing for them, and they did indict thirteen Klansmen. Thirteen Klansmen were finally indicted for blowing up the Socialist Workers Party headquarters. Now in ’73, what happened was every one of them got off scot-free. Some of them were actually found guilty—were actually found guilty of blowing up our headquarters, but then the judge reasoned, “Well I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson…,” etcetera, etcetera, and was given no sentence whatsoever.
N: 26:07 Which judge was this? Do you remember?
DF: No, I don’t remember the judge’s name, but I remember I was running for mayor at the time, and I was on radio stations pointing out the huge discrepancy between what would happen to a Ku Klux Klan member blowing up the Socialist Workers Party, how it was typical for some people who were against the war in Vietnam and did what I think are kind of stupid things—like blowing up buildings and other kind of violence—what happened when they went to court. Did the judge say, “Well I’m sure (phone ringing) you learned your lesson about this…” and let them off free? That never happened.
N: How extensive has illegal surveillance of the party been? Both on the part of the local police and the FBI?
DF: Very extensive. When we were talking about this years ago, people would say we were paranoid. But a little over a year ago, the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance filed a suit in Federal Court demanding 30 million dollars in damages, from the entire government, for all their harassment and disruption programs and wiretapping and illegal tampering of mail. Right now we are still in the pre-trial discovery. The case won’t actually be fought out in the courts until January, but there’s been just some astonishing documents that the FBI has been forced to turn over. One of them was a 16-page report on myself, which I have a copy of. I don’t have the whole thing, because before they turned it over, they censored a good deal of it. So, on average, maybe half of the text per page comes through. Some pages are totally missing. Now, in my file, just for an example, they spend the first page trying to justify why they’re having a file on me in the first place, and they say things like, “incite the people to insurrection” and “riot and criminal anarchy” and all sorts of things like that. But then what the 16 pages—15 pages—that follow that actually show is that what I did was go to anti-war meetings and talk about mass peaceful, legal demonstrations, give reports to the Socialist Workers Party, my evaluation of the anti-war movement and how the Socialist Workers Party could help build the anti-war movement to a larger, more powerful force to stop the war in Vietnam. And most of it had to do with the numerous meetings I went to, to help plan demonstrations and help plan the marshalling and the different re— What I said at demonstrations and rallies and all the meetings and stuff coordinated with the anti-war movement. So all their files and facts show that, far from me breaking any laws at all—What the files show is all the illegal means that the government used to violate my constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Some documents have come out to show that, in fact, the FBI has been monitoring the mail that’s sent to the Socialist Workers Party national office for decades now. They’ve had information come out that the surveillance began in the ‘30s and gone all the way up til now. They can’t get us even going through a red light or a stop sign. There were all this surveillance, but what it always comes down to, and what I continually point out, is that the existence of all these files show that the criminals are the ones in the FBI—that we’re the ones who just practiced our constitutional rights. But because they disagree with our ideas, they set out a conscious effort to smash the Socialist Workers Party. One of the more important documents that came out was that in 1961, a Socialist Workers Party disruption program was officially part of the FBI’s program. And what they were out to do was send agents into our organization to fight a cause, whatever trouble they could, send anonymous letters from one organization to another and try to cause friction. Our member, teaching school at Austin—it had just come out from a document that was released about a month ago—the FBI had her fired, simply because she was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. Dr Morris Starsky was a philosophy professor at Arizona State. The FBI sent a letter, an anonymous letter, to the Board of Trustees, demanding that this, this person be fired because he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. There’s been numerous incidences of people losing their jobs with city government, county government, or federal government, simply because they’re members of the Socialist Workers Party. Here locally, I was on Marvin Zindler last Thursday, on Channel 13, because he had got a scoop that the Sheriff’s department had, in part of their Organized Crime Unit, had a number of files on the Socialist Workers Party. I haven’t seen those files, but that’s another example. I’m sure that in the over a thousand files that the Houston Police Department—the Criminal Intelligence Division—has, they have more files on our party, and me, in particular, than almost anyone else. And our demand is that they abolish the FBI, that they abolish the CIA, that they abolish the Criminal Intelligence Division, that they abolish this Organized Crime Division, because they are not going to reform themselves. They know exactly what they’re doing, and those agencies are set up to defend the rule of a few people who run this country. Our organization exposes that fact and so they’re out to smash it any way that they can, legal or illegal. Now the F—this national suit—the government has turned over all this information. It admits that it’s violated all our rights, but not only does it admit it, it says it’s going to do it in the future. Their justification is that we are a subversive organization, that we are a threat to national security, this kind of nonsense. Matter of fact, the whole files themselves show that they’re the threat to any kind of democratic country. They are the threat to the civil liberties and constitutional rights, but I’m sure that more of this information is going to come out. We’re going to visit the Sheriff’s office to see if we can get a look at those files, but the more widely it’s known that the criminals are the ones running for government—are running the government—the more people will understand and the more progress the Socialist Workers Party can make.
N: 32:38 Have you ever been arrested by any law enforcement agency?
DF: No, I’ve never been arrested. I spent some time in jail, but they—that was in Rhode Island. The police picked us up and threw us in jail, wouldn’t allow us to make a phone call or anything like that, kept us overnight and let us out, and never charged us with anything. So I was never formally arrested, but I spent time in jail.
N: 33:01 Abolishing the FBI and the CIA is a big order. Would you be willing to settle for a more short-term goal, like expunging the records?
DF: Oh, we are for—well, we are not for the destruction of those files before we have a chance to publish those and make them known to everyone throughout the whole world; that this, in fact, is what the FBI has done. We are against the government keeping these kinds of files, of course. So in that sense, we are against their existence, but now that they have done that, let’s not destroy them and let them get off the hook. Now that they’ve done that, let’s show everyone that they’ve done it. As a matter of fact, if we show everyone that they did it, then it would make it much harder for them to do it again, because everyone would be watching them much closer.
N: Do you think the average American really cares?
DF: Well, they care more now than they used to, as far as it happening to a socialist organization goes, because the files that have come out in our suit, some of the information has to do with harassment and violation of rights of groups and organizations different from the Socialist Workers Party. For example, a lot of the documents have to do with agent provocateurs in the anti-war movement. That is, a lot of them, and I— I would say that at least 90 percent of the violence in the anti-war movement was instigated from FBI agents or local police agents. Now, some demonstrations against the war where almost a million people were involved— The majority of the people in the United States eventually became against the war in Vietnam. As a matter of fact, that’s the main reason why the United States was forced to pull out. So, you take an issue like that, like the anti-war movement, where a lot of people identified with it, whether they had been on a march or hadn’t— A movement like the anti-war movement involved, or at least had the support of millions and millions of people. And when the FBI files will become more known and more publicized, which we hope they will, on how the government violated the rights of those persons who were involved in these movements and had a campaign to disrupt them and destroy them, then that has to hit home a little bit to persons who marched in demonstrations or at least felt some sympathy. So I think that that’s part of why people will react strongly. Also, the government is planning this big patriotic orgy next year, this bicentennial thing, and one of the things that we’re going to bring up is the fact that the founding documents and the original ideas that the country was based on are codified in the Bill of Rights and the right to free speech and assembly, yet now, who’s the biggest, what’s the biggest threat to those rights? It’s the United States government, and we’re going to point that out time and time and time again, they talk about what a wonderful country this is and how proud we should be of it, but the whole democratic tradition and the democratic ideas that the country was founded upon are now being eroded by the very government who’s going to carry out this bicentennial celebration.
N: 36:25 On the local level, has the Houston Police Department ever personally bothered you or stopped you for traffic violations, or supposed traffic violations, or surveil—surveilling your house?
DF: No, I haven’t—(child talking) the only thing I—we can say about the police department locally here is that Police Chief Lynn publically admitted that he had agents inside the Socialist Workers Party, and he used the past tense. We asked him if that was still the policy of the police department, and he said, “No comment.” So I believe that the local police obviously were in collusion with the FBI in some of these disruption programs. That kind of information has come out—that they worked jointly. As a matter of fact, some of the documents show that the University of Houston administration worked with the FBI to try to get the Young Socialist Alliance thrown off campus there because they were becoming a very popular group. In 1972, I believe that was, but I haven’t personally experienced harassment by individual police here. Sometimes our members are harassed while selling our weekly newspaper, The Militant, but we are strongly suspect that the Houston Police does have agents in our organization whose only purpose is to spy on and collect information from our organization. Another thing that they might be interested in is that the American Civil Liberties Union is filing a number of lawsuits for us in many individual states but also nationally against the so-called reform laws, particularly the part that says that persons who contribute financially to the Socialist Workers campaign—we must turn over to the state a list of all them, with their name, address, phone number, and employer. From our point of view, this is like giving the government a ready-made enemies list for them to have these big disruption programs, for them to admit that they have them, and for them to say furthermore they are going to carry them out in the future, and then turn around and ask us for some more names for them to harass. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up this case. Our biggest fight is with Common Cause, who in—who were the ones who formulated these laws in the first place and are fighting the hardest for them actually to be implemented. So far, we have just flatly refused to turn over the list, which actually has been in violation of the law, although none of us has been arrested yet, because this court suit is still pending. If the government wants to give up their spying and disruption of us, well, then it’s a different question. But until they do that, then the effect of having these laws in existence, and of us turning those over, is not only the fact that those people are willing to actually be subject to harassment and the attempts by the government to interfere with their personal lives, but no one will give money to our campaign anymore knowing that their name will be turned over and that they can expect this kind of treatment from the government.
N: 39:41 How do you screen your own organization (child speaking) for agent provocateurs?
DF: We don’t screen on an individual basis, but the way we’re able to not allow agents to have much influence on what actually happens is always by having open discussions—above-the-board discussions—by not being the kind of organization that is engaged in small-scale, kind-of-terrorist-violence-oriented activity, which is the great place for an agent to be. See, in an organization like ours, where we are interested in mobilizing the masses in the streets and having gigantic demonstrations and getting permits for demonstrations and organizing marshals so when some right-wing nut comes by, we don’t have a big fight, but are able to isolate that, and making the kind of rallies and demonstrations, which everyone would feel comfortable coming to and not worry about this—by that being our policy, it makes it very hard for an agent provocateur to operate. On the other hand, there’s other groups, who I disagree with, who are interested in small, little armed confrontations. The Black Panther Party, (__??), was interested in doing that. The Weathermen are interested in doing that. And you have an organization like the Weathermen, which is underground—I mean—look how easy it would be for someone from the FBI to join up with the Weathermen, because they’re a secret, secret underground organization. They don’t have open discussions and talk about what they’re going to do. By necessity it has to be confined to a few people so the leaks don’t get out to the police what they are going to do, and it’s just a great place for a provocateur to be effective, because he can—his ideas, whether they’re even accepted or not—he’s able to manipulate and move with just a few other people that actually carry out some of these things which actually hurt the struggle, because, of course, what that does is put the whole blame of violence onto the left, people who are trying to change things, and lets the government get off the hook. That was the worst thing about that kind of stuff during the Vietnam War that we could always point— (fades out).
(End of dictation 41:54)