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Up from Liberalism

Janet Daley

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I became a Marxist out of sheer perversity. Well, perhaps that is unfair to my adolescent self: it was a mixture of conscientiousness and perversity. The official atmosphere in the California high school where I spent my junior and senior years was--hard as it may be to imagine this now--hysterically anti-communist. This was 1961, but the sixties as we know them had not yet begun. The doctrinal orthodoxy of the day was McCarthyism in its final, decaying phase...

So it had started. This was the beginning of the skepticism that led to cynicism and then to disaffection: the suspicion that everything your country was telling you might be blinkered at best or malign at worst. But the real damage was done for me by the hugely influential film Operation Abolition. This was the faux documentary made by the House Un-American Activities Committee...But the clash between the "known subversives" and the congressmen--who would not allow them to finish a sentence of their "prepared propaganda statements"--was not what affected me so deeply. It was the sight of the protesters against HUAC, who had gathered outside the chamber, being attacked with fire hoses by the police...

What I thought went something like this: "There is something seriously wrong here. I have been taught that we live in a free country and that, of all the freedoms, free speech is the most important. Whatever it is that these people believe, they ought to have the right to express it without being hounded into silence. And whatever objections they have to this committee, I would like to hear them. And, furthermore, I didn't know that I lived in a country where people who disagreed with congressmen got flushed down the stairs by fire hoses."

But all of this spiritual isolation came to an end when I arrived at Berkeley as an undergraduate.

Read the entire article on the City Journal website.



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