Document 28: Ralph Gundlach's Statement to the Tenure Committee, 16 September 1948

Ralph H. Gundlach Papers, UW Manuscripts and Archives, Accession 686-70-21, folder 1/11.

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I wish to draw attention to the background of the attack upon me and to state that the charges seem not directed against me, as a person, guilty of any improper acts. Instead, it builds up a structure of assertions into some doctrine which purports to be the demonstrated position of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, . . . the exact position of the Communist Party of the United States, and the nature of the beliefs, attitudes, behavior of all the members of that organization, of many persons denying membership, and of persons designated, arbitrarily, as members in "front" organizations. I take this to illustrate the phrase—"guilty by association."

However true or false these assertions may be, it is not any of these remote persons, institutions, organizations, interpretations of events, etc., that are accused and on trial for their reputation and their position on this campus. It is one of your colleagues.

Let my reputation, my writings, my teachings, my research, and social public behavior be the object of this investigation.

[The charges against me contain] an interesting example of irrational and perhaps paranoid-stereotyped thinking. [They say] that one proof of a certain person being a Communist is that he denies that he is a Communist. It says that if one believes a certain person is a member of the Communist Party, then the proof of this belief is the fact that the suspect denies membership; that he acts human and friendly, which is only a deceit; that he advocates openly democratic methods and organizations, to conceal his real totalitarian motives; that he works for social security and racial equality, just to confuse people; ... that he urges peace because he wants us to be defeated in war.

In the study of popular reaction to Orson Welles' radio broadcast "Invasion from Mars" which threw millions of people into a panic in the belief that the dramatic skit was a real news broadcast, the same type of reasoning was evident on the part of many of the respondents. Some of those who felt the invasion was real, for instance, did the following things to verify the truth of the catastrophe. One turned the dial to another station, and heard a hymn being sung; "Ah," she thought, "praying for help!"

Another looked out of the windows and found the streets deserted: "Everybody's gone!" Another found people on the streets, seeming to be going somewhere. "Rushing away!" Another, looking out of the window, could see "a faint greenish glow in the sky!"

For these persons, whatever the evidence was, it was interpreted as confirming their dread suspicion, or was even projected into the situation.

The same phenomenon of a prejudicial set, —a fixed attitude, despite the evidence—is typical of people who are strongly anti-Semitic, or anti-Negro. The anti-Semite, it has been experimentally determined, dislikes the Jew, and feeds his dislike with whatever the object of his disfavor does. Whether the Jew does one thing, or its opposite, it is bad.

For accusers who are convinced, ahead of time, about certain people, then, whatever evidence they may present will be taken as confirmation of the original opinion.... The Un-American Activities Committees have played up this stereotype about Communism, and have been aided by many others.

I declare that I have worked over many years with organizations whose aims and programs are democratic, humanitarian, charitable, peace-loving, friendly, forward-looking. I have taken those aims to be my aims, and have worked to put them into effect. I am an anti-Fascist. I am not a Russian-hater, nor an anti-Communist.

I do not think war necessary or inevitable. I do have many objections to the current domestic and foreign policy of my own government. I have put my weight in the directions I think to be the American traditional way, —with organizations, meetings, petitions, writing, [and] speaking.

I do not expect to be stopped or paralyzed in action just because someone hurls a naughty word at me.

[The charges against me are] irrelevant, if they are about ordinary matters of association, ordinary matters of political affiliation, ordinary matters of belief and faith. These are personal and not matters of concern to a legislative committee nor a Tenure Committee. . . . Let the charges be concerned with deeds.

. . . [I have also been charged with] "carrying on in secrecy activities the nature of which are unknown." On the contrary, it is because my activities are so well known, so far from secret, that there is opposition to them, and an effort to silence me and to remove me from any position of influence, by attacking my reputation and getting me discharged here and blacklisted elsewhere. . . .

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