Tuesday, May 20, 2008

California Legalizes Communism

At least, that's how Adam's news feed has summarized it over at The Weblog. The Guardian article being linked to, however, is less sweeping (dammit!) and really is about the CA legislature making it so that public employees can't be fired for being members of the Communist Party. Where were they back in the days of HUAC, when people were actually getting fired over this, I ask?

Anyway, I have had to re-sign this loyalty oath every time I lapse in my UC employment or go work for a different department, which is often. It has two parts to sign, one about promising not to overthrow the government and one which I am less affected by but more worried about, that states anything I invent or discover is patented and held by the University of California. Since I'm not a scientist, it doesn't really affect me, but it seems really sketchy, you know? The loyalty oath is just plain silly ---- would someone who was really trying to overthrow the government be stopped by the thought that they would be breaking their word? I mean, come on, like real terrorists or commies or whatever wouldn't just lie and do whatever they had to do to get their job done?

But it's nice to know that, should I ever want to take the trouble of actually joining the Communist Party ---- if that even still exists, post 1989 or whatever ---- I can now safely do that. Or, more relevantly, I can engage in whatever activities my union sponsors without fear of it being mislabled as communism and being fired that way. Although I already had a variety of union protections. But whatever.

What sucks about this legislation is that it doesn't seem to help out the people who were recently fired for refusing to sign the loyalty oath ---- not Communists, but Quakers. And since the Guardian article only mentions making it legal to be a communist, and not to refuse to swear to things, this bill doesn't appear to solve that problem. It's the swearing, not the overthrowing, that these Quakers are refusing, people! Get with the program and fix the legislation! If you want to read about loyalty oaths from the perspective of an actual Quaker academic, go to the Rebel Letter. Or keep reading here for the highlights of the Guardian article:

The California Senate yesterday passed legislation that would delete membership in the Communist party as a reason for firing a public employee, a Cold War-era prohibition intended to root out communists.

Democratic Senator Alan Lowenthal called communism a "failed system," and said his bill - Senate Bill 1322 - was intended to protect "the constitutional freedoms that we have fought so valiantly for," including freedom of political affiliation.

California is the only state that allows public employees to be dismissed for membership in a political party.

In addition, current law requires that any organisation that applies to use a public school facility can be asked to sign a statement that "the applicant is not a communist action organisation or a communist front".


Republican senator Jeff Denham warned: "the Communist party is not a dead organisation ... and [is] actively repressing human beings in Cuba and China in brutal ways.

"The state has every right to hold school employees accountable for their political standing, especially if that employee belongs to an organisation that favours the violent overthrow of the government," Denham said during the debate on the bill.


The legislature cannot repeal California's loyalty oath, which was added to the state constitution by voters in 1952, but its current use was debated yesterday.


r. r. vlorbik said...

nice find. cited here.
keep 'em coming!

Susan said...

Actually, the loyalty oath is quite nice, since it promises to defend the constitutions of both the US and California -- and to fight enemies of the constitution, foreign and domestic. I can agree to THAT!

the rebel lettriste said...

Thanks, Sisyphus, for the link. This is SUCH a weird cold war holdover--and you are right that the oath isn't catching communists but Quakers. We can be some scary mo-fo's, let me tell you. But we aren't exactly a threat to The State.

Sisyphus said...

I dunno, Susan --- do I have to defend _all_ of the Constitution, including the weird and creepy "black people as 3/5 of a person" stuff? And I haven't even _read_ the CA constitution, which a) makes it hard to defend it and b) what if there _is_ something in it I absolutely cannot accept, like torturing puppies? Or if the gay marriage critics had actually managed to get an anti-gay plank into the constitution?

Also, yet another obnoxious and pedantic hurdle towards getting into a public high school classroom would be that I'd have to take a class on the CA constitution and pass a test on it. Yeccch!