Angus Cameron, who died at the age of 93, was not the stereotypical victim of McCarthyism. He chose to walk away from a job in publishing at the peak of his career rather than compromise his principles. Cameron, an Indiana-born “radical Marxist,” had been the top editor at Little, Brown when professional patriots wildly charged him with converting the venerable Boston firm into the House of Stalin. Actually, his political views had been known to the head of the house since he was hired in 1938, said Jonathan Coleman, who is writing a biography of Cameron for Simon & Schuster, and caused no problem until Arthur Schlesinger Jr. made a fuss. Schlesinger, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson Cameron had strongly supported, left the house after George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which he’d brought in, was rejected by another editor. Schlesinger said he’d not be associated with a house whose leading editor opposed efforts to “check the spread of Soviet totalitarianism.” (Four other publishers rejected the anticommunist fable.) Cameron was sympathetic to Communist Party values but not party discipline and was a strong anti-Stalinist, Coleman said. He left his job in 1951 after the redbaiting press charged he had foisted commie authors on the public. Ordered to clear in advance his outside political activities, Cameron resigned and took off with his family to live in the Adirondacks. Later he would call those the “most liberating years” of his life. In 1953, because he did not want to “give anyone the impression that he had fled the argument,” Coleman said, he co-founded Cameron and Kahn, which published anti-McCarthyite books like Harvey Matusow’s False Witness and leftist books that were too controversial for mainstream publishers. In 1959 the seigneurial Alfred Knopf hired him, and he remained at Knopf until his retirement in 1981. One of his authors was Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen, whose PhD thesis on Soviet leader Nikolai Bukharin Cameron had somehow got wind of. Cameron wanted to publish it not only because the author was a fellow Hoosier but because, he told Cohen, he simply wondered what Bukharin had been like. (Cameron, the alleged Stalinist, never defended Stalin–who had executed Bukharin, his rival for power–or took issue with Cohen’s noncommunist, anti-Stalinist history. When Cohen insisted there be no hammer and sickle on the jacket, Cameron agreed completely. Case closed.) Cameron took a paternalistic interest in young people and kept up with the world. “Always be your own contemporary,” he told Coleman, a colleague at Knopf for a time. “Anticipate their desire,” he said of authors. He was not bitter about his ordeal and always had something good to say about those who were nominally his enemies, including Schlesinger. “In every face I see the tragedy,” he told Coleman.
Philip Berrigan, the former priest and antiwar, antiviolence activist who died at age 79, continued to hammer the machinery of death almost until the end; so the New York Times obit writer was wrong when he observed, “though the world had largely stopped paying attention.” As James Carroll wrote in the Boston Globe, “Philip Berrigan, even in death, has extraordinary relevance for two of today’s most urgent questions”–the moral disarray into which the Catholic Church has fallen and the menace of nuclear proliferation. Though excommunicated after he married, Berrigan stood “against a morally bankrupt Catholic power structure” and never stopped being “an exemplary priest.” On nuclear arms, he was prophetic, warning that the US failure to scrap them would bring ever more insecurity–for us and for the world.
SUPPORT YOUR BILL OF RIGHTS–LOCALLY
Dave Lindorff writes: Over the past few months, as the Bush Administration has clamped down on dissent, municipalities in twenty-two states have passed resolutions in defense of civil rights and liberties. These resolutions, which can be binding upon local enforcement though not on federal authorities, show that despite terrorism anxieties people value the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights. “The resolutions are intended to get a dialogue going,” says teacher and Northampton, Massachusetts, City Council president Mike Bardsley, who championed one of the first Bill of Rights defense resolutions. That one, passed this past May, is now being offered as a model (see www.bordc.org). It calls on local law-enforcement agencies to act to “preserve residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and privacy: rights to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings,” and to protect residents from “unreasonable searches and seizures even if requested or authorized to infringe upon those rights by federal law enforcement acting under new powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act or orders of the Executive Branch.” The resolution, which eventually won the support of the local chief of police, instructs federal authorities acting within Northampton not to engage in detentions without charges or in racial profiling and calls on them and state police authorities to report publicly on any secret spying or detentions conducted under the auspices of the Patriot Act, new executive orders, or any “COINTELPRO-type regulations.” Finally, the resolution calls on the state’s Congressional delegation to monitor implementation of the Patriot Act and to seek repeal for those portions that “violate fundamental rights and liberties as stated in the Constitutions of the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts] and the United States.” Eighteen communities have already passed such resolutions, and more than fifty others in twenty-four states are considering similar actions.
AGE OF REHNQUIST
Just published: The Rehnquist Court, edited by Herman Schwartz (Hill & Wang). This collection of sixteen essays by constitutional experts originated as a Nation special issue.