Knowing my interest in the accomplished awfulness of the ACLU, my pal Walter Glass put me onto this 2014 interview with Black Civil Rights pioneer Julian Bond published earlier this month in Counterpunch. Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and in 1965 among the first Black members elected to the Georgia House of Representatives following passage of the Voting Rights Act. However, the House voted not to seat him, ostensibly based on his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Bond took the matter to court and lost, but a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court reversed the ruling. Pretty serious, important stuff, right? If you were an organization committed to civil liberties, you’d want to be on the right side of history, wouldn’t you? especially since the Georgia House’s decision was both unambiguously a violation of the First Amendment and tinged with racism. Well check this out from the interview:
Julian Bond: The ACLU wouldn’t support me, wouldn’t defend me because I had Leonard Boudin and Victor Rabinowitz as my attorneys. Here are people helping my civil liberties but apparently I didn’t have the civil liberty to choose a lawyer of my own choosing.
Interviewer: So you are telling us that the ACLU would not support your own choice of brilliant attorneys because they were socialists and close to the Communist Party. Fortunate for you, you fought for your own civil liberties and retained your own attorneys.
Bond: Oh yeah, they were just fabulous. I couldn’t have chosen anybody as good as they were.
You may recall from this post, that fifteen years before turning its back on Bond, the ACLU had declined to support Black singer and activist Paul Robeson in his eight-year fight to get his passport reinstated. The government had revoked it — and in so doing seriously damaged Robeson’s career and earnings — because Robeson refused to sign an affidavit declaring that he was not a member of the Communist Party. You may also recall that three years after doing nothing for Bond, the ACLU volunteered to represent members of the Ku Klux Klan in the beloved Brandenburg vs. Ohio case.
Perhaps one day I’ll understand why any self-respecting person of the left would contribute a dime to an organization staffed by neoliberal clowns and that, since the 40s, has consistently favored corporations, white supremacists and fascists, justifying itself with infantilizing fairy tales about how power actually works.