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Exclusive interview with Phillip A. Luce, ex-Communist

"CAMPUS Erupts in Violence," "University Shut Down," "Demonstrating Students Jailed" — these are today's headlines. Parents, educators, students are becoming concerned. A few have dared to say Communism is, in major part, responsible for the chaos at our universities.

In order to get the facts about what is going on in our universities and WHY, we asked former Communist Phillip Abbott Luce for an exclusive interview.

Mr. Luce was a former editor of the monthly publication of the Progressive Labor Party. He labels it Communist, says it follows the line of immediate violent overthrow of society set down by the Chinese Communist Party. Phillip Luce was also a member of the party's national committee.

The Progressive Labor Party is very influential among dissident university students. As a result, Mr. Luce is in the key position of knowing how to evaluate what is happening on our campuses — and WHY!

Phillip Luce left the world of Communism in 1965. Today he is a national symbol of resistance to the violent ultra-left movement. He lectures at many universities.

He has written several books, The New Left, Intelligent Student's Guide to Survival and Road to Revolution: Communist Guerrilla Warfare in the U.S.A. He has written numerous articles for leading magazines. Among them, Reader's Digest and National Review.

In this article, a composite of several interviews for The PLAIN TRUTH and The WORLD TOMORROW TV broadcast, Mr. Luce gives us the inside story of what is really happening on our campuses. He tells us how he personally got involved with Communism and the events which caused him to leave the movement.

QUESTION: As a former New Left leader, you had a key position in the movement. Yet today, you are a national symbol of resistance to the radical New Left. Can you briefly tell us what you're doing?

ANSWER: Yes, I spend a large part of my time touring various college campuses. I talk to young people about the pitfalls of Communism and the New Left.

Our parents and elders are in a state of wonderment over young people joining the new Communist groups. Perhaps my story will help to convince them that the road to political reality does not lie with the Communists.

QUESTION: Would you tell us what was your direct affiliation with the extreme left? What organizations were you in?

ANSWER: I was on the national committee of the Progressive Labor Party. The Progressive Labor Party is the Communist organization in the United States which follows the ideological line laid down by Peking and the Communist Chinese. It considers itself to be the most revolutionary party in the United States.

QUESTION: What was your job?

ANSWER: I was editor of their monthly publication and also a member of the national committee. I helped to organize trips to Cuba in 1963 and 1964. I was involved in a number of violent demonstrations in New York. I helped secrete guns into the city of New York and had a small role organizing in the Harlem area prior to and during the riot situation in 1964. I was also a member of a small select cadre of people being trained to go abroad for a year. We were then to return to the United States and drop out of sight to take on different responsibilities in this country.

QUESTION: When in Cuba did you meet Cuban leaders?

ANSWER: Yes, we spent time with, I think, almost all of the Cuban leaders. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, all of them on various levels. Sometimes openly and a few of us met with them privately.

We also — a few of us, two or three of us, had long conversations with the Chinese Communist delegation in Cuba. We met with the Albanian delegation and a number of the Latin American delegations.

We were promised at one point by the Venezuelan Communist group that if we returned to the United States and were arrested and imprisoned that they would blow up a couple of oil wells for us!

QUESTION: Did they reveal any of their particular plans so far as the future is concerned?

ANSWER: Just the belief again that revolutionary Communism would take place throughout the Western Hemisphere. They contended on a number of occasions that they couldn't tell us what to do in the United States because each country has its own individual problems and individual revolutionary potential. The Cubans said they wouldn't try to superimpose on us what they had learned in their own country.

QUESTION: Would you describe briefly your own personal involvement in the New Left and Communism? There was certainly some set of circumstances in your life that led you to become active in the movement?

ANSWER: As a matter of fact, my parents were relatively well-to-do. Extremely conservative. Politically I had a good childhood. All the comforts and love that one would need.

In high school or early college, I just joined in that general state of rebellion against parents, home, family life, politics, everything. Then I went to school to get my Bachelor's degree in Mississippi.

I began to do a lot of reading about socialism and social change at that time. And when I went to graduate school at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, I met many young people that were openly Marxist-Leninists. Some had been members of various far-left groups.

Those people with whom I was working at the graduate level all considered themselves to be Marxists. Some claimed to be Marxist-Leninists.

That had an influence on me. While I was at graduate school in Columbus, Ohio — Columbus, Ohio being a relatively conservative area of the country — it was quite the thing to be one of the flaming radicals on the campus. It certainly assured you of newspaper coverage and interviews. It assured you from time to time of just plain popularity.

QUESTION: Did you seek these people out as a result of your political beliefs which had been acquired in your education, or did they come to you because of some set of circumstances?

ANSWER: It was a combination of both. I was certainly at that time considering myself to be kind of a quasi-intellectual, Marxist-Leninist. And over a period of time, I decided that I had an obligation to myself and to my acquired ideology to join a party, an organization.

About this time I met people in the Progressive Labor Party. They talked to me, and I talked with them. And then finally, I decided to join. It didn't happen overnight. Nobody duped me. I made a horrible, incredible mistake both psychologically and politically. Something I will have to live with all my life. But nobody duped me, and I went into it feeling, at least, this is what I wanted.

Once I became a member, once I became an intricate part of the Communist movement, I began to discover any number of things that I had simply passed over. I discovered that we weren't really talking about freedom in the United States. We weren't talking about freedom for anybody! What we were simply doing was saying, "We want power so that we can control the country ourselves!"

There was tremendous repression within the organization. For example, we were involved in many illegal actions. But we weren't telling the membership, for instance, that guns were being stored illegally in New York City. All of these things began to bear on my mind.

QUESTION: Would you give us a little more background on how you became associated with the New Left?

ANSWER: I first became aware of the concept of the New Left when I entered Ohio State in 1958 to do graduate work in political science. And the first time I heard the phrase was in connection with the development of New Left clubs and the New Left Review in England.

In the fall of 1958, the civil-rights struggle was in full bloom. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts, and freedom rides all captured the imagination of many young American students.

Here was an issue of importance activated by other young people. But more than that, the civil-rights struggle became an emotional outlet for protest against the entire system that bred the problem. Human rights and constitutional freedoms were considered vital. There was a strong feeling that no one had a right to discriminate and humiliate any other citizen because of his race.

By the time I got my Master's degree I began to involve myself halfheartedly in support of the activities of the Communist Party. I felt that this was the only organization of any radical significance around. I had come to believe that only through a radical change in society could we find the answers to our political problems. Political science courses had taught me that the democratic process "worked," but its pace was extremely slow.

As my reading of Marxist literature increased, I became convinced that the capitalist system was bound to create and continue the disparity between rich and poor that existed, and that the two-party political system in this country was designed to perpetuate a ruling-class mentality.

As I look back on this period in my life, I recognize that while I was drawn to Marxism as an intellectual concept, I was really involved in a general rebellion.

QUESTION: To what extent is hard-core Communism to be found and identified inside various student organizations which are involved in campus demonstrations today?

ANSWER: I spend most of my time today on the campuses, traveling around speaking to student groups, helping to organize a counteroffensive against the new leftists on these campuses. I'm constantly running into people that I knew years ago — some of whom were Communists — but all of whom were certainly revolutionaries in the early '60's.

I find these people in many of these demonstrations and organizations. I also know and have talked with a number of younger people who are members of SDS — Students for a Democratic Society. Some of them are extremely concerned that the Progressive Labor Party — the organization I used to work with and for — is coming very close to taking over their policy-making decisions. And if this happens, then certainly SDS will simply be nothing but a pawn for the Peking-oriented Progressive Labor Party in the United States.

Communists have taken over every organization they've ever gone into! They will attempt at all times to take over an organization such as SDS and mold it to their own plans and their own policies.

However, a distinction must be made between those Communists, such as in the Progressive Labor Party that are trying to take over SDS, and individual students on the campuses that are involved in demonstrations.

Because there are Communists in student movements does not mean that all students are Communists that are engaged in it. And I'm afraid that some people have this impression. It limits their understanding of the student revolt and it also limits their capability of countering these problems on the campuses.

QUESTION: Do you think that there has been a false image created by the press which tends to make people think that in everyone of these protests there is Communist influence?

ANSWER: I think it certainly does, because if a person is called a Communist long enough, he begins to almost feel that he is.

The other thing is that the Communists love it!

It helps them to organize because then they can say, "Look, you know you're not a Communist. But look, everybody's calling you a Communist. Why don't you come and join us — actually be one! If people are going to identify you as one, then why don't you be one!" We're constantly fighting this concept that all of them are Communists.

I think that the majority of those students that are actively engaged in "revolutionary activities" on the campuses are anarchists or nihilists. Many of them have no concept of Communism as a philosophy at all. There is an abysmal lack of education regarding political science, history and philosophy among the student radicals. They've never really read Marx; they've never read Lenin. They pick up a little Mao and a little bit of Che Guevara from reports that happen to appear in their local "free presses." But they've never read about Communism; they don't understand it.