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   Vol. 70/No. 23           June 19, 2006  
How FBI disrupted campaign of socialist candidates
(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for June. It provides an in-depth look at the covert and illegal FBI counterintelligence program code-named Cointelpro. Much of what is known about this decades-long political disruption program is the result of evidence forced to light through a 1973 lawsuit brought by the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance against FBI spying, harassment, and disruption. The suit was settled 13 years later when a federal judge ruled in favor of the SWP and YSA. Copyright © 1975 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

In the early 1960s the witch-hunt that had dominated American politics during the 1950s was giving way to a greater openness to radical ideas. Socialists began winning a place on the ballot—and were more and more being treated as legitimate candidates with a particular point of view. The FBI decided that they had a problem. Cointelpro was their solution.

The Cointelpro plot to disrupt socialist election campaigns was concocted not because of any illegal activities by the SWP, but because, as J. Edgar Hoover said, socialist candidates were “openly” talking to people about their ideas.

The documents at the end of this chapter show that the FBI attempted to wreck the 1961 campaign of a Black socialist for Manhattan borough president, waged a sustained drive against Clifton DeBerry, the SWP’s 1964 presidential candidate, tried to get socialists excluded from supporting an independent Black candidate in San Francisco in 1964, and incited an attack on Fred Halstead when he was the SWP presidential candidate in 1968.

These actions are only part of the record of FBI sabotage against socialist candidates. And there are operations that remain hidden in files the FBI is refusing to disclose.

One Cointelpro operation that has come to light through the socialists’ suit concerns the 1966 campaign of Judy White for governor of New York. This was during the period when the antiwar movement was beginning to have a major impact on the thinking of the American people. White was a leader of the antiwar movement.

A broad layer of opponents of the war—including many radicals who were not particularly close to the SWP—had endorsed White as the only antiwar candidate in the race.

Campaign supporters worked hard to get the signatures necessary to obtain ballot status, which brought a significant amount of attention from the media.

The FBI looked for a way to sabotage this campaign. They noticed that according to New York law White was formally not old enough to hold the office of governor. The FBI tried to get this fact reported in the media in an attempt to discredit the campaign.

According to the documents, the FBI decided to rely on the Daily News to do the job for them, but the New York City CBS television affiliate did it instead. A copy of the transcript of the editorial broadcast by the station immediately following the election is reproduced in the files.

White recently read the Cointelpro papers relating to her campaign. “It was the CBS editorial that started the whole controversy that led to the passage of what was called the ‘anti-Judy White law,’” she recalled.

As the documents show, the state legislature soon passed a law altering the election code to require that a candidate be old enough to assume an office in order to run for it.

“Even before the election, CBS was making effective use of the charge that I wasn’t ‘old enough.’ I’m sure the FBI must have planted this idea,” White said.

“We were getting many hours of broadcast time, which was uncommon then. But a few days before the elections it abruptly stopped.”

“I was scheduled to go on CBS with the other candidates for governor on a special one-hour program. Suddenly, CBS informed us that my appearance was canceled. They said I was not a legally qualified candidate because of my age.”

Of course, White was legally qualified to run for office; that was why the law was changed. Today people under thirty are legally ineligible to run for governor of New York.

These documents indicate that the FBI may have been responsible for getting this legislation on the books.  
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