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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Communist Tactics vs. Pluto

The anti-Pluto forces at the recent International Astronomical Union meeting triumphed through Sitzfleisch, not debate:

The IAU gathering in Prague last week reversed its own experts' recommendation that would have allowed Pluto to keep its status, albeit in a different class of planet. Outraged protesters say the vote, at the end of the conference, was hijacked because most delegates had gone home and were not allowed to vote. Only about 428 of the IAU's 10,000 members cast a vote.

The same tactics were used by Communist front organizations in the 1940s. Today's Wall Street Journal carried an article about Olivia de Havilland and her description of such a front organization, the Independent Citizen's Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions:

… In executive meetings of the Citizen's Committee, Ms. de Havilland also took note that the group rarely embraced the kind of independent spirit it publicly proclaimed. It always ended up siding with the Soviet Union even though the rank-and-file members were noncommunist. “I thought, ‘If we reserve the right to criticize the American policies, why don't we reserve the right to criticize Russia?’” After scrutiny, Ms. de Havilland saw that this had become quite impossible.

As Ms. de Havilland returns to that time, her every word is deliberate, punctuated for maximum dramatic effect. “A motion that ordinarily would have no chance of being adopted by the entire membership would be introduced early in the meeting, and someone would filibuster so that the chairman would finally put the motion on the table,” she remembers. “Somebody else would then filibuster about another issue. And I thought, “Why is this?” The most intelligent men would get up and talk absolute drivel for 15 minutes. Most people got fatigued and would leave. And by 11 o'clock, there would be only about six people left—a nucleus—and me. And suddenly, the controversial motion was taken off the table, voted on, and passed.”

“I realized a nucleus of people was controlling the organization without a majority of members of the board being aware of it. And I knew they had to be communists.”

The same strategy was used in the same era in less glamorous contexts. According to my father, there was an attempted Communist takeover of the Chemistry Club at Queens College in the 1940s. Their tactic was to extend meeetings until everybody else got bored and went home and they could vote for their agenda. (This was stopped by putting a time limit on meetings.)

Calvin Trillin mentioned the same tactics in the essay “The New New Right” in his collection Uncivil Liberties:

It was known by then why Communists in the thirties had found it easy to outlast everyone until they became a majority in any meeting they wanted to take over: no one else could bear to sit through their speeches.

Of course, everybody knows the Communists are opposed to Plutocrats.

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