acts l-orum Interviews Former Communisl
BELLA V. DODD, »
"You Don't Become or Unbecome a Communist Overnight"
As featured guest on STATE OF THE NATION. Br. Dodd was interviewed by Hardy Burt and Ralph de
Toledano, NEWSWEEK editor and co-author of SEEDS OF TREASON. A digest of the program follows.
1 murder. '
*V ■ -.-'
bwi». • d'tl iou' *■ ■ young teacher,
Party?" ""ereste(1 '" the Communist
lQ9ri'' kgan teaching in the mid-
«j«, when wealth and the whole cor-
we n °f 80-ciety was aPParent' Tl"'"
anj rir'ht into lhe depression period.
"a no one seemed lo have a plan for
proving conditions. 1 was an e< ,,-
omics student, and in the colleges we
r» jT tiUI"'lt dial depressions were
r^UsM by many different theories; bill
one could come to a conclusion.
I.. oeeame interested in communism
New Y* a sU,dent '" Hunter College,
mo f • During my student years,
, J. tne teaching was a destructive
11,'!',."!1"' -;-^ eliminated your faith in
!*• ! 'I eliminated your belief in patriot-
actu»iD? >0" mean the professors, if not
corr,nil|n0mm"nists' were sympathetic to
peoril t! ''ley weren''- They were good
teach -tlley fo"owe(l a course of
vali '"" w'1'1'1 eliminated a sense of
,v es as far as truth and patriotism
,,m,^. c°ncerned. You were completelj
live I ti"; y°U really had "° faith t0
'stic ^h-i y Were teaching a material-
Philosophy — it was a question of
' gmatic approach that was right
'"" was successful
'he ir.fi your book» J'0" spoke not only of
«"ent«ik ?nc,e of the teachers on the stu-
teachers • the stlldents
•furin/ ,Jn 'eading teachers leftward
'hirtip. «'„per'od of ferment in the
™. Will yoil elaborate on this?
ial s a very interesting point.
..,,,, , a >'oung instructor at Hunter Col-
w^ "J*1 ^26 on, and that was the time
[| the college bad a tremendous in-
u_ 01 students. Many of the students
0j il^'"11.1' '" lls were immigrants. Some
i,.. I ".' bad been active in the Russian
„ '""""' in 1905, and some, of course,
mUni ,ready aware of the whole Com-
,sl "hovemenl in Europe il bad bad
co.ntacl with their
Parent '•""""" ",l" meir l>arents.
cam. Vmported [h>--<- 'deas when they
,,,.' [ro« Europe, and the
,„,,,' j^nditioned already to
N0 STANDARD TO LIVE BY
'here v**' smce with the depression
lauehr j110 P°s'tive philosophy being
student "° sla"dard to live by. these
, **• tended to go into a revolution-
' aPProaeh. We had so many students
Ts FORUM NEWS, February, 1955
Dr. Bella V. Dodd was once a dedicated
Communist, active and influential in the
teachers union. As she tells in her new
book, SCHOOL OF DARKNESS, she learned
through bitterness and disillusion the necessity to spurn communism and restore her
faith in God and country. She is now an
attorney in New York City.
thai the sluff was mil prepared lo meet
Ibis new type of student in the college —
was not prepared lee give these students
a standard to \i\e by, a new culture.
Q. Would you say the faculty hecame
more or less brain-washed by the students?
\. The administrators did not know
bow to cope with the large mass of slu-
eieiils. and this bad a tremendous effect
upon the students. Also, we bad to get
young instructors, themselves rather
"green," and so it was a question of the
students and the instructors going together in a wave of leftward movement.
Tin- Young Communist and Young
Socialist Leagues were the focus of attention. They were tbe ones who set the
pace and the others tended lo follow in
Q. Were there student demonstrations,
peace strikes, and such to spearhead this
A. Yes, I remember one of the first
things I did was to support the students
who went out on a peace slrike' during
lhe mid-thirties. Six eef our girls had
been suspended from college. I became a
protagonist and a defender of ihose six
girls because I was interested in them
as human beings. As a result, I was
labeled a Communist, \fler awhile, I
didn't care aboul labels, and I tended
lo affiliate myself with Communists.
Q. As a teacher, were you a member of
the Communist party at that time?
A. I became associated with the Communisl party in l'):>2 and worked very
closely with them. From the very beginning, the Communist parly did not let
inc carry a card because they said I was
more important to them in the' academic
world without a card than I would be
willi a card. I'd like everyone to remem-
Ii.t thai all this to-do about card-carrying Communists is sometimes over-
exaggerated. I remained a noncard-
carrying Communist from 1932 to 1943.
even though 1 was voluntarily under
Q. You mean that while we might have
2.">,u00 card-carrying Communists in the
country, there could be a substantial
number who are Communists but do not
carry the card?
A. That's exactly so. The more important ones do not carry cards.
Q. You rose quite rapidly in the Communist party, didn't you?
A. For Ihe period 1932-1911. I was
.in active leader in trying to arouse
mass supporl feei the Communist party
among tne intellectuals and in the trade
union movement. I was with the AK of
1,. I'll), \merican Labor party, ami so
\\ liai happened was thai the Communisl party found the way for nie to
go from one level lo another. I bad a
natural interest in people. I was interested in the trade union movement for
wbal il could do for the people during
the depression period. I was interested
in students and, therefore, I became a
perfectly good person for the Communists In use iii trapping other people.
Q. As an idealist, how were you able
lo juggle on one hand your idealism and
on the other the complete cynicism of
the party leadership with which you
UNAWARE OF LEADERS' CYNICISM
A. I was completely unaware of the
cynicism of the parly leaders because
I only deall with people who were sup-