A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955

The Myth of 'The People's Bruin': Part 1

by George Garrigues

Printed edition © 1970, 1997

Internet Edition © 2000, 2001

All rights reserved, but you are welcome to download electronic copies, send e-copies to your friends or make printouts for yourself.

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Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index

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8B. World War II


Chapter 9

THE MYTH OF 'THE PEOPLE'S BRUIN' (1937-1954)

First Part

In 1937, a young Maxwell Rafferty put his nimble fingers to the typewriter and, displaying the talent for barbed invective he was to use to such great advantage a quarter century later as a politician-cum-educator, wrote a protest against "Red editorials" in the Daily Bruin. What gave Rafferty's complaint added kick was that the Los Angeles Times used the letter as the basis of a lead story on the front page of the second section:

Bruins Assail
Daily as Red

Radical Editorials Hurt
Standing of U.C.L.A.
Undergraduates Charge

Protests against "Red editorials" in the Daily Bruin . . . were registered yesterday by a group of students who expressed objections to "biased news stories and editorials" . . .

 Describing the Daily Bruin as one of the most prejudiced newspapers on the Pacific Coast, Maxwell Rafferty, one of those who signed the letter, said:

 "When we U.C.L.A. students get out of school we are confronted by employers who don't like us because we come 'from that red school.' This radicalism is not so funny if it keeps you from getting a job" . . .


 The letter of protest . . . suggested that Editor Stanley Rubin "change the paper's print to crimson and rename it the Daily Hammer and Sickle." (LAT, 3/23/37.)

Thus was started the myth that was to plague the Bruin and its staff for another two decades. It was nurtured in press and -- quite literally -- in pulpit. The myth acquired a life of its own, helped along by the Bruin's liberalism and the young, idealistic bent of its editors. What is surprising is that it was also helped along by officials at the very peak of administrative power at UCLA -- those who, presumably, hoped to minimize attacks on the University's faculty by deflecting them toward a varying number of Communists on the Bruin and elsewhere. The pattern of conservative alarums and media shrillness repeated itself continually and, after the war, it was reinforced by the rise of a national madness, McCarthyism.

World War II spurred the growth of youthful liberalism. American armies in the field against Fascism and a New Deal president in the White House flashed a green light for pro-labor, anti-racist, pro-Soviet feeling all over the country. But the end of the war brought a resurgence in conservative forces; even before Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy appeared on the scene, Russia's occupation of Eastern Europe and the overthrow of Chiang Kai-Shek by huge Communist armies were the excuses for repression of liberal ideas in the United States.

One of the weapons for these forces -- since actual violations of espionage or sedition laws could rarely be found -- was the legislative investigative committee. In California, the principal anti-Communist investigating body was the state Senate Committee on Un-American Activities, headed by Jack B. Tenney, a Republican who, in those days before the Supreme Court's "one man, one vote" decision, was populous Los Angeles County's only state senator. Relying on votes from conservative Los Angeles residents, he took an early interest in liberal activity at UCLA.

Tenney and the other investigators were dangerous men. Cloaked in legislative immunity, they could, and did, make the wildest charges about individuals in all walks of life, slandering them grievously and, often, ruining their lives. At the beginning, their techniques were not perfected. The 1943 Tenney Committee hearing into the UCLA Writers' Congress produced more amusement than discomfort -- attacking a campus newspaper's Men's Page was like attacking the writing on an outhouse wall. It was only later that the investigators learned how to play "cooperative" witnesses against "uncooperative" ones, how to bully and bait and rag and sneer, how to play the newspaper deadlines and the columnists' bylines. But even in 1943 Sen. Tenney took the occasion to attack the Bruin vigorously with a phrase that recalled Maxwell Rafferty's comment six years previously. "It seems to me," Tenney said on Sept. 27, "that it reads in many cases like the People's Daily World" (the West Coast Communist newspaper).

In 1945, the Bruin again figured in a legislative committee hearing and, once more, the downtown press linked the newspaper through innuendo to Communist influences. The Law and Order Subcommittee of the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee held hearings in November into the part played by UCLA students on picket lines in a Warner Brothers film strike in Burbank -- a strike that many conservatives felt was caused by Communist agitators.

The Los Angeles Times said:
 

U.C.L.A. Man
Defies Strike
Inquiry Group

A 24-year-old student at the Los Angeles campus of the University of California boldly defied the State Legislature's committee that is investigating the law and order breakdown during the film strike riots . . .

 [John R.] Peterson said he came here from Sacramento and is a "feature writer" on the Bruin . . . He said he . . . was assigned by the Bruin management to write about the strike.

 He admitted, after close questioning, to . . . considerable activities in the U.C.L.A. student participation in the strike picket demands last month at the Warner Brothers Studio, scene of the wildest strike riots. (LAT, 11/16/45.
 

The same issue carried a photograph of a rather shifty-eyed, suspicious-looking "William J. Stout, editor of the Daily Bruin, organ of the Associated Students of UCLA, pictured on the witness stand in the film strike inquiry." Stout, who had participated in the picketing, wrote after the hearing
In retrospect

 All of us who sat in on the farcial [sic] "investigation" of communist-inspired students in the picket line feel quite certain that the committee gained not a thing. This is evidenced by the shifting of the smear spotlight from the students, who are no longer "vicious reds" but merely "immature and misguided" . . .

 . . . we have never seen such a ridiculous and inane display of warped democracy as was revealed Thursday. Billy Beirne, the committee's counsel, did his best to browbeat witnesses, put words in their mouths, twist their statements and so forth . . .

 The investigation was, as is obvious, a flop. It was valuable only as a considerable contribution to one's political education. That such a biased demonstration should be permitted to come off at public expense, that small-time politicos should be allowed to intimidate and insult witnesses, is indeed a sad commentary on our democracy. (DB, 11/19/45.)


The Bruin chose not to cover the hearing with its own staff, even though the event was held in the Men's Lounge of Kerckhoff Hall (later the Alumni Center and most recently the temporary quarters of the DB during earthquake retrofitting) -- not more than two hundred feet from the Bruin office. Instead, it reprinted the coverage of the Los Angeles Daily News, at that time still owned by Manchester Boddy and known for its liberalism. And it ran a letter to Stout from Rep. Ellis E. Patterson (Dem.) on Page One, stating
 

 I agree with you that the Hearst-legislative committee smear of UCLA and the Daily Bruin because of the protest of the students against the violence used in the film strike is totally uncalled for and unwarranted. (CDB, 11/16/45.)


The Bruin was not the principal target of the conservatives. Their goal was the University itself, in the person of Provost Clarence A. Dykstra -- a liberal. Two weeks after the Kerckhoff Hall hearing, a tumultuous one in which the lounge was cleared of incensed student spectators, the subcommittee continued its hearings in downtown Los Angeles. A front-page story in the Los Angeles Examiner, the morning Hearst newspaper, said:

UCLA ATTITUDE
ON REDS BRINGS
QUIZ DEMAND

 Investigation and action by the State Board of Regents in the matter of tolerance of Red Fascist activities on the Los Angeles campus of the University of California will be demanded by Assemblyman A. I. Stewart.

 . . . As . . . [Dykstra] expertly talked his way through a barrage of questions fired at him by committee counsel William B. Beirne . . . he continued to present the picture of a university head who doesn't see any reason for concerning himself with what either his professors or his 7,000 students do off-campus -- either to preaching left-wing radicalism, or to actually breaking the law to bits . . .

 "Don't you know you have an organized radical minority out there who are trying to take over -- the Bruin staff and the American Youth for Democracy?" [asked subcommittee chairman C. Don Field]. (LAEx, 11/29/45.


Campus police chief John W. Pease wrote in a confidential memo that he was told "off the record" by Thomas Cavett, "investigator loaned by the Tenney Committee to the Field Committee," that the Tenney Committee had "ten times as much information and was going to 'bust the University wide open.'"
 

 It was Mr. Cavett's opinion that the Don Field Committee and the Tenney Committee were very much dissatisfied with the conditions at the University of California and that unless prompt corrective action was taken . . . it could be expected that there might be some very short appropriations. (Arch, Box 335, Folder 105, 12/5/45.)


Dykstra himself held steady to his philosophy that it was not particularly his business what students and faculty did off campus. He wrote President Sproul that
 

 The Committee was evidently disappointed that I was not disposed to enter into a hunt for what they called "Red Fascists" on the campus, both students and faculty. Question was also raised about the Bruin censorship and freedom of the press. Just what this all means I am not able to say. (Arch, Box 335, Folder 105, 11/30/45.)


What it "meant" was the opening of an unprecedented attack on the independence of the University's students and faculty. Seventeen days after Dykstra wrote the above memo, the Board of Regents passed a resolution stating, in part
 

. . . that the basis of instruction at the University of California be loyalty to American institutions and to the American form of government and that any faculty member violating this precept be subject to dismissal.

 Further, that any student in the University, who in his off-campus actions does anything intended to convey or that actually does convey the impression that the student represents the University or the student body . . . be subject to dismissal. (CDB, 12/17/45.) [This resolution was used against a Bruin business manager, a Republican, in 1952.]


Go to the Second Half of This Chapter
9B. The Myth of 'The People's Bruin' (1937-1954)

UCLA's reputation was soiled, as Scop, the campus humor magazine put it, in "every home, drug store and barber shop in the United States."