‘False and Impossible’?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“A policeman has no more right to belong to a union than a soldier or a sailor. He must be ready to obey orders, the orders of his superiors, not those of any outside body. One of his duties is the maintenance of order in the case of strike violence. In such a case, if he is faithful to his union, he may have to be unfaithful to the public, which pays him to protect it. The situation is false and impossible.”
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Those sentences are from an editorial in the New York Times calling for the police strike in Boston to be “repressed.” It was issued in September 1919. The Gray Lady later issued across the top of an entire page of a Sunday edition a long piece called “Democracy or Sovietism,” calling the fight over Governor Calvin Coolidge’s re-election “the most vitally important and significantly momentous Gubernatorial contest in the annals of American politics.” In yet another editorial it called the strike an “essay in Bolshevism.”
Today in New York, the Gray Lady is looking at things through the other end of the telescope. It is warning that the “forces of entropy are roaming the streets, turning their backs on the law, defying civil authority and trying to unravel the social fabric.” By that it means the police, who, it reports, are for the second week in a row refusing to write tickets and make arrests. It is still opposing the cops and the unions that represent them. But it has long since dropped its opposition to Bolshevism and its warnings about “Sovietism.”
Now it’s defending — in Mayor de Blasio — the leading tribune of Bolshevik and Soviet ideas on the urban scene today. The Times is defending a mayor who honeymooned in one of, in Cuba, the few redoubts left where the Marx and Lenin are held up as heroes, and supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. That’s all fair enough, by our lights. What strikes us though is how opposite it is to how the Times felt about these things back in 1919, when it was horrified by Bolshevism and Sovietism.
It happens that we agree with the Times that New York’s Finest would be — if there is any kind of organized or semi-organized strike — playing with fire. But the idea that the mayor is an innocent party in this catastrophe strikes us as chimerical. He should have put up the best defense possible of the city in the stop-question-and-frisk case, while instituting the policing practices he wanted. He took the worst possible course in betraying the police in court. How could he be surprised at the outcome?
Feature, after all, his position. It’s not just that he sought to end stop-question-and-frisk. He could have done that at any time. It’s not just that he switched sides in the case and dropped a defense of the city. He fought in court against the motion of the police unions to defend the police. He not only didn’t want to defend the police. He didn’t want the court to permit anyone else to defend the police, not even their own union. The result is that the constitutional questions never got heard, and the NYPD has been libeled as racist.
The Times’ infatuation with the Marxist mayor is all the more remarkable in light of all that has transpired since 1919. At the time the full horrors of Marxism were still in the future, which would see the Bolshevik revolution produce one of the most monstrous dictatorships in history. One would think that the Times would be even more hostile to Bolshevism and Sovietism today than it was when it sided against the Boston cops. False and impossible would be an apt phrase for the Times’ own position.