William (Bill) Mandel was a Pacifica programmer for 37 years. He was the first of three KPFA programmers to be fired for refusing to obey the gag rule prior to the 1999 lockout. The other two, Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman, were returned to the air long ago. Bill’s wealth of knowledge of history and current affairs is an invaluable resource needed by Pacifica listeners.
Born in 1917, the year of the Soviet Revolution, Bill became politically active in his youth. He was expelled from college in New York in 1933, in part for his role in an anti-ROTC demonstration. At age 18, he became a teacher of Marxism in the Communist Party’s Workers’ School in New York, and later headed the Young Communist League in Akron, Ohio, an organization primarily of African-Americans.
In 1940, Bill became a research assistant at the American Russian Institute in New York, thanks to his knowledge of Russian, having lived for a while in the Soviet Union. His first book, The Soviet Far East and Central Asia, was published in 1944, the first of many on Soviet affairs. He later worked at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1949, he was a member of the defense force for Paul Robeson at the infamous Peekskill Concert, which was violently attacked by hundreds of racists and reactionaries.
As the Cold War and the McCarthy period took hold, Bill was forced to testify before the U.S. Senate Internal Security Committee, as well as the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). In 1960, he told HUAC in San Francisco:
“Honorable beaters of children, sadists, uniformed and in plain clothes, distinguished Dixiecrat wearing the clothing of a gentleman… If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any way, you are insane! This body… is a kangaroo court. It does not have my respect, it has my utmost contempt.”
For many years, Bill was blacklisted from publishing, paid academic employment, from professional lecturing, and from salaried journalism.
Eventually, Bill found a home on KPFA and other Pacifica stations, where he reinvented the talk show format on a regular program on Soviet affairs. He was one of KPFA and Pacifica’s most popular programmers for 37 years. At KPFA he was one of the first to demand women’s programming, and was a leader in bringing young broadcasters to the station at a time when there were very few. He facilitated people-of-color broadcasting by surrendering his own prime-time slot when other staff “could not find time slots” for young people of color.
In 1995, when corporate forces were establishing their reign at KPFA and Pacifica, Bill was thrown off his regular slot on the Morning Show for talking about affirmative action. When he talked about this on his own regular show, he was removed altogether for violating the gag order against discussing “internal” KPFA affairs.
Bill is the author of five books on the Soviet Union and, most recently, an autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER. Bill’s autobiography, including an Introduction by Howard Zinn, is a history of how the American people have fought to defend and expand our rights since the 1920s, employing the form of the life of a 30s AND 60s activist.
You may hear and see Bill’s testimony before different McCarthy-Cold-War-Era witch-hunting committees on his website (www.billmandel.net). For an autographed copy of Mandel’s autobiography, send $24 to 4466 View Place,#106, Oakland, CA 94611. You can reach Mandel directly at [email protected].