For twenty years, Grover Furr has been an English professor at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, where he educates students in his peculiar worldview, which is an updated Stalinism and in which America is the world’s biggest oppressor and greatest terrorist state. While his academic expertise is English literature, he presents himself as an expert on communism, and scours academic forums like the Historians of American Communism net, defending Joseph Stalin and calling America’s role in bringing down the Soviet Empire a moral outrage. “Was there something morally wrong in trying to bring down the Soviet Union? I think the only honest answer possible is: Yes, it was wrong,” says Furr.
In a speech delivered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County in New Jersey, Furr said, “I think the reason Stalin is vilified is because, in his day at the helm of the Soviet Union, the exploiters all over the world had something to worry about! That's why I feel some kinship with Stalin and the communist movement of his day.” And not only his day: “What the majority of humanity needs today is an international like that one, to co-ordinate the fight against exploitation -- just as the IMF and the World Bank, Exxon and Reebok, the US and French and the other governments, coordinate the fight FOR exploitation.” A copy of the entire speech appears on his website, the same site his students must use as a study resource.
Although not a historian, Furr frequents the “Historians of American Communism”, a scholarly forum inhabited by experts on Communism like Robert Conquest, John Earl Haynes and Robert W. Cherny. There he takes up causes like denying Stalin’s well-documented campaign to liquidate the Jews: “The mass murder of Jews, but not only of Jews, by the Nazis is very well documented. In the case of the Cold-War horror stories demonizing Stalin, the shoe is on the other foot -- all the evidence points in the opposite direction...Of the hoary horror tales virtually taken for granted as true concerning Stalin, I have researched many at this point in my life, and have yet to find a single one that is true, or anywhere near it." Participants in the forum generally find Furr’s positions to be absurd.
At Montclair University, Furr teaches a “General Humanities” course described on his website as, “an introduction to Western European culture and society from the Ancient World through the Middle Ages.” Required reading for the course includes the following authors: James Axtell, whose “The White Indians of Colonial America” implies that Native American culture was better than European culture in colonial America; Ronald Takaki, a prominent multiculturalist whose views of America’s oppression of minorities is only a shade more moderate than Ward Churchill’s; Rodney Hilton, a British Marxist; G.E.M. de Ste Croix, whose “The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World” is a Marxist tract; and I.F. Stone, a Communist fellow traveler and then New Leftist who once commended the Soviet Union for “steadily expanding democracy in every sphere.”
Another of Furr’s courses, titled “The Great Books and Ideas,” offers more radical-left fare. Readings for the course include works by Karl Marx, a Marxist analysis of Shakespeare by Richard Wilson, a book by Communist Party member Ted Allen, one by Marxist feminist Silvia Federici, and one by radical-left activist Marcus Rediker, who has worked to win a new trial for convicted cop killer and leftist icon Mumia Abu-Jamal.
While Furr has no credentials as a history teacher his duties at Monclair include teaching a course on the Vietnam War. Furr’s course paints America as an oppressive, terrorist state. His Vietnam war page, and his Politics and Social Issues web page, which are course resources, feature virulently anti-U.S. material, much of it penned by him. Furr’s personal views on Vietnam reflect the views of the leftist fringe: “‘The western imperialists, the U.S. among them, are the biggest mass murderers in history’….'The U.S. is even more guilty [of genocide] than Pol Pot.’…'it was a good thing that the U.S. ‘lost’ in Vietnam…. If the US and their South Vietnamese stooges had won, South Vietnam would have been yet another place for American companies to move to. Hundreds of thousands more American workers would have lost their jobs.’…'Under no circumstances, therefore, should we ever support the US government or believe what it says.’” [emphases as in the original]
A number of Furr’s views are taken directly from Challenge, the Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party’s newspaper. Opinion pieces written by Furr on the other hand are published in the school newspaper, The Montclarion, and also posted on his Montclair University website, where he celebrates the violence that took place after the Rodney King verdict, accuses the U.S. of being behind the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and echoing the views of Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky implies that on Sept.11, 2001 the U.S. got what it deserved when radical Islamists slammed jetliners into the Twin Towers, killing thousands of innocents.
Furr is involved in the Modern Languages Association [MLA], the largest academic professional organization. MLA methods and recommendations are implemented across the U.S., down to the elementary school level. Professor Furr heads the MLA’s radical caucus. How much influence does he have in shaping the MLA’s agendas? Quite a bit, it appears. During the run-up to its 2003 national conference, the MLA put out a call for papers to be read and discussed at the conference. Out of the five papers submitted, four of them came from the radical caucus. One asked the MLA to work towards “the repeal of the U.S.A. Patriot Act.” A second wanted the MLA to deplore “government war-making projects” and urge “the withdrawal of troops and reallocation of funds to reverse inattention to, and grave deficits in, funding of education and other human services.” A third was concerned with pay for graduate students and faculty members. The last proposal is worth quoting, since it appears to have been penned by Furr himself:
“Whereas in wartime, governments commonly shape language to legitimate aggression, misrepresent policies, conceal aims, stigmatize dissent, and block critical thought; and
“Whereas distortions of this sort proliferate now, as in the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism,’ to underwrite military action anywhere in the world, against whomever our government sees as opponents; and
“Whereas we are professionals committed to scrupulous inquiry into language and culture; Be it resolved that the Modern Language Association supports its members in conducting critical analysis of war talk, in public forums and, as appropriate, in classrooms.”
What do Professor Furr’s students think of him? A sampling of the views of forty of them is available on Rate My Professors, a website which allows students to rate teachers on a scale from 1-5 (Furr averaged 2.4), and gives insight into how Furr is perceived by them: “'I can't believe this man is teaching!’... ‘He sends you radical left wing propaganda almost every day through email’… ‘Pretend to be a communist and he'll think you're the greatest thing ever’…'He uses the classroom as a platform to teach his radical political views’…'Leans so far to the left he's horizontal’… ‘Hates the USA’…'Keeps on talking about his life and nothing relating to the work’…'If he spent more time concentrating on teaching his students than spewing hate in the discussion threads, maybe he would be a happier person!’...'What a bitter, hateful man!’”
Furr’s own attitude towards conservatives in academia is this: “What [American universities] need, and would much benefit from, is more Marxists, radicals, leftists – all terms conventionally applied to those who fight against exploitation, racism, sexism, and capitalism. We can never have too many of these, just as we can never have too few ‘conservatives.’”
In an academia that has become highly politicized and where conservatives are increasingly rare, Furr’s views are valued currency. His web pages are recommended as both a teaching resource and as a resource in developing curricula.
Rocco DiPippo is a free-lance political writer who publishes the Antiprotester Journal.