Ideological Exclusion & Deportation: Political Repression through the Suppression of Free Expression

Harvard University Press
5 min readMay 12, 2023

In Threat of Dissent: A History of Ideological Exclusion and Deportation in the United States, Julia Rose Kraut reveals how the United States has a long history of barring or expelling foreign noncitizens based on their political expressions and associations to suppress dissent throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from the War on Anarchy to the Cold War to the War on Terror–-a history which includes Emma Goldman, Ernest Mandel, Carlos Fuentes, Charlie Chaplin, and John Lennon. Robert L. Tsai has called Threat of Dissent “A must-read for those who care about immigration or the First Amendment.” To celebrate the publication of the paperback edition, here is a brief excerpt from the book.

The Return of McCarranism

IN SEPTEMBER 1969, a forty-six-year-old Belgian Marxist economist named Ernest Mandel applied for a visa to visit the United States. Students at Stanford University had invited Mandel to attend a conference on “Technology and the Third World” in October and to participate in a debate with renowned Canadian-born Keynesian economist and Harvard University Professor John Kenneth Galbraith. While Mandel awaited his visa, other colleges and universities invited him to speak on their campuses, including Amherst College, Princeton University, Columbia University, the New School for Social Research, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mandel accepted these invitations. Yet, Mandel would never receive a visa to attend the Stanford conference and debate Galbraith, or to speak at those universities and colleges. Under the Nixon administration, Mandel was ideologically excluded and barred from entry to the United States.

The presidency of Richard M. Nixon, who rose to prominence in the McCarthy era, marked the return of McCarranism and the use of ideological exclusion to suppress the threat of dissent. The motivations behind the Nixon administration’s decisions and use of ultimate discretion to exclude or deport, including in the case of Ernest Mandel, were political and self-interested. These exclusions and deportations were part of the Nixon administration’s abuse of power and use of retaliation to stifle critics, punish perceived enemies, win supporters, and secure Nixon’s reelection in 1972.

The return of McCarranism under the Nixon administration did not go unnoticed. It revived past arguments against ideological exclusion as a form of censorship, infringing on First Amendment rights, undermining values of free speech and democracy, and depicting the United States as a fearful, insecure nation. The Supreme Court once again confronted the question of whether to evaluate the constitutionality of explicit ideological restrictions under immigration or First Amendment legal precedent. While Mandel was not the only one who faced exclusion under the Nixon administration, his case resulted in the most important and influential legal strategies and constitutional challenges to ideological exclusion in the United States.

Ernest Mandel

Ernest Ezra Mandel was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923 and raised in an educated, secular Jewish family in Antwerp, Belgium. As a teenager, Mandel joined Antwerp’s branch of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist Party and then the Belgian resistance movement in World War II. During the German occupation, Mandel was arrested for distributing anti-Fascist, anti-capitalist leaflets to German soldiers in 1944. Deported to Germany, Mandel passed through “half a dozen prison and work camps” before being liberated by the Americans in 1945. As a “resistance fighter, a Jew and a Trotskyist, despised by Stalinist fellow prisoners,” Mandel believed that luck played a role in his survival, but he credited his ability to communicate and talk politics with his German guards, in addition to other prisoners, as the key to his self-preservation. These experiences convinced Mandel of the power of free exchange and to become an ardent internationalist.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Mandel was a leader in the Trotskyist Fourth International. He was a passionate lecturer and a prolific writer, publishing dozens of articles on Marxism and economics and editing the Belgian Socialist newspaper La Gauche (the Left). Mandel wrote Marxist Economic Theory, published in French in 1962 and in English in 1968. The two-volume book described and promoted the theory and received international attention and praise.

In the late 1960s, Mandel served as a generational bridge between members of the Old and New Left, encouraging antiwar activists to unite with workers in a common cause for reform and revolution. In support of the May 1968 protests in France, Mandel participated in demonstrations and spoke to students and to protest leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Like Cohn-Bendit, Mandel was expelled and barred from France because of his involvement in the protests.

Mandel traveled to the United States twice in the 1960s, first in March 1962, under a “working journalist” visa, and again in September 1968, with his wife Gisela, under a “tourist” visa. During his 1968 visit, Mandel delivered lectures at over a dozen universities and colleges. At the International Assembly of Revolutionary Student Movements, sponsored by the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Mandel addressed 600 people. In his lecture, “The Revolutionary Student Movement: Theory and Practice,” Mandel urged students to broaden their protests beyond their campuses by including working-class demands and to ground their activism in Marxism.

During both visits, Mandel was able to enter and leave the United States freely (albeit under surveillance), and, while there was some press coverage of his lectures, there was no protest, violent riot, or campus unrest in response to his remarks. So Mandel was shocked when his visa application was denied in September 1969. Mandel soon learned that he had become ensnared in the ideological exclusion provisions of the McCarran-Walter Act. Mandel was ineligible to receive a visa under two provisions within Section 212(a)(28) of the McCarran-Walter Act: (1) foreigners who “advocate the economic, international, and governmental doctrines of world communism”; and (2) foreigners who “write or publish . . . the economic, international, and governmental doctrines of world communism.” Unbeknownst to Mandel, the visas he had received in 1962 and 1968 were obtained under waivers of inadmissibility for temporary admission. He had received these waivers with a recommendation from the secretary of state and the approval from the attorney general, which was at his discretion. This time, in 1969, the new Nixon administration had refused to grant a waiver and had excluded Mandel.