From Berkeley to Haverford: Have we forgotten the progressive history of free speech?
Welcome to The New Kronstadt
a website dedicated to exploring the connection between free speech and social progress through historical anecdotes and personal narratives written by members of the Haverford community.
What is The New Kronstadt?
The New Kronstadt is an Op-Ed website which employs historical anecdotes and personal narratives to spark important conversations about freedom of expression at Haverford College, an institution with an extreme culture of entrenched self-censorship.
Soliciting contributions from professors, students, alumni, staff, and others who have experienced this culture firsthand, The New Kronstadt aims to shed light on the importance of free speech to building community. By sharing stories and perspectives from a diverse range of individuals, we hope to inspire dialogue and encourage a more open and inclusive expressive environment at Haverford College.
Free speech, particularly on college campuses, is commonly but incorrectly understood to be a conservative issue. Nothing could be less true. Haverford College, where speech codes abound but conservatives are hard to find, proves the point. According to data from College Pulse, Haverford has 7 liberal students for every 1 conservative student. Despite the political homogeneity of the campus, 58% of Haverford students say they self-censor and 77% of Haverford students report anxiety over speaking their minds freely, even in the classroom. As a case study, Haverford proves that free speech on campus isn't merely a conservative issue. In fact, the numbers suggest that a majority of left-wing students at Haverford self-censor due to the repressive ideological atmosphere on campus.
The New Kronstadt was created by Haverford student William Harris and is sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) through its Campus Scholars program. The website's goal is to remind community members at Haverford and beyond that free speech has a progressive history, particularly on college campuses. The hope is that if a place like Haverford can recover its own long-lost legacy of fostering free speech in the name of social progress, then other communities may follow.
The New Kronstadt takes its name from the Kronstadt Rebellion, a historic event in which leftist sailors in the early Soviet Union demanded freedom of speech, press, and association. The rebellion was brutally suppressed by the Bolshevik government, highlighting the dangers of political uniformity as imposed by some leftists onto others. The New Kronstadt seeks to bring attention to both this important history and the understanding that censorship is a tool of the powerful, and that speech is the power of the powerless.
The Kronstadt Rebellion has inspired left-wing thought in the past, with many intellectuals sharing their own "Kronstadt moments" in the 1950s to explain the moment at which they decided to renounce communism in favor of civil liberties, democracy, and human rights. It is now time for a new generation to share their experiences and reject the belief that the ends justify the means. True social progress does not involve past inquisitions and purges, and it is time for a renewed commitment to liberal democratic values on the American left. The New Kronstadt aims to facilitate these conversations and promote more inclusive and open expressive environments, beginning with the community that its contributors are all a part of as Haverfordians.
Why personal narratives?
The New Kronstadt is an Op-Ed website that presents personal narratives, or "Kronstadt moments," in a format similar to Richard Crossman's The God That Failed, which catalogued the "Kronstadt moments" of six prominent left-wing intellectuals in the 1950s during the Cold War. These narratives explore the role of free speech in fostering positive societal change and challenge the notion that free speech is only a conservative issue.
Many Haverford students, despite recognizing the vital role free speech has played in social movements such as women's suffrage, civil rights, immigrant advocacy, and gay liberation, still support restrictive speech codes. The New Kronstadt aims to connect social justice and free speech, which are not mutually exclusive, and to share stories from members of the Haverford community who are committed to both.
Initially attracted to Haverford for its emphasis on ethical and moral leadership and values of trust, concern, and respect, The New Kronstadt's contributors now challenge the school's culture of self-imposed censorship. The website aims to reach those who may have doubts about perpetuating a culture of self-censorship by remaining silent and encourages Haverfordians and others to take a stand against censorship and commit to building a free speech culture by practicing open expression in their own lives.