William Marx “Bill” Mandel was a long-time KPFA broadcaster, left-wing political activist and author, best known as a Soviet expert, died on Thanksgiving.  Bill was 99.  His books, including “Soviet Women,” and the latest, his autobiography, “Saying No to Power (1999).”

Considered a leading Sovietologist during the 1940s and 1950s, Mandel was a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, but lost his position there due to the political pressures of the McCarthy era. He is perhaps best known for standing up to Senator Joseph McCarthy during a televised 1953 Senate committee hearing in which Mandel pointedly told the senator, “This is a book-burning! You lack only the tinder to set fire to the books as Hitler did twenty years ago, and I am going to get that across to the American people!”

In 1960, Mandel was again subpoenaed, this time by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He testified on May 13 in a hearing held at the San Francisco City Hall. Outside the hearing, hundreds of protesting Bay Area college students were blasted with firehoses and dragged down the marble steps by police officers, leaving some seriously injured.[3] Newsreel cameras recorded Mandel’s scathing response to the question posed by Lead Counsel Richard Arens, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”:

Mandel replied: “Honorable beaters of children, sadists, uniformed and in plain clothes, distinguished Dixiecrat wearing the clothing of a gentleman, eminent Republican who opposes an accommodation with the one country with which we must live at peace in order for us and all our children to survive. My boy of fifteen left this room a few minutes ago in sound health and not jailed, solely because I asked him to be in here to learn something about the procedures of the United States government and one of its committees. Had he been outside where a son of a friend of mine had his head split by these goons operating under your orders, my boy today might have paid the penalty of permanent injury or a police record for desiring to come here and hear how this committee operates. 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!”

For 38 years, Mandel hosted a weekly radio program on KPFA-Berkeley until 1995 as commentator and interpreter on Soviet affairs.  He died peacefully at his home in Kensington.


  1. Since it’s too late to thank him now, I’ll simply thank KPFA for hosting him for the many years it did. He is one model of what a good-hearted, steely-eyed journalist can be.

  2. Does anyone know where/when his funeral/memorial service will be?

    1. Hi All,

      Phyllis Mandel here speaking on behalf of myself and my brothers Bob and Dave, we have not decided when or where a memorial service will be, and we will post it as soon as we do know. Likely not for at least a month or two. We will keep folks posted.

      1. Hello Phyllis,

        My name is Reuben Safire. I’m a reporter for the KPFA evening news. I’d like to interview you, and the people close to Bill, about his life for tonight’s broadcast. I’m messaging you here because the email address I have for you isn’t active. In any case, please contact me at [email protected] or call at 510-848-6767 ext. 223


  3. Thanks for this. I would suggest leaving out the word “left-wing”. We are the defenders of human rights and freedom. To portray politics in terms of “wings” sounds like a centrist or right wing trope. Who are the women in the picture? RIP to a great man. PS this verification process is annoying, time consuming and an invasion of privacy.

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