Blunderbuss Americanism of Ku Klux Klan and vigilante society stamp is cropping out again--this time in the American Legion. With pages of Hearst and Scripps-Howard publicity, the veterans have begun a campaign to keep Browder and Ford off the ballots in the coming election. Their most recent success was yesterday's decision of the New York Supreme Court barring the Communists from that State's election lists. Already ten other states have done this; and in Pittsburgh forty-three Communist petition circulators, including a Harvard graduate, await trial on charges of fraud. The story in the Smoky City is typical of Legion strategy.
First, Pittsburgh papers, over protests, published full lists of the names on the Communist nominating petitions. This was the signal for employers, Legionnaires, and many a volunteer super-charged patriot to turn on the heat. Pestered by policemen and Martin Dies, afraid of losing jobs or relief, droves of signers retracted their names. The stories they gave the Legion would be laughable if the matter weren't so important. Some claimed they believed it was an anti-war petition, others thought it was Republican or Democratic or anti-Communist, and one deluded chap even signed under the impression he was participating in a popularity contest! This, despite the plainly printed declaration at the top of every list: "Communist Party Petition." Signers missed that, because they were "shaving at the time I signed" or "waiting for a streetcar." Meanwhile, as signatures fled from their lists, the Communists found themselves not only kicked out of the polls but dragged into the courts with a trial for fraud. The Legion-Hearst-Scripps-Howard entente's victory was complete--but it's still not clear what they were fighting for.
Veterans and journalists have no reason to fear Browder. His chances of election are little better than those of "No Third Drink" Roger Babson, and the excuses of the group who retracted their names reflect more on themselves than on the Communist Party. Suppression of minority groups even by the American Legion has no excuse. We are not at war and there was no reason for the veterans' squeeze play. Far more dangerous than the Leftist groups, whatever their fondness for vodka, is a powerful organization getting set to protect America in the manner of Hitler's storm troops.