Teachers Call Anti-Communist Law Unwise, Unneeded, and Unworkable
Chafee, Mather, Shapley Attack Act; Elliott Sees Less Danger in Bill
This is the third in a series of stories orienting the University against a war background. The first two articles, covering leftwing clubs and faculty views on the Far East, appeared in the CRIMSON'S registration Issues.
"Unworkable" and "contrary to our traditions" are words used by prominent faculty members to describe the anti-Communist legislation passed Saturday over President Triman's veto.
Kirtley F. Mather, professor of Geology and one-time chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, stated: "I don't think there is any doubt about it that the perfectly obnoxious, terrible things that are in the bill are a combination of the worst features of all the anti-Communist bills" proposed to the Congress before being combined into the omnibus Communist control bill.
Mather considers the bill's Section 6, which denies passports to any member of the Communist Party or of any Communist-front organization, "one of the most ridiculous aspects of the legislation," claiming that "if we could ship some of the Communists out of the country perhaps they would find some place they would prefer to live--but instead, we're going to keep them all right here."
Terming the registration aspect of the law, "also quite ludicrous" and asserting that "of course, I am heartily opposed to regulating opinions and ideas," Mather added that he believed the legislation would prove to be unworkable. He wished to make it clear, however, that he had not yet seen a final draft of the legislation.
The law, titled the "Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950," requires in part that "Communist-action organizations" (the Communists Party) and "Communist-front organizations" register and report their financial receipts and expenditures and activities. In addition every member of the "Communist-action organization" must register.
William Yandell Elliott, Lenroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, made two generalizations about the legislation: 1) "There is need for such a bill," and 2) "existing legislation (before passage of the law) was not adequate to deal with the problem of Communists in this country."
While warning that a "bill that tries to get at Communist-front organizations and fellow travelers is a dangerous bill," Elliott said, "I think the bill is far less dangerous than a lot of people think."
He added that one advantage of the new legislation may be expected in a possible court test of the subversive organizations list which has been used as a basis for anti-Communist action for several years new.
In stating "I prefer the Morris Ernst solution of complete revelation at the sources--getting at those members who are the really disciplined members," Elliott pointed out that in his testimony on the original Mundt-Nixon Communist Control Bill before the House Committee on un-American Activities in 1948 he advocated that such legislation should be restricted to the core of the party which controls the membership--on the principle that "if you strike at the head of the snake, it can't strike back."
Elliott objected strongly to those portions of the omnibus bill which were originally contained in the McCarran bull: "It reiterates and strengthens those barriers to immigration of anyone who has ever been a Communist, and in so doing, keeps out of the country some of those who are strongly anti-Communist and our greatest friends in this matter."
The second portion of the bill, which provides for detention in time of emergency of any person who "will probably engage in . . . acts of espionage and sabotage," was deemed "reasonable enough" by Elliott.
Zechariah Chafee, Jr., University professor, declared the law was "highly unwise and contrary to our traditions," and stated that he would stand on the testimony he gave against the bill and which was since been widely distributed by the American Civil Liberties Union as a pamphlet titled "The Free and the Bravo." He declined to state his opinions as to the constitutionally of the law.
Harlow Shapley, Paine Professor of Practical Astronomy, charged that the law "smacks of the totalitarian methods and is obviously a pre-election gesture by those who still believe that hysterical extremes are vote-getters." He added that "undoubtedly many of the Congressmen were not really in favor but feared to oppose such sedition legislation."
Mark DeWolfe Rowe, '28, professor of Law, declined to comment on the bill until he had read it, while Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. '38, associate professor of History, who had returned from Europe only one hour before being reached for comment, did not wish to say more tan "I would entirely agree with Truman's veto and regret that the Congress saw fit to pass it."
Robert G. McCloskey, assistant professor of Government, who teaches the undergraduate course in constitutional law, said regarding the law: "I'd have my doubts--if the constitutionality question is raised--whether it would be considered unconstitutional."
McCloskey felt that precedents indicate the law should be declared unconstitutional, but with the present make-up of the Supreme Court, such a decision could not be expected with any certainty.
In his testimony against the Mundt-Nixon portions of the omnibus, bill, Chafee attacked the all-inclusive Section 4, which reads: "It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to combine, conspire, or agree with any other person to perform any act which would substantially contribute to the establishment within the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship . . . under the domination or control of any foreign government ...."
He charged that in this clause "there is no requirement of the use of force or other unlawful methods at any time. The act may be wholly peaceable. It may be one of the commonest political activities, like nominating a candidate for office who is pledged to the specified policy." At that time he urged the committee holding hearings on the bill to strike out Section 4, warning that "it is a straight sedition law of the most reprehensible sorts" and that "nobody knows how unexpectedly a sedition law can be construed unless he has studied into such matters."
Chafee also testified concerning the ad- visability of the bill which has now become law: "Its enactment would disasterously impair our influence over other freedom-loving peoples. If we leave aside military considerations, the best way to combat the spread of Communism in Western Europe and elsewhere is to give increased drawing-power to the great traditions of democracy and freedom. These war-torn countries want more than weapons, more than food and machinery. They are eager for ideals to strengthen the spirit and make life worth living ... Unless our acts show that we belive in our democratic ideals, we lesson the chance of winning wavering men to democracy.