Within the next few weeks, Congress will consider and vote on HR 5852, the Communist-front Registration Act, better known as the Mundt Bill. This bill would require all Communist and "Communist-front" organizations to file annual statements with the Attorney General, listing their memberships, sources of income, expenditures, and capital, and providing a maximum penalty of $5000 or five year's imprisonment for failure to register.
If the Mundt Bill is passed, the Attorney General would have the power of holding hearings to determine which suspected organizations are guilty of Communism by these standards. Since they are so broad that they could be stretched to apply to anything from Socialism through Wallace to Co-operatives, the Attorney General would not have much trouble in making his charges stick. According to the Mundt Bill, the free enterprise system as it stands today is the only legal economic system for the United States, and any reforms, such as socialized medicine, would hereafter be considered Communistic.
Any organization which is once branded "Communist front" according to the Mundt Bill, would obviously have to choose between going out of business and going underground. Its members, whose names would be on file for public inspection at the Department of Justice, would be barred from receiving passports or government jobs, and all its business envelopes and periodicals would have to be stamped with the words "Dessimated by . . . ., a Communist-front organization." The inference is clear and the results are obvious. William Z. Foster, the Communist national chairman, has already announced that his party members will go underground rather than register in accordance with the bill, and Professor Kirtley F. Mather, chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union has stated that thousands of non-Communist liberals will be the ones to suffer.
As soon as the government denies American citizens their right to express their own opinions or to belong to any political organization they choose, it is fighting Communism with its own weapons. The events in Europe throughout the last hundred years have shown that once the political opposition is driven underground, practically nothing can eradicate it, although infringements by the government on civil rights increase constantly. The Mundt Bill, if it is passed, would only be the first milestone on the road to the very police-state system which it is the main problem to avoid.