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Behind the facade of definitions, criteria, and penalties which fill the 38 pages of the new Mundt bill lie several important assumptions about our system of law and the mentality of the American people. These assumptions are potentially even more dangerous than the actual provisions of the measure.
The idea of determining guilt by association, and the process of judicial finding by legislature or administration, lead directly to a system of penalties for people who have not committed illegal acts. Membership in a "Communist political organization" or "Communist front organization" which has not registered with the Attorney-General is outlawed. Also, members of registered "Communist political organizations" could be jailed and fined under a section of the bill which outlaws acts cited as the regular function of those organizations.
The procedures under the bill, which will put people into obviously unpleasant categories and expose them to various kinds of prosecution, have no reference to trial by jury. A trio of government personnel will act as jury, and their immediate superior will be prosecutor, in deciding whether organizations and individuals are "Communist." The right to appeal these designations to federal courts cannot possibly counterbalance the effects of the original blacklisting.
There is no need for a separate provision in the bill requiring Communist groups to register with the Attorney-General if they are, as the definition states, "controlled by a foreign government." If the definition is legally provable, much of the rest of the bill is unnecessarily, since there are already laws providing for close surveillance of all alien representatives.
The "clear and present danger" cited to justify the drastic measures of the Mundt bill is deduced from "recent successes of Communist methods in other countries," not from any threat, real or supposed, to "the sovereignty of the United States." Only two provisions of the bill are directed against acts; the rest are attempts to hamper and expose Communist campaigns and propaganda.
Senator Mundt wants to protest the American people from misrepresentation by Communist organizations posing in charitable disguises. So these organizations will have to open their records to public scrutiny in the Attorney-General's files, and carefully announce that all their letters and radio programs are Communist-disseminated. After years of exposing Communists under every bed and every bureau, it is claimed the American people cannot protect themselves against the estimated .05% of the nation who are "card-carrying Communists," even with the aid of fraud laws and vigilant Senators.
After every war, and in every time of crisis, this nation has started scratching furiously for fleas of anarchy, socialism, communism, and assorted doctrines. It is unreasonable to compare our position to that of European countries now dominated or threatened by Russian communism. Those countries all had a large native Communist party, and a Red army either massed on their borders or as an actual occupation force.
The effect of the Mundt bill is to lump together actual subversives (of whom few have turned up), idealistic radicals, and people who join sundry "leftist" groups for sundry reasons. The latter two are useful parts of society; the quickest way to bring on a "totalitarian dictatorship" is to suppress criticism from either the right or left.
Present laws for punishing subversive activities, fraud, and violation of alien registration may or may not be adequate. If they are not, then they can be supplemented by other laws aimed directly at these offenders. But when opinions or group membership become the criteria for suppression, we no longer have a democracy to defend.
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