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Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army and Occupier of Japan, has often, been a source of controversy. In the spring of 1948 some Americans boomed him for the Presidency, and in that same spring a group of Harvard veterans organized an anti-MacArthur league which gained considerable nation-wide support. Now MacArthur, still in Japan to the gratitude of some and to the despair of others, has done something that should renew the controversy. Last week the general ordered 24 top Japanese Communists to keep their mouths shut or else.
The MacArthur edict is a peculiar instruction from a man who would teach Japan democracy. It is not directed against Communist espionage; instead it gags words and opinions, snatches that right to free expression which democracy supposedly protects. None of the 24 will be allowed to speak publically, and eight of them who are elected members of the Diet must resign. The ban is extended to seventeen editors of the Communist newspaper, "Akahata"; presumably these men must stop drawing Japanese characters in red.
MacArthur has justified his stand by classifying the Communists with the Tojos and the war lords, with all "obstructionists to democracy." The general's broad classification tempts his critics to make an even broader one. Obstruction to democracy comes from the Communists, certainly; but the threat from Western stiflers of free opinion, from the Mundts and the MacArthurs, appears at least an equal obstruction. In Japan the General has given Communists another cause, and the Japanese a reminder of pre-war government.
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