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Hysteria on the Hill


When the Massachusetts Legislature wakes up to a good thing, it wakes up with a bang. Right now, the lawmakers are enthusiastic about the Communist menace within the state, which makes fine speech material, good news copy and great headlines. But in their almost hysterical efforts to dynamite Communism, some of them are playing around with a charge big enough to wreck the whole fabric of free government.

One group--a joint legislative committee--wants an Ober law for Massachusetts. The committee, which began its investigation in January and reported this month, feels that Communism is so important a danger here that special legislation is necessary. In its hefty 84-page report it examines everything from the philosophical basis of Leninism to the present makeup of the state party, all in a necessarily cursory manner. Then it appends a draft of the new laws it thinks should be passed, measures it frankly says are based on the Maryland subersive rules, set up in 1949.

Heaven only knows what the committee hopes to gain by such legislation. It states that some of the group examined the Maryland law in action. Surely these men, at least, know that real subversion is not stopped by this kind of law: the man who will actually commit treason and sabotage will not wince at having to tell a lie on his loyalty oath blank. By letting the state control thought, by damning all "left-wing" groups together, the law itself subverts the entire way of life which we are now struggling to preserve and spread.

There are many other reasons why Massachusetts should not make the mistake that Maryland made in 1949, if only that it already has wide authority over the political actions of all its employees and can certainly punish treasonable action by citizens.

This committee proposal is the latest of several anti-Communist bills introduced in the legislature this spring. Like the rest, it should be defeated, politics and publicity notwithstanding. Sinking a good ship never has been the best way to solve its rodent problem, however acceptable and fashionable that method may become.

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