The national secretary of the American Communist Party last night condemned this country's internal security legislation as a "blue print for fascism."
Benjamin J. Davis told a Law School Forum audience that the McCarran and Smith acts were "legal foundations for an American police state." He called for support from all civil libertarians in his crusade against these laws.
"The issue is between those who are for the Bill of Rights and those who are for undermining it," he said; "I don't see how anyone can be neutral on this issue."
The federal government three weeks ago arraigned Davis and other American Communist Party leaders for failing to register under the McCarran Act as officers of the Party.
"No member of the Party has registered and none will," Davis declared. Registration would be testifying to a lie, he claimed; "we would be saying that we are murderers and traitors."
"We intend to sit in jail until we rot before we will declare that we are traitors," he said. "You can't kill ideas with prison cells any more than you can with guns." Davis has served five years in federal prison for conviction under the Smith Act.
Howe Hits McCarran Act
Mark DeWolfe Howe '28, professor of Law and member of the Forum panel, told the Sanders Theatre audience that "I share Mr. Davis' low view of the McCarran Act."
"The government should take a new look at the confusion of laws now on the books," he said, referring to the Smith and McCarran Acts, the Communist Control Act of 1954, and the Civil War conspiracy statutes. Howe noted that the Civil War laws alone would have been adequate for conviction in the Dennis case, which tested the constitutionality of the Smith Act.
Howe also questioned Davis' assertion that Communists should enjoy the same legal status as all American political organizations.
Erwin N. Griswold, Dean of the Law School, agreed that the Communists are not "just another political party... Some of us feel that the evidence is tolerably clear that the Communist Party is under foreign domination," he added.
In rebuttal, Davis declared that Communists work "first and foremost for the national interest of the country." He later added that peace depends on the continued unity of the world Communist movement; "There is something we call international solidarity."
McCloskey Calls Act "Unwise"
Robert G. McCloskey, professor of Government and third member of the panel, also attacked the McCarran Act, calling it "unwise" and "bad public policy." He disagreed, however, with Davis' contention that internal security laws are violations of the Constitution.
He noted that the Supreme Court is the weakest branch of the federal government. "I doubt very much if the judiciary has the power to tell the American people that they cannot inflict punishment on Communists."