SEPTEMBER 28, 1949
NEW YORK, Tuesday—I recommend highly for reading the American Civil Liberties Union report called, "In the Shadow of Fear."
This report covers 1948 and 1949, and there are facts contained in it that, I think, will surprise a great many people. For instance, it objects to the Attorney General's arbitrary listing of subversive groups and says this list has now reached the astonishing figure of 160 organizations.
In a country such as ours where we have no bloc of elected Communists in our Congress, it seems that we have been through too long a period of the jitters over the rise of the communistic influence. Countries that have large groups of elected Communists in their government bodies are, I think, entitled to serious worry. For us to subject many people to the fear that belonging to a particular organization will brand them as Communists seems somewhat foolish. You should be able to belong to any organization and even to talk to known Communists and still feel entirely secure that your own democracy could not be questioned until you had committed an act that was visibly undemocratic.
With the rise of military and FBI power in this country one is a little afraid of seeing a touch of the old European police supervision that shocked many an American travelling for the first time in Europe 30 or 40 years ago. I remember how surprised I was at the age of 15 to discover that the police in Paris knew every person registered in a hotel and investigated their background. Such methods were shocking to an American youngster's ears.
That is why I think the American Civil Liberties Union report is worth reading. I am sure that what we need to emphasize today is our confidence and belief in our democratic system.
My own feeling is that when a people fight for something they are stronger than when they are merely trying to repress those who happen to think differently from themselves.
I have the highest respect for both our military organization and the FBI. It is their business to look to the security of the nation, and I think the people of the United States should guard their freedom carefully. Above all, we should not allow our fears to develop the kind of security that is enforced in a police state and is, therefore, never real democratic security.
Without question there are some dangerous people in this country and they should be known and watched. But among our own mass of American citizens, I doubt if this type of watching is very beneficial.
Let us teach the benefits of our democracy; let us fight to improve it in all ways. Let us show the Soviet Union that, whether they realize it or not, their present government is more fascist than communistic and that they have no conception of what we mean when we talk of a real democracy where the state exists for the benefit of the people, and not the people for the benefit of the state.