Max Shachtman

Again We Ask the Attorney General:

Who Are the Subversives?

(4 October 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 40, 4 October 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Anyone who expected a change for the better in the revised list of “subversive organizations” issued by the Attorney General, Mr. Tom C. Clark, was deservedly doomed to disappointment when the new list was made public in Washington on September 25.

The revised list, issued by the Loyalty Review Board to all executive department agencies for their use in hunting and burning witches among government employees, designates a total of 123 organizations, some of them repeated in more than one of the six categories into which the list is divided. There are “totalitarian” organizations, “Fascist” organizations, “Communist” organizations, “subversive” organizations, organizations with a “policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force and violence to deny others their rights under the Constitution of the United States,” and, sixthly, organizations which “seek to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means.”

The new list is more monstrous than the first one was, if that is possible.

The “totalitarian” list includes only Japanese organizations, the bulk of which never amounted to anything and most of which have been defunct since Pearl Harbor. The “Fascist” organizations are confined to German Nazi and Italian Fascist or pro-Fascist groups, and most of them have been out of commission since the United States entered the war. If they are included at all, it is for the purpose of creating an impression of impartiality. It is doubtful if one person in a hundred thousand has ever heard of the Military Virtue Society of Japan or the Mario Morgantini Circle, or that anyone, even Mr. Clark, shivers with terror today at the sound of their name. It is doubtful that the employees of the Navy Department are going to be sifted to discover if any of them belong to the Great Fujii Theater or Cherry Association, which is composed of veterans of the Russo-Japanese War (fought in 1904) but is nevertheless solemnly listed.

The real, purpose of the list is to outlaw, or half-outlaw, the Stalinist and pro-Stalinist organizations, without a trial and by simple bureaucratic government edict, and under cover of that, to do the same thing against independent socialist working class organizations like the Workers Party, the Socialist Youth League, the Socialist Workers Party and others.

That is why in the long list of eighty-two organizations designated as “Communist” are included not only every conceivable Stalinist organization (you can now be thrown out of a government job if you are a member of the International Workers Order or even of the New York Photo League!), but also the Workers Party, the Socialist Youth League which supports that party, the Socialist Workers Party and even the American Committee for European Workers Relief.

Anyone who pretends to the most primitive political equipment required for even considering such a list knows, and the Department of Justice knows, that the last-named are non- Stalinist or anti-Stalinist organizations. The Department knows – and if it doesn’t know it aught to quit pretending – that our Workers Party, for example, has absolutely nothing in common with Stalinism and its adepts. It knows or ought to know that the ACEWR was set up and operates as a non-party organization to provide relief to European militants, Trotskyists and independent socialists, who are unable to get assistance from governmental agencies OR from any of the Stalinist agencies.

Anyone who so much as reads the press of the Workers Party knows not only its attitude toward the Stalinist parties but also toward the name Communist. By its historical aim and by the century-old tradition with which it proudly associates itself, the Workers Party is communist, as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were communists. If we call ourselves Marxists and socialists and refuse to call ourselves “communists” today, as we do refuse, it is because this once great name has been befouled and degraded by the Stalinist butchers in Russia. If the U.S. authorities now place us in the same category with the Stalinists, it is with the hope of discrediting our movement which never compromised in its struggle against Stalinism, which never made an alliance with Stalinism. Can these authorities, the same ones who did make a long imperialist alliance with Stalinist Russia and which tried to sell the Stalinist regime to this country as a “democracy” run by peace-loving democrats, make the same claim? Why doesn’t this paragon of the Texas Democracy at least include a seventh category, “Allies of the Communists,” and list the Roosevelt Administration as the first and foremost of many others? Mr. Clark is amply supplied with brass but he is in short supply of courage and consistency.

Who Violates the Constitution?

The Workers Party is listed with the Stalinist organizations not only in the “Communist” category but in those of the “subversives” and the “unconstitutionalists.”

Labor Action has already dealt with Who Are the Subversives? in its editorial last December, when the first list was issued by Mr. Clark. There is no need to add anything now to what it said then. But a few words are in order now on the new category into which we have been placed – seeking “to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means.”

Mr. Clark is short on shame and prudence, too. He comes from the Great Democratic State of Texas. He Is a figure In the Democratic Party of Texas and the South in general. He is even something of a figure in the national Democratic Party. Does Mr. Clark know of a single Democratic Party victory in a Southern state during his life-time and for decades before then that was won by anything but unconstitutional methods? Or to put it more exactly: won by anything but the most open, flagrant, cynical, publicly avowed and defended violation of the Constitution of the United States?

Has the enforcer of the Constitution ever read the document? If he has, can he tell us how many Southern Senators are now unconstitutionally and illegally occupying their seats because they were not elected by the people of their respective states, as provided by Article XVII, but only by the vote of a limited group of people arbitrarily and unconstitutionally selected because they seem to have white skins?

Can he fell us the name of the political party whose regime in the Southern states has systematically and shamelessly flouted Article XV of the Constitution which prohibits the denial or abridgment of the right of all U.S. citizens to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude? And why isn’t the name of this political tarty, to which Mr. Clark belongs, included in the sixth category of his list, or in a special category set aside for such a special abomination? And what has Mr. Clark’s department, which is actually called “Department of Justice,” done during his incumbency to enforce the Constitution which is so coolly violated in the South?

It was very imprudent of Mr. Clark to so much as let the word “Constitution” appear in any list issued over his name. And it is shameless to use his office to place in a sort of public pillory those who have devoted their lives to wipirtg out the abomination of Mr. Clark’s Democratic South and all other social abominations.

The Method of Totalitarianism

Not the least of these abominations is the list itself, the very concept of such a list. Mr. Clark’s office, Mr. Clark’s government, Mr. Clark’s President and Mr. Clark’s party (like Mr. Dewey’s), are now making a great parade of their passion for. democracy and their loathing for totalitarianism and despotism of all kinds. Like the list itself, this parade is election-year poppycock, and where it isn’t that, it is part and parcel of the muddling and twisting of people’s minds for the purpose of working up enthusiasm for the third world slaughter which is being so systematically prepared.

But where did these “democrats” get the idea for their “list”? It is the method of the infamous Czarist regime. It did not rule by law but by imperial edict, by ukase. That is how it placed outside the law those organizations which it was unable to combat by. honest political methods. It is the method of Hitler, who also issued “lists.” It is the method of Stalin, and all the picayune Stalins in Eastern Europe.

To give him his due, Mr. Clark has made something of an improvement on Stalin. Stalin at least tells you what are the charges against the movements he wants to suppress. The charges are trumped-up, to be sure, but he tells you what he claims they are. Stalin at least goes through a pretense of presenting evidence against the movements he wants to suppress. The evidence is fraudulent, it is forged, it is preposterous, it is ignoble from any standpoint, but at least he makes a pretense at presenting some evidence. Mr. Clark, being a Democrat and, what is more, a Southern Democrat, does not find it necessary to go through any such folderol. He puts an organization on the List of the Damned without telling it what are the charges against it, who presented the charges, where and when they were presented; he does not invite it to be present when the charges are made; he does not tell it what evidence, if any, has been adduced against it. By this unique improvement on Stalinist procedure, Mr. Clark saves himself from embarrassment and his name from an otherwise certain and well-merited oblivion.

An Improvement in Technique

This may sound to some a little like exaggeration. Unfortunately, it is not. The readers of Labor Action know that on July 20, 1948, the National Chairman of the Workers Party, Max Shachtman, wrote the Attorney General asking for a hearing at his office on the classification of the party as “subversive.” In reply, Mr. Clark’s office consented to arrange an appointment with a representative of the Workers Party.

Max Shachtman thereupon wrote the Attorney-General’s office to point out that such an appointment would make little sense unless the Workers Party representative were first provided with the charges against the party and given some idea of the “evidence” upon which they were sustained, so that the WP might have the opportunity of countering the charges and the evidence with the appropriate documentary material and corroborating witnesses. An elementary request. It was granted to the Reichstag fire trial defendants by the Hitler- Goering court without question. But Mr. Clark’s office is full of improvements on such techniques.

Here is the reply to Shachtman sent on August 16, 1948, by Mr. Alex Campbell, the Assistant Attorney General:

“Dear Mr. Shachtman:

“The Department is in receipt of your letter of August 3, 1948, in further reference to your request for a hearing in connection with the designation of your organization under Executive Order 9835.

“As Mr. Quinn’s successor and in conformity with the Attorney General’s direction, I shall be glad to meet with you or your representative at your convenience and to receive and consider any statement or material which you may wish to submit relevant to the factual or legal validity of the designation. The Department, however, does not contemplate holding a formal hearing in the matter, since the Executive Order contains no provision therefore, nor can there be at the time disclosure of the evidence upon which the designation was based. I regret it exceedingly if you have misconstrued or been misinformed as to the Department’s position.”

Marvel of marvels! Czar Nicholas Romanoff never did as well and could not have done better! Send your representative! We shall be glad to meet with him! He can say anything he wants to because, since we are Democrats, we are for a certain amount of free speech! But do not misconstrue us: We cannot tell you what are the charges against you because you may not only want to answer them but be able to answer them. That’s unconstitutional. And we cannot tell you what is the evidence against you because you may not only want to refute it but be able to refute it. That’s subversive – and besides how would we look?

Greetings, envious greetings to you, Mr. Clark, from the State Procurator of His Imperial Majesty, Czar Nicholas, Autocrat of all the Russias; from the President of the People’s Courts of Adolf Hitler, Fuehrer of the Third Reich; from Andrei Vyshinsky, Prosecutor-in-Chief of the Sun of Suns, Marshal Joseph Stalin, Vozhd of all the Peoples! You’ve still got a lot to learn from them, it is true. But they could have learned a thing or two from you, too!

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