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“Men Here May Speak and Think”

(26 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 4, 26 January 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We can breath more freely now. We don’t have to worry one bit about the status of our democratic rights and civil liberties. At least that was the gospel according to Attorney General Tom Clark in his speech last week at the Cathedral Club banquet in Brooklyn.

The author of the recent political blacklist of “subversive” organizations pooh-poohed the notion that Truman’s “loyalty program’’ endangers free speech and political freedom, “Why,” said Mr. Clark, “until danger appears clearly and presently on the horizon, men here may speak and think as they will, protected in that liberty by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”

Now, that sounds reassuring, Mr. Clark. But there’s still a mite of doubt in my mind. Let’s take Truman’s “loyalty program,” for instance. I’ve had the notion that it’s a “disloyalty” purge. It provides for a secret investigation of the private lives and opinions of some two million government workers. They can be fired out of hand by department heads for even being of “doubtful” or “suspected loyalty.”

They can appeal, all right – but they’re guilty until they prove themselves innocent. They’re fired first. They can get a hearing – but they can’t examine FBI evidence and reports and they can’t confront their accusers.

Now what does that spell to you, Mr. Clark? It spells – and smells – G-E-S-T-A-P-O to me.

And how about that little political blacklist of yours, Mr. Clark, in which you on the basis of your sole judgment and authority, presume to publicly brand a number of working-class organizations, including the Socialist Workers Party, as “disloyal” and “subversive.”

I suppose that was intended to make the members and sympathizers of these organizations feel free to speak as they please – free, that is, of threats, intimidation and coercion from the government.

Civil rights, Mr. Clark? How free do you think the Negro people feel down in Louisiana, or in your own fair state of Texas, after those lynchings of Negro war veterans when your FBI couldn’t track down and jail the killers with an eye-witness list? But you’ll do better, won’t you Mr. Clark, with your own little list – that bulwark of civil liberties.

It’s surprising your blacklist isn’t Exhibit No. 1 on the Freedom Train. But then the Freedom Train contains only historic documents. But some day yours will be too, Mr. Clark. In fact, it will probably be the only thing you’ll be remembered by.

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