The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years 6

In my latest reading of The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952, Irwin Gellman talked about the Subversive Activities Control bill of 1948, which was introduced by representatives Karl Mundt of South Dakota and Richard Nixon of California and thus was called the Mundt-Nixon bill.

I said a couple of posts ago that Nixon was against outlawing the Communist Party that was in the United States because he did not want to push it underground but rather keep it in broad daylight.  Nixon initially was rather open-minded on this question, as when he noted to American Civil Liberties attorney Arthur Garfield Hays the irony that the ACLU was against outlawing the Communist Party that was in the U.S., even though the ACLU’s own board of directors “had taken action against Communists on its board” (Gellman’s words on page 156)!  But the Mundt-Nixon bill itself would not have outlawed the Communist Party that was in the United States, but rather it criminalized seeking to overthrow the U.S. government to replace it with a totalitarian government, as well as required the Communist Party and “related organizations…to register with the U.S. Attorney General”, prohibited federal employees from belonging to the Communist Party and hiring its members knowingly, and denied passports to Communist Party members (Gellman’s words on page 160).  Nixon said to his constituents that individual rights would be protected by judicial review.

There was concern that the Mundt-Nixon bill would legally stigmatize leftist organizations that happened to hold positions that were similar to what the Communist Party held, on such issues as housing.  But Nixon denied that such would be the case.  Moreover, I should note that, within the discussion over whether or not the Communist Party should be outlawed, John Foster Dulles, who later became President Dwight Eisenhower’s anti-Communist Secretary of State, said that outlawing the Communist Party would be difficult because the Communist Party was “nebulous” (Dulles’ word): there were members who “served under ‘iron discipline’ and were foreign agents, while others viewed the party as an agent of reform and held that this group acted as an outlet for grievances” (Gellman’s words on page 155).  I found Dulles’ insight to be important: Granted, there probably were Communists who were subversive and desired a Soviet America, but I doubt that every single Communist was like that, for some may have simply been seeking reform or airing grievances.  Lumping together every Communist as a sinister conspirator would be misguided, in my opinion.

Bundt-Nixon passed the House but failed in the Senate, then a similar bill emerged as Mundt-Ferguson.  It, too, passed the House but failed in the Senate.  But its provisions became part of the McCarran Internal Security Act, which passed in both houses (see here).

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2 Responses to The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years 6

  1. Pingback: Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady 3 | James' Ramblings

  2. Pingback: Norman Thomas and Communism in the Late 1940′s | James' Ramblings

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