The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The liberal Red Scare

The IF Stone compilation (earlier piece) has an interesting chapter (p80ff) on the Truman's Red Scare [1].

Airbrushed from the collective memory of the time is the enthusisastic collaborationism of liberal organisations from which the uninformed might have expected stiff resistance.

For instance, in a piece (p103) from February 1952, he looks at a report produced by the ACLU on the denial of passports by the State Department. (Paul Robeson was notoriously a victim of the practice.)

He notes the pushmepullyou approach as embodied by the presence in the leadership of the organisation of the libertarian Arthur Garfield Hays and J Edgar Hoover's collaborator Morris Ernst:
The tendency to take away with the ACLU's right hand what has just been granted by its left may be seen at work on the first page of the report. Paragraph No 1 climbs arduously up the libertarian hill, asserting the right to travel. Paragraph No 2 climbs quickly down again, asserting " it is equally important to recognise that the right of free travel must be subject to limitations - on the basis of a preponderance of the public over the private interest."

Recommendation No 2 not only recognises the power to protect the nation against "any clear and present danger" but adds..."(and under present circumstances also against dangers which are neither wholly clear nor demonstrably present)".

The truthful answer from large swathes of the American liberal establishment to the question What did you do in the Red Scare, Daddy? would be, I hid.

  1. Truman gave it the presidential seal of approval with his flanking manoeuvre of the loyalty oath machinery.


Notes on a collection of microfilmed ACLU records from 1917 to 1950 contain some interesting material on the its Truman-era (non-)performance.

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