The Fair Deal Has Created the Climate in Which McCarthyism Flourishes - Does It Defend Democratic Rights?

Submitted by martin on 23 January, 2014 - 6:07

Every spokesman and follower of the Fair Deal says and believes that one of its chief claims to the support of the American people and one of its most important objectives is its defense of, and efforts to extend, democratic rights. This is also one of the central aims of democratic socialism. What, then, separates and distinguishes the socialists, and specifically the Independent Socialist League, from the liberal Fair Dealers when it comes to the question of democratic rights?

It would be wrong to question the personal sincerity of the Fair Dealers when they say that they are for democratic rights. The important fact to bear in mind, however, is that this is just one of their objectives, and it is not the one which has top priority.

Whenever it comes in conflict with their determination to mobilize America and the rest of the world far the military struggle against Stalinism, democratic rights mast take a back seat. And in the domestic struggle against the Stalinist party and its front organizations, the Fair Deal administration has shown that it has no real confidence in its ability tc defeat the Stalinists by democratic means.

True, it is goaded and pushed by the most reactionary forces in our society to take frequent measures about which many Fair Dealers themselves feel uneasy. But the natural tendencies of the developing Permanent War Economy are so bureaucratic and anti-democratic in general that it is often difficult to tell at which point the Fair Dealers are yielding to pressure, and at which they are themselves the initiators of the attack on democratic rights.

When the Smith Act, which makes the advocacy of political ideas a crime in itself, was passed during the Roosevelt administration, it was condemned by the whole labor movement and most liberal organizations. It was first applied, however, not to the Stalinists but to the leaders of the teamsters' union in Minneapolis and of the Socialist Workers Party. The real reason for its application at that particular time was not that these men threatened overthrow of the government, but rather that their influence among the Minneapolis teamsters was a thorn in the side of the national head of the union, Dan Tobin, who was and is a loyal Democratic henchman.

The man directly responsible-for the prosecution and eventual conviction of eighteen leaders of this political organization and union was Attorney General Francis Biddle, who is the present national chairman of Americans far Democratic Action. Although he now'says that he too thinks the Smith Act is bad legislation, Biddle and his former boss, Roosevelt, were more concerned with the smooth operation of the war economy and of the Democratic Party than with the democratic rights which are clearly subverted by this law.


Senator McCarthy has become a symbol of the most reactionary attack on civil liberties in the country. He represents and is supported by the elements in America who have always sought to push us toward a police state as rapidly as possible: the American Legion, the Ku Klux Klan, the Hearst press, and the militantly reactionary businessmen of the National Association of Manufacturers and such organizations as the Committee for Constitutional Government.

The Fair Dealers oppose McCarthy and the whole pack of dirty tricks which are known as "McCarthyism." And well they might! For McCarthy has threatened their administration with his irresponsible wholesale accusations that it is infiltrated from top to bottom by a horde of "Communists." He and his supporters have an utter, disregard for facts when they make their "charges."

The truth of the matter is that to them the Fair Deal itself is not much different from some form of "socialism" or "communism."

Of course, socialists join wlth'the Fair Dealers In fighting McCarthyism as the most virulent-and'extreme menace of our civil liberties. But we cannot escape the fact that the Fair Dual administration's actions in this field have contributed mightily to create the general, political atmosphere which makes it. possible for McCartbylun to flourish.

In 1948 Truman issued, artr executive order which-was supposed to serve only one purpose: to eliminate "subversives" from government employment. The order directed the attorney general to draw up a list of "subversive" organizations. Then all government workers are to be screened by the FBI for the purpose of determining whether they had belonged to or been "sympathetically associated" with any of the organizations on the attorney general's list. Every worker on whom the FBI gets "derogatory information" is investigated intensively, and the information thus gathered is given to a "loyalty board" in the department for which he works.

Space is lacking to discuss at this point whether or not an American citizen has the right to work for the government if he favors a different social system. The fact is that not one of the organizations placed on the "subversive list" was informed that it was going to be included, no hearings were held, and from 1948 to this present it has been impossible to get a statement from the attorney general as to why any organization is on the list, and what it should or can do to get off it.

When a government worker is called up before a "loyalty board" he has no opportunity to question the FBI agents or their informants on the "facts" they have given the board against him. He need not have done anything illegal to be fired from his job and blacklisted for all government work. "Guilt by association" is the most common rule of "evidence" on which these boards act.


Although this Fair Deal presidential order was supposed to relate solely to government employment, the "subversive list" was published far and wide and has become the most common basis on which men and women are fired from jobs in both public and private employment all over the country. Even labor unions have published it in their papers as a basis for expelling members or removing officers. Organizations listed have found it increasingly difficult to hire halls for meetings, and many individuals have become fearful of contributing money to such organizations, or even of subscribing to their publications.
There can be bo question about it. The government's "loyalty" program has been a major contribution to the attack on democratic rights in the country. The wide-scale snooping of the' FBI which is made necessary by this program has served to intimidate, large numbers of people. A whole atmosphere has been created in which McCarthyism finds it easy to thrive.

There has also been a general attack on academic freedom in the country, and the Fair Dealers have played a far from noble role in it. Although abstractly they agree that democratic education requires freedom for teachers and students, they have so little confidence in the ability of people to judge things for themselves when they have access to all arguments and facts about an issue, that most of them have plumped for the idea that Stalinists must be prevented from holding teaching jobs, regardless of other qualifications.

It is true that Stalinist teachers are quite likely to try to influence their students to their own way of thinking. The same holds true for liberals and reactionaries. But a belief in democratic education is based on the idea that if students have access to all points of view, they are put in a position to think and judge for themselves.

Further, experience has shown that the moment we permit political opinions to be a basis for firing teachers, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation begins to blanket the schools in which only the bravest dare express unpopular or dissident ideas.


In the field of equal rights for Negroes and other minorities, the Fair Deal has fared not much better than in that of civil liberties in general. There can be no doubt about the fact that the full employment of the war economy has improved the economic position of masses of Negroes. The need for manpower, plus the constant struggle of the Negro people for equality in general and for jobs in particular, plus the fight many unions have put up on equal rights, plus the vigorous position taken on this question by the NAACP and all liberal organizations - all this has had its effect. Here again, socialists have no reason to question the personal sincerity of President Truman and many other Fair Deal leaders when they say they are for full civil rights for Negroes and other minorities.

Yet the fact remains that after twenty years of New Deal and Fair Deal administration. Jim Crow still remains the basic pattern of Negro life in America, and no FEPC legislation has yet been adopted. And beyond that, in those areas where the administration has direct control, in the government services and the armed forces, improvement in this field has been no better than ui mast other areas of our society. Here again there has been-a vast gap between the stated position of the Fair Deal and its actions, between program and reality.


What is the basic reason for the Fair Deal's failure inthe whole realm of democratic rights? How is it that after twenty years of administrations all of which have pronounced themselves in favor of the fullest civil liberties and equal rights for all citizens, our civil liberties are under a more concerted and dangerous attack than they have been since-the early '20s, and full equality remains a goal for the distant future?

The basic reason is that the Fair Deal stands not only for democracy. Its chief function is to prop up and maintain the economic system of capitalism. True, its preferred method of doing this at home is through liberal reforms. But on a world scale, it is engaged in a defensive struggle in which it seeks to save a collapsing capitalist system from the militant assault of Stalinism.

This struggle has to be fundamentally defensive, because capitalism has nothing further to offer the peoples of the rest of the world. Brutal, barbaric, totalitarian Stalinism can still attract millions to Its banner because its ideology is anti-capitalist. It is for this reason that Stalinism can ride ths wave of the Asian revolt against imperialism and feudal reaction, while the United States seeks to prop up the hated reactionary regimes.

To say that capitalism is socially on the defensive on a world scale does not mean that at some point the vast economic power and resources of the United States are not capable of going over to a military offensive. In fact, American strategy in the cold war is based on the idea that a sufficient degree of military power is capable of tipping the political seales in favor of capitalism. This idea, combined with the need of American capitalism to find some outlet for its-expansive force, makes the Permanent War Economy the specific form which capitalism takes in our time.

But the permanent war economy is incompatible with democracy. That is, its tendency is toward greater rather than less restrictions in all spheres of life; toward more government controls; toward less freedom for the labor movement; toward more regimentation in education. There is simply no escaping this tendency, and all the liberal speeches in the world will not change it.

Beyond that, although the Fair Dealers claim to have great confidence in the innate superiority of capitalism over Stalinism, their fear of Stalinism as a social force in the United States itself belies their claim. They know that Stalinism is a social movement which feeds on the inequalities, injustices, and continuing social failures of capitalism. They are not themselves capable of attacking these failures at their roots, for to do so would be to attack the basis of the system which they defend.


Increasingly they tend to accept the "easy way" of defeating Stalinism . . . the way of police measures. But these necessarily extend themselves beyond the Stalinists to socialists, liberals and other critics or opponents of capitalism, and as time goes on, even to the more liberal wing of the Fair Dealers themselves. In fact, they have a way of undermining the whole structure of democracy which the Fair Dealers are supposed to defend. There is a basic contradiction between democratic rights and the Permanent War Economy, between democracy and the defense of a world system which has outlived itself.

Democratic socialists are not subject to this contradiction. They are not bound by the necessity of defending a social system of inequality and exploitation which is collapsing all over the world. For them there is no conflict between the means of democracy, and their goal which is to establish a fully democratic society. In fact, they are utterly convinced that the socialist society which they seek to establish can only be achieved by the struggle for the most thoroughgoing democracy.

Socialists do not believe that democracy is something which can be created or handed down by governments. They believe that it is a product of the struggle of masses of peoples for an extension of their political and economic rights. Hence their efforts are directed to urging and educating and, wherever they can, leading the workers and all the common people to struggle to extend them. The whole experience of the world labor movement teaches that Stalinism as a social- movement is most effectively combated by exactly this same kind of struggle.

Stalinism cannot thrive where a democratic socialist movement is leading the assault of the masses against the old system. It is easily exposed for the reactionary totalitarian force it is, and defeated in -political struggle.
Even where the labor movement, without being socialist, takes the initiative in militant struggle for better conditions and wages, for complete democratic rights for minorities, the Stalinists have a hard time in making serious advances.

That is why the socialist movement, and specifically the Independent Socialist League, can and does remain the most consistent and thorough advocate of full democratic rights in America. As our program puts it: "The fight for democracy and the fight for socialism are inseparable. There can be no lasting and genuine democracy without socialism, and there can be no socialism without democracy."

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