From MURRAY KEMPTON
'mw YORK THE flagellation of the American Communist Party has become a national rite questioned as seldom by the respectable opinion which passes as advanced as by the disreputable Opinion which is dismissed as reactionary. Now it is being accelerated under the administration of a President distinguished for kindness, balance and common sense in all other matters.
American liberals in power seem to have a par- ticular compulsion to demonstrate to the nation that' they have no sympathy with Communists as, politicians by displaying inconsiderate cruelty to Communists as people. Under President Truman there began the prosecution which sent thirteen national leaders of the American Com- munist 'Party to prison for five years each for 'conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States.' In 1954 the United States Senate narrowly rejected a bill stipulating five-year penal terms for anyone belonging to the Communist Party; this was a measure proposed by Senator Hubert Humphrey, a paladin of the official American Left and sup- ported by Senator John F. Kennedy. And now the United States Department of Justice is moving to enforce the Internal Security Act, which, after ten years of legal challenge, has finally been held broadly constitutional by a Supreme Court majority decision.
• The internal Security Act is peculiarly new to the national tradition because it gives the force of law to the presumption of the guilt of anyone whose affiliation with the Communist Party can be established to a jury. A Communist can. as an instance, now go to prison merely for requesting a passport to travel abroad or for applying for government employment. A society which began by denying to Communists the freedoms of ordinary citizens now makes it a crime for Communists even to ask for them.
Henceforth, any material mailed by the Communist Party must bear the label: 'Issued by the Communist Party of the United States, Communist organisation.' The stated purpose of this device is to alert any innocent recipient. The party must also label the outside envelope: 'Issued by the Communist Party of the United States, a Communist organisation;' the unstated purpose of this proviso must be to alert any recipient's innocent neighbours.
The American Communists began the decade which brought them to this dehumanisation with an estimated 10,000 members in a nation of 160 million citizens. The party is reduced now to 2,000 members, more thanks, one hopes, to Khrushchev and Stalin than to the Department of Justice; it is hardly pleasant to think that one's government has been able to destroy even a political party as unappetising as this one. But destroyed the party is; it is without influence except on the sympathy of the too few Americans who are disturbed by the troubles of individual Communists. Never a real danger to their country, the Communists have become its victims, branded not for acts but for affiliations.
And the same national consensus which has put the Communists below the level of human beings continues to elevate J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and their chief tormenter, toward the plane of divinity. Mr. Hoover, after forty years as hunting dog, is a Washington monument whose headquarters annually draw more pilgrims than the Jefferson Memorial. He was the first public official to be re-appointed by President Kennedy.
This month, Mr. Hoover is being cited, in debasing tones of piety, by liberal mass com- municators grateful to him for some veiled comments which they could interpret as critical of the John Birch Society. Mr. Hoover also composed a warning to American lawyers against excessive zeal in the defence of Communist clients; it was published in the journal of the nation's largest organisation of lawyers, which, instead of being affronted, expressed its gratitude in an accompanying comment.
Mr. Hoover has never been troubled by the slightest criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, whose charge is the defence of the private citizen against the excesses of govern- ment. The Civil Liberties Union has not even questioned Mr. Hoover's maintenance inside the Communist Party of a cadre of volunteer and pro- fessional FBI agents. Yet the character of some of them would ordinarily seem productive of disturbance. An example is Michael John Ondrejka, who joined the party as an FBI agent in 1949. Pursuant to his duties, Ondrejka re- ported to the FBI on his fiancee, and continued to record and transmit her sins after they were married and through the birth of their three children. Mrs. Ondrejka was putting away his shirts in 1954 when she found a copy of one of his FBI reports. And Ondrejka remains a witness so persuasive to the courts that not long ago his testimony was the main factor in convicting a defendant who was sentenced to five years in prison for falsely swearing that he was not a Communist.
During his visit to Japan, Attorney-General Kennedy had to run a series of questions from university students about his government's treat- ment of American Communists. His answers were as unembarrassed as they. were disingenuous. Official America no longer needs to know or tell the truth about the condition of American Corn- munists, because, for it, Communists no longer exist as people. These petty malignities are not offered to support any illusion that the average American lives under a terror. Americans do not bow down to J. Edgar Hoover through fee; what is sad is that most of them approve what he is doing. To call America a police State would be nonsense; it is a reality quite unfortunate enough by itself that our most enduring national hero is a policeman.