After a decade of injustice, the Attorney General of the United States casually removed the Independent Socialist League from his List of Subversive Organizations a month or so ago. In announcing the decision, no reference was made to the merits of the case, and a few lame excuses were offered—the Attorney General, whose office had established the List, appointed the prosecutor and the trial judge, and who had acted as a court of appeal, suddenly discovered that his own “strict standards” of proof had not been met.
Thus a blow was struck at one of the basic instruments of the witch hunt. The List, first made public by Tom Clark under the Truman Administration, has literally pervaded American life. It has been used to deprive people of jobs in defense industries, to keep them off radio and television, to subject them to harassment by the FBI, to punish them with various kinds of damaging discharges from the army after two years of satisfactory service, and on and on. The listed organizations were given no opportunity to hear the charges, much less to refute them in any kind of proceeding. The ISL—the only organization on the List to make the attempt—won a series of hearings, or examinations, only after years of effort. The hearings themselves, such as they were, were strung out over a period of years.
For some, listing is clearly permanent. One of the features of this madness is that defunct organizations are on the List. They are, as is obvious to everyone including the Attorney General, incapable of ever defending themselves, for they no longer exist. But these ghostly condemnations have real effect. The former members of the now defunct group are subject, for the rest of their lives, to all of the pressures and suspicions which listing involves. In Hollywood, for example, one of the World War II “Win the War” groups was placed on the List. Virtually every writer in the movie industry belonged to it; during the time of patriotic pro-Russian feeling even United States Senators associated with Soviet-American friendship committees. Since there is no longer any organization, those who wish to can pick and choose. They can hold prior membership against a man—or they can excuse it. Both have been done, and sometimes the executive who decreed that this subversive lapse on the part of a writer rendered him unfit to work was himself a former member.
In this sense, no decision of the Attorney General, or of any American court, can possibly eradicate the grave harm that has been done in violation of due process. And this does not merely apply to the defunct organizations which have been listed. It is a factor in the life of anyone who has ever belonged to a group designated by the Attorney General. Actually, the only thing which can really change this situation would be a massive public revulsion against the principle of the List itself, and a general refusal on the part of the American people to pa...
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