McCarthyism, Angela Davis, & the Berrigans

McCarthyism, Angela Davis, & the Berrigans

I AM NOT, I HOPE, INDULGING in that most middle-aged of pastimes, boasting of how terrible things were when I was young. And yet, it must be said that, for all the current talk of repression in American society, what is surprising is the mildness of reaction in comparison to the McCarthy period in the early fifties. There are, to be sure, murderous exceptions like the police execution of Fred Hampton; nor is the fact that the antilibertarians are being somewhat restrained in their violation of various freedoms a reason for giving them an inch. And that, as will be seen, is particularly true in the case of the kidnap-bombing charges against some Catholic radicals. But the only hope for an effective defense of civil liberties requires that the issue be placed in a rational perspective.

First of all, the historical contrast.

During the McCarthy period the Right had a heaven-sent institution: the Communist party. Membership in the Party and its front groups provided a very...

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