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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 11. 1962

Communism: The Phobia

Communism: The Phobia

New Zealand's biggest spy-scare story has once again brought the country's Security organization into the papers. Security, at least among the public dailies, is more or less tabu as a talking-point. Brigadier Gilbert's speech to the R.S.A., published a short time after the expulsion of the two Russian diplomats, is probably a unique instance of publicity for this rather faceless organization. Salient is fortunate in getting Brigadier Gilbert to write an exclusive article.

Brigadier Gilbert's article is mainly concerned with the reasons for security measures against Communists in 'security-sensitive" government positions. This is not to say that there are no active Communists in government in this country; public servants say quite openly that in "non-sensitive" departments Communists are not confined to the clerical level—some achieve quite important position.

New Zealand's attitude to these is considerably more tolerant than in Home other countries. The United States is a good example of anti-Communism reaching the point of a phobia.

Recently a lot of publicity has been given to the extreme right-wing factions in American politics. All over the country people are talking about the John Birch Society, We, the People!, and the. Christian Anti-Communist Crusade —three of a host of movements of varying size and noise.

John Birch

These organisations differ widely in form, but they all agree that the Communist menace is mainly internal. John Birchers say that the frustrations in such places as Cuba, Berlin and Laos are caused by a Communist plot that involves "subversives" in all areas of American life. For example, a private letter circulated widely by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birchers, labelled former U.S. President Eisenhower as a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy." Other people implicated in the "conspiracy" by this Bircher's Bible are Chief Justice Earl Warren, ex-presidents Roosevelt and Truman, former C.I.A. head Allen Dulles, and, believe it or not, his brother the late John Foster.

Some students of the movement say that it can be traced back to traditional anti-European isolationism and ethnic prejudices—a favourite trick of segregationists is to call such Negro organisations as the National Association for the Advancements of Coloured People "Communist-influenced" or "Communist-directed". A psychologist's analysis would be that it is a classic case of substitution; we can't ever hit at the Russians directly, so we invent a dummy we can beat regularly. It is impossible for the Birchers to conceive that the immense wealth and great traditions of America could ever be overcome by any intrinsic Russian superiority, say, in cold-war tactics, or education, or organisation.

Professor A. W. Westin has argued that it is a grass-roots movement, part of a natural American bent for political fundamentalism. The John Birchers started and are strongest in the fundamentalist Baptist churches of the South—which are also segregation's stronghold.


However basic the movement may be, it has not taken such an extreme hold on America as many people think. For one thing it lacks a leader. Responsible conservatives such as Barry Goldwater and Strom Thurmond will have nothing to do with it—their policy is to fight the cold war on an international front. Welch is apparently an ineffectual speaker. Welch and others have a lot less influence than Senator Joseph McCarthy's crusade of the early fifties. For one thing, McCarthy had his position in the Senate and particularly on the Un-American Activities Committee to use in his campaign. For another, he had a genius for publicity, an ability to raise enough dust to keep the newspapers interested in him and at the same time maintain his gigantic bluff.

The Communist phobia in the United States was greatest in the early fifties when Lattimore. Oppenheimer and the Hollywood Ten lost their jobs. Since then the security frenzy has died down considerably, and the new witch-huntera have neither the power nor the skill to wreak any real havoc—for the present.

Civil Rights

But Communists are progressively losing their rights as American citizens. It was only in 1954 that the Senate narrowly rejected a bill for five-year sentences for any known members of the Communist party, supported incidentally, by Senator John F. Kennedy. Within the last year the Supreme Court has decided that the Internal Security Act is broadly constitutional: this act makes it illegal for American Communists to even request a passport for overseas travel or apply for a government job. Any Communist mail must be labelled, both on the material and the envelope as "Issued by the Communist Party of the United States, a Communist Organization", The F.B.I, maintains a regular coterie of spies within the Party, or what's left of it.

What does this mean for New Zealand? The Evening Post suggested rather succinctly that the very reason we laugh about spy Stories makes us a useful weak link in the chain of international security. But the ostrich act is only one end of the spectrum. At the other there are the rumours that there may be a New Zealand branch of the John Birch Society. Whether or not this is true, it is still reasonable to ask if it is necessary, as both extreme left and right wing will say, to choose one or the other or whether we can, for the sake dignity and tolerance, strike some happy medium which remains aware of the perils but avoids the Inquisitions.

Printed by A. B. D. Calrk. Ltd., 10s Luxford Street, Wellington, for the Victoria University of Students' Association. Wellington.