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The Daily Worker - June 7, 1956
The Current Scene


Howard Fast

"I see your government has arrested seven more communists."
"Oh, yes. Yes indeed. This time in Massachusetts. The latest in a series of mass political arrests that began eight years ago."
"The Communist Party in your country must be very powerful, very large – to require eight years of such attack?"
"No, not at all. Quite to the contrary. We have a very small Communist Party in the United States. Very small. As a matter of fact, per capita, it is one of the smallest in the world."
"Oh? Then it must be that in spite of its size, it was planning some awful and desperate action. Some violent thing – you know, the kind of thing you read about. Perhaps an attempt to blow up valuable government installations, to explode bombs in key places – perhaps to strike at key personalities?"
"No. Absolutely not. The Communist Party in the United States has an unbroken record of non-violence since its inception. That's just what makes things so difficult for us."
"But they were arrested attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence?"
"In a manner of speaking. You see, they have never done anything in the way of force and violence – so we have to arrest them and send them to prison for thinking about it. It's their thoughts that are subversive."
"I'm afraid you confuse me. Surely there was some specific reason for these latest arrests?"
"Yes – certainly."
"Then I'm very relieved. You have no idea what a bad effect this has on people all over the world. You see, there is no other advanced country on earth where similar measures are taken, and people in other lands have come to look upon the United States as a place where the rights of man simply do not exist. That is why I am relieved to be assured that there are reasons for these arrests."
"Of course."
"Probably, these communists were planning some sort of vast strike movement, something that would disrupt your splendid productive system –"
"No! Impossible. They have neither the influence nor the connections to plan anything of the sort."
"I'm sorry. Then surely they were working as espionage agents for the Russians, and you finally have sufficient evidence–"
"No! It's very irritating to us, but we have never been able to find a shred of evidence to link the communists to the Soviets. As a matter of fact, half the time they seem to have only the vaguest notion of what the Russians are planning to do."
"Yes, how stupid of me. I begin to understand now. Under the leadership of your excellent President, Mr. Eisenhower, you have set about the realization of a future of peaceful coexistence with the Russians. So the arrest were in the way of a service to the Russians?"
"What? I don't follow you at all."
"No? It seems to plain. Here the Russian leaders have admitted grave miscarriages of justice in their country. People have begun to wonder about democracy in the Soviet Union, and to question a lack of civil rights there. I was merely presuming that you undertook these latest mass political arrests to prove to the world at large that there were less civil liberties in the United States than in the Soviet Union. That is the effect, you know, that such arrests have on other countries. It seems obvious that you are doing the Russians a service, turning the heat off them, so as to speak – "
"Monstrous! I am amazed that you could even suggest such a thing! Why, do you know that if such a suggestion were to be taken seriously by Congress, it might result in an investigation of the entire Justice Department?"
"But I have heard so much about communists in high places in your government – could it be that they have agents in your Justice Department who are responsible for this?"
"I told you the very idea is monstrous! We are committed to a cold war against the Soviet Union. I personally hate the Soviet Union and glory in my hatred."
"Of course – and so do I. I am afraid I must apologize again. I am only trying to understand a very confusing matter. Perhaps it is in the interests of your ally, France, that you have undertaken these arrests?"
"France? I don't understand."
"Well – this business in Algeria. We have reports of terrible atrocities committed by French troops, a disgraceful matter for a democracy so prominent in the free world. It would be logical for you to take them off the hook, as they say in your country. I mean, turn the spotlight away from them. Now the French leaders can say to their people – see, there are worse affronts to democracy in the United States. That would be a very generous gesture on your part."
"I have never heard such nonsense as your are suggesting."
"I'm sorry. I seem to put my foot into it each time. But really, it does make more sense than nonsense. You yourself said there was a reason for these arrests. Perhaps these communists have broken laws, and as a law abiding nation –"
"I must be honest with you. To break a law, even here, you have to do something. We do not arrest communists for doing anything."
"But you said there was a specific reason for the arrests?"
"There is."
"But if you would only tell me the reason, I would not have to speculate."
"I told you the reason."
"Did you? Well, you know best, I'm sure. You have my sincere devotion. I do hope you don't run out of communists."