Debate Between Governor Thomas E. Dewey
and Hon. Harold E. Stassen,
Portland, Oregon, May 17, 1948
"Should the Communist Party be Outlawed?"
Chairman (Multonomah County Republican Chairman Donald R. Van Boskirk)—Ladies and
gentlemen: For the past few weeks Oregonians have been participating in a red hot political campaign
between Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and former Governor Harold E. Stassen of
Minnesota. As the campaign has progressed, it appears that the primary issue on which these
candidates are diametrically opposed is: Should the Communist party in the United States be
outlawed? So that these opposing viewpoints might be heard consecutively, the Multonomah County
Republican organization is sponsosing this debate.
And now, speaking for the affirmative is the Honorable Harold E. Stassen of Minnesota.
Chairman Van Boskirk, Your Excellency Governor Dewey, and my fellow citizens:
During the recent war I saw many young Americans killed. I watched ships explode and burn, planes
crash in flames, men—our men—my friends, fall. I met thousands of prisoners of war as they were
liberated from indescribable conditions of imprisonment and suffering. I viewed the devastation of cities
and of farms.
In the midst of these experiences, I thought more deeply than ever before of the way in which men
should live, of the preciousness of freedom, of the future of America.
I made a quiet resolve to do everything within my power after V-J Day to keep America free and to
prevent a third World War. Four principal objectives appeared to be essential.
First, to maintain a sound and humanitarian free American economy, which would include avoiding
inflation booms, with their out-of-reach prices, preventing depression crashes with unemployment,
widely developing the superb natural resources of water, forests and minerals constantly improving
housing and health, and establishing a fair balance between capital and labor, assuring to agriculture a
fair share of the national income, advancing in civil rights, decreasing discrimination and bigotry, and
constantly endeavoring to win happier homes throughout America.
And, second, to keep America and other free countries strong in a military sense, especially in the air.
And, third, to safeguard against the undermining and overthrow of free governments, and to defend the
freedom of men.
And, fourth, to establish a strong organization of United Nations for peace and economic progress,
without a veto, and with a real system of justice.
With a firm conviction that an open and frank discussion would lead to better answers of the manner in
which to make progress toward these objectives, I have talked directly to the people of my views, and
invited their questions and welcomed any opportunity to meet with others in a joint discussion.
This is the background for my Oregon campaign. I have submitted to the people of Oregon my
position on the building of the resources and the rapid development of the Columbia River Basin, and
the Willamette Valley, the need for long-range programs in agriculture and forestry, the importance of
that fair balance between management and labor, and the progress in housing and health. I presented
my view of a strong foreign policy for America, with an alert and trained military personnel, the
Marshal Plan. leadership amending and strengthening the United Nations Charter, the stopping of
machine tools and electrical equipment supplies to Russia, the direct outlawing of the Communist
organizations in America, and in the free countries and positive action in ideals and moral standards and
justice on a world-wide basis.
I have presented my optimism and my hope that such policies would lead to a future of peace and of
progress for ourselves and for others without the tragedy of a third world war.
One part of my proposal program for America has been directly challenged. It has been challenged by
a man for whom I have great respect, a man who is a fellow Republican and who has joined in
campaigns in Wisconsin and Nebraska and now in Oregon. Tonight we meet in a joint radio discussion
of that one point. I will give you my position on this one point in detail and give the reasons why I have
reached this conclusion.
When World War II ended I felt that the key question as to future peace would arise if bad policies
were followed by the Soviet Union of Russia and by the world Communist Party directed from
Moscow. I, therefore, gave special study to their actions and their methods, their apparent intentions. I
journeyed to many of the European countries and to Russia, questioned leaders of many nations, for a
first-hand look and-listen trip. I followed closely the results of the peace conferences of Potsdam and
Yalta and The developments in country after country.
I have readied the conclusion that the Communist organizations in the world are absolutely directed by
the rulers of Russia in the Kremlin. I have reached the conclusion that the objectives of these
Communist organizations in the world are to overthrow free governments, to destroy the liberties of
men, and to bring other countries under the domination of the dictators of Russia. I have watched
country after country in which these Communist organizations have taken every legal advantage, but
have recognized none of the corresponding obligations and moralities.
The most recent and extreme instance was Czechoslovakia. The Communists never had the support of
a majority of the people of Czechoslovakia, but they were given full legal standing, and Communists
were appointed to some of the ministries of government. The people of the country were free. They
were re¬building from the war. There was no tyranny. There was no threat to Russia. There was a
politeness and a friendliness toward the Communists, but the Communist organizations, directed from
Moscow, took all of these legal blessings and at the same time moved underneath the surface,
established Communist action committees in all the departments of government, in the big labor unions,
in key industries, and in the universities and colleges. Then a few weeks ago, the overground and
underground moved together, Czechoslovakia was betrayed, the liberties of the people were wiped
out, and another country was brought under the domination of the Kremlin.
These developments do give rise to a danger of war. Analyzing what they mean, it seems clear to me
that the free countries, including America, do not now have adequate laws to safeguard themselves in
the face of this menace. I consider it to be clear that these Communist organizations are not really
political parties. They are actually Fifth Columns. They are Quisling cliques. If we are to have the best
chance of winning through for freedom without the horror of a third World War, the free countries must
take action to protect themselves against this Fifth Column, in this unsettled period which has been
called a cold war.
I do not think it is generally realized in America that we do not now have any law to effectively oppose
the actions of these Communist organizations, either overground or underground. There’s now no law
in America to prevent these Communist organizations from secretly developing organizations of hidden
members, from carrying on secret conspiracies to promote strikes, to stir up hatred between races and
religions in America, and from following their directions from Moscow.
Neither is there any present law to prevent the Communist organizations from maintaining large offices
with telephone switch boards and a network of communication to be used in reaching and coordinating
these underground activities and in recruiting new members.
In facing up to the problem, we must maintain complete constitutional rights and liberties in America,
the right of free speech, of free press, of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion must be kept
inviolate. It must always be open for any individual in this country to protest, to object, to dissent, but
there is no constitutional right to carry on organizations above ground or below ground directed by the
rulers of a foreign power for the purpose of overthrowing the government of the United States and
taking away the liberties of its people.
I, therefore, have urged for some months that we need a new law to directly outlaw these Communist
organizations, Governor Dewey has insisted that our present laws are adequate. I submit that a new
law is needed. It should directly make it illegal after its passage to carry on any organization, either
above ground or below ground, which is directed by the rulers of a foreign power for the purpose of
overthrowing the government of United States, destroying the liberties of its people, and bringing this
country under the domination of the rulers of a foreign power. Such a law would not outlaw ideas. It
would not outlaw thoughts. It would make illegal organized conspiracies of Fifth Columns. Such a law
is constitutional under Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. A very eminent lawyer,
the honorable William L. Ransom, past president of the American Bar Association, agrees on its
constitutionality in an able article in “The American Law Journal” this month. The language of the
Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Ohio versus Akron indicates that the Supreme
Court would uphold its constitutionality. In fact, the national Congress is right now moving to do this
A law has been introduced known as the Mundt-Nixon Bill which provides that it shall be unlawful to
attempt in any manner to establish in the United States a totalitarian dictatorship, the direction and
control of which is to be vested in or exercised by or under the domination or control of any foreign
government, a foreign organization or foreign individual, or to attempt to per¬form any act toward
The report of the committee that investigated the Communist activities before preparing that bill
specifically found that the Communist organization was an organization whose basic aim, whether open
or concealed, is the abolition of our present economic system and democratic form of government and
the establishment of a Soviet dictatorship in its place.
Now, the chairman and secretary of the Communist Party of America have protested that this bill
would outlaw their organization. I agree that it would, and I say that it should. The United States
Congress indicated in a preliminary way their approval of the bill when they voted last Friday by a vote
of 296 to 40 to bring it up for action on Tuesday. It might well be amended to some extent before it is
finally passed by both Houses, because in some clauses directed against individuals it goes even
beyond what I have urged. But I do believe that it will pass in the near future in a form that will
definitely outlaw these Communist organizations in both their underground and overground activities.
I further believe that this will be a precedent for similar action by the other free countries of the world
and that effective means will be developed to safeguard against the Fifth Column infiltration of the
Now, I recognize full well that there are some who very sincerely oppose my position in this matter. I
am not certain of the reasons for Mr. Henry Wallace’s opposition to my position, but I am confident
that Governor Dewey’s opposition is completely sincere. But I respectfully ask him to reconsider his
opposition as I believe he is mistaken. His position in effect, means a soft policy towards Communism,
and all the evidence around the world shows that a soft policy wins neither peace nor respect nor
improvement from the Communists. We must not coddle Communism with legality. They grasp every
concession made and continue their undermining actions.
Consider these facts: There are now eleven countries of the world under the domination of the
Communist leaders in Moscow. They are Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia,
Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In none of these eleven did the Communists
ever receive majority support of the people in a free election. The last three were taken over by force
during the war and held ever since. In every one of the remain¬ing eight, the Communists used
underground movements, until they had seized power and brought the nation under the dictation of the
Russia was the first Communist dominated nation. It came under this dictatorship through a
combination of two main reasons: First, the bad government of the Czar: second, the organization
developed by the legalized Bolshevik party which formed throughout Russia and elected six members
to the Russian Parliament in the last election held in that country before the Communists came to power.
There seems to have been some mistaken idea that the Communists were outlawed in Russia. This is
not correct. The Bolshevik party was active in Russia right up to the first war with Germany. The
Communists carried on a nationwide election campaign in Russia in 1912, and elected six members to
the Parliament or Duma.
They used this means of developing their revolutionary organization, and when they were caught in the
attempted revolution in 1905 and in various sabotage, in train wreckings and bombings, they were
severely punished, but they were not outlawed as an organization. When this present Communist party
did come into power in Russia, they promptly wiped out all other political parties and took the people
under a firm and dictatorial grip. In each of the other countries—Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia,
Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and finally Czechoslovakia—the Communists used the blessing of legality
as an aid to organizing an underground movement, and finally betrayed the liberties of the people and
brought them under the domination of the Kremlin in Moscow.
These are the facts which today cause a menace to Scandinavia and Western Europe. These are the
facts which today present a danger of future world war.
Another mistaken impression is the claim that if we outlaw the Communist organization, we thereby
endanger the liberties and civil rights of other people. This is not true. In Canada the party was
outlawed for years, and the people lost none of their liberties. In fact, the Communists were permitted
to operate legally again under the name of the Labor Progressive Party in 1943, and soon afterwards,
in less than three years, it was found that the Communists were working directly with the Russian
Embassy at Ottawa in a spy ring.
In order that we might narrow down our discussion and find out just exactly what the differences are in
our positions, I should like to ask Governor Dewey specifically these questions:
1. Do you agree that the Communist organizations throughout the world are directed from Moscow?
2. Do you agree that the objective of the Communist organizations through¬out the world is to
overthrow free governments, destroy liberties, and bring the countries under the domination of the
3. Do you agree that Communist organizations throughout the world are a menace to future peace?
4. Do you agree that because of this menace to world peace it is necessary that we require American
young men to serve in our armed forces and to take military training?
To make my position, then, clear, I say very definitely that it does not add up, to me, to say that loyal,
patriotic, young Americans must of necessity be drafted; that their liberties must be taken away in order
to make America strong in the face of the menace to peace caused by Communist organizations, but
that none of the privileges and blessings of legality should be taken away from the Communist
organizations, themselves, which, in fact, are causing the menace that makes the drafting necessary.
The fundamental principles of human liberty upon which this nation is founded are drawn from our
basic religious concepts. Our founding fathers did believe that man has a spiritual value; that he is
endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights: that he should have a human dignity, a respect
for the welfare of others; that there is a brotherhood of man.
The constitutional rights in America are based on that concept. When one speaks of the constitutional
right of organizations that are seeking to destroy freedom, there is a misconception of the deep basis of
constitutional rights. There is no such thing as a constitutional right to destroy all constitutional rights.
There is no such thing as a freedom to destroy freedom.
The right of man to liberty is inherent in the nature of man. To win it and to maintain it requires courage
and sacrifice, and it also requires intelligence and realism and determination in the establishment of the
laws and the systems of justice to serve mankind.
I submit that the Communist organization in America and in the freedom-loving countries of the world
should be outlawed.
Chairman: Thank you. Governor Stassen. And now, speaking for the negative, is the Honorable
Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York.
Dewey’s NEGATIVE GOVERNOR DEWEY:
Mr. Van Boskirk, Mr. Stassen, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted to participate in this discussion, with my distinguished confrere, and I have listened with
great interest to his eloquent discussion of the subject and all of the other matters which he brought up.
He asked me four questions:
1. Do you agree that the Communist organizations of the world are under the direction of the Kremlin
in Moscow? Certainly.
2. Do you agree that the world Communist organization is a threat to world peace? Certainly.
3. Do you agree that the objectives of these Communist organizations is to destroy the liberties of other
Finally, fourthly, if you agree to these things, under what provisions of the Constitution—as I took my
quick notes here—and what legal actions are you against outlawing them when we are drafting young
men in time of peace to build up the defenses against Communist aggression?
The last question, of course, entirely begs the question. The question is not whether anyone is
interested in helping any Communist preserve his liberties. No one in America has the slightest interest
in the Communists. My interest is in preserving this country from being destroyed by the development
of an underground organization which would grow so colossally in strength, were it outlawed that it
might easily destroy our country and cause us to draft all of the young men in the nation.
Now, I find that the difficulty, here, tonight, is that Mr. Stassen has not adhered to his subject or his
statements. He says he is for the Mundt Bill, because, says Mr. Stassen, it outlaws the Communist
party. But the fact of the matter is he is in grievous error. The only authority he quotes is the head of the
Communist Party, which is not exactly a very good authority for what is truth. Usually, if a Communist
says it does this, you know it does the opposite. So let’s find out whether the Mundt Bill does outlaw
the Communist Party. That is the first job. If the Mundt Bill did outlaw the Communist Party then we
would be able to debate it.
Here’s what Mr. Mundt says on May 14, 1948: “This bill does not outlaw the Communist party.”
On February 5, 1948, Congressman Mundt said: “I have been one of those who have not looked with
favor upon proposals to outlaw the Communist party or to declare its activities illegal, because I fear
such action, on the part of Congress, would only tend to drive further underground the forces which
are already largely concealed from public view. What I want to do,” says Mr. Mundt, “is to drive the
Communist functionaries out of the ground into the open, where patriotic Americans of every walk of
life can come to learn their identity and understand their objectives.”
Now, we have the head of the Communist party saying that it does outlaw them, and Mr. Stassen says
so. Mr. Mundt, whose bill it is, says his bill does not outlaw the Communist party.
So, as between that debate, let us now see what the Committee says. After all, it is a Committee bill,
and the Committee presumably knows what its bill does. In short, I have studied the bill. What it says
is that it shall be a crime to endeavor to teach, to advocate, or to conspire to establish in the United
States a dictatorship under the control of a foreign government.
Well, if that isn’t a crime now, then I greatly misread all of the sections of the laws as they now are. But
before going to that—that’s number one in the Mundt Bill. That certainly does not outlaw the
Communist Party. That simply says it is a crime to try to overthrow the government of the United
States and establish a dictatorship under the control of a foreign power. And if that isn’t good sound
doctrine, I don’t know good sound doctrine. But it doesn’t outlaw the party. It says that Communists
cannot hold public office. Well, theoretically they aren't supposed to be allowed to hold it now. It
provides they can’t get passports, and of course everybody is for that. That is the Mundt Bill.
Now, does it outlaw the Communist party? Mr. Foster, the head of the Communist party, and Mr.
Stassen say it does. Mr. Mundt says it doesn’t. So what does the Committee say? The Committee
reports—this is the report of the Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities, whose bill this
is—this committee has been widely criticized in our country because it has been called a red-baiting
committee. As a matter of fact, it has been doing a fine, solid, good American job for a great many
months. It has done a fine job of ex-posing Communists and bringing them out in the open, where they
belong. Here is what the Committee says about the Mundt Bill. April 10, 1948: “Too often a cursory
study of this problem lends people to believe that the answer is very simple, that all we have to do is
outlaw the Communist party, or pass a law requiring its members to register, and that the problem will
solve itself. This is not the case. The Communist party in its operations presents a problem which is
something new under the sun. It changes its spots and its tactics and strategy without conscience.” I am
continuing to quote the report.
“Several bills before the Committee attempt to approach this problem by out¬lawing the Communist
movement as a political party. The sub-committee has found it necessary”—and mark you this—“to
reject this approach.” I think it is perfectly clear that the Mundt Bill does not outlaw the Communist
party, and Mr. Mundt and the Committee say that it doesn’t. But just to complete it, let me give you
the rest of the point so there can be no possible misunderstanding that both Mr. Stassen and Mr.
Foster, the head of the Communist Party, are wrong.
The report of the Committee on the Mundt Bill continues: “The Committee gave serious consideration
to the many well-intentioned proposals which at¬tempted to meet the problem by outlawing the
Communist party.” Now, I am skipping a little—no I will read it all. “Opponents of this approach
differed as to what they desired. Some wanted to bar the Communist Party from the ballot and
elections. Others would have made membership in the Communist Party illegal per se. The Committee
believes there are several compelling arguments against the outlawing approach,” and then it gives them:
“1. Illegalization of the party might drive the Communist movement further underground, whereas
exposure of its activities is the primary need.
“2. IIlegalization has not proved effective in Canada and other countries which have tried it.
“3. We cannot consistently”—and this is of the greatest importance—“we can¬not consistently criticize
the Communist governments of Europe for suppress¬ing opposition political parties if we resort to the
same totalitarian methods here.
“4. If the present Communist Party severs the puppet strings by which it is manipulated from abroad, if
it gives up its undercover methods, there is no reason for denying it the privilege of openly advocating
its beliefs in the way in which other political parties advocate theirs.”
It is absolutely clear that the Mundt Bill does not outlaw the Communist Party. It was not intended to,
and that is the exact opposite of what the Mundt Bill was intended to accomplish, and does
accomplish. So let’s get back to the debate.
Mr. Stassen said here in Oregon on April 27, “I hold that the Communist Party organization should be
promptly outlawed in America and in all freedom-loving countries of the world” and he repeated this in
many states, all the way from New Jersey to Oregon. That is the issue. Not the Mundt Bill. The issue
is. “Shall we pass a law outlawing the Communist Party?” Now, I suppose if you say, “Let’s outlaw
the Communist Party and preserve our liberties,” and if you say it fast enough and don’t think, it seems
to make sense. But, my friends, it makes no sense. You cannot do both, and no nation in all the history
of the world ever succeeded in doing it.
The question before us is, “Shall the Communist Party be outlawed?” The only way I know that could
be done is to declare by law the people calling themselves Communists would be denied a place on the
ballot and that anyone who is a member of that party, after the passage of the law, should be tried and
convicted and sentenced to prison for a crime. I believe in keeping the Communist party everlastingly
out in the open so we can defeat it and all it stands for.
Now, this outlawing idea is not new. It is as old as government. For thou¬sands of years despots have
tortured, imprisoned, killed and exiled their opponents, and their governments have always fallen into
the dust. This out¬lawing idea is as old as Communism itself. It is the fact—and I might again refer, just
to get our history straight, to the report of the House Committee on Un-American Activities; I quote
from page 11—no, page 13, of the report dated—well, I can’t find the date. It is the report of the
hearings before the full committee on legislation, the Committee on Un-American Activities, 80th
Congress, HR 4422 and HR 4581. To quote from page 13: “The Communist Party was illegal and
outlawed in Russia when it took over control of the Soviet Union.” Close quote.
The fact is that the czars of Russia were the first people in the world to follow this idea of outlawing the
Communist Party. They whipped them and they drove them to Siberia, they shot them, they outlawed
them, and in the very year, 1917, Lenin and Trotsky were exiled, and what was the result? This
outlawing gave them such a colossal following, such enormous force, such great loyalty on the part of
the people that they were able to seize control of all Russia with its 180 million people, and the first
nation to outlaw Communism became the first Communist nation.
That is what I do not want to happen to the United States of America. For 25 years Mussolini
outlawed Communists, and they grew and nourished underground despite their punishment and their
exile and their shooting. As a result, four weeks ago the Communists and their allies polled more than
30 per cent of the vote in the recent Italian election.
In all of Nazi Europe the Communists were underground, and they emerged at the end of the war so
strong that they were popular heroes. The French Maquis and others almost seized power in the
governments of Europe at the end of this war because of the enormous strength that came to them from
being underground. And Czechoslovakia is another beautiful example, and I am grateful to Mr. Stassen
for bringing it up. For seven years in Czechoslovakia the Communists were underground by the Nazi
tyranny and in those seven years they developed such enormous strength that they were able, shortly
after the liberation of Czechoslovakia, which we could have done, but our troops were pulled back,
and the Russian troops were allowed to go into Prague, they were able before long to take back over
the whole nation because they had flourished in the dark, underground.
Here is an issue of the highest moral principle and practical application. The people of this country are
being asked to outlaw Communism. That means this: Shall we in America, in older to defeat a
totalitarian system which we detest, voluntarily adopt the methods of that system. I want the people of
the United States to know exactly where I stand on this proposal because it goes to the very heart of
the qualification of any candidate for office and to the inner nature of the kind of country we want to
live in. I am unalterably, whole-heartedly, unswervingly against any scheme to write laws outlawing
people because of their religious, political, social, or economic ideas. I am against it because it is a
violation of the Constitution of the United States and of the Bill of Rights, and clearly so. I am against it
because it is immoral and nothing but totalitarianism itself. I am against it because I know from a great
many years’ experience in the enforcement of the law that this proposal wouldn’t work, and instead it
would rapidly advance the cause of Communism in the United States and all over the world.
Now, let’s look at this. There is a war of ideas in the world and we are in it. It is also a war of nerves.
It is a conflict between two wholly different ways of life, the system of human freedom and the brutal
system of the police state. On one side of this great world struggle are ranged all of those who believe
in the most priceless right in the world, human freedom. We believe that every man and woman has a
right to worship as he pleases, this freedom of speech or assembly and of the press. We believe that
every man and woman has an absolute right to belong to the political party of his choice. We believe, in
short, that human beings are individuals and that they do and should differ among themselves. We
know that each of us has within himself a portion of error, and we believe each of us has within himself
a touch of God.
On the other side of this struggle, hating us and all we stand for are the advocates of the all-powerful
totalitarian state. They believe human beings are cogs in a machine, godless creatures, born to slave
through life with every thought and every act directed by an overpowering, all-powerful government.
Everywhere these two conflicting schemes of life, the free system and the police state, are struggling for
the soul of mankind. The free world looks to us for hope, for leadership, and, most of all for a
demonstration of our invincible faith that the free way of life will triumph so long as we keep it free.
Now, as in all the days of our past, let us hold the flag of freedom high. As I have watched this
proposal, this easy panacea of getting rid of ideas by passing laws, I have been increasingly shocked.
To outlaw the Communist party would be recognized every place on earth as a surrender by the great
United States to the methods of totalitarianism. Stripped to its naked essentials, this is nothing but the
method of Hitler and Stalin. It is thought control, borrowed from the Japanese war leadership. It is an
attempt to beat down ideas with a club. It is a surrender of everything we believe in.
There is an American way to do this job, a perfectly simple American way. We have now 27 laws on
the books, and I have the whole list of them in front of me, outlawing every conceivable art of
subversion against the United States. I spent eleven years of my life as a prosecutor in New York. That
was in the days when they said nobody could clean up the organized underworld. They said we had to
use the methods of dictators. We had to go out and string ‘em up. I have had judges and people in high
places tell me that. But a group of young men took it on, and week after week, month after month,
year after year, they worked, and they delivered the City of New York from the control of organized
crime, and they did it by constitutional means and under the Bill of Rights.
We can do that in this country. All we need is a government which believes in enforcing the law, a
government which believes whole-heartedly in human freedom, and an administration of our
government which will go ahead and do the job. I have no objection to the strengthening of the laws. In
fact, I have spent a good many years of my life endeavoring to strengthen the criminal laws of our
country. And they should be strengthened. But let us remember for all time to come in these United
States that we should prosecute men for the crimes they commit, but never for the ideas that they have.
Now, the times are too grave to try any experiments that have failed. This expedient has failed. This
expedient of outlawing has failed in Russia. It failed in all Europe. It failed in Italy. It failed in Canada.
And let me point out that in Canada they tried it once, and the Communist party grew so powerful and
so dangerous that they repealed the law in 1936, and in 1940 they tried it again and the Communist
party came right up with a dozen new false faces exactly as it would do if you passed this ludicrous law
to outlaw them now. They would come up under 40 new fronts. They would then say. “We are not
Communists anymore,” exactly as they did in Canada—“We are just good Canadians working to
support our government.” And what happens? What happened in Canada is exactly what would
happen here. They became so strong that during the war, in the face of a law which said it is illegal to
belong to the Communist party, they developed the greatest atomic bomb spy ring in history, and
Canada had to repeal the law.
Let us not make such a tragic blunder in the United States, that we build up these dangerous,
venomous subversive people with the power to overthrow our government. Let us never make the
blunders that have been made through¬out the history of the world. Let us go forward as free
Americans. Let us have the courage to be free.
Chairman—Thank you Governor Dewey. We pause now ten seconds for station identification . . . and
now, to offer the rebuttal for the affirmative is Governor Stassen.
Mr. Van Boskirk and your Excellency Governor Dewey: My fellow citizens: Apparently we have
narrowed this question down very much, and it hinges now primarily on the Mundt-Nixon bill.
The Mundt-Nixon Bill says “it shall be unlawful for any person to attempt in any manner to establish in
the United States a totalitarian dictatorship, the direction and control of which is to be vested in or
exercised by or under the domination or control of any foreign government, foreign organization or
foreign individual, or to perform or attempt to perform any act with the intent to facilitate such end.”
Now, I hold that that directly fits and applies to the Communist party organization in the United States
and in the world today.
The question, then, is: Does it so apply? Obviously, you cannot and should not draft your law in such
form that a mere name results in an outlawing. It is being directed by a foreign power for the purpose
of undermining the liberty of the American people and overthrowing our Government, which is the key
point. They are so doing. There should be no doubt of that.
Here is a quote from Louis Budenz, who left the Communist party. He said, “We must understand,
then, before we get to the meat of the matter, that we are dealing with a conspiracy to establish Soviet
dictatorship throughout the world.”
Many such instances. Generalissimo Stalin, himself, said in the speech to the American delegation in
1928, and they are now reverting to that policy, “The Communist party of America, as a section of the
Third Internationale must pay membership dues to the Comintern. All the decisions of the Congress of
the Third International are obligatorily carried out by all parties affiliated.”
In other words, the decisions in Moscow by the Kremlin must be carried out in America, so that
definitely and directly the Mundt-Nixon Bill will outlaw the Communist party as it is now functioning in
America and in the world.
In fact, perhaps we are coming down to a point where we can reach agreement. Although I heard the
Governor say that he did not think the Mundt-Nixon Bill would outlaw me Communist Party, I did not
hear him say whether he would support that bill. Now, if he will say that he approves of and I will
support the Mundt-Nixon Bill. I will be satisfied that we have reached an agreement, that we have
thereby outlawed the Communist party as it actually operates, and therefore, we can go on, on these
other very important issues in this campaign.
I reiterate, if the Governor feels that he can support the Mundt-Nixon Bill. I will agree that that is
sufficient to outlaw the party as it is now constituted, and we can go on to other important issues in the
development of Oregon and in America.
Now, then, on this matter of the Communist party in Russia, the actual report, “The History of the
Communist Party,” which is an established work on what happened in Russia, states very positively
that the Communists were not outlawed. The Bolshevik party, so to speak, were not outlawed in
Russia and elected six members to the last Duma in the last elections which were held. So, I have, of
course, realized that we cannot, in these few minutes left in this debate, check references, but I submit
to the Governor that he should look up his references in the history of what happened to Russia.
Now, then, the Governor says we have effective laws now—seventeen of them—that all we need to
do is use them. May I ask, then, why is it that the Communist organization has been growing so strong
in New York?
New York is the national headquarters of Communist party of America. New York, with 9 per cent of
Americans population, has 40 per cent of the Communists in America. New York is the capital
Communist center in America, and from that center, from the national headquarters in New York, they
have been reaching out and infiltrating in the labor organizations of America. They have been
prejudicing the sovereignty of this country and the harmonious relationships in labor. Clearly, does the
Governor not agree that they have been operating underground now?
It is not a matter of driving them underground by the passage of a law. They are underground and
overground, and they themselves pick out which one best serves their purposes in each instance.
Now, I submit, so far as I have observed, there has only been one conviction of a Communist in New
York in the last eight years, and that was the publisher or editor of the “Daily Worker,” and he was
convicted for a libel against another editor, that really had no connection with Communist activity.
If there are these laws now that are adequate, why have they not been used in New York? Why have
they not been used in the Federal government? And has the Governor of New York called upon the
Federal government to use Federal laws in cooperation with the State?
We found in a limited way in Minnesota, where we did have some Communist infiltration in 1938,
which was causing strikes and violence and killing on the streets of Minneapolis, we found that we
could make progress if we coordinated with the Federal Government and the State government and
the local government, moving together with the assistance of loyal, patriotic American work¬men to
gradually weed them out, but we found we were greatly handicapped in completing the job because
there was no law that directly related to the manner in which the Communists took their orders from a
Let’s be specific. If an underground order came from the Kremlin to the Communists in America, and
they held a secret meeting at which it was agreed that they were going to seek strikes in certain
essential industries and stir them up, we will say, industries that were going to develop some great
dynamos for hydro-electric power, some great generators, or in any other way interfere with the
potential of this country, even though every fact of that secret move was discovered, there is no law
under which we could act.
Or, suppose this underground word came and said that the Communists should move in around the
Panama Canal and in Alaska and just establish themselves in various jobs, and secret meetings were
held where that was arranged. There is no law at this time in the books of this country that would
permit us to move directly against that conspiracy. Under the present laws you would have to wait until
a move of force was made, or until they uncovered their hand in a very flagrant way.
What we need is a law that goes directly to the problem of the way in which the Communist
organizations have been operating since the end of the war. They are the threat of war. We shouldn't
stumble along with laws that are out of date. We should bring our thinking up-to date. It is not a matter
of outlawing any ideas. It is not a matter of any thought control.
What constitutional provision would prevent the kind of a law like the Mundt-Nixon Bill Which article
of the Constitution would it violate? I know of none that says that an organization may carry on in the
manner in which the Communist organization is carrying on now.
Therefore, it is open for legislative action, and I submit to the Governor that he earnestly reconsider his
position, and specifically, if he will say that he will now agree to support the Mundt-Nixon bill
unequivocally. Then I will agree we have readied a point of union on this important issue, and we will
go forward with a constructive campaign in Oregon on those other very important questions that are
before the people of this great state and before our America in the wake of war.
Moderator: Thank you, Governor Stassen. And now in sur-rebuttal is Governor Dewey.
GOVERNOR DEWEY'S SUR-REBUTTAL
GOVERNOR DEWEY: Mr. Van Boskirk, Mr. Stassen, gentleman , ladies and gentle¬men:
I gather from Mr. Stassen's statement that he has completely surrendered.
The Mundt Bill obviously does not outlaw the Communist Party. Mr. Stassen, in these words, has from
Oregon to New Jersey and back again, gone before audiences of the American people demanding in:
these words “that the Communist Party be outlawed in the United States and in the other free nations
of the world.” The Mundt Bill does not outlaw the Communist Party. The only authorities Mr. Stassen
cites for the for that—for his claim that—it does, are the present head of the Communist Party and a
former Communist, whereas I point out very clearly that the author of the bill. Mr. Mundt, and the
Committee which sponsored it, both say in the official record of the Congress of the United States that
the bill does not outlaw the Communist Party.
Now, if Mr. Stassen says that that is all he wants, then he has completely surrendered because he
admits that he didn’t mean it when he has been demanding from one end of this country to the other
that the Communist Party be outlawed, and he is willing to settle now, when confronted with the facts,
for a law which the author and the committees says does not outlaw the party, which of course, it
Now, as a matter of fact, there are—I made a mistake a while ago—there are not 17 laws, there are
27 laws in the United States on this subject. There is the 1938 Act requiring all agents of foreign
governments to register under penalty of five years imprisonment and $10,000 fine. The Voorhees Act
of 1940 requiring the registration of all subversive political organizations. The Smith Act which makes it
unlawful to teach or advise the desirability of over¬throwing the government of the United States by
force or to publish any literature teaching, advising or suggesting to conspire to do so all under a
penalty of ten years imprisonment and $10,000 fine. All or the things of which Mr. Stassen has spoken
are covered by the Smith Act, by the Treason Bill, the Misprison of Treason, inciting rebellion,
insurrection—I am reading a few of the titles criminal correspondence with a foreign government,
seditious conspiracy, subversive activities, sabotage, sabotage, broad conspiracy, enticing desertions,
sabotage, non-mailable matter, inciting mutiny, espionage, mutiny, sedition, conspiracy to commit
espionage or sedition. That is about—the list is endless.
The Mundt Bill is perfectly harmless—probably. I have some doubts about its constitutionality. It
supplements these bills in a very small way. It doesn't outlaw the Communist Party. It may have the
virtue of helping to keep them out in the open, because its main provisions are that the Communists
must register, all their members and keep them everlastingly out in the open. That is a very good
provision of law. The other parts of it, if they are constitutional, they’re swell.
Now, let’s get down to the rest of the subject. Mr. Stassen has surrendered. He is no longer in favor of
outlawing the Communist Party. He is now willing to be content with a bill which simply says what is
practically already in the law, which all sponsors in the Congress say does not outlaw the party. But
this is so dangerous, this idea. It is so fundamental to American liberties that I should like to enlarge
upon it just a little.
Mr. Stassen has spoken of New York. He has spoken of our history. Let me give you just a bit of
history. One hundred and fifty years ago the French—the French were the Bolsheviks of the world.
They had a violent revolution, and they beheaded their nobility just as the Communists did in Russia.
First, they had purges of the old government and then they had purges among them¬selves, and then
they started rattling their swords for world conquest. It is all just like the movie we have been through,
and this is where we came in.
We see the same thing now, 150 years later. Many people in the infant American republic were
trembling in their boots just as some Americans now tremble in theirs. They were afraid for the cause
of free government. The Federalist Party was in power and it proceeded but let me quote from
Chaffee, one of the great American historians, he writes, “In 1798, the impending war with the French,
the spread of revolutionary doctrines by foreigners in our midst and the spectacle of the disastrous
operation of these doctrines abroad”—I am still quoting—“facts, all of which,” says Mr. Chaffee,
“have a familiar sound today,—led to the enactment of the alien and sedition laws. Those laws
punished false and malicious writings against the Government, the Congress, and the President, if they
were intended to excite the hatred of people or to stir up sedition or excite resistance to law, or to aid
any hostile design of any foreign nation against the United States. The acts created such a furor and
opposition that the whole country was in turmoil.
“The only Federalist leader who dared speak out for the Bill of Rights was John Marshall, who later
became the great chief Justice, but the Federalists went bullheadedly ahead. The Act was used to
punish even Republican editors who had criticized President Adams, and ten of them—all
Republicans—were fined and sent to prison. Soon, every person who was prosecuted, however
violent the language he had used, was treated as a martyr and a hero.
“Adapting what the historians, Charles and Mary Beard, describe in their ‘Basic History of the United
States’ as ‘underground political tactics,’ Thomas Jefferson wrote an indictment of the laws and
persuaded the state of Kentucky to declare them null and void. At the next election Thomas Jefferson
was elected President of the United States and the Federalist Party was utterly wrecked. Jefferson
pardoned all the victims of his laws, Congress later re-funded all the fines, and Thomas Jefferson’s
party held uninterrupted office in the United States for twenty years.”
That was the result of an early American attempt to shoot an idea with a law. You can’t do it.
And now that Mr. Stassen has surrendered on his outlawing idea, let’s nail this thing down so hard no
American will ever again seek to give the slightest impression to our people that it can be done. It can’
t. It is self-destructive. Even in the midst of the Civil War General Burnside tried to suppress the
newspapers that were hostile to our government. General Burnside put them out of business, and
Lincoln gave him orders to quit, saying, in strong language, “It is better that the people hear what they
have to say than fear what they might say if they were suppressed.”
Now, we have a lot of Communists in New York—we have a great many of them—and they cause us
great troubles. But we lick them. The number in the country is down from 100,000 two years ago to
70,000 last year to 68,000 this year. In New York their influence is at the lowest ebb in its history.
They ganged up with the Democrats, the American Labor Party, the mislabeled “Liberal Party,” and
the PAC, to beat us two years ago, the Communists labeled me as their Public Enemy Number I, and
we licked them by the biggest majority in history. Why? Because we kept them out in the open;
because we everlastingly believe in the Bill of Rights; because we know that if, in this country, we will
always keep every idea that is bad out in the open, we will lick it. It will never get any place in the
Chairman: Thank you, Governor Dewey. We Oregon Republicans are proud that our party is
represented by two such capable and outstanding gentlemen, and we will all give our wholehearted
support to the winner. We sincerely hope all those who are listening will feel the same.