August 24 – The Communist Control Act

On August 24, 1954, President Eisenhower signed the Communist Control Act.

The Communist Control Act of 1954 declared that, The Communist Party of the United States, though purportedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States. The Act also criminalized membership in, or support of the Party. The Act was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.

The Act was a result of growing fears of the spread of communism around the world, and within the United States during a time known as the “Red Scare.” John Stuart Mill once stated “complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action.” In other words, we need to disagree! We need to have discussions about opposing ideas in order to come to an informed conclusion. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech” was included in the First Amendment based on Mill’s principles. Protecting our right to speak out politically is a check on the government. We do not have to just speak in favor of the majority; minority and even far-fetched political ideas can and should be shared.

Some countries ban certain political movements. Germany, for instance, bans the National Socialist party, and there are limits on freedom of speech in the U.K. Today, in the United States, people are increasingly limited in expressing harmful or triggering speech.

Questions

  1. What are the arguments for limiting free speech? Do you find them persuasive?
  2. Should some political movements be restricted or banned? How would that change the basic framework of American democracy?
  3. How do you act in a situation or conversation with someone who disagrees with you? Do you react or respond?