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Communism In The United States

Anti-Communist hysteria in the United States did not begin with Senator McCarthy's campaign in 1950. In Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 47 S. Ct. 641, 71 L. Ed. 1095 (1927), Charlotte Whitney was found guilty of violating the Criminal Syndicalism Act of California for organizing the Communist Labor Party of California. Criminal syndicalism was defined to include any action even remotely related to the teaching of violence or force as a means to effect political change.

Whitney argued against her conviction on several grounds: California's Criminal Syndicalism Act violated her DUE PROCESS rights because it was unclear; the act violated the EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT because it did not penalize those who advocated force to maintain the current system of government; and the act violated Whitney's FIRST AMENDMENT rights to free speech, assembly, and association.

The Court rejected every argument presented by Whitney. Justices LOUIS D. BRANDEIS and OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES JR., concurred in the result. They disagreed with the majority that a conviction for mere association with a political party that advocated future revolt was not violative of the First Amendment. However, Whitney had failed to challenge the determination that there was a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER of serious evil, and, according to Brandeis and Holmes, this omission was fatal to her defense. Forty-two years later, the decision in Whitney's case was expressly overruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 89 S. Ct. 1827, 23 L. Ed. 2d 430 (1969).

The political and social protests of the 1960s led to an increased tolerance of unconventional political parties in the United States. However, this tolerance did not reach every state in the Union. In August 1972, the Indiana State Election Board denied the Communist party of Indiana a place on the 1972 general-election ballot. On the advice of the attorney general of Indiana, the board denied the party this right because its members had refused to submit to a LOYALTY OATH required by section 29-3812 of the Indiana Code. The oath consisted of a promise that the party's candidates did not "advocate the overthrow of local, state or National Government by force or violence" (Communist Party v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441, 94 S. Ct. 656, 38 L. Ed. 2d 635 [1974]).

The Supreme Court, following its earlier Brandenburg decision, held that the loyalty oath violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In Brandenburg, the Court had held that a statute that fails to differentiate between teaching force in the abstract and preparing a group for imminent violent action runs contrary to the constitutional rights of free speech and FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION. Although the Communist party missed the deadline for entering its candidates in the 1972 general election, it succeeded in clearing the way for its participation in future elections.

In the twentieth century communism gained a hold among the world's enduring political ideologies and its popularity continues to ebb and flow with the shifting distribution of wealth and power within and between nations.

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