NBC – Pro & Con – Debate on the Mundt-Nixon Bill – May 21, 1948 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
In the years immediately after World War 2 we entered the age of The Cold War. The all-pervasive fear that Communists, and communist agitators were firmly established in every segment of American society. Their one goal was to subvert and dismantle Democracy and turn America into a Soviet Satellite. So prevalent was this fear (completely unfounded, it turned out) that Washington drafted legislation that would have required all members of the Communist Party of the United States register with the Attorney General.
The Subversive Activities Control Act, or later to known as The Mundt-Nixon Bill was first introduced in 1948 as H.R. (House Resolution) 5852, at which time it was known as the Mundt–Nixon Bill. In his memoirs, Nixon described it as a bill to implement “a new approach to the complicated problem of internal communist subversion… It provided for registration of all Communist Party members and required a statement of the source of all printed and broadcast material issued by organizations that were found to be Communist fronts.”
Nixon served as floor manager for the Republican Party; Vito Marcantonio served as floor manager for the Democratic Party. On May 19, 1948, the bill passed the House by 319 to 58. Forty-six Harvard University professors publicly opposed its passage. (The Nixon Library cites this bill’s passage as Nixon’s first significant victory in Congress.)
On May 23, 1948, the New York Times summed up the Mundt–Nixon Bill’s future as follows. Supporters argued it would allow the Government to “control the communists” via registration and other methods to “drive the communists and their allies into the open.” Opponents argued the unconstitutionality of many provisions against freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as a means to “crack down” on labor and progressive political groups.
Word of the bill sparked intense debate and waves of protest, culminating in a mass march on Washington.
This episode of the radio series Pro and Con features Congressman Herman P. Eberharter (D-Pennsylvania), who opposed the bill. the legislation still had a ways to go before it became law and the overwhelming amount of protest to the provisions of the bill would eventually cause the bill to be dead in the water by June. But some form of the bill would be re-introduced.
A version of the bill, which was modified was introduced by Senator Pat McCarran (D-Nevada). It became known as the McCarran Internal Security Act, which passed both houses of Congress in 1950.
And the Red Scare marched on.
Here is that episode of Pro And Con from May 21, 1948.
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