The Journal of Politics

Research Article

The Impact of the Cold War upon Civil Liberties*

Robert J. Harrisa1

a1 Vanderbilt University

At a time when the fears of some have reached a stage where school board member in a reputedly enlightened community finds Robin Hood communistic; when a respected organization in its efforts to become the sole custodian of patriotism finds the Girl Scouts subversive; and when the public scene is characterized by the spectacles of perjury trials, the probing of men's minds by legislative inquisitions, and charges and findings of disloyalty with such accompaniments as guilt by association, perpetual jeopardy of those so unfortunate as to be accused, and expurgation by oath, it is an understatement to say that basic liberties are endangered. In such a state of affairs regardless of whether fears for the national security are rational or irrational or whether suspicions are justified or not, it is inevitable that legislatures, executives, and courts will reflect popular distempers and respond to them either because they share the public fears or desire to exploit them for political preferment. Legislative response has taken the form of the accusatorial inquisition and statutes designed to outlaw the Communist Party, control subversion, and to revive a form of the test oath for public employees. Executive response has assumed the form of loyalty and security programs, vigorous enforcement of anti-subversive legislation, and the use or misuse on occasion of the files of the secret police and the Civil Service Commission for partisan political purposes.

Professor Robert J. Harris of Vanderbilt University


* Based upon a paper delivered to the Southern Political Science Association in November, 1954.