Our Freedom-and the Rights of Communists:
A Reply to Irving Kristol
Once, so a Spanish legend tells us, there grew in the forest a vine so strong that no animal could break it. Contests were held among the beasts, at which a piece of the vine would be cut and tied to a massive boulder so that champions from far and wide could pit their strength against it. Time after time the cords remained unbroken. One day, after the elephant had tugged in vain and the animals stood marveling at the vine’s strength, a fox slipped over to it and, unnoticed, gnawed away at the strands. Ignoring the jeers of the spectators, he then walked over to the end of the rope, gave one firm pull, and the vine broke at the gnawed section. Thus, we are told, a fox succeeded where the mammoth beasts of the forest had failed.
In recent months, the problem of redefining our constitutional freedoms in a cold-war setting has received public attention, much of it stimulated by an article by Irving Kristol in the March issue of COMMENTARY. So brilliantly does this article read that it has won acclaim from John Haynes Holmes, Ernest Angell, Norman Thomas, Ludwig Lewisohn, Paul Hays, and many other diverse liberals, while labor unions, private organizations, and the Mutual Security Agency have reprinted its contents. Yet, as one rereads it, there emerges a feeling of having witnessed a dangerous gnawing away of strands, in the form of exceptions, from the vine of civil freedoms, a process which—without the elephantine strainings of Mc-Carthyism—may still jeopardize the rope itself.
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