Is America a Police State?

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Scott Martelle, The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial, Rutgers University Press, 2011, $26.95.

The trial of Communist Party USA bosses in 1949 was actually a trial of American democracy, an attack on civil liberties and free speech that, as the jacket copy says, “takes on added resonance in today’s environment of suspicion and the decline of civil rights under the U.S.A. Patriot Act.” That’s the basic story of The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial, which also holds deeper significance.

Coming out of the gate, it seems to be squarely in the genre of American history as a chronicle of oppression. The Fear Within could also pass for the latest edition of Commie Dearest, dedicated to all those whose lives are guided by “the desire to make a better world.” The cover shows more Stalinists per square inch than any book in recent memory.

“I am not a communist myself,” says author Scott Martelle, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, “though, in truth had I lived in the 1930s I likely would have been at some of the same meetings of political progressives that caused so much trouble for the attendees in the 1950s.” Even so, he notes that “The fear was not abstract – Hitler’s Abwehr and Stalin’s NKVD were actively trying to plant spies in the United States, and pro-Nazi and pro-Soviet agitation by American supporters was common.”

A book in this genre from 60s to the 80s would have avoided all that, along with the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the Comintern, the Profintern and other uncomfortable subjects Martelle feels compelled to mention. He is also fair to Elizabeth Bentley and Igor Gouzenko, defectors from Stalin’s spy service and both the target of countless attacks from the American left.

As for CPUSA bosses, “Their alliance with the Soviet Union was clear, but they were not engaged in covert acts against the United States.” The proceedings against Benjamin Davis, William Z. Foster (author of Toward Soviet America), Eugene Dennis et al., were based on the Smith Act, whose founder, Rep. Howard W. Smith was “xenophobic and virulently anti-communist.”  Likewise, back in the day, the Los Angeles Times was “virulently anti-communist.”

In this book, nobody is “virulently anti-American” or “virulently anti-capitalist.” And no person of any country other than the USA can possibly be xenophobic or indulge in hysteria. The defendants included black Communists Benjamin Davis and Henry Winston. Martelle provides some helpful background on racial issues. William Nowell, also a black Communist, was opposed to “the party’s call for a segregated black homeland in the Black Belt of the South.”

Like any legal proceedings, the tactics of the prosecution were open to criticism, but the trial was held in the open, under the rule of law, and duly covered by the press. The defendants, who as Communists did not believe in the United States Constitution, enjoyed full representation by competent counsel. Martelle fails to convince that this trial was a failure of American democracy.

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  • sedoanman

    If this were a police state, where are the concentration camps for political prisoners? Surely the media would have uncovered at least ONE by now.

    • Linde

      There are centers for political prisoners only the PC name is "FUSION CENTER".
      From what I understand there are many. I googled the term "Fusion Center" and there are many articles not just FEMA articles.
      Described as being built close to railroad access for easy on/off, also barbed wire facing inward to prevent escapes. Some are large as in Guantanimo, meant to house entire families!
      About 6 yrs ago I looked up Haliburton on Wikipedia. Toward the end of the of the article was some info about detention facilities and Haliburton was awarded the contract
      to build them. A reason given for 'needing' them was for cases of pandemics, mass surges of immigrants and for cases of mass civil disruptions here in the USA.
      These facilities coincide with the recent military bill concerning terrorist's being held indefinitely and for any reason, IMHO average American citizens whose opinions differ from the governments. Please check for yourself.

  • tagalog

    Police states generally have labor camps and mental hospitals for the non-conformists.

    Here, we elect them to Congress, promote them, pay them high salaries, and award them money damages when people say rude things about them.

    McCarthy was wrong; instead of our government having over 200 spies for Soviet Communism within our government, we had AT LEAST 310, and that's just the ones revealed by the few Venona transcripts we managed to decipher. And what happened to the Commie spies who were revealed? The ones who named names, like Elia Kazan (and Edward Dmytryk), have the audience at the Oscar awards a half century later refuse to applaud their real achievements and treat them as traitors to Americanism; one Commie spy commits suicide and that becomes an atrocity of American democracy; Alger Hiss is defended to his dying day, and beyond; Ted Hall dies of old age without having spent a day behind bars; and so and so on, ad infinitum.

    Police state; somebody needs to introduce the writer to a police state. Send him on an enforced vacation to any communist nation. How about that great vacation in North Korea?

    • Fred Dawes

      And that is the person who will make the police state

  • Steve Chavez

    We need to take a serious look at the Communist Party USA of the 80's and their use of front organizations, like the U.S. Peace Council, an affiliate of the Soviet KGB's World Peace Council, since it was this period of extreme infiltration at our universities to recruit students who were then sent to aid in the Communist takeover of Central America!

    Those students of the 80's are the leaders of the United States and have infiltrated every government department including all the way to the top: The Oval Office! Google "Barack Obama Sundial 1983" which is an article Obama wrote while at Columbia on the worst of Communist fronts that were sympathetic to the Soviets who were funding them through Gus Hall and the CPUSA! Robert Spencer's new book also reveals an Obama who professor who said that Obama would gather with "other Marxist-Leninists." Obama did admit that he sought out Marxist professors and the Sundial article proves he sought out Marxist students whose despised the United States and who love the Soviet Union more than their own country!!!

    I visit the CPUSA.ORG and PWW.ORG site almost every day and Communism is not over! If you read their articles, you wouldn't be able to tell if it was the mornings Democrat talking points. Many Democrats are guest speakers at their meetings and conventions and they seek the CPUSA advice on issues like the Iraq War as Waters, the head of the "Out of Iraq Caucus" has met with CPUSA peace fronts like United for Peace and Justice led by Leslie Cagan, a focus of an article last week concerning the Hamas flotilla!

    When I started writing here, in comments only, years ago, my main mission was this question: "Why is the Communist Party USA left out of public discussion and analysis?"

    If you want to learn who the "enemy within" is and how they influence others with their hidden agenda! Our soldiers battle the enemy abroad! I fight them on here, the REAL FRONT-LINES and it begins at the top: BARACK OBAMA! EXPOSE THEM ALL!

  • Ghostwriter

    There are many people who live in this country who have lived under Communism and revile it. They would probably feel that they got off lightly after seeing what the Communists did to their loved ones after reading this book.

  • mrbean

    I read this article and now I am depressed, and I think;

    Over five thousand years ago, Moses said to the children of Israel , "Pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels, and I will lead you to the Promised Land."

    Nearly 75 years ago, (when Welfare was introduced) Roosevelt said, "Lay down your shovels, sit on your asses, and light up a Camel, this is the Promised Land."

    Today, the government has stolen your shovel, taxed your asses, raised the price of Camels and mortgaged the Promised Land!

    I was so depressed last night thinking about Obamacare, the economy, the Astros, the Afghan and Iraq wars, lost jobs and 10% unemployment, baby-boomers with no savings, Social Security stoppage, confiscating my retirement funds, etc . . .

    That I called a Suicide Hotline. I even had to press 1 for English.

    Then….. I was connected to a call center in Pakistan. I told them I was suicidal. They got really excited on the other end and asked if I could drive a truck and promised me 72 virgins if I would take the job.

  • Amused

    Oh get a bloody grip , what a bunch of FOOLS . This is not nor will it ever be a "police state " . Dawes -take another aspirin . Billingsly go seek professional help for your paranoia .Anyone who buys this load of steaming crap , has got waqy too much time on their hands . And you call yourselves AMERICANS ? No , just a bunch of paranoid wussies.