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"For the actions of men proceed from their opinions; and in the well-governing of opinions, consisteth the well-governing of men's actions, in order to their peace, and concord."
Thomas Hobbes
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Communist Party of
the United States


Subversive Activities
Control Board No 12
Subversive Activities

Justice Douglas Dissent
June 5, 1961
Seal Of The Supreme Court

The Subversive Activities Control Board found, and the Court of Appeals sustained the finding, that petitioner, the Communist Party of the United States, is "a disciplined organization" operating in this Nation "under Soviet Union control" to install "a Soviet style dictatorship in the United States." Those findings are based, I think, on facts, and I would not disturb them.

... May then the Communist Party, under control of a foreign power, be required to register? The vices of registration may be not unlike those of licensing. Despite Times Film Corp. v. Chicago, I think licensing is an impermissible form of regulation when it vests discretion in the authorities to grant or withhold the exercise of First Amendment rights or to permit them to be exercised only on condition. Lovell v. Griffin. Licensing, like a tax payable on the exercise of a First Amendment right (Murdock v. Pennsylvania), is therefore unconstitutional.

... The privilege is often criticized as a shield for wrongdoing. But not every hostile silence which greets official interrogation has its beginning in wrongdoing. In a Nation such as ours, the Government must often meet with hostility; we are not constrained to admire its activities; we are free to detest them. That freedom could not long remain if the Government were free to require us to recount all our doings. The Government may still threaten silence with prison, but its power to do so stops short when information sought is incriminating. Even so ardent an advocate of the totalitarian state as Thomas Hobbes respected this core of privacy:

A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void. For (as I have shown before) no man can transfer or lay down his right to save himself from death, wounds, and imprisonment, the avoiding whereof is the only end of laying down any right . . . A covenant to accuse oneself, without assurance of pardon, is likewise invalid. For, in the condition of nature, where every man is judge, there is no place for accusation: and in the civil state the accusation is followed with punishment, which, being force, a man is not obliged not to resist. (THE LEVIATHAN)