Lamont, Corliss, Freedom is as freedom does

(New York :  Horizon Press,  1956.)



Jump to page:

Table of Contents

  Page 205  

THE DRIVE AGAINST CULTURAL FREEDOM                                                                      205

Mr. Levinson brought siut to compel delivery of the book. This
action challenged as unconstitutional under the First Amendment
the so-called Comstock Act of 1873, which gives the Postmaster
General the right of pre-censorship or prior censorship. That is,
without granting the defendant a court test and jury tiial, the
Postmaster General has the discretion of banning from the mails
any Hterature or art judged by him to be obscene. Although the
Post Office Department won tiie first round in the Lysistrata case,
it apparently became fearful that the higher courts would reverse
the decision and curb its censorship powers under the Comstock
Act. Accordingly, it dropped the contioversy early in 1955, agreed
to deHver the offending copy of Lysistrata, and weakly explained
that, after all, the volume was not for "general distribution."

On the political front the Post Office Department became par¬
ticularly active in 1951 when it proceeded on a wide scale to stop
delivery of publications sueh as the Soviet newspapers, Pravda
and Izvestia, coming through the mails from the Soviet Union.
The Department based its action on a ruling by the U.S. Attorney
General in 1940 that under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
of 1938 only persons in the diplomatic service or registered agents
of foreign powers could receive pubheations from abroad contain¬
ing "pohtical propaganda."

Although the Post Office authorities at their discretion made
certain exceptions for a few scholars and educational institutions,
its censorship move prevented hundreds of Americans from re¬
ceiving Soviet publications. Among those publicly protesting were
two anti-Communist stalwarts, George Sokolsky, who writes a
daily column for the Hearst papers, and David J. Dalhn, a proliflc
anti-Soviet author,

Mr. Sokolslcy commented: "If we are opposed to an Iron Cur¬
tain, it makes no sense to establish a Star-Spangled Curtain." ^^*
Mr. Dallin acknowledged tliat some of the readers of Soviet
publications are American Communists. "The great majority, how¬
ever," he said, "comprise non-Communist and anti-Communist
newspapers and magazines, researchers, scholars and writers, as
well as libraries, scientffie foundations, etc. What is the point of

  Page 205