abstract terms, you may take this question seriously. You may personify 'communism' as a real thing, advancing physically over the several continents, as a kind of beast or angel, depending on your politics. You give a careful, weighted answer or else an excited, passionate answer, to my question. But you have identified the word with the thing, and furthermore you would be very hard put to it to find lower-order referents for the term. I have been searching for them for years. The question as it stands it without meaning. I might about as well ask you: Does omniscience threaten the world? or Does Buzzism threaten the world? If we can agree -- if sane men generally can agree -- on a series of things in the real world that may properly be summarized by the label 'communism,' then the question has meaning, and we can proceed intelligently to its discussion. Otherwise not. Can you and I and Jones and Finkelstein come to an agreement about what is meant by 'communism'? Try it sometime with Jones and Finkelstein. * * * Yet until agreement is reached, the question can liberate plenty of emotion but little real meaning. Jones will follow his meaning and Finkelstein his, and be damned to you."
While the cases above cited deal with statutory construction and the inquiry here is directed to the use of a word in an indictment, the study in each instance is directed to the same objective; the ascertainment of reasonable certainty of meaning.
Resort to dictionary definitions is unsatisfactory, in that none of them cure the vagueness we are endeavoring to avoid. Thus, we find in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, the following: "Communism," * * * "1. A system of social organization in which goods are held in common; -- the opposite of the system of private property. 2. -- Communalism, 1. 3. Any theory or system of social organization involving common ownership of the agents of production, and some approach to equal distribution of the products of industry. The popular use of the word Communism conforms to the third of these definitions. The scientific usage sometimes conforms to the first alone, and sometimes alternates between the first and second. Most modern writers use the term indiscriminately in these two meanings." "Communist," * * * "One who believes in communism in any of the first three senses named, or attempts to put its principles into practice." The foregoing can lead to nothing but confusion in so far as the instant case is concerned. Quoting from the New Standard Unabridged Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1941, we find: "Communism," * * * "1. A social system in which there is community of goods. 2. A theory of government and social order according to which property and the instruments of production are held as a common trust and the profits arising from all labor devoted to the general good: in rare cases involving the abolition of the family, as formerly exemplified in the practice of the Wallingford and Oneida communities in the United States. Says Palgrave * * * 'Communism is the theory which teaches that the labor and the income of society should be distributed equally among all its members by some constituted authority.' W.D.P. Bliss in Encyc. of Social Reform p. 262 (F. & W. '08.) 3. A doctrine or practise calling for the complete abolition of all private property of every description, and the absolute control by the community in all matters pertaining to labor, religion, social relations, etc.: a phase of extreme socialism shading into anarchy, exemplified in France after the overthrow of Napoleon III in 1870." "Communist," * * * "1. One who advocates or practises communism. 2. One who supported the Commune of Paris in 1871; a communard. 3. One who advocates communalism or government by communes. 'The one thing that is shared by all communists, whether speculative or practical, is deep dissatisfaction with the economic conditions by which they are surrounded." Encyc. Brit. 11th Ed., vol. vi p. 791. Here again we have no fixed limitations of inclusion or exclusion. See also Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 7, page 417, wherein the subject is dealt with generally and in detail under divers sub-headings ending with a bibliography.
Looking to some of the cases in which the word Communist or Communism is involved, we find in People v. Immonen, 271 Mich. 384, 261 N.W. 59, as reported in 8 Words and Phrases, Perm.Ed., p. 149, the following: "Communism. There is a marked distinction between 'anarchy' and 'communism,' notwithstanding there is authority for saying anarchy is a variety of communism." "Communist Party. The Communist party is an organization which entertains a belief in the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States, and membership in that party by an alien at the time of his entry is ground for his deportation." Ungar v. Seaman, 8 Cir., 4 F.2d 80, 81.
In United States v. Tapolcsanyi, 3 Cir., 40 F.2d 255, 257, the naturalization law was involved, and the issue turned on the question as to whether the defendant had sworn falsely on naturalization, having avowed that he was attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, when it appeared that before he attained citizenship he had sworn, among other things, that he did not believe in the Government of the United States and was opposed to organized government, and after naturalization had written a letter in which he said he was, and for eight years prior had been a red communist, and praised the III Communist International. The lower court canceled the naturalization, D.C., 32 F.2d 385, and in affirming, Judge Woolley said at the Circuit: "While every tolerably informed person knows what a Communist is, we are not informed precisely what is a 'red' Communist, yet the adjective 'red' qualifying the word 'Communist' seemingly suggests a superlative. From this description of himself, it is fair to conclude that the respondent was an extreme Communist, one without qualifications or reservations." From the foregoing it would appear that among those who refer to themselves as Communists there are different shades of belief. It is to be regretted that the judge did not enlarge upon the understanding of tolerably informed persons, since without further clarification we are left without a definition.
The time honored rule of construction as announced by the courts from an early day, is that words are to be given their usual and generally accepted meaning. In endeavoring to ascertain whether there is now any unity of thought bearing on the word Communist, I have made inquiries of men of reasonable intelligence. I asked whether those who believe in and advocate government ownership of irrigation projects and government dams erected for the sale of water power by the government could reaonably be classified as Communists. In some instances the answer was No, in others, Yes, and in others, Yes, they are Communistic to the extent that they believe insuch ownership and operation, but not to the extent that they might be classified as all out Communists. It is my own view that the word has that vagueness and uncertainty in it which Chase expounds in his book, and that the minds of men do not meet in a general acceptation of its import. Therefore, the defendant in this indictment is found in a position of doubt as to what the charge against him is and can not be called on to defend himself. Moreover, the Court also finds itself in a position where it can not give a reasonably certain inclusive and exclusive definition of the word. The demurrer to the indictment is, therefore, sustained. Let an order be entered in conformity herewith.
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