Politics: Thunder Against the Right

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Since last spring, when the John Birch Society was flushed from the secrecy of its chapter meetings into public view, a new and militant minority of the far right has increasingly become a force to reckon with in U.S. political life. But last week came the reaction—and across the land, there was thunder against the ultra right.

At the annual meeting of the National Catholic Welfare Conference in Washington, the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy accepted a study report from the conference's Department of Social Action, which attacked chauvinistic extremists who "divert attention from critical Communist gains in Asia, Africa and Latin America." The report was presented by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee and written by Father John F. Cronin, the N.C.W.C.'s famed expert on Communist infiltration of labor unions. Without mentioning the Birchers by name, it made clear that the warning was aimed at groups "which emphasize the danger of domestic subversion, and give little attention to the worldwide activities of Communist parties" and also "use tactics and methods borrowed from the Communist Party." The report's conclusion: "These groups are unwittingly aiding the Communist cause by dividing and confusing Americans."

Division & Hysteria. A similar conclusion was reached by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents more than 1,000,000 Reform Jews. At the close of its 46th General Assembly in Washington, the Union accused the right-wing extremists of weakening the nation by "stirring division and hysteria." "We are fearful," the Union resolved, in a statement that was also directed against left-wing radicals, "that rational discussion is being corrupted by the hatred and fear fomented by ultra-right-wing groups which exploit cold-war anxieties and the frictions engendered by integration and other social problems."

Still another attack came from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. In Dallas, where the ultras have a politically powerful group of adherents, Kennedy lashed the Birchers and their allies as a "tremendous danger" to the U.S. First making it clear that he had no sympathy for defeatists "who would rather be Red than dead," Kennedy went on to say: "Nor do I have any sympathy with those, who in the name of fighting Communism, sow the seeds of suspicion and distrust by making false or irresponsible charges, not only against their neighbors but against courageous teachers and public officials and against the foundations of our Government—Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the presidency itself."*

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