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A week ago today I cast the one with-holding vote on the Ordinance before us. I cast that vote because I had some grave misgivings about some portions of the Bill, as did several other members of this body; and I wanted time to study it and think it through some more, time to go over it with a number of individuals among my constituents whose judgment I respect.
During the past week I have discussed this matter with innumerable people — leaders of the Church, labor leaders, public officials, attorneys, members of various civic and fraternal organizations, and just plain citizens — trying to find the thinking pulse of the people. I have found many, yes an over-whelming majority who have urged me to vote in favor of this legislation out of concern for my own future as a public servant. But I have found few, if any, who are in accord with the ordinance as a whole from a moral point of view. Many have pointed out the folly of even considering a negative position in light of the over-whelming odds on the affirmative side. But no one has even tried to explain away the dangers to our Democratic form of government inherent in the bill.
True enough, gentlemen, Communism itself is one of the deadliest enemies of our form of government. I despise it with every fibre of my being; and all through the years I've never missed an opportunity to strike it down wherever it appeared. If I thought this Ordinance would be an effective one and accomplish its purported objective — and stop there — I would vote for it in a minute. But such, I feel is not the case.
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This Ordinance, in my opinion, will not only fail to curb the Communist danger, it will push the door open for the entry of other dangers which, in time, may very well prove equally menacing to our way of life. The Communist Party operates on a national basis and, if there is to be any action taken against Communists, either through registration or otherwise, that action must, perforce, be planned at the national level and carried out by the thoroughly trained and adequate staff of the F.B.I. There are at present more than twenty-five Federal laws and some State laws that will thoroughly take care of this group that is a menace to our country.
But then, I am even more concerned with the "thought-control" aspects of this Ordinance, with the effect its enforcement will have on groups and individuals diametrically opposed to the false philosophy of Communism. I am thinking of a large number of little civic organizations in my district and elsewhere who are interested in their own neighborhood problems, with civic betterment, with participation in municipal affairs, and with the protection of civil rights — in a word, with the preservation and advancement of our Democracy. Yet Communists, too, feign interest in all these things.
I am thinking, finally of G.I.'s of minority groups in my district and in other parts of the city who today protest the fact that they are permitted to have all the space between the 38 parallel and Puzan in which to die, and yet at home can find no place in which to live because of the discrimination against them on the part of private builders. Communists protest this, also, gentlemen, for reasons known to all of us, of course.
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What I am getting at, gentlemen, is that the doctrine implicit in this ordinance, carried to its logical conclusion, places every citizen and organization, whose word or act resembles at any time those of the Communists, at the mercy of any biased crack-pot who may decide to report the matter to the Police Department as subversive. And, parenthetically, it is very possible we may not always be so fortunate as to have a man of the calibre of the present Chief in that position.
What, then, can we expect will happen to the civic-minded residents of our community, our constructive civic and labor organizations — our Democracy, in the grip of the fear engendered by such a possibility? At the best there would be extreme caution and gradual stultification both of the individual and the group; at worst, complete silence and submission to whatever form of tyranny ensued. These are not the virtues we Americans have learned to cherish.
There are those who would have us believe that to preserve Democracy and fight Communism we must sacrifice our Democrary, at least temporarily. I am not one of these. I believe that now, more than ever before, we must push for more rather than less Democracy. As Bishop Bernard Sheil so wisely said, "To drive out Communism we must strike at the conditions which foster its growth." This Ordinance does not do that, gentlemen. Rather, in my opinion, this Ordinance will inevitably tend to strike down the Anti-Communist organizations which today are doing the slow, tedious, day-to-day job of improving those very conditions so that eventually there will be no breeding ground for Communism left.
Those, in brief, are my reasons for opposing this ordinance. I realize, of course, that what I do here today will count for very little, since the great preponderance of opinion in this body differs
― 4 ―from my position; and so the Ordinance before us will be passed. Nor am I at all unmindful that, in taking this stand I may in a sense, be signing my own death warrant. But I have had ample time for long reflection on this matter and I do not propose to shrink from the responsibility of my decision.
In past years there hung where now those curtains hang a portrait of our late President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I have been informed it was removed at the instigation of a prominent supporter of Gerald L.K. Smith. However that may be, I like to think of it as still hanging there as a constant reminder to all of us that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Because today there is a great tide of terror creeping across our nation leaving in its wake a near-chaos of hysteria and paralysis of moral principle. This tide must be stopped before it is too late. Thus, while I fully realize how insignificant and alone I am in taking this step, I cannot but believe it must be taken while time and civil liberties remain.
I voted for every anti-Communist resolution presented in the Council. I voted in favor of Mr. Davenport's resolution urging the Attorney General to enforce without delay the California anti-Subversive Law. I also voted and was the second to Mr. Bennett's resolution urging our California representatives in Washington to vote for an appropriation which would greatly enlarge the staff of the F.B.I., whose trained men make it their job to protect us from Communism. This I did because I felt it was the only direct way of fighting this enemy.
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And so, gentlemen, my vote on the adoption of the Ordinance will be "No," since I feel so strongly that this ordinance will help Communism as history tells us that it did in Europe after similar registration laws. Perhaps after this I am dead politically. But no matter what the consequences to me personally, they cannot possibly equal the condemnation of my conscience were I to act otherwise.
S/S Edward R. Roybal
EDWARD R. ROYBALSeptember 13, 1950
Councilman, 9th District