OCTOBER 13, 1952
MISS MELBA PHILLIPS, NEW YORK, N. Y., ACCOMPANIED BY COUNSEL, CAMMER
& SHAPIRO, NEW YORK, N. Y.
Mr. MORRIS. Will you give your full name and
address to the reporter?
Miss PHILLIPS. Melba Phillips, 198 West Eleventh,
Mr. MORRIS. Is that M-e-l-b-a
Miss PHILLIPS. Many of my friends have called me
Elba because I look like the opera singer, but it is a nickname.
Mr. MORRIS. What is your proper name?
Miss PHILLIPS. Melba.
Mr. MORRIS. Where do you teach, Mrs. Phillips—is
it "Miss" or "Mrs."?
Miss PHILLIPS. Miss.
Mr. MORRIS. Where do you teach?
Miss PHILLIPS. Brooklyn College.
Mr. MORRIS. What do you teach there?
Miss PHILLIPS. Mechanics and physical science.
Mr. MORRIS. Have you ever been a member–
Senator SMITH. Did you say "mechanics"?
Miss PHILLIPS. And physical science.
Mr. MORRIS. Have you ever been a member of the
Miss PHILLIPS. My response to that question is
dictated by my view of professional and personal ethics, first to do my
professional job as well as it is humanly possible, and second, to
defend and maintain my individual and personal right which I thought
was my right so long as I was a law-abiding citizen. I know you conduct
these hearings by certain rules which make it necessary for me, in
order to stand on my principles, to invoke the Bill of Rights. My
ancestors fought for that Bill of Rights and I am very glad to make use
of the first, fifth, and sixth amendments.
Senator FERGUSON. Do you refuse, then, to answer
on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate you?
Miss PHILLIPS. I use the fifth amendment.
Senator FERGUSON. If you will just name it by
name. You see, as I understand the law, you claim the privilege on the
ground that it would be testifying against yourself.
Miss PHILLIPS. If I remember my history correctly,
Senator Ferguson, the origin of the fifth amendment is in
ecclesiastical and not civil law. I am not a historian. The word
happens to be "incriminate," but it certainly includes what I mean.
Senator SMITH. That would be a matter for the
courts to decide, eventually, in your case if you want it there.
Miss PHILLIPS. That is right.
Senator SMITH. We just want to get your reason for
declining to answer, and I think that Senator Ferguson propounds a
perfectly fair question.
Miss PHILLIPS. The first and fifth and sixth
Senator SMITH. If you say you are refusing to
testify under your rights in the fifth amendment, and those rights are
because you feel that your testimony would tend to incriminate you,
then certainly the Chair has no desire to do other than give you full
benefit of all of your constitutional rights.
Miss PHILLIPS. Thank you.
Senator SMITH. But if you are just trying to hide
behind a phrase of this or that amendment, that is something else.
Miss PIIILLIPS. No.
Senator FERGUSON. Then do you claim that it might
tend to incriminate you, and for that reason you do not answer ?
Miss PHILLIPS. I thought the chairman had made my
position quite clear on that.
Senator SMITH. I am asking your position. Do you
refuse to answer on the ground that your testimony would tend to
Miss PHILLIPS. I certainly do.
Senator SMITH. All right. That is it.
Mr. MORRIS. Are you presently the member of the
Miss PHILLIPS. The same answer applies.
Senator SMITH. For the same reason? May I ask you
one question: You said that you understood as long as you were a
law-abiding citizen. Do you regard the Communist Party as any threat to
America and its liberties and freedom?
Miss PHILLIPS. This is not a part of my
professional duty to answer that question, and therefore, I shall, if
you permit me, decline to answer.
Senator SMITH. Do you regard the Communist Party
as a law-abiding organization?
Miss PHILLIPS. Do I have privilege on this, too?
Senator FERGUSON. Do you claim it?
Miss PHILLIPS. I do claim it.
Senator FERGUSON. On the same grounds?
Miss PHILLIPS. Yes.
Senator SMITH. You claim, then, that the Communist
Party is a law-abiding organization?
Miss PHILLIPS. No; I am declining to answer the
Senator FERGUSON. On the grounds you stated
Miss PHILLIPS. Yes.
Senator SMITH. Now, do you claim that American
citizens who are members of the Communist Party are law-abiding
citizens within the meaning of the way you used the phrase a few
Miss PHIILLIPS. Mr. Chairman, I said that I do my
job the best that it can be humanly done.
Senator SMITH. I understood that.
Miss PHIILLIPS. I am defending and maintaining my
rights beyond that. I am therefore trying to be consistent on the basis
of this, and I invoke the fifth amendmen.
Senator SMITH. You use the term "law-abiding
citizen." I want to know whether or not you regard the members of the
Communist Party, as you understand it, law-abiding citizens in America.
Miss RIEDMAN. That question I am declining to
answer. May I tell you why I used the words "law abiding?" Because I
don't think I would have the right to go out and murder somebody, you
see. I used the words "law abiding."
Senator SMITH. You know the Communists have not
hesitated to murder people, do you not?
Miss RIEDMAN. I am afraid I don't know any such.
Mr. MORRIS. Have you been associated with the
National Conference of the Professions, Sciences, and Arts?
Miss RIEDMAN. I shall decline to answer that
question for the reasons given.
Mr. MORRIS. Have you been associated with the
Association of Scientific Workers?
Miss RIEDMAN. I decline to answer the question for
the reasons given.
Mr. MORRIS. Are you associated with the Greenwich
Council on Peaceful Alternatives?
Miss RIEDMAN. I decline to answer the question on
the grounds given.
Senator FERGUSON. Have you ever been a member of
the Teachers Union?
Miss RIEDMAN. Yes.
Senator FERGUSON. You answer that question freely.
Miss RIEDMAN. I am making use–
Senator FERGUSON. Did you ever know that the
Teachers Union was Communist-dominated?
Miss RIEDMAN. I don't know that that question
applies as much about the Teachers Union as it implies about me, and
therefore I shall refuse to answer the question on the grounds that it
would incriminate me.
Mr. MORRIS. Were you a member of the Joint
Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee?
Miss RIEDMAN. I shall be consistent about this. I
shall refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate
Senator SMITH. Are you being consistent because
you want to be consistent or just because you do not want to answer
that question of whether or not you were a member?
Senator FERGUSON. Consistency would not be a
Miss RIERMAN. I told you first, at the beginning,
that my attitude is based on my view of professional and personal
Senator SMITH. That was not the question we asked
you. We asked you why you used the words "for the reason of
consistency." You remember, I believe it was Emerson who said that a
foolish consistency is a hobgoblin in a little mind. I. do not want to
put you in that place now. Are you refusing to answer that just because
you don't want to admit that you were associated or just because you
want to be consistent?
Miss RIEDMAN. That is not my reason.
Senator SMITH. What is your reason for declining
Miss RIEDMAN. My own reason for declining to
answer is that it is not a part of my official duty whether I was or
not. However. according to your rules, you enable me to maintain my own
principles so long as I invoke the fifth amendment. Therefore, I do.
Senator SMITH. Do you understand that you have the
right to invoke the fifth amendment even though the answer to the
question would not tend to incriminate you? Is that your idea of the
Miss RIEDMAN. No, I think that one must admit that
incrimination nowadays involves trial by newspaper publicity and so
forth. too. That is, I am sincere in this.
Senator FERGUSON. Mr. Chairman, I move that you do
not recognize the right of this witness to claim self-incrimination
when she is specifying about trial by newspapers. That is what she is
saying. Certainly that is not a reason for not answering a question.
Criminal law means trial by courts, trial by judicial proceedings,
government procedure, and not what she is claiming.
Mies RIEDMAN. Do I have the privilege of claiming
the fifth amendment on the question?
Senator FERGUSON. If you really claim it on the
grounds that it would tend to incriminate you, but not that the
newspapers might say something about you.
Miss REIDMAN. I sincerely claim it, Senator.
Senator FERGUSON. On the grounds it would tend to
Miss RIEDMAN. That it might tend to incriminate
Mr. MORRIS. Were you associated with the American
Association of Scientific Workers in their statement calling for an
international agreement to ban the use of atomic weapons ?
Miss RIEDMAN. I decline to answer that question.
Mr. MORRIS. For the same reason?
Miss RIEDMAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. MORRIS. Now, were you connected with the
national reception committee of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee
Committee given for Mme. Aileen Joliet-Curie?
Miss RIEDMAN. I am sorry, I simply don't remember.
Mr. MORRIS. Did you ever meet the atomic
scientist, Joseph Weinberg?
Miss RIEDMAN. I met him once.
Mr. MORRIS. What was the occasion of your meeting
Miss RIEDMAN. He gave a paper, scientific paper,
at a scientific meeting.
Mr. MORRIS. That is all.