SOVIET AMERICAN RELATIONS: A DISSENTING VIEW
As the Cold War rapidly developed Henry A. Wallace, a former Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President of the United States, became a rare political voice who urged the United States to refrain from confrontations with the Soviet Union and to reduce the tension between these former allies who were now fast becoming implacable enemies. In the speech below he explains why the United States should seek accommodation with the Soviets.
We are reckoning with a force which cannot be handled successfully be a `Get tough with Russia' policy. `Getting tough' never bought anything real and lasting whether for schoolyard bullies or businessmen or world powers. The tougher we get, the tougher the Russians will get... I believe that we can get cooperation once Russia understands that our primary objective is neither saving the British Empire nor purchasing oil in the Near East with the lives of American soldiers...
On our part, we should recognize that we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, Western Europe and the United States. We may not like what Russia does in Eastern Europe. Her type of land reform, industrial expropriation, and suppression of basic liberties offends the great majority of the people of the United States. But whether we like it or not the Russians will try to socialize their sphere of influence just as we try to democratize our sphere of influence...
We cannot permit the door to be closed against our trade in Eastern Europe any more than we can in China. But at the same time we have to recognize that the Balkans are closer to Russia than to us and that Russia cannot permit either England or the United States to dominate the politics of that area... Under friendly peaceful competition the Russian world and the American world will gradually become more alike. The Russians will be forced to grant more and more of the personal freedoms; and we shall become more and more absorbed with the problems of social economic justice.
Source: Henry A. Wallace, Speech at Madison Square Garden, September 12, 1946.
THE RED SCARE: THE TRUMAN ADMINISTRATION LOYALTY OATH
In 1948 the Truman Administration prompted by rising concern over Communist infiltration into the federal government and by Republican attacks on its foreign policy as passive in the face of Soviet expansionism, generated a loyalty oath to test American patriotism and to ferret out potentially "disloyal" citizens. The test, eventually used both inside the federal government and by state governmental agencies and by private organizations, asked the following questions among others:
"Have you ever read Karl Marx?"
"What do you think of Henry Wallace's third party effort?"
"Have you ever had Negroes in your home?"
"There is a suspicion in the record that you are in sympathy with the underprivileged. Is this true?"
"Did you ever write a letter to the Red Cross about segregation of blood?"
"Have you ever read Thomas Paine? Upton Sinclair?"
"When you were in ________'s home, did ________'s wife dress conventionally when she received her guests?"
Source: Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean Albertson, Main Problems in American History, (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1987) p. 278.
Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy burst into national prominence in 1950 following a speech he delivered to a Republican women's club in Wheeling, West Virginia, when he declared the United States was losing the Cold War because the Truman administration was filled with Communists. McCarthy claimed to have the names of 205 Communists in the government but never produced the list. Nonetheless his sensational charges gave a new name to hysteria and political scapegoating--"McCarthyism." Part of the Senator's speech appears below.
Today we are engaged in a final all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentleman, the chips are down--they are truly down... Five years after a world war has been won, men's hearts should anticipate a long peace, and men's minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war. But this is not such a period--for this is not a period of peace. This is a time of the "cold war." This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile camps..
At war's end we were physically the strongest nation on earth... Our could have bee the honor of being a beacon in the desert of destruction, a shining living proof that civilization was not yet ready to destroy itself. Unfortunately, we have failed miserably and tragically to arise to the opportunity.
The reason we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this nation. It has not been the less fortunate or members of minority groups who have been selling this Nation out, but rather those that have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer--the finest homes, the finest college education, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.
This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been the worst... In my opinion the State Department, which is one of the most important government departments, is thoroughly infested with Communists.
I have in my hand 205 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members of or certainly loyal to the Communist party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.
One thing to remember in discussing the Communists in our Government is that we are dealing with spies who got 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprints of a new weapon. We are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy.
Source: Congressional Record, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., 12 February 1950, pp. 1954-7
A SENATOR SPEAKS UP (1950)
Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith was in 1950 one of the few public officials willing to openly criticize Senator McCarthy. In a speech before the U.S. Senate she outlines her objections to his tactics.
I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some real soul searching, and to weigh our consciences as to the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America, and the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism
The right to criticize.
The right to hold unpopular beliefs.
The right to protest.
The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood, nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us does not? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as Communists or Fascists by their opponents. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed....
Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "knowing nothing, suspect everything" attitudes....
As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicly platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this [Republican] side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges which have been attempted in retaliation from the other [Democratic] side of the aisle.
I do not like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity, and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.
As an American, I condemn a Republican Fascist just as much as I condemn a Democratic Communist. I condemn a Democratic Fascist just as much as I condemn a Republican Communist. They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As a American, I want to see our Nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.
Source: Congressional Record, 81st Congress, 2nd Session, pp. 7894 95 (June 1, 1950)
RED SCARE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
In 1948, two years before "McCarthyism" became a household word nationally, a special state legislative committee led by Spokane Republican Albert F. Canwell, held week-long hearings on campus to investigate whether there were "no less than 150 Communists or Communist sympathizers on the faculty" as charged by state senator Thomas Bienz. Numerous faculty and administrators were called to testify. However six faculty who refused to cooperate with the committee, Joseph Butterworth (English), Ralph Gundlach (Psychology), Herbert Phillips (Philosophy) Harold Eby (English), Garland O. Ethel (English) and Melville Jacobs (Anthropology) were assumed to be members of the Communist Party and consequently fired by the university in 1949. In the passage below local historian Jane Sanders describes the political climate in the state that led to the Canwell Hearings.
In the State of Washington, the 1946 elections featured a campaign by Republicans against “Communist-controlled Democrats.” The focus of this effort was a clique of Democratic legislators who had espoused “United Front” politics during the 1930s, and were members of the Washington Commonwealth Federation. The WCF was an alliance of unemployed and/or disaffected liberals, laborers, and farmers which supported candidates favorable to an expansion of the New Deal locally and nationally... A special subject of Republican attack was Hugh DeLacy, a one-time University of Washington English instructor...and leader of the WCF, who had won election to Congress [from Seattle] in 1944. In his campaign for reelection, wide publicity was given to the fact that DeLacy had been cited twice by the House Un-American Activities Committee for membership in Communist “front” organizations. In his stead, Washingtonians elected a former state commander of the American Legion; they also chose a Republican senator and a Republican-controlled legislature.
After the elections, conservative Democratic leaders resolved to rid themselves of the alleged Communists in their ranks. The 1947 legislature had not yet convened when a coalition of Democrats and Republicans held a caucus to discuss the possibility of a legislative investigation into Communist infiltration of the Democratic party and state institutions. With regard to one of those institutions, the University of Washington, the caucus report stated: “It is common knowledge in many quarters that the Communists have infiltrated the University of Washington campus and that their supporters have found important places on the faculty...the Communists are trying everything in the book to reach American youth through the schools.”
In succeeding days, the Post-Intelligencer reported the demands of leading Democrats for a purge of their party. Among these were University of Washington regents State Senator Joseph Drumheller and Teamster Union leader Dave Beck. Drumheller, a member of a pioneer Washington family and grandson of University of Washington President Leonard J. Powell (1882-87), was the head of a Spokane chemical firm. Beck had been active in Seattle labor politics since 1918; in the course of his battles with more radical labor groups, such as Harry Bridges’ CIO-backed Longshoremen and Warehouse-men’s Union, he brought his own type of peace to the city’s unions and gained the respect of businessmen, politicians, and the Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer. Beck had helped elect Democratic Governor Mon C. Wallgren in 1944; Wallgren, in turn, appointed Beck to the Board of Regents in l946.
Aside from conforming to the national pattern, and in some ways anticipating it, [the Red Scare] in Washington State resembled a family feud. The political and economic fortunes of the state were historically tied to the basic industries of forestry, shipping, farming, and fishing. Within those industries there had always been pockets of right and left radicals who asserted themselves in times of stress. Attempts by workers to organize often involved violence... Populism at the turn of the century, the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the Red Scare and union battles of the 1920s and 1930s, and the disorders of the Depression left scars on the memories of Washingtonians. Despite the fact that state government was generally in the hands of conservatives, the state was considered progressive in labor and welfare legislation. Some thought matters had gone too far. “There are forty-seven states and the Soviet of Washington,” a remark widely attributed to Postmaster General James Farley, both embarrassed and delighted the citizenry.
In the eyes of some Washingtonians, the University of Washington had contributed to the state’s reputation for radicalism. Over the years its faculty members were involved in controversial movements. J. Allen Smith’s crusade for public ownership of utilities caused powerful men to call for his dismissal. [Just before] he died in 1924, Smith was still urging his students to disdain the excesses of the government exemplified by Attorney General Palmer’s campaign against "Bolsheviks," and by the enforcement of prohibition. In the 1930s faculty members continued to outrage citizens. They sought solutions to the problems of the Depression and the dangers of Fascism through organizations such as the Communist party, Bellamy Clubs, the Technocrats, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, and the American Federation of Teachers.
Of course, political activism among professors was not unique to the University of Washington, nor was the reservoir of suspicion of professors peculiar to Washingtonians. But as the university poised for an era of unprecedented growth and national recognition, the threatening gestures of the 1947 legislature revived questions that had lain dormant since the 1930s. Colleagues wondered again whether activist faculty members were endangering the willingness of the public to support university programs.
Source: Jane Sanders, Cold War On Campus: Academic Freedom at the University of Washington, 1946-64. (Seattle, 1979), pp. 15-16, 17-18.
LEVITTOWN: UP FROM THE POTATO FIELDS
Today the vast majority of Americans live in suburbs rather than central cities or rural areas. The following vignette, excerpted from a 1950 Time Magazine article, describes one of the first of these post-war communities, Levittown a New York City suburb on Long Island which was created by homebuilders William Levitt who is often credited with being the founder of modern suburbia.
On 1,200 flat acres of potato farmland near Hicksville, Long Island, an army of trucks sped over new-laid roads. Every 100 feet, the trucks stopped and dumped identical bundles of lumber, pipes, bricks, shingles, and copper tubing--nearly as neatly packaged as loaves from a bakery. Near the bundles, giant machines with an endless chain of buckets ate into the earth, taking just 13 minutes to dig a narrow, four-foot trench around a 25-32 ft. rectangle. Then came more trucks, loaded with cement, and laid a four-inch foundation for a house in the rectangle.
After the machines came the men. On nearby slabs already dry, they worked in crews of two and three, laying bricks, raising studs, nailing lath, painting, sheathing, shingling. Each crew did its special job, then hurried on to the next site. Under the skilled combination of men & machines, new houses rose faster than Jack ever built them; a new one was finished every 15 minutes.
Three years ago, little potatoes had sprouted from these fields. Now there were 10,600 houses inhabited by more than 40,000 people, a community almost as big as 96-year-old Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Plainfield, N.J., or Chelsea, Mass. Its name: Levittown.
Levittown is known largely for one reason: it epitomizes the revolution which has brought mass production to the housing industry. Its creator, Long Island's Levitt & Sons, Inc., has become the biggest builder of houses in the U.S...
The houses in Levittown, which sell for a uniform price of $7,990, [ed. These houses now sell for $500,000 to $700,000] cannot be mistaken for castles. Each has a sharp-angled roof and a picture window, radiant heating in the floor, 12 by 16 foot living room, bath, kitchen, two bedrooms on the first floor, and an "expansion attic" which can be converted into two more bedrooms and bath. The kitchen has a refrigerator, stove and Bendix washer; the living room a fireplace and a built-in Admiral television set...
By insuring loans up to 95% of the value of a house, the Federal Housing Administration made it easy for a builder to borrow the money with which to build low-cost homes. The Government made it just as easy for the buyer by liberally insuring his mortgage... Government-guaranteed mortgages were so liberalized that in many cases buying a house is now as easy as renting it. The new terms: 5% down (nothing down for veterans) and 30 years to pay. Thus an ex-G.I. could buy a Levitt house with no down payment and installments of $56 a month. The countless new housing projects made possible by this financial easy street are changing the way of life of millions of U.S. citizens, who are realizing for the first time the great American dream of owning their own home. No longer must young married couples plan to start living in an apartment, saving for the distant day when they can buy a house. Now they can do it more easily than they can buy a $2,000 car on the installment plan...
Like its counterparts across the land, Levittown is an entirely new kind of community... It has no movies, no nightclubs and only three bars (all in the community shopping centers).
And Levittown has very few old people. Fe of its more than 40,000 residents are past 35; of some 8,000 children, scarcely 900 are more than seven years old. In front of almost every house along Levittown's 100 miles of winding streets sits a tricycle or a baby carriage. In Levittown, all activity stops from 12 to 2 in the afternoon; that is nap time. Laid one Levittowner last week, "Everyone is so young that sometimes it's hard to remember how to get along with old people."
Though most of the incomes are about the same (average: about $3,800), Levittowners come from all classes, all walks of life. Eighty percent of the men commute to their jobs in Manhattan, many sharing their transportation costs through car pools. Their jobs, as in any other big community, range from baking to banking, from teaching to preaching. Levittown has also developed its own unique way of keeping up with the Joneses. Some Levittowners buy a new house every year, as soon as the new model is on the market...
Source: "Up from the Potato Fields," Time Magazine (3 July 1950):67-69, 72, reprinted in David E. Shi and Holly A. Mayer, For the Record: A Documentary History of the United States (New York, 1999), p. 288.
TEENAGE OPINIONS IN THE 1950s
The McCarthy period had a profound influence on the opinions and ideas of an entire generation of Americans. A national survey of teenagers in 1958 revealed scant tolerance for diversity or dissenting opinion.
"Only forty five percent of the nation's young adults believe that newspapers should be allowed to print anything they want except military secrets...
"Twenty six percent believe that the police should be allowed to search a person or his home without a warrant...
"Twenty five percent agree that some groups should not be allowed to hold public meetings.
"Seventeen percent say that it may be right for police to jail people without naming the charges against them.
"Thirty three percent say that people who refuse to testify against themselves be made to talk or should be severely punished. An additional 20 per cent are uncertain about the point...
"Fourteen percent think there is something evil about scientists...
"Thirty percent declare that one can't raise a normal family and become a scientist.
"Thirty five percent believe that it's necessary to be a genius to become a good scientist and forty five per cent think their own school backgrounds are too poor to permit them to choose science as a career.
"Thirty seven per cent feel that the greatest threat to democracy in the United States comes from foreign ideas and foreign groups."
Source: Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York: Knopf, 1961), p. 854.
JOHN F. KENNEDY AND THE COLD WAR
President John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech given five months before his assassination, describes his attitude and approach toward the Soviet Union. Here Kennedy suggests a type of accommodation between the superpowers, a recognition of their economic and political differences tempered by the realization that despite those differences the two nations, and indeed the rest of the nations, must a small planet.
What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace... Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude as individuals and as a Nation for our attitude is as essential as theirs... World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors....
It is sad to read these Soviet statements to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats. No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue... We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons... If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.
Source: John F. Kennedy, Speech at American University, Washington D.C., June 10, 1963.