Short Research Topic: McCarthyism and The Second Red Scare
Source 1: Sparticus Educational “McCarthyism.” Sparticus Educational Publishers, LTD. Copyright 2012. Researched June 26, 2012. < http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmccarthyism.htm.>
In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named nineteen people who they accused of holding left-wing views.
One of those named, Bertolt Brecht, a playwright, gave evidence and then left for East Germany. Ten others: Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz,, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions.
Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and they all were found guilty of contempt of congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.
On 9th February, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, made a speech claiming to have a list of 205 people in the State Department that were known to be members of the American Communist Party (late he reduced this figure to 57). The list of names was not a secret and had been in fact published by the Secretary of State in 1946. These people had been identified during a preliminary screening of 3,000 federal employees. Some had been communists but others had been fascists, alcoholics and sexual deviants. If screened, McCarthy's own drink problems and sexual preferences would have resulted in him being put on the list.
McCarthy also began receiving information from his friend, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). William Sullivan, one of Hoover's agents, later admitted that: "We were the ones who made the McCarthy hearings possible. We fed McCarthy all the material he was using."
With the war going badly in Korea and communist advances in Eastern Europe and in China, the American public were genuinely frightened about the possibilities of internal subversion. McCarthy, was made chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, and this gave him the opportunity to investigate the possibility of communist subversion.
For the next two years McCarthy's committee investigated various government departments and questioned a large number of people about their political past. Some lost their jobs after they admitted they had been members of the Communist Party. McCarthy made it clear to the witnesses that the only way of showing that they had abandoned their left-wing views was by naming other members of the party.
This witch-hunt and anti-communist hysteria became known as McCarthyism. Some left-wing artists and intellectuals were unwilling to live in this type of society and people such as Joseph Losey, Richard Wright, Ollie Harrington, James Baldwin, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole and Chester Himes went to live and work in Europe.
At first Joseph McCarthy mainly targeted Democrats associated with the New Deal policies of the 1930s. Harry S. Truman and members of his Democratic administration such as George Marshall and Dean Acheson, were accused of being soft on communism. Truman was portrayed as a dangerous liberal and McCarthy's campaign helped the Republican candidate, Dwight Eisenhower, win the presidential election in 1952.
After what had happened to McCarthy's opponents in the 1950 elections, most politicians were unwilling to criticize him in the Senate. As the Boston Post pointed out: "Attacking him is this state is regarded as a certain method of committing suicide." One notable exception was William Benton, the owner of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and a senator from Connecticut. McCarthy and his supporters immediately began smearing Benton. It was claimed that while Assistant Secretary of State, he had protected known communists and that he had been responsible for the purchase and display of "lewd art works". Benton, who was also accused of being disloyal by Joseph McCarthy for having much of his company's work printed in England, was defeated in the 1952 elections.
In October, 1953, McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and realized that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy's activities.
The United States Army now passed information about Joseph McCarthy to journalists known to be opposed to him. This included the news that McCarthy and Roy Cohn had abused congressional privilege by trying to prevent David Schine from being drafted. When that failed, it was claimed that Cohn tried to pressurize the Army to grant Schine special privileges. The well-known newspaper columnist, Drew Pearson, published the story on 15th December, 1953.
Dwight Eisenhower also instructed his vice president, Richard Nixon, to attack Joseph McCarthy. On 4th March, 1954, Nixon made a speech where, although not mentioning McCarthy, made it clear who he was talking about: "Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply."
Some figures in the media, such as writers Freda Kirchway, George Seldes and I. F. Stone, and cartoonists, Herb Block and Daniel Fitzpatrick, had fought a long campaign against Joseph McCarthy. Other figures in the media, who had for a long time been opposed to McCarthyism but were frightened to speak out, now began to get the confidence to join the counter-attack. Edward Murrow, the experienced broadcaster, used his television programme, See It Now, on 9th March, 1954, to criticize McCarthy's methods. Newspaper columnists such as Walter Lippmann and Jack Anderson also became more open in their attacks on McCarthy.
The senate investigations into the United States Army were televised and this helped to expose the tactics of Joseph McCarthy. One newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, reported that: "In this long, degrading travesty of the democratic process McCarthy has shown himself to be evil and unmatched in malice." Leading politicians in both parties, had been embarrassed by McCarthy's performance and on 2nd December, 1954, a censure motion condemned his conduct by 67 votes to 22.
McCarthy lost the chairmanship of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. He was now without a power base and the media lost interest in his claims of a communist conspiracy. As one journalist, Willard Edwards, pointed out: "Most reporters just refused to file McCarthy stories. And most papers would not have printed them anyway." Although some historians claim that this marked the end of McCarthyism, others argue that the anti-communist hysteria in the United States lasted until the end of the Cold War.
Source 2: Digital History Digital History. “The Second Red Scare.” Postwar American 1945-1960. Copyright 2011. Researched June 26, 2012.
Senator Joseph McCarthy did not create the national obsession with communist subversion. It had arisen in the late 1930s, years before McCarthy had come to public notice. Angry that they had been barred from the corridors of power for 20 years, conservative Republicans used everything they could to discredit the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Opponents of the New Deal were not always scrupulously careful to distinguish between liberals and Communists and used anti-communism as a way to attack labor unions and liberal social programs.
In fact, most liberals did not deny the threat of domestic and global communism. Most adopted a staunchly anti-communist stance from the middle 1940s onward. Labor leader Walter Reuther employed stern measures to purge Communists from the CIO in the 1940s. And even the perennial Socialist Party presidential candidate, Norman Thomas, supported efforts to ban Communists from teaching positions on grounds that they had surrendered their right to academic freedom through subservience to Moscow.
The Hatch Act of 1938 made membership into the Communist Party grounds for refusal of federal employment. That same year, the House of Representatives established the House Committee on Un-American Activities to investigate communist and fascist subversion. Two years later, the Smith Act made it a federal offence to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. In 1949, under the Smith Act, eleven top U.S. Communists were sent to prison for up to five years.
Investigations by executive agencies into the loyalty of federal employees began as early as 1941. In 1947, the first general loyalty program was established by executive order. Executive Order 9835, signed in 1947 by President Truman, called for a loyalty investigation of all federal employees. Truman hoped that these investigations would help to rally public opinion behind his Cold War policies, while quieting those on the right who thought that the Democrats were soft on Communism. Of the three million government employees who were investigated, 308 were fired as security risks.
If the president had thought that his investigation would end the call to rid government of subversive influences, he was wrong. Accusations that a former high state department official named Alger Hiss had passed classified documents to Soviet agents fueled fears of subversion.
Source 3: PBS Public Broadcasting Station. American Masters Series. “Arthur Miller: McCarthyism.” Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Updated August 23, 2006. Researched June 26, 2012. .
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s America was overwhelmed with concerns about the threat of communism growing in Eastern Europe and China. Capitalizing on those concerns, a young Senator named Joseph McCarthy made a public accusation that more than two hundred “card-carrying” communists had infiltrated the United States government. Though eventually his accusations were proven to be untrue, and he was censured by the Senate for unbecoming conduct, his zealous campaigning ushered in one of the most repressive times in 20th-century American politics.
While the House Un-American Activities Committee had been formed in 1938 as an anti-Communist organ, McCarthy’s accusations heightened the political tensions of the times. Known as McCarthyism, the paranoid hunt for infiltrators was notoriously difficult on writers and entertainers, many of whom were labeled communist sympathizers and were unable to continue working. Some had their passports taken away, while others were jailed for refusing to give the names of other communists. The trials, which were well publicized, could often destroy a career with a single unsubstantiated accusation. Among those well-known artists accused of communist sympathies or called before the committee were Dashiell Hammett, Waldo Salt, Lillian Hellman, Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin and Group Theatre members Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan, and Stella Adler. In all, three hundred and twenty artists were blacklisted, and for many of them this meant the end of exceptional and promising careers.
During this time there were few in the press willing to stand up against McCarthy and the anti-Communist machine. Among those few were comedian Mort Sahl, and journalist Edward R. Murrow, whose strong criticisms of McCarthy are often cited as playing an important role in his eventual removal from power. By 1954, the fervor had died down and many actors and writers were able to return to work. Though relatively short, these proceedings remain one of the most shameful moments in modern U.S. history.