Red, Black and Lavender: Contradictions, Characterizations and Persecutions



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Griffen Fariello, Red scare: memories of the American Inquisition: an oral history (New York: Norton, 1995).
Hellman, Lillian. Scoundrel Time (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1976).
Janis, Irving. Groupthink, 2d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982).
Klehr, Harvey John Earl Haynes & Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov. The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven: Yale UP, 1995).
Kuznick, Peter J. and James Gilbert eds. “Introduction.” Rethinking Cold War Culture (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001)
Lipset, Seymour Martin and Earl Raab. The Politics of Unreason: Right Wind Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (New York, 1970).
Nadel, Alan. Containment Culture (Durham: Duke UP, 1995).
Schrecker, Ellen. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1998).
Sherron De Hart, Jane. “Containment at Home: Gender, Sexuality, and National Identity in Cold War America” in Rethinking Cold War Culture, eds. Peter J. Kuznick and James Gilbert (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001) 124-155.
Tajfel, Henri and J. C. Turner. “The social identity theory of inter-group behavior.” In S. Worchel and L. W. Austin eds., Psychology of Intergroup Relations (Chigago: Nelson-Hall, 1986).
Whitfield, Stephen J. The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1991).

1 This paper was written by Jake Hirsch-Allen (991502502) for Prof. Margaret Macmillan’s 4th year seminar on Cold War History at the University of Toronto. Thursday, March 10th, 2005.

2 The quote on the cover page was also used in Griffen Fariello’s telling preface to his book, Red scare: memories of the American Inquisition: an oral history, which emphasizes the need to remember our past and particularly this dark period in America's history. (New York: Norton, 1995).

3 Loyalty boards where established by Truman in 1947 for federal employees. "From 1947 to 1953, 26,236 persons were referred to the loyalty boards for investigation. More than four thousand hearings were held, and nearly thirteen thousand interrogatories and letters of charges were issued.” Fariello 17.

4 Jane Sherron De Hart, “Containment at Home: Gender, Sexuality, and National Identity in Cold War America” in Rethinking Cold War Culture, eds. Peter J. Kuznick and James Gilbert (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001) 144.

5 Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1991) 4, and Sherron de Hart 125. See page 5 for a brief summary of the debatable risk that American Communism represented in the 1950s.

6 Whitfield 1.

7 The author Alan Nadel’s description of “containment culture” as “a pervasive symptom of the [national] trauma caused by witnessing a Great Depression, a Second World War, an ascent to atomic power, and a fantasy-like economic boom in less than one generation” is in line with this papers conception of the roots of anti-Communism. Containment Culture (Durham: Duke UP, 1995) xi.

8 While HUAC existed for 37 years, Fariello explains that between 1945 and 1957 it "held at least 230 hearings, at which more than three thousand persons testified, of whom more than one hundred were cited for contempt." 17. The admittedly biased playwright Lillian Hellman describes HUAC before 1947 as “a shabby and backstreet operation, specializing in anti-Semitic and racial insinuations…Respectable Congressmen avoided it. When the nation’s best known anti-Semite, Gerald L.K. Smith, was asked before the Committee in 1946, Representative John Rankin treated [him] like a friendly expert witness.” Scoundrel Time (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1976) 9. Hellman was one of the few radicals to beat HUAC but her lover and many of her friends had their lives shattered during the red scare. Her bias is acknowledged and her beautiful writing has been included just the same because of the truths about human and American nature that sneak through her anger and wry wit.

9 While Fariello necessarily begins with McCarthy, he describes him as "only the opportunistic creature of larger events," painting Truman as the unintentional arch-villain of the Red Scare and Eisenhower not far behind. 24. Almost every author, from the Left to the Right, described Truman’s policies as being among the catalysts for anti-Communism.

10 Fariello 24.

11 Peter Filene, “Cold War: Doesn’t Say It All” in Rethinking Cold War Culture, eds. Peter J. Kuznick and James Gilbert (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001) 159.

12 See pages 4-14 of Klehr et al’s The Secret World of American Communism for a concise, balanced, and incredibly thoroughly researched summary of the CPUSA’s history based on the most recent documents available.

13 The historian Richard Fried describes how, “with deep roots in American culture, anti-Communism flourished long before the Senator from Wisconsin adopted the issue in 1950. It was a hardy perennial in American politics before 1947, when historians who blame Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party for McCarthyism date the onset of anti-Communist extremism; before 1944, when the presidential campaign gave Americans an early sample of a political style commonly associated with the 1950s; before World War II, when the instrumentalities of the government’s later loyalty and security programs were improvised; and even before 1938 when Congressman Martin Dies’s Special House Committee on Un-American Activities pioneered techniques that prefigured McCarthy’s. Similarly, coverage of anti-Communism does not end with McCarthy’s censure by the Senate in 1954.” Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990) viii.

14 Fariello 42.

15 Fariello 24-5.

16 Klehr et al explain that “Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the executive branch, liberals and conservatives all struggled to convince the nation that they were tougher on Communism than their counterparts.” Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, & Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven: Yale UP, 1995) 5.

17 Fried explains that “since 1942 the Attorney General had listed organizations adjudged to be subversive…One might have joined one of these groups because its expressed aim seemed laudable – civil rights, support for migrant workers, or opposition to Hitler. One thus risked unknowingly entering into subversive company. Communists might eventually take over a group…” He poignantly continues by paraphrasing “that keen observer Alexis de Tocqueville [who] had discerned a national trait in the way Americans came together to form myriad societies to pursue mutual ends. A century later, this essential democratic attribute carried undreamed-of dangers.” 70-71.

18 Fariello 227.

19 Whitfield 65.

20 The sheer number of corroboratory accounts of Hoover buying off his Attorneys General with his old limos and blackmailing them – and President Kennedy – with their FBI files, make these stories appear to be more than rumours.

21 Whitfield 37.

22 Ibid.

23 Whitfield explains that “this demagogue had nothing to do with defeating Communism [its power in the U.S. had already been broken], but he had much to do with defining it. He made its demonization central to Republican arch-conservatism (and a rebuke to liberalism), and with such a shift to the right the definition of evil became cynically loose.” 39.

24 Whitfield 38. Phillips words are not as hyperbole-filled as they appear. The otherwise meticulously balanced authors of “The Secret World of American Communism,” explain how “emotions aroused by the Hiss and Rosenberg spy trials combined with the fear and anger kindled by Communist advances overseas to produce an atmosphere in which demagogues, frauds, and charlatans could use anti-Communist sentiment for their own, often unsavory purposes. In McCarthy’s hands, anti-Communism was a partisan weapon used to implicate the New Deal, liberals and the Democratic party in treason. Using evidence that was exaggerated, distorted, and in some cases utterly false, he accused hundreds of individuals of Communist activity, recklessly mixing the innocent with the assuredly guilty when it served his political purposes…In addition, much of the legal attack on the CPUSA in the 1950s was excessive, inspired by political pandering to strong public anti-Communist emotions...The government needed a security program, but its implementation was sometimes needlessly intrusive and crude.” Klehr et al 15-16.

25 Fried’s thesis is instructive with regard to McCarthy’s relationship to popular opinion and their respective importance: “McCarthyism was a political phenomenon that extended well beyond the antics of Senator McCarthy – indeed, well beyond the boundaries of conventional politics. What gave the “ism” its bite was the political dynamic that obtained at mid-century, accentuated by the anxieties germinated by the Cold War. However, anti-Communism derived its persistence from a deeply rooted cluster of values shared by much of American society, a set of views antithetical to Communist doctrines and friendly to private property and political democracy (albeit sometimes oblivious to imperfections in the latter).” 9.

26 Lillian Hellman explains, “One reason the World War enmities could be so quickly revived, with a new focus on Russia, was the depth of America’s understanding of herself as always at odds with alien doctrine...An element in America’s sense of mission has always been the belief that close foreign ties might sully the purity of republican doctrine, a fear expressed by Jefferson himself.” 19. Remarkably, the empires on both sides of the Iron Curtain could be seen as describing themselves in similarly progressive and liberal terms. Despite the blot created by anti-Communism, the West resembled this ideal far more clearly than the rest.

27 Whitfield 8, Fariello 16. Gallup polls showed Americans backed the anti-Communists as well: “By a 69 to 17 percent margin, Americans would deny Communists government jobs. In 1947, 61 percent would outlaw membership in the CPUSA. By May 1948, 77 percent would make Communists register with the government. These levels of loathing had little to do with administration rhetoric.” Fried 60.

28 Whitfield 4, 11.

29 The following statement is a representative example: “Although the Cold War shaped and distorted virtually every aspect of American life, broadly speaking there is very little fundamentally new about American culture in the Cold War era. Most of the characteristics by which we define it are the results of long-term social trends and political habits of mind, revived and refurbished from the past.” Peter J. Kuznick and James Gilbert eds., “Introduction,” Rethinking Cold War Culture, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001) 2.

30 On this topic Whitfield quotes Michael Paul Rogin, a political scientist referenced in at least three books on the subject. Rogin continues: “Demonization allows the counter-subversive, in the name of battling the subversive, to imitate his enemy.” 15. Fried used a more nuanced analogy along post-revisionist lines and typically left the reader with questions: “Fears of Communist influence at home increasingly counterpointed the rising concern with Soviet aims abroad. Historians of the Cold War have asked whether Stalin’s totalitarianism at home necessitated a “totalitarian” foreign policy, Equally one could ask whether the twin development of America’s anti-Communist foreign policy and the excesses of its containment of Communism at home was preordained or avoidable. It was logical, but was it inevitable?” 8.

31 Lillian Hellman explains how American exceptionalism played into its brand of xenophobia: “It was not enough to be American in citizenship or residence – one must be American in one’s thoughts. There was such a thing as Americanism. And the lack of right thinking could make an American citizen Un-American. The test was ideological. That is why we had such a thing as an Un-American Activities Committee in the first place. Other countries do not think in terms of, say, Un-British Activities as a political category. But ours was the first of the modern ideological countries, born of revolutionary doctrine, and it has maintained a belief that return to doctrinal purity is the secret of national strength for us.” 19

32 Various facets of American identity formation will be discussed in more depth below.

33 William E. Connolly, Identity\Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox, (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001), 64 and Henri Tajfel and J. C. Turner, “The social identity theory of inter-group behavior.” In S. Worchel and L. W. Austin eds., Psychology of Intergroup Relations, (Chigago: Nelson-Hall, 1986).

34 Arthur D. Colman, Up From Scapegoating: Awakening Consciousness in Groups, (Wilmette: Chiron, 1995) 7-10. And René Girard, The Scapegoat, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986 43-178 paraphrased in “Scapegoating,” The Public Eye.org, 6 Dec 2004, Political Research Associates, .

35 Interestingly, Groupthink is particularly likely to occur when a group is cohesive, isolated and directed by a vocal leader. Irving Janis, Groupthink, 2d ed., (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982).

36 Supreme Court Justices Hugo L. Black and William O. Douglas confirmed that the Court itself was hijacked by anti-Communism in their dissent to a civil liberties decision: “Public opinion being what it now is, few will protest the conviction of these Communist petitioners. There is hope, however, that in calmer times, when present pressures, passions and fears subside, this or some later Court will restore the First Amendment liberties to the high preferred place where they belong in a free society.” Whitfield 49.

37 Barbara Hartle was a "professional ex-Communist. Sentenced to five years in the Washington State Smith Act trial of 1953, she soon began singing her way to freedom. Ultimately, she named 470 people, including her former husband and her ex-lover. She was still naming names in 1963, although by then there was some suspicion that she was inventing them." Fariello 231.

38 Alan Nadel continues to explain how betrayal was connected to the irrationality of HUACs’ prosecution of Hollywood: “With the tacit and often active assistance of the entire entertainment industry, HUAC very effectively imprinted this message on the public conscience through half a decade of Hollywood purges. As has been clearly shown, investigating the entertainment industry was neither in the interest of legislation nor – as it could be argued that an investigation of the State department was – in the interest of national security. It was to publicize the ethic of betrayal, the need to name names.” 78.

39 Hellman 78.

40 The infamous Alger Hiss describes a common phenomenon during the red scare and in any such fear-filled eras: a rumour starts, spreads and all of a sudden twenty people can back up a statement but no one can attribute it, or if they can the original source has now been discredited. Similar examples exist for almost every major red-scare case and were made more common by the protection afforded to “friendly” witnesses who frequently remained anonymous. Fariello 10.

41 Hellman 80.

42 Fried explains why the United States has a difficult time defining itself: “A nation created by acts of will and peopled by newcomers from divergent backgrounds, the United States has found it harder to define nationhood and citizenship than have many older societies with longer traditions. Americans have sought mightily to articulate and instill “Americanism.” (In the McCarthy era, critics of such efforts note that France or Britain had nothing so gauche as a committee on Un-French or Un-British activities.)” 37-38.

43 Whitfield 25.

44 Whitfield 34. Also see footnote 25. Whitfield explains himself in more depth elsewhere: “Just as one defines oneself based on the Other, one also loses one’s true identity to negative-personification: Unlike the Europeans whose Communist parties numbered a fifth of their populations instead of a tenth, the U.S. attacked civil liberties and distorted culture, [transparently] repudiating "two of the Four Freedoms for which World War II had so recently been fought; for freedom of speech and freedom from fear." 4. This repudiation is most evident in NSC 68, the document that was said to have defined containment and which proclaimed so resolutely America’s freedoms: “[The strength of free men] constitutes the integrity and the vitality of a free and democratic system. The free society attempts to create and maintain an environment in which every individual has the opportunity to realize his creative powers. It also explains why the free society tolerates those within it who would use their freedom to destroy it. By the same token, in relations between nations, the prime reliance of the free society is on the strength and appeal of its idea, and it feels no compulsion sooner or later to bring all societies into conformity with it.For the free society ...derives its strength from its hospitality even to antipathetic ideas.” Section IV. A.

45 Sherron de Hart 144.

46 Fariello 27.

47 Filene 159.

48 Johnson 16.

49 Johnson 19.

50 David J. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: U Chicago P, 2004) 9.

51 Johnson 2.

52 Whitfield 43.

53 Johnson 4.

54 Johnson 2.

55 Johnson 160.

56 Fariello 163.

57 Johnson 31.

58 Johnson 10

59 Johnson 117

60 Whitfield 160.

61 Filene 160.

62 Sherron De Hart 125.

63 Filene 161.

64 Johnson 89.

65 Johnson 88.

66 Whitfield 45.

67 Johnson 90.

68 Johnson 8.

69 Whitfield 44.

70 Johnson 114.

71 Johnson 2.

72 Fariello 144.

73 Fariello 146.

74 Fariello 34. Alan Brinkley reinforced and elaborated on this statement: “The official and unofficial repression of political belief, the pervasive fear among intellectuals and others of being accused of radical sympathies, the ideological fervor that the rivalry with the Soviet Union produced: all had a powerful effect on the way Americans thought about themselves and their culture and on what they dared do, say, and even think. It would be hard to overstate the degree to which the ideology and rhetoric of the Cold War shaped the public discourse of the time, hard to exaggerate the pervasiveness of its influence and the oppressiveness of its demands. “The Illusion of Unity in Cold War Culture” in Rethinking Cold War Culture, eds. Peter J. Kuznick and James Gilbert (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001) 62.

75 Johnson 17.

76 Johnson 48.

77 Johnson 6.

78 Johnson 5. Ellen Schrecker points out that even the justifiably mythic M.L. King eventually capitulated to Conservative pressure: “Two of his top aides had once been in the [Communist] party; and Hoover, who believed that the civil rights movement was Communist-inspired, passed that information to the president, who in turn forced the civil rights leader to break with the men. King’s housecleaning did not end the pressure on him though it shifted from standard red-baiting to a much nastier form of blackmail (based on his sexual activities, discovered through bugs and wiretaps)…the smear campaign cut into the SLCL leader’s effectiveness [and] damaged the civil rights movement as well. By the mid-sixties, that movement had begun to unravel [and] McCarthyism did have an impact. From the start, it had narrowed the movement’s agenda, separated it from potential allies, and kept it from seriously challenging the poverty that blighted the lives of most African Americans.” Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1998) 395.

79 Johnson 28.

80 Johnson 26.

81 Kuznick Gilbert 4.

82 Whitfield 33.




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