Learn more about McCarthyism
McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. The term derives from U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican of Wisconsin. The period of McCarthyism is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with a period of increased fears of Communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents.
During this time people in a variety of situations were accused of being Communists or Communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts that would later be overturned,<ref>For example, Yates v. United States, 1957; or Watkins v. United States, 1957: Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pp 205, 207. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref> laws that would later be declared unconstitutional,<ref> For example, the California "Levering Oath" law, declared unconstitutional in 1967: Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 124. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref> dismissals for reasons that would be later declared illegal<ref> For example, Slochower v. Board of Education, 1956: Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 203. ISBN 0-19-509701-7. </ref> or actionable,<ref> For example, Faulk vs. AWARE Inc., et al, 1956: Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 197. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref> or extra-legal procedures that would later come into general disrepute.
Origins of McCarthyism
The historical period known as McCarthyism began well before Joseph McCarthy's own involvement in it. There are many factors that can be counted as contributing to McCarthyism, some of them extending back to the years of the first Red Scare (1917-1920), and indeed to the inception of Communism as a recognized political force. Thanks in part to its success in organizing labor unions and its early opposition to fascism, the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) increased its membership through the 1930s, reaching a peak of 50,000 members in 1942.<ref> Johnpoll, Bernard K (1994). A Documentary History of the Communist Party of the United States Vol. 3. Greenwood Press, pg. xv. ISBN 0-313-28506-3. </ref> While the United States was engaged in World War II and allied with the Soviet Union, the issue of anti-communism was largely muted. With the end of World War II, the Cold War began almost immediately, as the Soviet Union installed repressive Communist puppet régimes across Central and Eastern Europe. Tensions rose dramatically in 1948 with the Berlin Crisis, instigated when the Soviet Union blockaded access points to West Berlin.
Events in the years of 1949 and 1950 served to sharply increase the sense of threat from Communism in the United States. The Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb in 1949, earlier than many analysts had expected them to develop the technology. Also in 1949, Mao Zedong's Communist army gained control of mainland China despite heavy financial support of the opposing Kuomintang by the U.S. In 1950, the Korean War began, pitting U.S., U.N. and South Korean forces against Communists from North Korea and China. 1950 also saw several significant events regarding Soviet espionage activities against the U.S. In January, Alger Hiss, a high-level State Department official, was convicted of perjury. Hiss was in effect found guilty of espionage; the statute of limitations had run out for that crime, but he was convicted of having perjured himself when he denied that charge in earlier testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In Great Britain, Klaus Fuchs confessed to committing espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union while working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory during the War. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested on charges of stealing Atomic bomb secrets for the Soviets on July 17.
There were also more subtle forces encouraging the rise of McCarthyism. It had long been a practice of more conservative politicians to refer to liberal reforms such as child labor laws and women's suffrage as "Communist" or "Red plots."<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg 41. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref> This became especially true with the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Many conservatives equated the New Deal with socialism or Communism, and saw the New Deal as evidence that the government had been heavily influenced by Communist policy-makers in the Roosevelt administration.<ref> Brinkley, Alan (1995). The End Of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. Vintage, pg. 141. ISBN 0-679-75314-1.</ref> <ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pp 6, 15, 78-80. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref> In general, the vaguely defined danger of "Communist influence" was a more common theme in the rhetoric of anti-Communist politicians than was espionage or any other specific activity.
Joseph McCarthy's involvement with the cultural phenomenon that would bear his name began with a speech he made on Lincoln Day, February 9, 1950, to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. He produced a piece of paper which he claimed contained a list of known Communists working for the State Department. McCarthy is quoted as saying: "I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department." This speech resulted in a flood of press attention to McCarthy and set him on the path that would characterize the rest of his career and life.
The first recorded use of the term McCarthyism was in a March 29, 1950 political cartoon by Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herblock. The cartoon depicted four leading Republicans trying to push an elephant (the traditional symbol of the Republican Party) to stand on a teetering stack of ten tar buckets, the topmost of which was labeled "McCarthyism."
The institutions of McCarthyism
There were many anti-Communist committees, panels and "loyalty review boards" in federal, state and local government, as well as many private agencies that carried out investigations for small and large companies concerned about possible Communists in their employ.
In Congress, the most notable bodies for investigating Communist activities were the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Between 1949 and 1954, a total of 109 such investigations were carried out by these and other committees of Congress.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg. 150. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
The Executive Branch
In the federal government, President Truman initiated a program of loyalty reviews for federal employees in 1947. Truman's Executive Order mandating these reviews called for dismissal if there were "reasonable grounds... for belief that the person involved is disloyal to the Government of the United States."<ref> Martin Fausold, Alan Shank, editors (1991). The Constitution and the American Presidency. SUNY Press, pg. 116. ISBN 0-7914-0468-4.</ref> Truman, a Democrat, was probably reacting in part to the Republican sweep in the 1946 Congressional election, and felt a need to counter the growing criticism from conservatives and anti-communists.<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
When President Eisenhower took office in 1953, he strengthened and extended Truman's loyalty review program, while decreasing the avenues of appeal available to dismissed employees. Hiram Bingham, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission Loyalty Review Board, referred to the new rules he was obliged to enforce as "just not the American way of doing things."<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg. 133. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref> Similar loyalty reviews were established in many state and local government offices and some private industries across the nation. In 1958 it was estimated that roughly one out of every five employees in the United States was required to pass some sort of loyalty review.<ref> Brown, Ralph S. (1958). Loyalty and security: Employment tests in the United States. Yale University Press. ASIN B0006AVFQM.</ref>
Once a person lost a job due to an unfavorable loyalty review, it could be very difficult to find other employment "A man is ruined everywhere and forever," in the words of the chairman of President Truman's Loyalty Review Board. "No responsible employer would be likely to take a chance in giving him a job."<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 271. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
The Attorney General started keeping a list of organizations that it deemed subversive beginning in 1942. This list was first made public in 1948, when it included 78 items. At its longest, it comprised 154 organizations, 110 of them identified as Communist. In the context of a loyalty review, membership in a listed organization was meant to raise a question, but not to be considered proof of disloyalty. One of the most common causes of suspicion was membership in the Washington Bookshop Association, a left-leaning organization that offered lectures on literature, classical music concerts and discounts on books.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg. 70. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI
In Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, historian Ellen Schrecker calls the FBI "the single most important component of the anti-communist crusade" and writes: "Had observers known in the 1950s what they have learned since the 1970s, when the Freedom of Information Act opened the Bureau's files, 'McCarthyism' would probably be called 'Hooverism.'"<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pp 239, 203. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref> FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was one of the nation's most fervent anti-communists, and one of the most powerful.
President Truman's loyalty-security program was designed by Hoover, and its background investigations of employees were carried out by FBI agents. This was a major assignment that lead to the number of agents in the Bureau being increased from 3,559 in 1946 to 7,029 in 1952. Hoover's extreme sense of the Communist threat and the politically conservative standards of evidence applied by his bureau resulted in thousands of government workers losing their jobs. Due to Hoover's insistence upon keeping the identity of his informers secret, most subjects of loyalty-security reviews were not allowed to cross-examine or know the identities of those who accused them. In many cases they were not even told what they were accused of.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pp 211, 266+. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
Hoover's influence extended beyond federal government employees and beyond the loyalty-security programs. The records of loyalty review hearings and investigations were supposed to be confidential, but Hoover routinely gave evidence from them to congressional committees such as HUAC.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (2004). The Age Of McCarthyism: A Brief History With Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pg. 65. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref> Additionally, from 1951 to 1955 the FBI operated a secret "Responsibilities Program" which distributed anonymous documents with evidence from FBI files of Communist affiliations on the part of teachers, lawyers and others. Many people accused by way of these "blind memoranda" were fired without any further process.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 212. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
The FBI engaged in a number of illegal practices in its pursuit of information on Communists, including burglaries, opening mail and illegal wiretaps.<ref> Cox, John Stuart and Theoharis, Athan G. (1988). The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition. Temple University Press, pg. 312. ISBN 0-87722-532-X.</ref> The members of the left-wing National Lawyers Guild were among the few attorneys who were willing to defend clients in communist-related cases, and this made the NLG a particular target of Hoover's. The office of this organization was burglarized by the FBI at least fourteen times between 1947 and 1951. Among other purposes, the FBI used its illegally obtained information to alert prosecuting attorneys about the planned legal strategies of NLG defense lawyers.
The FBI also used illegal undercover operations to harass and disrupt Communist and other dissident political groups. In 1956, Hoover was becoming increasingly frustrated by Supreme Court decisions that limited the Justice Department's ability to prosecute Communists. At this time he formalized a covert "dirty tricks" program under the name COINTELPRO.<ref> Cox, John Stuart and Theoharis, Athan G. (1988). The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition. Temple University Press, pg. 312. ISBN 0-87722-532-X.</ref> COINTELPRO actions included planting forged documents to create the suspicion that a key person was an FBI informer, spreading rumors through anonymous letters, leaking information to the press, calling for IRS audits, and the like. The COINTELPRO program remained in operation until 1971.
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was the most prominent and active government committee involved in anti-Communist investigations. Formed in 1938 and known as the Dies Committee and chaired by Martin Dies until 1944, HUAC investigated a variety of "activities," including those of German-American Nazis during World War II. The Committee soon focused on Communism, beginning with an investigation into Communists in the Federal Theatre Project in 1938. A significant step for HUAC was its investigation of the charges of espionage brought against Alger Hiss in 1948. This investigation ultimately resulted in Hiss' trial and conviction for perjury, and convinced many of the usefulness of congressional committees for uncovering Communist subversion. HUAC achieved its greatest fame and notoriety with its investigation into the Hollywood film industry. In October of 1947, the Committee began to subpoena film actors, directors, and screenwriters to testify about the Communist beliefs, statements or associations of themselves and their associates. It was at these testimonies that what became known as the "$64 question" was asked: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?" Among the first film industry witnesses subpoenaed by the Committee were ten who decided not to cooperate. These men, who became known as the "Hollywood Ten" cited the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and free assembly, which they believed legally protected them from being required to answer the Committee's questions. This tactic failed, and the ten were sentenced to prison for contempt of Congress. Two of the ten were sentenced to 6 months, the rest to a year. In the future, witnesses (in the entertainment industries and otherwise) who were determined not to cooperate with the Committee would claim their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. While this usually protected them from a contempt of Congress citation, it was considered grounds for dismissal by many government and private industry employers. The legal requirements for Fifth Amendment protection were such that a person could not testify about his own association with the Communist Party and then refuse to "name names" of colleagues with Communist affiliations.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pp 154-155. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref><ref> Schrecker, Ellen (2004). The Age Of McCarthyism: A Brief History With Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pg. 68. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref> Thus many faced a choice between "crawl[ing] through the mud to be an informer," as actor Larry Parks put it, or becoming known as a "Fifth Amendment Communist,"--an epithet often used by Senator McCarthy.
In the Senate, the primary committee for investigating Communists was the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), formed in 1950 and charged with ensuring the enforcement of laws relating to "espionage, sabotage, and the protection of the internal security of the United States." The SISS was headed by Democrat Pat McCarran and gained a reputation for careful and extensive investigations. This committee spent a year investigating Owen Lattimore and other members of the Institute of Pacific Relations. As had been done numerous times before, the collection of Scholars and diplomats associated with Lattimore (the so-called China Hands) were accused of "losing China," and while some evidence of pro-communist attitudes was found, there was nothing to support McCarran's accusation that Lattimore was "a conscious and articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy" was found. Lattimore was charged with perjuring himself before the SISS in 1952. After many of the charges were rejected by a Federal Judge and one of the witnesses confessed to perjury, the case was dropped in 1955.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pp 145-150. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
Joseph McCarthy himself headed the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953 and 1954, and during that time used it for a number of his Communist-hunting investigations. McCarthy first examined allegations of Communist influence in the Voice of America, and then turned to the overseas library program of the State Department. Card catalogs of these libraries were searched for works by authors McCarthy deemed inappropriate. McCarthy then recited the list of supposedly pro-communist authors before his subcommittee and the press. Yielding to the pressure, the State Department ordered its overseas librarians to remove from their shelves "material by any controversial persons, Communists, fellow travelers, etc." Some libraries actually burned the newly-forbidden books.<ref> Griffith, Robert (1970). The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate. University of Massachusetts Press, pg. 216. ISBN 0-87023-555-9.</ref> McCarthy's committee then began an investigation into the United States Army. This began at the Army Signal Corps laboratory at Fort Monmouth. McCarthy garnered some headlines with stories of a dangerous spy ring among the army researchers, but ultimately nothing came of this investigation.<ref> Stone, Geoffrey R. (2004). Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. W. W. Norton & Company, pg. 384. ISBN 0-393-05880-8.</ref> McCarthy next turned his attention to the case of an Army dentist who had been promoted to major in spite of the fact he had refused to answer questions on an army loyalty review form. McCarthy's handling of this investigation, including a series of insults directed at a Brigadier General, led to the army-McCarthy hearings, with the army and McCarthy trading charges and counter-charges for 36 days before a nation-wide television audience. While the official outcome of the hearings was inconclusive, this exposure of McCarthy to the American public resulted in a sharp decline in his popularity.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg. 138. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref> In less than a year, McCarthy was censured by the Senate and his position as a prominent force in anti-communism was essentially ended.
On November 25, 1947 (the day after the House of Representatives approved citations of contempt for the Hollywood Ten), Eric Johnston, President of the Motion Picture Association of America, issued a press release on behalf of the heads of the major studios that came to be referred to as the Waldorf Statement. This statement announced the firing of the Hollywood Ten and stated: "We will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States[…]" This open capitulation to the attitudes of McCarthyism marked the beginning of the Hollywood blacklist. In spite of the fact that hundreds would be denied employment, the studios, producers and other employers did not publicly admit that a blacklist existed.
At this time, private loyalty-review boards and anti-communist investigators began to appear to fill a growing demand among certain industries to certify that their employees were above reproach. Companies that were concerned about the sensitivity of their business, or who, like the entertainment industry, felt particularly vulnerable to public opinion made use of these private services. For a fee, these teams would investigate employees and question them about their politics and affiliations. At such hearings, the subject would usually not have a right to the presence of an attorney, and as with HUAC, the interviewee might be asked to defend himself against accusations without being allowed to cross-examine the accuser. These agencies would keep cross-referenced lists of leftist organizations, publications, rallies, charities and the like, as well as lists of individuals who were known or suspected communists. Books such as Red Channels and newsletters such as Counterattack and Confidential Information were published to keep track of communist and leftist organizations and individuals.<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 116. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref> Insofar as the various blacklists of McCarthyism were actual physical lists, they were created and maintained by these private organizations.
Laws and arrests
There were several attempts to introduce legislation or apply existing laws to help to protect the United States from the perceived threat of Communist subversion.
The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act of 1940 made it a criminal offense for anyone to "knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the[…] desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association". Hundreds of Communists were prosecuted under this law between 1941 and 1957. Eleven leaders of the Communist Party were charged and convicted under the Smith Act in 1949. Ten defendants were given sentences of five years and the eleventh was sentenced to three years. All of the defense attorneys were cited for contempt of court and were also given prison sentences. In 1951, twenty-three other leaders of the party were indicted including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. By 1957 over 140 leaders and members of the Communist Party had been charged under the law.<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
The McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, has been called "the McCarthy era's only important piece of legislation"<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 141. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref> (the Smith Act technically predating McCarthyism). However, it had no real effect beyond legal harassment. It required the registration of Communist organizations with the Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate possible Communist-action and Communist-front organizations so they could be required to register. Due to numerous hearings, delays and appeals, the act was never enforced, even with regard to the Communist Party of the United States itself, and the major provisions of the act were found to be unconstitutional in 1965 and 1967.<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, 187. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality, or McCarran-Walter, Act was passed. This law allowed the government to deport immigrants or naturalized citizens engaged in subversive activities and also to bar suspected subversives from entering the country.
The Communist Control Act of 1954 was passed with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress after very little debate. Jointly drafted by Republican John Marshall Butler and Democrat Hubert Humphrey, the law was an extension of the Internal Security Act of 1950, and sought to outlaw the Communist Party by declaring that the party, as well as "Communist-Infiltrated Organizations" were "not entitled to any of the rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies". The Communist Control Act never had any significant effect, and was perhaps most notable for the odd mix of liberals and conservatives among its supporters. It was successfully applied only twice, in New Jersey it was used to prevent Communist party members from appearing on the state ballot in 1954, and in 1960, when it was used to deny the CPUSA recognition as an employer under New York State's unemployment compensation system. The New York Post called the act "a monstrosity", "a wretched repudiation of democratic principles," while The Nation accused Democratic liberals of a "neurotic, election-year anxiety to escape the charge of being 'soft on Communism' even at the expense of sacrificing constitutional rights."<ref> McAuliff, Mary Sperling (1978). Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954. University of Massachusetts Press, 142. ISBN 0-87023-241-X.</ref>
Views of Communists
Those who sought to justify McCarthyism did so largely through their characterization of Communism, and American Communists in particular. The CPUSA was said to be under the complete control of Moscow, and in fact, there is documentary evidence that the general policies of the CPUSA were set by the Soviet Communist party.<ref> Haynes, John Earl, Klehr, Harvey (2000). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08462-5.</ref> Proponents of McCarthyism claimed that this control was so complete that any American Communist was inevitably a puppet of the Soviet Union. As J. Edgar Hoover put it in a 1950 speech, "Communist members, body and soul, are the property of the Party." This attitude was not confined to arch-conservatives. In 1940, The American Civil Liberties Union ejected founding member Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, saying that her membership in the Communist Party was enough to disqualify her as a civil libertarian. In the government's prosecutions of Communist Party members under the Smith Act (see above), the prosecution case was based not on specific actions or statements by the defendants, but on the premise that a commitment to violent overthrow of the government was inherent in the doctrines of Marxism-Leninism. Passages of the CPUSA's constitution that specifically rejected revolutionary violence were dismissed as deliberate deception.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pp 161, 193, 194. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
In addition, it was often claimed that the Party did not allow any member to resign, so a person who had been a member for a short time decades previously could be considered as suspect as a current member. Many of the hearings and trials of McCarthyism featured testimony by former Communist Party members such as Elizabeth Bentley, Louis Budenz and Whittaker Chambers, speaking as expert witnesses. Despite the obvious contradiction, these ex-communists were the source of some of the most vivid descriptions of how the Party permanently enslaved its members.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 133. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
Victims of McCarthyism
It's difficult to estimate the number of innocent victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. xiii. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref> In many cases, simply being subpoenaed by HUAC or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (2004). The Age Of McCarthyism: A Brief History With Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pp 63-64. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref> Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.<ref>
Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 4. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. According to some scholars, this resulted in more persecutions than did alleged connection with Communism.<ref>
D'Emilio, John (1998). Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities. University of Chicago Press; 2nd Edition. ISBN 0-226-14267-1.</ref>
In the film industry, over 300 actors, authors and directors were denied work in the U.S. through the unofficial Hollywood blacklist. Blacklists were at work throughout the entertainment industry, in universities and schools at all levels, in the legal profession, and in many other fields. A port security program initiated by the Coast Guard shortly after the start of the Korean War required a review of every maritime worker who loaded or worked aboard any American ship, regardless of cargo or destination. As with other loyalty-security reviews of McCarthyism, the identities of any accusers and even the nature of any accusations were typically kept secret from the accused. Nearly three thousand seamen and longshoremen lost their jobs due to this program alone.<ref> Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown, pg. 267. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.</ref>
A few of the more famous people who were blacklisted or suffered some other persecution during McCarthyism are listed here:
Blacklisted in Hollywood; Dave Wagner & Paul Buhle (2003). Blacklisted: The Film Lover's Guide to the Hollywood Blacklist. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6145-X.</ref>
Blacklisted in his profession, committed suicide in 1959; Bosworth, Patricia (1998). Anything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story. Touchstone. ISBN 0-684-83848-6.</ref>
Blacklisted, imprisoned for contempt of Congress; Sabin, Arthur J. (1999). In Calmer Times: The Supreme Court and Red Monday. University of Pennsylvania Press, pg. 75. ISBN 0-8122-3507-X.</ref>
On the Red Channels blacklist for artists and entertainers; Schrecker, Ellen (2002). The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pg. 244. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref>
Blacklisted in Hollywood; Schrecker, Ellen (2002). The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pg. 244. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref>
Blacklisted and unemployed, committed suicide in 1955; Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg 156. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
Security clearance withdrawn; Schrecker, Ellen (2002). The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan, pg. 41. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.</ref>
Blacklisted, passport revoked; Manning Marable, John McMillian, Nishani Frazier, editors (2003). Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience. Columbia University Press, pg. 559. ISBN 0-231-10890-7.</ref>
Subpoenaed by New Hampshire Attorney General, indicted for contempt of court; Heale, M. J. (1998). McCarthy's Americans: Red Scare Politics in State and Nation, 1935-1965. University of Georgia Press, pg. 73. ISBN 0-8203-2026-9.</ref>
Passport revoked, incarcerated; Chang, Iris (1996). Thread of the Silkworm. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00678-7.</ref>
The nation was by no means united behind the policies and activities that have come to be identified as McCarthyism. There were many critics of various aspects of McCarthyism, including many figures not generally noted for their liberalism.
For example, in his overridden veto of the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, President Truman wrote "In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have."<ref> Template:Cite web</ref> Truman also unsuccessfully vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, which among other provisions limiting the power of labor unions, denied unions National Labor Relations Board protection unless the union's leaders signed affidavits swearing they were not and had never been Communists.
On June 1, 1950 Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a Maine Republican, delivered a speech to the Senate she called a "Declaration of Conscience". In a clear attack upon McCarthyism, she called for an end to "character assassinations" and named "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." She said "freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America," and decried "cancerous tentacles of 'know nothing, suspect everything' attitudes."<ref> Template:Cite web</ref> Six other Republican Senators, Wayne Morse, Irving M. Ives, Charles W. Tobey, Edward John Thye, George Aiken and Robert C. Hendrickson joined Smith in condemning the tactics of McCarthyism.
Elmer Davis, one of the most highly respected news reporters and commentators of the forties and fifties, often spoke out against what he saw as the excesses of McCarthyism. On one occasion he warned the many local anti-Communist movements constituted a "general attack not only on schools and colleges and libraries, on teachers and textbooks, but on all people who think and write[...] in short, on the freedom of the mind."<ref> Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press, pg. 29. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.</ref>
In 1952, The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision in Alder v. Board of Education of New York, thus approving a law that allowed state loyalty review boards to fire teachers deemed "subversive." In his dissenting opinion, Justice William O. Douglas wrote: "The present law proceeds on a principle repugnant to our society--guilt by association.[...] What happens under this law is typical of what happens in a police state. Teachers are under constant surveillance; their pasts are combed for signs of disloyalty; their utterances are watched for clues to dangerous thoughts."<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 114. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
The 1952 Arthur Miller play The Crucible used the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for McCarthyism, suggesting that the process of McCarthyism-style persecution can occur at any time or place. The play focused heavily on the fact that once accused, a person would have little chance of exoneration, given the irrational and circular reasoning of both the courts and the public. Miller would later write: "The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding images of common experiences in the fifties."<ref> Template:Cite web</ref>
McCarthy himself came under increasing attack in the mid-fifties. On March 9, 1954, famed CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow aired a highly critical "Report on Joseph R. McCarthy" that used footage of McCarthy himself to portray him as dishonest in his speeches and abusive toward witnesses. In April of the same year the Army-McCarthy Hearings began and were televised live on the new American Broadcasting Company. This allowed the public and press to view first-hand McCarthy's interrogation of individuals and his controversial tactics. In one exchange, McCarthy reminded the Army's attorney general, Joseph Welch that he had an employee in his law firm who had belonged to an organization that had been accused of Communist sympathies. Welch famously rebuked McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" This exchange reflected a growing negative public opinion of McCarthy.
The decline of McCarthyism
As the nation moved into the mid and late fifties, the attitudes and institutions of McCarthyism slowly weakened. Changing public sentiments undoubtedly had a lot to do with this, but one way to chart the decline of McCarthyism is through a series of court decisions.
A key figure in the end of the blacklisting of McCarthyism was John Henry Faulk. Host of an afternoon comedy radio show, Faulk was a leftist active in his union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. He was scrutinized by AWARE, one of the private firms that examined individuals for signs of communist "disloyalty". Marked by AWARE as unfit, he was fired by CBS Radio. Almost uniquely among the many victims of blacklisting, Faulk decided to sue AWARE in 1957 and finally won the case in 1962.<ref> Faulk, John Henry (1963). Fear on Trial. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-72442-X.</ref> With this court decision, the private blacklisters and those who used them were put on notice that blacklisting was liable. Although some informal blacklisting continued, the private "loyalty checking" agencies were soon a thing of the past.<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 197. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref> Even before the Faulk verdict, many in Hollywood had decided it was time to break the blacklist. In 1960, Dalton Trumbo, one of the best known members of the Hollywood Ten, was publicly credited with writing the films Exodus and Spartacus.
Much of the undoing of McCarthyism came at the hands of the Supreme Court. Two Eisenhower appointees to the court--Earl Warren (who was made Chief Justice) and William J. Brennan, Jr.--proved to be more liberal than Eisenhower had anticipated, and he would later refer to the appointment of Warren as his "biggest mistake."<ref> Sabin, Arthur J. (1999). In Calmer Times: The Supreme Court and Red Monday. University of Pennsylvania Press, pg. 5. ISBN 0-8122-3507-X.</ref>
In 1956, the Supreme Court heard the case of Slochower v. Board of Education. Slochower was a professor at Brooklyn College who had been fired by New York City for invoking the Fifth Amendment when McCarthy's committee questioned him about his past membership in the Communist Party. The court prohibited such actions, ruling "...we must condemn the practice of imputing a sinister meaning to the exercise of a person's constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment.[…] The privilege against self-incrimination would be reduced to a hollow mockery if its exercise could be taken as equivalent either to a confession of guilt or a conclusive presumption of perjury."<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 203. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
Another key decision was in the 1957 case Yates v. United States, in which the convictions of fourteen Communists was reversed. In Justice Black's opinion, he wrote of the original "Smith Act" trials: "The testimony of witnesses is comparatively insignificant. Guilt or innocence may turn on what Marx or Engels or someone else wrote or advocated as much as a hundred years or more ago.[...] When the propriety of obnoxious or unfamiliar view about government is in reality made the crucial issue, [...] prejudice makes conviction inevitable except in the rarest circumstances."<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 205. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
Also in 1957, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Watkins v. United States, curtailing the power of HUAC to punish uncooperative witnesses by finding them in contempt of Congress. Justice Warren wrote in the decision: "The mere summoning of a witness and compelling him to testify, against his will, about his beliefs, expressions or associations is a measure of governmental interference. And when those forced revelations concern matters that are unorthodox, unpopular, or even hateful to the general public, the reaction in the life of the witness may be disastrous."<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 207. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
In its 1958 decision on Kent v. Dulles, the Supreme Court halted the State Department from using the authority of its own regulations to refuse or revoke passports based on an applicant's communist beliefs or associations.<ref> Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press, pg. 211. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.</ref>
Though the interpretation of the Red Scare might seem to be of only historical interest following the end of the Cold War, the political divisions it created in the United States continue to manifest themselves, and the politics and history of anti-Communism in the United States are still contentious. One source of controversy is that repressive actions taken against the radical left during the McCarthy period are viewed as providing a historical template for similar actions against Muslims following the September 11th terrorist attacks. This analogy has been made explicit both by left-wing opponents of such actions (such as the American Civil Liberties Union) and right-wing proponents (such as Ann Coulter) alike. The guilt, innocence, and good or bad intentions of the icons of the Red Scare (McCarthy, the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, Elia Kazan) are still discussed as proxies for the imputed virtues or vices of their successors and sympathizers. See historical revisionism.
From the viewpoint of some conservatives and McCarthy supporters, past and present, the identification of foreign agents and the suppression of "radical organizations" was necessary. Anti-Communists of the period felt there was a dangerous subversive element that posed a danger to the security of the country, thereby justifying extreme measures.
Current use of the term
Since the time of McCarthy, the word "McCarthyism" has entered American speech as a general term for a variety of distasteful practices: aggressively questioning a person's patriotism, making poorly supported accusations, using accusations of disloyalty to pressure a person to adhere to conformist politics or to discredit an opponent, subverting civil rights in the name of national security and the use of demagoguery are all often referred to as McCarthyism.
- Joseph McCarthy
- Industrial Workers of the World
- Communist Party USA
- House Committee on Un-American Activities
- War on Terrorism
- Milo Radulovich
- Good Night, and Good Luck., a 2005 film about Edward Murrow and the McCarthy episode
References and further reading
- Andrew, Christopher and Mitrokhin, Vasili (2000). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00312-5.
- Doherty, Thomas (2005). Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12953-X.
- Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey (2003). In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. Encounter Books. ISBN ISBN 1-893554-72-4.
- Haynes, John Earl (2000). Red Scare or Red Menace?: American Communism and Anti Communism in the Cold War Era. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-091-6.
- Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey (2000). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08462-5.
- Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509701-7.
- Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.
- Morgan, Ted (2004). Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America. Random House. ISBN ISBN 0-8129-7302-X.
- Powers, Richard Gid (1997). Not Without Honor: A History of American AntiCommunism. Free Press. ISBN 0-300-07470-0.
- Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.
- Schrecker, Ellen (2004). The Age Of McCarthyism: A Brief History With Documents. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-29425-5.
- Weinstein, Allen and Vassiliev, Alexander (2000). The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era. Modern Library. ISBN 0375755365.
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