tes History May 3, 2000 McCarthyism was one of the saddest events of American history. It destroyed peoples lives and shattered many families. It threw innocent people into a whirlwind of mass confusion and fictional portrayals of their lives. McCarthyism spawned for the countrys new found terror of Communism known as the red scare. McCarthyism was an extreme version of the red scare, a scare whose ends did not justify the means. The Red Scare happened twice in the history of this great country.
When the communist took over Russia in 1919, the American people were unnerved. They were afraid of a communist take over in the states. When the First World War ended in 1918, there was still an ideological war going on in a very divided United States. “The red scare was another sort of warone against dissent and nonconformity. It changed the psyche and face of the United States as surely as did World War Two (Fariello, 24). This was a time in American History where panic and terror controlled the lives and the laws of this country (Fariello, 28). When in 1919 the newly appointed Attorney General, A.
Mitchel Palmer, was abruptly awoken from his house by a bomb, everyone was seeing red, so to speak. Instantaneously fingers were being pointed in the immediate direction of the Communist Party. The Communist Party had reason, good reason to go after Palmer. He had used legislation passed in 1917 to deport many “communist” that were a threat to the American way of life. As was clearly seen in the Legislation passed in 1952.
The Immigration and Nationality Act tightened previous restriction on aliens and heavily reduced immigration from nonwhites countries. It allowed for the denaturalization and deportation of citizens deemed “subversive,” as well as the deportation of residents aliens for political activity. Removed deportation case from the courts by setting up own board unhampered by due process(Fariello, 18). American politicians were under the distorted impression that everyone that was not Anglo-American or came from Western Europe was a threat to national security. In response to this they passed a series of laws declining the immigration of people from Eastern and Southern Europe. They also passed laws deporting many of our own residents because of fear. “In the nineteenth century there were men of Anglo-Saxon stock who came to regard the American mission as their particular inheritance and who feared the subversive effects of immigration and the alien political ideas that were thereby introduced.
” (Heale, p. 127) Fear is the most primal instinct. It causes people to do and act in certain ways in which they are not accustomed. It can turn brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, politician against politician, and country against country. Fear instigates panic. It was that panic that prompted the Palmer Raids.
The Palmer Raids were started by A. Mitchel Palmer. He felt that in order to keep the American values in tact communism had to be out of the picture. Palmer believed that communism was “eating its way into the American workman”. He thought it was the root of all evils in his society. Palmer felt that communism was “seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundations of society”.
In December of 1919, in their most famous act, Palmer’s agents seized 249 resident aliens. Those seized were placed on board a ship, the Buford, bound for the Soviet Union. Deportees included Emma Goldman the feminist, anarchist and writer who later recalled the deportation in her autobiography. Another reason for the Red Scare was the strike held by mine workers. They were thought to be making threatening moves against the Capitalist system through subversive Socialist organizations. These strikes were part of a series of events taking place in 1919.
This strike, which occurred in February, consisted of 60,000 coal mine workers. In September, steel workers were on strike. All of the available blame was put upon the American Communists, although many communists tried to oppose this strike. It really did not matter if they had nothing to do with the strikes, in their minds anything that went wrong in the perfect society of the United States was the work of the Communist. Palmer and his associates were bordering on infringing the peoples civil rights.
Much like Janet Reno in the recent Elian Gonzalez case. But in the minds of the anti-communist the end justified the means. The “Red Scare” reflected the same anxiety about free speech and obsession with consensus that had characterized the war years. In the case of “The Most brainiest man”, a Connecticut clothing salesman was sentenced to sixth months in jail simply for saying Lenin was smart. Free Speech in the time of the Red Scare was almost illegal. The first red scare was set-aside in the mist of prosperity, and eventually war.
In 1941 World War II started. Although the Americans were allied with Stalin, the communist dictator of Russia, the old fears of a communist take over resurged. As a result ” everything changed after the Second World War. The ally Russia became an enemy. Anybody who had sympathy became a suspect”. A man spent twenty-five years in prison, because he was the local chairperson, had studied in Moscow and fought in Spain. It was like he was “the devil himself”.
And so it was that in the 1950s a revival of the Red Scare appeared. The American Legislative system reacted much has they had in the past. They worked much in the same right as Palmer, as far as unconstitutional practices were concerned.
“American Foreign policy was a mirror image of Russian Foreign policy: whatever the Russians did, we did in reverse. American domestic policies were conducted under a kind of upside-down Russian veto.” Before the War no legislation regarding communism was passed by congress. So workers in Unions were legally allowed to be Communists. A bill in Congress, called the Taft-Hartley Act, passed the first restriction on people entering the Unions in 1947. One provision stated that a worker must swear that he is not, and was not a communist, before entering a Union.
The politicians were going to great lengths to keep this country an anti-communist and anti Russia society. They also set up a series of laws to keep every politician in American anti-communist. One could not run for office during the Red Scare, unless one was on the record a self-professed Russian hater. The paranoia was everywhere.
“There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere In factories, offices, butcher stores, on street corners, in private businesses. And each carries in himself the germ of death for society (McGrath).” In the mist of all the confusion of who was a communist and who was loyal and a young upstart senator from Wisconsin came to play. His name was Joseph McCarthy.
He launched was would be later referred to as the McCarthy Era. “While convenient, this tribute is not without cause. McCarthys villainy was so plain that his name became a malediction in the very year of his ascendancy.” Joseph Raymond McCarthy was born in 1908 on a family farm in Outagamie County, Wisconsin. His parents were devout Catholics and told their nine children that “you shall live by the sweat of your brow.” He went to a country school until grade eight, and at the age of nineteen became the manager of a grocery store in Manawa, a town thirty miles away. He was a popular person and the store was very profitable. Then it was suggested by some friends that he go to high school, and in one year he crammed a full high school education, and he was at the top of the class.
He enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he graduated as a lawyer. McCarthy then set up a law practice in Waupaca, a nearby town, and it is reported that he took only four cases in nine months. At that time, he went to work in Shawano for Mike Eberlein. They worked together for three years until McCarty won the judgeship for the Tenth District of the Wisconsin Circuit Court. Although he was exempt from the draft because of his public position, in 1942 he entered the Marine Corps. In his two years as a first lieutenant, he went on a number of flying missions and broke his leg on a ship during a party and gained a lot of good press along the way.
In 1944 he unsuccessfully ran against Alexander Wiley for a senatorial seat from Wisconsin, and began planning to defeat Robert La Follette, Jr., whose seat was up for re-election in two years. La Follette was a Republican, and so was McCarthy, so the real race would be for the primary. McCarty’s campaign used lots of money. He sent letters and postcards to almost everyone in Wisconsin, made half a dozen speeches a day, and attacked La Follette ruthlessly. The luck happened to be that his opponent chose to sit on his laurels, and only campaigned for a few weeks.
McCarthy just barely won the GOP nomination, 207,935 to 202,539. Interestingly enough, he got the labor vote, which was dominated by Communists. He was very fortunate to sneak by, because La Follette was a popular man. His Democratic foe was to be Professor Howard McMurray. McCarty used his ability to put issues simply, among other things, to beat his opponent by nearly a 2 to 1 ratio. The Senatorial career of Joseph R. McCarthy was on its way. In his first three years as senator, McCarthy was an everyday senator.
He was guided by money from lobbyists, and the most interesting of these are stints with Pepsi-Cola and the real estate-prefab home industry. At the time, sugar was strictly rationed. According to Richard Rovere in his book Senator Joe McCarthy, the Allied Molasses Company, sugar supplier for Pepsi, somehow got a hold of a million and a half gallons of high-grade sugar-cane syrup, which it refined and sold to Pepsi. For unknown reasons, this sugar slipped past the rations, and the Department of Agriculture demanded that the rations for Allied Molasses be cut back. By means of a handy $20,000 being slipped to him by Russell Arundel, Pepsi’s Washington lobbyist, McCarthy was inspired to help end the sugar rationing six months before originally scheduled, thus nullifying the USDA’s demands. Another early issue for McCarty was housing.
A friend of his named Harnischferger owned a prefabricated-home manufacturing outfit in Milwaukee. He, along with other prefab and real estate honchos, asked him to go against public housing for veterans, and to support instead the inexpensive prefabricated home as an alternative. A $10,000 perk from Lustron, another prefab operation, provided additional incentive. He joined the newly created Senate Housing Committee, and he took a nationwide road tour to accentuate his point.
He continued in this way until the end of 1949, when he determined that he needed a new subject to put his name in the headlines and to use as a base for his reelection in 1952. He found his next subject at the night of January 7, 1950, at the Colony Restaurant in Washington, D. C. Among his dinner guests was Father Edmund A. Walsh. McCarthy talked with his guests for a while before bringing up the subject of the need for an issue. The group discarded quite a few before choosing Communism, which was suggested by Walsh, who was an ardent anti-Red. “That’s it,” McCarthy said.
“The government is full of Communists. We can hammer away at them.” And so it was that in February of 1950 McCarthy was interviewed by the Wheeling Intelligencer a newspaper in West Virginia. The next day Senator McCarthys startling words were published in the paper.
“I have I my hand a list of 205 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 The real number of people of whom any investigation was done was eighty-one The speech produce one of many controversies over McCarthy, partially because there was not a single consistent copy of the speech. The argument started because of the indistinct number in McCarthys speech. At his next speech, in Salt Lake City, he claimed that he had said 57. However, there is now considerable evidence that he alleged 205 in Wheeling. On February 20, the number came out to be eighty-one in the Senate. “He took six hours, from the late afternoon to just before midnight, explaining in detail a number of cases of supposed Communists in the State Department.” But, his lengthy speech had countless defects: “Cases 15, 27, 37 and 59 simply never showed up; he skipped them entirely.
… Cases 1 and 2 and several others worked for the United Nations. Case 3 was the same as Case 4; Case 9 was the same as 77..
.. Cases 13 and 78 were only applicants for State Department jobs…in 1948. There was nothing on Case 52 except that he was subordinate to Case 16.
… Case 62 was “not important insofar as Communistic activities are concerned.
” Of Case 40, he said, “I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency unidentified that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections.” (Friedman) But it was with this flawed case that Senator Joseph R. McCarthy started his reign of terror.
Communist beware, Senator McCarthy was looking to make them a thing of the past. Senator McCarthys plan was not confined to the Capital Hill. The whole country was amerced in the anti Communism fight.
At the time of the Communist “inquisition” Hollywood was the place to be. Hollywood was making six hundred films a year. “Hollywood in its golden age was the focus of the nations fantasies. Hollywood was news, and the purge of its Communists captured the publics attention.” The fact that it caught their attention was wonderful, because if the public was interested, it would be easier to find “the reds”. Only a very few number of in Hollywood were Communist. Only three hundred of thirty thousand industry workers were either past or present members of the Communist Party. About half of that number were screenwriters.
A few were actors, but not many, only about fifty or sixty. Even less were directors, only fifteen were directors. And the rest of the members or ex-members of the Communist Party were “scattered through the department, back lots and front offices”.
These figures were of no interest to the HUAC, the house committee of Un American activities, who tried to purge the existent of the Communist from Americans favorite place. In 1944, the HUAC helped found the MPAPAI, the Motion Picture Alliance fro the Preservation of American Ideals. The newly formed MPAPAI explicitly invited the HUAC to investigate the possible Communist activity in Hollywood. In March of 1947, representative of the HUAC called for a “cleansing of Hollywood”. Soon such wartime films such as Mission to Moscow, Song of Russia, and Action in the North Atlantic came under fire. The committee described them, as “flagrant Communist propaganda films”. In September of the same year forty-three people were subpoenaed to appear for hearing in our nations capital.
Nineteen of these people were consider as being “unfriendly”. All the others were once members of the Anti-American communist party. The hearings found that only ten of the nineteen were “unfriendly, they were sent to prison by 1950. The film bosses were not very happy with the committee, they resented the presence of the intrusive politicians in a private business. Nevertheless, they met in New York to discuss the communist infiltration of Hollywood. They reached a conclusion that not all members agreed upon, but made just the same.
“Nothing subversive or Un-American had ever appeared on the screen.” However, the studios nonetheless intended to discharged without compensation those five of the ten in their employment. “None of the ten would be allowed to work until he purged himself of the contempt and declared under oath he was not a communist.” This statement gave birth to the infamous “blacklist”. This blacklist would ruin the lives of thousands of people throughout its life. One hundred and ten witnesses were scheduled to appear before the committee. The committee demanded names, and more names of Communist in Hollywood. “The HUAC had already identified nearly every Communist and fellow traveler in Hollywood (either through the FBI, or the MPAPAI) But a ritual of humiliation was requiredonly by informing on former colleagues and begging for forgiveness for their past sins could the penitent cleanse themselves before the inquisition”.
Some victims would later write about their ordeals, and about the social reality of the time. Others such as Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner who themselves were in part to blame for the crisis would write sorrowfully about their actions, from the book, The Mikado : “As someday it may happen that a victim must be found, Ive got a little listIve got a little list Of society offenders who might well be underground, And who never would be missedwho never would be missed! The task of filling up the blanks Id rather leave to you, But it really doesnt matter whom you put on the list, For none of them be missed Theyd none of em be missed!” This was a burden for some of the people carrying out the missions of the committee, but to the high-ranking politicians, the fear and injustice was a victory. To them anything to stop the spread of Communism, for whatever reason or agenda they had, was good.
The end of Communism was a wonderful way to gain both business and votes. It was not just the high-ranking politicians that praised the committees actions; “friendly” movie stars were tripping over one another to commend the committee. Among these actors were Ronald Regan, George Murphy, Robert Montgomery, and Adolph Menjou. They “donned the mantle of the anti Communist warriors”. Some people went to great lengths to make the committee happy.
There wasnt much that the “friendly” actors would not do, not to get “blacklisted”. Roy Brewer spoke for three hours about the “reds”. Walt Disney revealed a “ploy by the left-wing Screen Cartoonists Guild to subvert Mickey mouse into a Marxist rat”.