In 1933 Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany. Samuel Dickstein, the chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, became concerned about the possibility of German agents entering the United States. He carried out his own investigations into the activities of pro-Nazi and fascist groups in the country. In 1934 Dickstein authored the resolution that established the first congressional committee to investigate subversive activities in the United States. John William McCormack was named chairman and Dickstein vice-chairman. Most of the major figures in the American fascist movement were called to appear before the Special Committee on Un-American Activities. Dickstein personally questioned each witness. According to Gary Kern: "Dickstein's bellicose behaviour as its vice-chairman undermined it. The chairman, John McCormack, wanted nothing more to do with it, and no one wanted anything more to do with Dickstein."
On 26th May, 1938, the United States House of Representatives authorized the formation of a successor to the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, by a 191 to 41 vote. "The Speaker of the House of Representatives is authorized to appoint a special committee to be composed of seven members for the purpose of conducting an investigation of (1) the extent, character, and object of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by the Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relations thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation."
The first chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was Martin Dies. Dickstein did not manage even to gain a seat on the new committee. Walter Goodman, the author of The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (1968), argued: "Despite this setback, no cause took more of Dickstein's energies or his passion, than the creation of a committee to investigate subversive activities. If any man deserves the title of Father of the Committee, it is Representative Dickstein. He earned the distinction by relentlessly trying to create such a committee from 1933 to 1938 and had the rest of his life to regret it."
The main objective of the HUAC was the investigation of un-American and subversive activities. Soon after his appointment Dies received a telegram from the Ku Klux Klan: "Every true American, and that includes every Klansman, is behind you and your committee in its effort to turn the country back to the honest, freedom-loving, God-fearing American to whom it belongs."
The original intention of the HUAC was to investigate both left-wing and right wing political groups. In a statement made on 20th July 1938, Dies claimed that many Nazis and Communists were leaving the United States because of his pending interrogations. The New Republic argued that the right-wing Dies, who it described as "physically a giant, very young, ambitious, and cocksure" would target those on the left. It was no surprise when Dies immediately announced that he intended to investigate aspects of the New Deal that had been established by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
J. Parnell Thomas, a member of the HUAC, described the Federal Theatre Project as being "infested by radicals from top to bottom" and on 26th July, 1938, called for Hallie Flanagan, the head of the organisation, to answer questions. Flanagan immediately went on the attack arguing that: "Some of the statements reported to have been made by him (Parnell Thomas) are obviously absurd... of course no one need first join or be a member of any organization in order to obtain employment in a theatre project."
On 19th August, 1938, Hazel Huffman, a former employee of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), appeared before the HUAC and claimed that Flanagan was a person who "was known as far back as 1927 for her communistic sympathy, if not membership" and pointed out that 147 pages of her book, Shifting Scenes of the European Theatre, had devoted 147 pages to "eulogizing the Russian theater." Huffman also pointed out that Flanagan had appointed Elmer Rice, "a well-known leftist" as regional director of the Federal Theatre Project in New York City. Another witness, Sallie Saunders, condemned the Federal Theatre because it had performed "pro-union plays, plays referring to Negro discrimination, and anti-Fascist plays." Saunders also complained that the project encouraged racial intergration and that while working for the FTP she had been "telephoned by a Negro for a date".
Hallie Flanagan eventually appeared before the HUAC. She later recalled: "The room itself, a high-walled chamber with great chandeliers, was lined with exhibits of material from the Federal Theatre and the Writers' Project; but all I could see for a moment were the faces of thousands of Federal Theatre people; clowns in the circus ... telephone girls at the switchboards... actors in grubby rehearsal rooms...acrobats limbering up their routines... costume women busy making cheap stuff look expensive... musicians composing scores to bring out the best in our often oddly assembled orchestras... playwrights working on scripts with the skills of our actors in mind... carpenters, prop men, ushers. These were the people on trial that morning. I was sworn in as a witness by Chairman Dies, a rangy Texan with a cowboy drawl and a big black cigar. I wanted to talk about Federal Theatre, but the Committee apparently did not. As the hearing broke up I thought suddenly of how much it all looked like a badly staged courtroom scene; it wasn't imposing enough for a congressional hearing on which the future of several thousand human beings depended. For any case on which the life and reputation of a single human being depended, even that of an accused murderer, we had an American system which demanded a judge trained in law, a defense lawyer, a carefully chosen jury, and above all the necessity of hearing all the evidence on both sides of the case. Yet here was a Committee which for months had been actually trying a case against Federal Theatre, trying it behind closed doors, and giving one side only to the press. Out of a project employing thousands of people from coast to coast, the Committee had chosen arbitrarily to hear ten witnesses, all from New York City, and had refused arbitrarily to hear literally hundreds of others, on and off the project, who had asked to testify."
J. Parnell Thomas objected to the radical message in some of these plays. Thomas claimed that: "Practically every play presented under the auspices of the Project is sheer propaganda for Communism or the New Deal." Martin Dies, the chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee, called for the resignations of Harold Ickes, Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins, as the three had "associates who were Socialists, Communists, and crackpots." Roosevelt refused to sack these three members of his government but did bring the Federal Theatre Project to an end. During its four years existence the FTP launched or established the careers of such artists as Orson Welles, John Houseman, Will Geer, Arthur Miller, Paul Green, Marc Blitzstein and Canada Lee.
Martin Dies and the HUAC also began attacking other left-wing artistic groups. This included describing the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League as a Communist-Front organization. The actress, Luise Rainer, replied: "I do not believe in the so-called revelations made by the Dies Investigating Committee. I believe their purpose is purely destructive, aimed at discrediting worthwhile peace and anti-fascist organizations, which are so much needed in these worried times." The film director, John Ford commented in October, 1938: "May I express my whole-hearted desire to cooperate to the utmost of my ability with the Hollywood anti-Nazi League. If this be Communism, count me in."
Another supporter of the HANU, Frederic March, argued: "Every time during the last few years that I have felt impelled to protest an injustice, to cry out against man's inhumanity to man, or to espouse some social reform, I have been called a Communist. Because the founders of our country believed in justice, tolerance and the exercise of such social reform as would benefit the people at large, I insist upon the right to follow their example and still be recognized as a loyal American citizen."
The Un-American Activities Committee originally investigated both left-wing and right wing political groups. Some called for the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan to be interrogated by the HUAC. Martin Dies however was a supporter of the Klan and had spoken at several of its rallies. Other members of the HUAC such as John Rankin and John S. Wood were also Klan sympathizers. Wood defended the Klan by arguing that: "The threats and intimidations of the Klan are an old American custom, like illegal whisky-making." Eventually Ernest Adamson, the HUAC's chief counsel, announced that: "The committee has decided that it lacks sufficient data on which to base a probe." Rankin added: "After all, the KKK is an old American institution." Instead, the HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated New Deal projects.
Martin Dies soon came under attack from those who saw the HUCA as a method of blocking progressive policies being advocated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was reflected in the comments made by Vito Marcantonio. "It has become the most convenient method by which you wrap yourselves in the American flag in order to cover up some of the greasy stains on the legislative toga. You can vote against the unemployed, you can vote against the W.P.A. workers, and you can emasculate the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; you can try to destroy the National Labor Relations Law, the Magna Carta of American labor; you can vote against the farmer; and you can do all that with a great deal of impunity, because after you have done so you do not have to explain your vote."
Several famous writers complained that the HUAC was having an impact on creativity. The author and screenwriter, Dashill Hammett, argued: "We indignantly reject these irresponsible attacks. At this crucial time when the cooperation of all democratic forces is so essential, this attack throws a very dubious light on the character of the whole Dies investigation. It emphasizes the need for the greatest alertness on the part of all democracy-loving American people." Lewis Milestone, the famous film director, argued: "It seems to me that the hysteria of the Dies Committee's investigations have only succeeded in strengthening public belief in the organizations and movements they have attacked. For myself, and for members of the motion picture industry, if our aid to democracies now victims of fascist aggression can be misinterpreted as un-American acts, then perhaps the Dies Committee has its own translation of the word democracy."
Martin Dies retailated by suggested that the HUAC should investigate political propaganda in Hollywood. In 1940 the screenwriter, Dorothy Parker, replied: "The people want democracy - real democracy, Mr. Dies, and they look toward Hollywood to give it to them because they don't get it any more in their newspapers. And that's why you're out here, Mr. Dies - that's why you want to destroy the Hollywood progressive organizations - because you've got to control this medium if you want to bring fascism to this country."
In 1945 Emanuel Celler issued a warning to the Un-American Activities Committee. "The Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities is now a standing investigatory committee with power to initiate legislation.... Bluntly then, the present committee can make its choice. It can either adopt the Dies course of unfounded character assassinations, lynch-law, prosecutor-jury and executioner all in one - or it can proceed in a manner consonant with the American tradition of the right to be heard, the right of counsel and the right of confrontation of witnesses, placing emphasis on investigation of all foreignisms with honest judicious objectivity. If we are to have again an extravaganza of persecution - a deep-seated mania of embracing some I individually conceived notion of alienism, we face again a betrayal of our basic constitutionally guarded frights. The power to investigate is a great public trust. And we ask the newly constituted committee not for one instant to forget that."
After Martin Dies ceased being chairman of the HUAC in 1944 he was followed by Edward Hart (1944-1945), John S. Wood (1945-46) and J. Parnell Thomas. Other members of the HUAC included John McDowell of Pennsylvania, Harold Velde of Illinois, Francis Walter of Pennsylvania, John Rankin of Mississippi, Karl Mundt of South Dakota and Richard Nixon of California.
On 20th October, 1947, the HUAC opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, Claude Pepper of Florida, Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, and Glenn H. Taylor of Idaho joined forces to protest about the hearings: "We the undersigned, as American Citizens who believe in constitutional democratic government, are disgusted and outraged by the continuing attempt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities to smear the Motion Picture Industry. We hold that these hearings are morally wrong because: (1) Any investigation into the political beliefs of the individual is contrary to the basic principles of our democracy; (2) Any attempt to curb freedom of expression and to set arbitrary standards of Americanism is in itself disloyal to both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution."
Some figures in Hollywood were strongly opposed to this investigation and John Garfield, Sterling Hayden, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Myrna Loy, Philip Dunne, June Havoc, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Huston, William Wyler, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Vincente Minnelli, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Henreid, Dorothy Dandridge, Melvyn Douglas, Ira Gershwin, Billy Wilder, Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, Robert Ryan and Frank Sinatra established the Committee for the First Amendment.
On 27th October, 1947, the group flew to Washington, D.C. to protest against the HUAC hearings into the motion picture industry. Marsha Hunt later recalled: "The flight was not masterminded by Communist. It was concocted by William Wyler and John Huston and Philip Dunne, who were having lunch at Lucy's across from Paramount... I remember being invited to a small Sunday-afternoon gathering at Willie Wyler's house to plan and coordinate our actions... We went on a chartered plane. The whole industry chipped in to pay for it."
Hunt was shocked by the way the press treated the protest: "It was all so new to me. I had never been in a position of public controversy before. We were treated with skepticism and hostility, frequently by the Hearst press and some syndicated columnists. We were so misquoted. In my, own case, I was quoted as saying things I would never say, at a function never attended. This was almost libelous, and I wanted a retraction. But wiser heads said that we should let such things pass, that all of this would soon be yesterday's news and quickly forgotten.... We sat there for two days. We were not given any role in the hearings at all. We were not there as anything hut part of the audience. Later, back at the hotel, we held a press conference, which was well-attended."
Hunt recalls that on the flight home the mood had changed: "We went full of verve and dedication and outrage at what was taking place. We were going to try to explain and clarify things to a really confused public. On the flight back to Hollywood we were, I think, subdued and shaken by what we had witnessed and heard in the hearing room, by the ridicule and suspicion that the press afforded us. They thought we must be Communists, or sympathetic to Communism, or incredibly naive. We came home sadder... We had certainly learned a good deal about pressure politics and distortion of our purpose."
The chief investigator for the HUAC committee was Robert E. Stripling. The first people it interviewed included Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Ayn Rand, Jack L. Warner, Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Walt Disney, Thomas Leo McCarey and George L. Murphy. These people named several possible members of the American Communist Party. The HUAC also called Lela Rogers, the mother of Ginger Rogers. She claimed that Clifford Odets, had introduced communist propaganda into the film, None but the Lonely Heart (1944): "I can't quote the lines of the play exactly but I can give you the sense of them. There is one place in which - it is unfair, may I say, to take a scene from its context and try to make it sound like Communist propaganda, because a Communist is very careful, very clever, and very devious in the way he sets the film. If I were to give you a line from that play straight out you would say 'What is wrong with that line?' unless you knew that the Communist is trying in every way to tear down our free-enterprise system, to make the people lose faith in it, so that they will want to get something else-and the Communists have it waiting for them. I will tell you of one line. The mother in the story runs a second-hand store. The son says to her, 'You are not going to' in essence, I am not quoting this exactly because I can't remember it exactly-he said to her, 'You are not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies from people poorer than we are.' Many people are poorer and many people are richer. As I say, you find yourself in an awful hole the moment you start to remove one of the scenes from its context."
As a result their investigations, the HUAC announced it wished to interview nineteen members of the film industry that they believed might be members of the American Communist Party. This included Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Larry Parks, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.
The first suspected communist to appear before the HUAC was John Howard Lawson on 27th October, 1947. Lawson requested the right to make an opening statement but this was refused by J. Parnell Thomas with the words that the "statement is not pertinent to this inquiry." The statement included the following: "As an individual, I am not important. The obvious fact that the Committee is trying to destroy me personally and professionally, to deprive me of my livelihood and what is far dearer to me-my honor as an American - gains significance only because it opens the way to similar destruction of any citizen whom the Committee selects for annihilation... It is not surprising that writers and artists are selected for this indecent smear. Writers, artists, scientists, educators, are always the first victims of attack by those who hate democracy. The writer has a special responsibility to serve democracy, to further the free exchange of ideas. I am proud to be singled out for attack by men who are obviously - by their own admission on the record-out to stifle ideas and censor communication."
Robert E. Stripling asked Lawson if he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild. He refused to answer this question on principal but he did comment that his membership was a matter of public record. His next question was: "Mr. Lawson, are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?" Lawson replied that "the Bill of Rights was established precisely to prevent the operation of any committee which could invade the basic rights of Americans." With this answer Lawson was removed from the room by the guards.
The next person called was Dalton Trumbo who was also denied the right to make an opening statement. In it he wanted to make the point that the HUAC was having a damaging impact on world opinion: "As indicated by news dispatches from foreign countries during the past week, the eyes of the world are focused today upon the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In every capital city these hearings will be reported. From what happens during the proceedings, the peoples of the earth will learn by precept and example precisely what America means when her strong voice calls out to the community of nations for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, the civil rights of men standing accused before government agencies, the vitality and strength of private enterprise, the inviolable right of every American to think as he wishes, to organize and assemble as he pleases, to vote in secret as he chooses."
Trumbo was asked by Robert E. Stripling if he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild. He refused to answer the question: "Mr. Stripling, the rights of American labor to inviolably secret membership have been won in this country by a great cost of blood and a great cost in terms of hunger. These rights have become an American tradition. Over the Voice of America we have broadcast to the entire world the freedom of our labor... You asked me a question which would permit you to haul every union member in the United States up here to identify himself as a union member, to subject him to future intimidation and coercion. This, I believe is an unconstitutional question."
Trumbo also refused to admit he was a member of the American Communist Party. Trumbo was removed from the room and HUAC investigator, Louis Russell, now read out a nine page report on his Communist Party affiliations. John Parnell Thomas now stated: "The evidence presented before this Committee concerning Dalton Trumbo clearly indicates that he is an active Communist Party member. Also the fact that he followed the usual Communist line of not responding to questions of the Committee is definite proof that he is a member of the Communist Party. Therefore, by unanimous vote of the members present, the subcommittee recommends to the full committee that Dalton Trumbo be cited for contempt of Congress."
The next witness, Albert Maltz, was allowed to make an opening statement. It included the following: "I am an American and I believe there is no more proud word in the vocabulary of man. I am a novelist and a screen writer and I have produced a certain body of work in the past fifteen years.... Now at the age of 39, I am commanded to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. For a full week this Committee has encouraged an assortment of well-rehearsed witnesses to testify that I and others are subversive and un-American. It has refused us the opportunity that any pickpocket receives in a magistrate's court the right to cross-examine these witnesses, to refute their testimony, to reveal their motives, their history, and who, exactly, they are. Furthermore it grants these witnesses congressional immunity so that we may not sue them for libel for their slanders. I maintain that this is an evil and vicious procedure; that it is legally unjust and morally indecent - and that it places in danger every other American, since if the rights of any one citizen can be invaded, then the constitutional guaranties of every other American have been subverted and no one is any longer protected from official tyranny."
Maltz also raised the issue that John Parnell Thomas was a long-term critic of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He quoted Thomas as saying that: "I just want to say this now, that it seems that the New Deal is working along hand in glove with the Communist Party. The New Deal is either for the Communist Party or it is playing into the hands of the Communist Party." Maltz also pointed out that Thomas and John Rankin had a record of opposing measures to bring an end to lynching and in the past had been a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. Maltz added: "I will take my philosophy from Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and I will not be dictated to or intimidated by men to whom the Ku Klux Klan, as a matter of Committee record, is an acceptable American institution."
Maltz, like previous unfriendly witnesses, refused to answer questions on his membership of the Screen Writers Guild and American Communist Party. This approach was followed by Alvah Bessie, who argued: "It is my understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution that it expressly forbids Congress to pass any law which shall abridge freedom of speech or of opinion. And it is my understanding of the function of Congressional Committees that they are set up by the Congress for the express purpose of inquiring into matter that may lead to the initiation of legislation in the Congress." The First Amendment protected the privacy of political beliefs.
The next witness, Samuel Ornitz, raised the issue that the majority of those brought before the HUAC, were Jewish. He also made reference to the fact that John Rankin was the leading anti-Semite in Congress: "I wish to address this Committee as a Jew, because one of its leading members is the outstanding anti-Semite in the Congress and revels in this fact. I refer to John E. Rankin. I refer to this evil because it has been responsible for the systematic and ruthless slaughter of six million of my people. Nor were they alone to die. Thirty million others died, including American boys. It may be redundant to repeat that anti-Semitism and anti-Communism were the number one poison weapon used by Hitler - but still terribly relevant, lest we forget. In speaking as a Jew, I speak in a deeper sense as an American, as the one who has to take the first blow for my fellow-Americans. For when Constitutional guarantees are overridden, the Jew is the first one to suffer... but only the first one. As soon as the Jew is crushed, the others get it. Or haven't we been through this... the most horrible of wars to date!"
Victor Navasky, the author of Naming Names (1982) has been pointed out that ten of the nineteen originally named members of the American Communist Party were Jews (Gordon Kahn, Lewis Milestone, Richard Collins, Albert Maltz, Robert Rossen, Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole) and two others had been involved in the recent film, Crossfire (1947), that was an attack on anti-Semitism (Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk).
Kahn wrote in Hollywood on Trail (1948): "The key to why subpoenas were served on Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk, respectively producer and director of the film Crossfire, was found when Mr. Stripling, the interrogator, inadvertently addressed Mr. Scott as "Mr. Dmytryk." Supposedly called before the Committee as separate and unrelated individuals, the link between these two gentlemen in the corporate mind of the Committee was made amply clear by Mr. Stripling's slip of the tongue. Scott and Dmytryk were subpoenaed because they produced and directed Crossfire. That now celebrated film attacked anti-Semitism in particular and racial hatred and intolerance generally."
Ring Lardner Jr. also refused to answer questions about being a member of the Screen Writers Guild and the American Communist Party. He told John Parnell Thomas that he was unwilling to answer the follow-up question on identifying other members of these organisations. He added: "It depends on the circumstances. I could answer it, but if I did I would hate myself in the morning." He told the New York Herald Tribune: "I have always associated the words I'll hate myself in the morning with a situation in which a previously chaste woman is succumbing to the indecent blandishment of a scoundral and very likely launching herself on the road to prostitution. That is the analogy I wished to suggest."
On 30th October, 1947, Bertolt Brecht, who had arrived in the United States six years previously, was willing to answer questions in front of the HUAC. He denied he was a member of the Screen Writers Guild and the American Communist Party. Brecht pointed out: "As a guest of the United States, I refrained from political activities concerning this country even in a literary form. By the way, I am not a screen writer, Hollywood used only one story of mine for a picture showing the Nazi savageries in Prague. I am not aware of any influence which I could have exercised in the movie industry whether political or artistic. Being called before the Un-American Activities Committee, however, I feel free for the first time to say a few words about American matters: looking back at my experiences as a playwright and a poet in the Europe of the last two decades, I wish to say that the great American people would lose much and risk much if they allowed anybody to restrict free competition of ideas in cultural fields, or to interfere with art which must be free in order to be art. We are living in a dangerous world. Our state of civilization is such that mankind already is capable of becoming enormously wealthy but, as a whole, is still poverty-ridden. Great wars have been suffered, greater ones are imminent, we are told. One of them might well wipe out mankind, as a whole. We might be the last generation of the specimen man on this earth. The ideas about how to make use of the new capabilities of production have not been developed much since the days when the horse had to do what man could not do. Do you not think that, in such a predicament, every new idea should be examined carefully and freely? Art can present clear and even make nobler such ideas."
The first ten men accused of being communists: Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, John Howard Lawson and Ring Lardner Jr, refused to answer any questions about their political and union activities. Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.
On hearing the news, Thomas Mann, the novelist, and the father of Erika Mann, who was also under investigation, issued a statement comparing the activities of the HUAC with those of Nazi Germany: "As an American citizen of German birth and one who has been through it all, I deem it not only my right but my solemn duty to state: We - the America of the Un-American Activities Committee; the America of the so-called loyalty checks... are well on our way towards the fascist police state and - hence - well on our way towards war." (50)
In June, 1950, three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, Vincent Harnett, published Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party. The list included Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell. A free copy was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past. As a result both Alan Campbell and Parker were blacklisted.
John Keats, the author of You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker (1971) has pointed out: "Alan Campbell was a victim of the Red hunt, despite his well-known objections to Dorothy Parker's pre-war political activities and his refusal to have anything to do with them. Because her career in films was over, he could not offer himself and Dorothy Parker as a writing team to any studio, nor was any studio willing to employ him alone, because he was the husband of a suspected Communist. To be unemployed in Hollywood is normally to be regarded as a pariah, but in these abnormal times it was something worse. No one knew who might be reported for his association with someone else, however slight that association might be; no one knew how suspect were the friends of his friends. There was no help for this: no one could say when, or whether, the terror would end... the House Committee on Un-American Activities said it had evidence that Dorothy Parker was a Communist. She was angrily noncommittal when questioned by newspaper reporters. She refused to become one of those who went crawling to the Committee, or to the studios, to wear the guise of a penitent and seek redemption and good fortune by being traitorous."
Marsha Hunt was another one who was named in Red Channels: "Well, that ended my career. Red Channels came out in the summmer of 1950, while - how's this for irony? - I was in Paris being invited to dinner by Eleanor Roosevelt. Red Channels was concerned entirely with the broadcast field. The film industry later had its own lists of victims. Red Channels included me because I had been offered my own TV talk show. I'd had beginner's luck on TV, being, as you can see, very voluble. I had been on a number of early talk shows with people like George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, bright, articulate folk. And I was currently quite successful on Broadway, having starred in Joy to the World with Alfred Drake and The Devil's Disciple with Maurice Evans in 1950.... They had listed several affiliations under my name - some I'd never heard about, complete lies. One, I think, had me attending a peace conference in Stockholm. I had never been to Stockholm, nor to a peace conference. The rest were innocent activities that Red Channels viewed with suspicion."
On 8th March, 1951, the HUAC committee began an "Investigation of Communism in the Entertainment Field". The chairman was John S. Wood, and other members included Harold Velde of Illinois, Francis Walter of Pennsylvania, Morgan M. Moulder of Missouri, Clyde Doyle of California, James B. Frazier of Tennessee, Bernard W. Kearney of New York and Charles E. Potter of Michigan. Louis Russell was the senior investigator and Frank S. Tavenner, was chief counsel.
The first witness was Victor Jeremy Jerome, who refused to answer any questions. He used the protective cover of the Fifth Amendment, which broadly states, "when a witness in his own opinion considers that the answer to a question might tend to incriminate him, he cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself and made to answer".
Howard da Silva took a similar approach to the problem: "I refuse to answer the question on the following basis: The first and fifth amendments and all of the Bill of Rights protect me from any inquisitorial procedure, and I may not be compelled to cooperate with this committee in producing evidence designed to incriminate me and to drive me from my profession as an actor. The historical origin of the fifth amendment is founded in the resistance of the people to attempts to prosecute and persecute individuals because of their political views."
Gale Sondergaard appeared on 21st March, 1951. Frank S. Tavenner told her he documents to show that she joined the American Communist Party on 1st December, 1944, and had the card number 47328. Sondergaard refused to comment upon this documentary evidence and all subsequent efforts by the committee to link her with Communist fronts and organizations.
Larry Parks gave evidence later that day. He admitted that he joined the American Communist Party in 1941. He joined because it "fulfilled certain needs of a young man that was liberal of thought, idealistic, who was for the underprivileged, the underdog". At first he refused to name other members of the party: "I would prefer not to mention names, if it is at all possible, of anyone. I don't think it is fair to people to do this. I have come to you at your request. I have come and willingly tell you about myself. I think that, if you would allow me, I would prefer not to be questioned about names. And I will tell you everything that I know about myself, because I feel I have done nothing wrong, and 1 will answer any question that you would like to put to me about myself. I would prefer, if you will allow me, not to mention other people's names.... The people at that time as I knew them-this is my opinion of them. This is my honest opinion: That these are people who did nothing wrong, people like myself.... And it seems to me that this is not the American way of doing things to force a man who is under oath and who has opened himself as wide as possible to this committee - and it hasn't been easy to do this -to force a man to do this is not American justice."
However, Parks did agree to name members in a private session of the HUAC. This included Joseph Bromberg, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky, John Howard Lawson, Karen Morley, Anne Revere, Gale Sondergaard, Dorothy Tree, Roman Bohnan, Lloyd Gough and Victor Kilian. Three days later Paul Jarrico, who was due to appear before the HUAC, told the New York Times, that he was unwilling to follow the example of Parks: "If I have to choose between crawling in the mud with Larry Parks or going to jail like my courageous friends of the Hollywood Ten, I shall certainly choose the latter."
Sterling Hayden was also willing to answer questions about his political past. On 10th April 1951 he told the HUAC that during the Second World War he served behind enemy lines and that he became "enraptured by the Partisans of Yugoslavia and how he concomitantly became exposed to Communist ideology". Hayden joined the American Communist Party in June, 1946.
Robert Vaughn, the author of Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting (1972) has argued that "Hayden... was the first of many who elected to put the continuance of their careers ahead of personal and professional friendships." People named by Hayden included Robert Lees, Karen Morley and Abraham Polonsky. Hayden also said: "One of them was someone named Bernie but I never knew his last name. He was a sort of intellectual type and led the educational discussions." He was talking about the young screenwriter Bernard Gordon who was later named by William Alland.
Hayden later commented in his autobiography, Wanderer (1963): "Not often does a man find himself eulogized for having behaved in a manner that he himself despises. I subscribed to a press-clipping service. They sent me two thousand clips from papers east and west, large and small, and from dozens of magazines. Most had nothing but praise for my one-shot stoolie show. Only a handful - led by The New York Times - denounced this abrogation of constitutional freedoms whereby the stoolie could gain status in a land of frightened people."
Will Greer appeared on 11th April, 1951. Greer refused to answer the claim that on 23rd July, 1942, he had signed a pro-Communist petition. John S. Wood asked him why he was not answering questions about his past. Greer replied: "I stand on the advice of my counsel... With the situation of the world as it is. It's a hysterical situation." Harold Velde asked him: "Would it be any crime to admit your membership in a legal party, then?" Greer replied: "In this day of hysteria it is, sir."
Robert Lees also refused to answer questions later that day: "There are a great number of organizations that this committee has deemed to be subversive and my connections with any individual that can be connected with these organizations can tend to incriminate me, and for this reason I have declined to answer that question."
Richard Collins gave evidence on 12th April, 1951. He told the HUAC that he had been recruited to the American Communist Party by Budd Schulberg in 1936. He named John Howard Lawson as a leader of the party in Hollywood. Collins also claimed that fellow members of his communist cell included Ring Lardner Jr. and Martin Berkeley. He also named John Bright, Lester Cole, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt and Frank Tuttle. Collins estimated that the Communist Party in Hollywood during the Second World War had several hundred members and he had known about twenty of them.
Paul Jarrico gave evidence on the 13th April and argued that the treatment of the Hollywood Ten meant that it was impossible for him to cooperate with the HUAC: "Ten of my friends, very dear friends, have gone to jail for coming before this body and saying that Congress may not investigate in any area in which it may not legislate, and since the Constitution of the United States specifically states that Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of speech, and since countless decisions of the courts have held that this provision of the Constitution means that Congress cannot investigate into areas of opinion, of conscience, of belief, I believe that in asking that those men be cited for contempt of Congress and in successfully sending these men to jail, that this committee has subverted the meaning of the American Constitution."
Edward Dmytryk had originally been a member of the Hollywood Ten, however, on 17th April he decided to answer questions he received before the HUAC. This time he answered all their questions including the naming of twenty-six former members of left-wing groups. This included Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Gordon Kahn, Richard Collins, Jules Dassin, Jack Berry, John Wexley, Michael Gordon, Michael Uris and Bernard Vorhaus. Dmytryk also revealed how Lawson, Scott and Maltz had put him under pressure to make sure his films expressed the views of the American Communist Party. This was particularly damaging as several members of the original Hollywood Ten were at that time involved in court cases with their previous employers. Dmytryk also testified that along with Tuttle, Berry, Biberman, Dassin and Vorhaus, he had tried to gain control of the Screen Directors Guild.
Dmytryk told the HUAC: "I know that there have been comments - I don't mean Communists but even among certain progressives and liberals - that people who talk are in effect informers. I heard that so much that I went to the dictionary and looked up the word. An informer, roughly speaking, is a man who informs against colleagues or former colleagues who are engaged in criminal activity. I think the Communists, by using this word against people, are in effect admitting they are engaged in criminal activit}. I never heard of anybody informing on the Boy Scouts."
Edward Dmytryk later recalled: "Not a single person I named hadn't already been named at least a half-dozen times and wasn't already on the blacklist. Because I didn't know that many. I only knew a few people, literally a handful of people, all of whom had been in the Party long before I was, all of whom were known by the FBI and were known to the Committee. There was no question about that. With me it was that defending the Communist Party was something worse than naming the names. I did not want to remain a martyr to something that I absolutely believed was immoral and wrong. It's as simple as that."
Dmytryk was followed by Anne Revere. She refused to answer the questions because she believed if she did so she would be aiding the HUAC in its "attempt to overthrow the American system". Revere argued: "Mr. Tavenner and gentlemen, this would seem to me, based upon my observation in the course of the week in which I have listened to these testimonies, to be the first in a possible series of questions which would attempt in some manner to link me with subversive organizations; and as the Communist Party is a political party - legal political party - in this country today, and as I consider any questioning regarding one's political views or religious views as a violation of the rights of a citizen under our Constitution, and as I would consider myself, therefore, contributing to the overthrow of our form of government as I understand it if I were to assist you in violating this privilege of mine and other citizens of this country, I respectfully decline to answer this question on the basis of the fifth amendment, possible self-incrimination, and also the first amendment."
John Garfield did answer questions and denied he ever joined the American Communist Party or knew any of its members. He did admit to being a supporter of left-wing causes and during the 1930s had spoken at Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee meetings and in the 1948 Presidential Election he had advocated the election of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate.
Donald L. Jackson questioned Garfield's account about his knowledge of what was going on in Hollywood: "Do you contend that during the seven years or more that you were in Hollywood and in close contact with a situation in which a number of Communist cells were operating on a week-to-week basis, with electricians, actors, and every class represented, that during the entire period of time you were in Hollywood you did not know of your own personal knowledge a member of the Communist Party?"
Garfield replied: "When I was originally requested to appear before the committee, I said that I would answer all questions, fully and without any reservations, and that is what I have done. I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I was glad to appear before you and talk with you. I am no Red. I am no "pink." I am no fellow traveler. I am a Democrat by politics, a liberal by inclination, and a loyal citizen of this country by every act of my life."
Roy M. Brewer of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees appeared on 17th May. He testified that he did not believe that John Garfield was telling the truth. He argued that it was impossible for an actor in Hollywood and not to be aware of the power of the American Communist Party. "I do not think the opinion of one man is of much value, but I think if you could document the employment records of those individuals that were not acceptable to the Communist group as against those individuals who were in the forefront of it, I think you would find a rather substantial indication that there were influences at work. Those influences work in many, many ways. Lots of times the opinion of a secretary or of a clerk in a casting bureau can make the difference between whether one man is hired or another man is hired. I can see, from my standpoint, knowing the set-up in Hollywood, how easy it would be for an underground movement to use influence in such a way that an individual without such protection would be at a disadvantage, and I am of the definite opinion that was the case. I think it can be proven by records. I haven't attempted to do that, but in my judgment it could be done."
On 23rd May, 1951 Budd Schulberg agreed to answer questions and admitted he joined the American Communist Party in 1937. He also stated that Herbert Biberman, John Bright, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Waldo Salt had all been members. Schulberg left in 1940 because of a dispute with Victor Jeremy Jerome: "It was suggested that I talk with a man by the name of V. J. Jerome, who was in Hollywood at that time. I went to see him... I didn't do much talking. I listened to V. J. Jerome. I am not sure what his position was, but I remember being told that my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book, wrong about the party; wrong about the so-called peace movement at that particular time; and I gathered from the conversation in no uncertain terms that I was wrong. I don't remember saying much. I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the party. I didn't feel I had talked to just a comrade. I felt I had talked to someone rigid and dictatorial who was trying to tell me how to live my life, and as far as I remember, I didn't want to have anything more to do with them."
Frank Tuttle appeared before the HUAC on 24th May, 1951. He named the following as being members of the Communist Party: Jack Berry, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, John Bright, Joseph Bromberg, Hugo Butler, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Jules Dassin, Edward Dmytryk, Michael Gordon, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Robert Lees, Albert Maltz, Waldo Salt, Dorothy Tree, Dalton Trumbo, Michael Uris and Bernard Vorhaus.
Tuttle explained his reasons for giving information of former comrades: "I believe that there is a traditional dislike among Americans for informers, and I am an informer, and I have thought about this constantly. I believe all decent people who share this dislike for informers, if they think about this carefully, will agree with me that at this particular moment it is absolutely vital. In a case like this, with ruthless aggression abroad in the world, the aggressors. I believe, are as ruthless with their own people as they are with those they consider their enemies; and I feel that today it is absolutely necessary for Americans to be equally ruthless.
On 25th June, 1951, Robert Rossen admitted that in the 1930s he had friends who were members of the American Communist Party. This included Alvah Bessie, John Bright, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Edward Dmytryk, Guy Endore, Lou Harris, Ian Hunter, Paul Jarrico, Hy Kraft, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Isobel Lennart, Albert Maltz, Waldo Salt, Adrian Scott, Leo Townsend, Dalton Trumbo, Frank Tuttle, Michael Uris, Bernard Vorhaus and John Wexley.
Rossen went on to argue: "I should like to emphatically state that I am not a member of the Communist Party. I am not sympathetic with it or its aims. I can't believe in any divided loyalty, and in the event this country goes to war I stand ready now, as I always have, to bear arms in its defense and to serve in whatever capacity the country may call on me, against any and all of its enemies, including the Soviet Union." Frank S. Tavenner responded by stating that he had information that Rossen had been a member as late as the 3rd June, 1951. Rossen answered: "I shall have to decline to answer that question on the grounds it may tend to incriminate and degrade me, and thus violate my rights under both the first and fifth amendments."
Joseph Bromberg had been named as a member of the American Communist Party by Frank Tuttle. When he appeared in front of the HUAC on 26th June, 1951, he refused to answer any questions on the Fifth Amendment. Jeff Corey, who had been named as a communist by fellow actor, Marc Lawrence, appeared before the committee to claim: "I am really not (a communist). My name was brought up at an earlier committee hearing and since then I have been grey-listed, if not completely black-listed. Hitherto I had been quite busy as an actor, but my professional fortunes have waned considerably, coincident with the mentioning of my name."
The director, Martin Berkeley, took a completely different view and on 21st September, 1951 named 155 people as former members of the party, including Bromberg, Ben Barzman, Herbert Biberman, Gale Sondergaard, John Bright, Joseph Bromberg, Sidney Buchman, Hugo Butler, Alan Campbell, Dorothy Parker, Richard Collins, Lester Cole, Howard da Silva, Cyril Endfield, Guy Endore, Carl Foreman, Michael Gordon, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Ian Hunter, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Robert Lees, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt, Budd Schulberg, Lional Stander, Donald Ogden Stewart, Dalton Trumbo, Frank Tuttle, Michael Uris, Dorothy Tree, Bernard Vorhaus and John Wexley.
Carl Foreman and Sidney Buchman both appeared in the HUAC on 24th September, 1951. Foreman refused to answer any questions. Buchman admitted he had been a member of the American Communist Party from 1938 to 1945 but took the Fifth Amendment about naming other members of the party. Buchman was charged with contempt of Congress and was found guilty and fined $150 with a one-year suspended sentence.
Frank Donner, a lawyer who defended several people who were called before the HUCA, wrote in The Un-Americans (1961): "He (the witness) knows that the Committee demands his physical presence in the hearing room for no reason other than to make him a target of its hostility, to have him photographed, exhibited and branded... He knows that the vandalism, ostracism, insults, crank calls and hate letters that he and his family have already suffered are but the opening stages of a continuing ordeal... he is tormented by the awareness that he is being punished without valid cause, and deprived, by manipulated prejudice, of his fundamental rights as an American."
On 6th February, 1952, Harvey Matusow testified in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee that Pete Seeger was a member of the American Communist Party. Matusow admitted in his autobiography, False Witness (1955) that this was untrue but Seeger said this ended the career of The Weavers: "Matusow's appearance burst like a bombshell... We had started off singing in some very flossy night-clubs... Then we went lower and lower as the blacklist crowded us in. Finally, we were down to places like Daffy's Bar and Grill on the outskirts of Cleveland." Despite not being a member of the party Seeger continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”
Elia Kazan appeared before the HUAC on 10th April, 1952. He admitted he had joined the Communist Party in 1934 and left two years later over disagreements about policy. Kazan claimed that he had been instructed to "capture" the Group Theatre. He named Clifford Odets, Joseph Bromberg, Morris Carnovsky and Tony Kraber as former members of the party.
Odets agreed with Kazan about the way he was treated by the Communist Party in the 1930s. He testified on 24th April, 1952 that he had criticized for not writing enough "progressive plays". The Daily Worker accused him of "wasting his time writing about ordinary, middle-class life when he could be writing a glorious play about the war in Spain." Odets went on to name Joseph Bromberg, Elia Kazan and Tony Kraber as members of the Communist Party.
Clifford Odets went on to explain the political problems of being a left-wing writer: "The lines of leftism, liberalism, in all of their shades and degrees, are constantly crossing like a jangled chord on a piano. It is almost impossible to pick out which note is which note. I have spoken out on what I thought were certain moral issues of the day, and I found myself apparently in line with your documentation, I have found myself frequently on platforms with Communists that I did not know about then but evidently are now known Communists. I have said before that many of these people have some very good tunes. They have picked up some of our most solemn and sacred American tunes and they sing them. If I as an American liberal must sometimes speak out the same tune, I must sometimes find myself on platforms, so to speak, with strange bedfellows. I have never wittingly, since these early days, have ever wittingly, joined or spoken on an exclusively Communist program or platform, not to my knowledge. I sec that one must do one of two things. One must pick one's way very carefully through the mazes of liberalism and leftism today or one must remain silent. Of the two, I must tell you frankly I would try to pick the first way, because the little that I have to say, the little that I have to contribute to the betterment or welfare of the American people could not permit me to remain silent."
Lillian Hellman, named by Martin Berkeley as a member of the American Communist Party, refused to appear before the HUAC and instead sent a letter explaining her position: "I am most willing to answer all questions about myself. I have nothing to hide from your committee and there is nothing in my life of which I am ashamed. I have been advised by counsel that under the fifth amendment I have a constitutional privilege to decline to answer any questions about my political opinions, activities, and associations, on the grounds of self-incrimination. I do not wish to claim this privilege. I am ready and willing to testify before the representatives of our Government as to my own opinions and my own actions, regardless of any risks or consequences to myself. But I am advised by counsel that if I answer the committee's questions about myself, I must also answer questions about other people and that if I refuse to do so, I can be cited for contempt. My counsel tells me that if I answer questions about myself, I will have waived my rights under the fifth amendment and could be forced legally to answer questions about others. This is very difficult for a layman to understand. But there is one principle that I do understand: I am not willing, now or in the future, to bring bad trouble to people who, in my past association with them, were completely innocent of any talk or any action that was disloyal or subversive. I do not like subversion or disloyalty in any form and if I had ever seen any I would have considered it my duty to have reported it to the proper authorities. But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. 1 cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group."
Edward G. Robinson had been a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and was a well-known supporter of liberal causes. On 30th April 1952 he admitted that "many civic, cultural, philanthropic, and political organizations of which I have been amember and a contributor, but a small percentage I later discovered were tinged with the taint of communism. It is a serious matter to have one's loyalty questioned. Life is less dear to me than my loyalty to democracy and the United States. I ask favors of no one. All I ask is that the record be kept straight and that I be permitted to live free of false charges.
I readily concede that I have been used, and that I have been mistaken regarding certain associations which I regret, but I have not been disloyal or dishonest."
On 29th September, 1952, Roy Huggins named Ben Barzman, Guy Endore and Robert Lees, as members of the American Communist Party. He attempted to explain the attractions of Marxism: "Marxism has a wonderful thing about it, in that, being a closed system of thought, if you feel great despair about the world or are having difficulty understanding it, Marxism does something for you. It suddenly allows the whole universe to fall into a nice simple pattern. There are no unanswered questions once you become a Marxist. It is a nice feeling, particularly if your field is political philosophy, and you like to feel that you do know all of the answers."
Pete Seeger was not called before the HUAC until 1955. Seeger's lawyer, Paul Ross, advised him to use the Fifth Amendment defence (the right against self-incrimination). In the year of Seeger's subpoena, the HUAC called 529 witnesses and 464 (88 per cent) remained silent. Seeger later recalled: "The expected move would have been to take the Fifth. That was the easiest thing, and the case would have been dismissed. On the other hand, everywhere I went, I would have to face 'Oh, you're one of those Fifth Amendment Communists...' I didn't want to run down my friends who did use the Fifth Amendment but I didn't choose to use it."
Seeger had been struck by something that I.F. Stone had written in 1953: "Great faiths can only be preserved by men willing to live by them (HUAC's violation of the First Amendment) cannot be tested until someone dares invite prosecution for contempt." Seeger decided that he would accept Stone's challenge, and use the First Amendment defence (freedom of speech) even though he knew it would probably result in him being sent to prison. Seeger told Paul Ross : "I want to get up there and attack these guys for what they are, the worst of America". Ross warned him that each time the HUCA found him in contempt, he was liable to a year in jail.
The first day of the new HUAC hearings took place on 15th August 1955. Most of the witnesses were excused after taking the Fifth Amendment. Seeger's friend, Lee Hays, also evoked the Fifth Amendment on the second day of the hearings and he was allowed to go unheeded. Seeger was expected to follow his example but instead he answered their questions. When asked for details of his occupation, Seeger replied: "I make my living as a banjo picker - sort of damning in some people's opinion." However, when Gordon Scherer, a sponsor of the John Birch Society, asked him if he had performed at concerts organized by the American Communist Party he refused to answer.
Francis Walter, the chairman of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, told Pete Seeger: "I direct you to answer". Seeger replied: "I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this." Seeger later recalled: "I realized that I was fitting into a necessary role... This particular time, there was a job that had to be done, I was there to do it. A soldier goes into training. You find yourself in battle and you know the role you're supposed to fulfill."
The HUAC continued to ask questions of this nature. Seeger pointed out: "I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else. I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American."
Harvey Matusow published his book, False Witness in 1955. As Ted Morgan, the author of Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America (2003), has pointed out: "Publication was synchronized with a campaign for new trials... at a time when 134 Communist leaders had been indicted under the Smith Act, with eighty-three convictions. Thanks to Matusow, the party could claim that all Smith Act trials were rigged." Matusow admitted that he had named over 200 people as being members of the American Communist Party but admitted that "about 15% was based on hearsay".
Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine said: ''At long last, the shining truth about the false accusers, the half-truth artists, the professional fabricators, the prevaricators for pay is beginning to break up through the dark and ugly clouds of doubt they have so evilly blown up.'' However, Attorney General Herbert Brownell accused Matusow as being ''part of a concerted drive to discredit government witnesses.''
In the book Matusow claimed he was a FBI agent who had been paid to lie about his former friends and some of these people were in prison because of his testimony, whereas others were blacklisted because of his lies. He also named Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn as people who had persuaded him to give false testimony. However, these people were not released or removed from the blacklist. Instead, Matusow was charged with "scheming to obstruct justice" in July 1955. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Matusow was released after spending three and a half years in Lewisburg Prison, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, on 26th July, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Pete Seeger, Arthur Miller, and six others for contempt. However, Seeger did not come to trial until March, 1961. Seeger defended himself with the words: "Some of my ancestors were religious dissenters who came to America over three hundred years ago. Others were abolitionists in New England in the eighteen forties and fifties. I believe that my choosing my present course I do no dishonor to them, or to those who may come after me." He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months in prison. After worldwide protests, the Court of Appeals ruled that Seeger's indictment was faulty and dismissed the case.
Over 320 people were placed on the blacklist that stopped them from working in the entertainment industry. This included Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Ring Lardner Jr, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Clifford Odets, Larry Parks, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Louis Untermeyer, Anne Revere, Jeff Corey, Donald Ogden Stewart, Arthur Miller, Pete Seeger, Yip Harburg, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Joseph Losey, Richard Wright, Abraham Polonsky, Ian McLellan Hunter , Bernard Vorhaus, Gordon Kahn, Lewis Milestone, Bernard Gordon, Jean Rouverol , Hugo Butler, John Bright and Waldo Salt.
In 1969, HUAC was renamed the Internal Security Committee. Six years later it was abolished and its functions transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Every true American, and that includes every Klansman, is behind you and your committee in its effort to turn the country back to the honest, freedom-loving, God-fearing American to whom it belongs.
This Committee will not permit any "character assassination" or any "smearing" of innocent people. It is easy to smear someone's name or reputation by unsupported charges or an unjustified attack, but it is difficult to repair the damage that has been done. When any individual or organization is involved in any charge or attack made in the course of the hearings, that individual or organization will be accorded an opportunity to refute such charge or attack.
Mr. Speaker, this resolution (for the continuation of the Dies Committee) presents a very serious issue. It presents the issue of guaranteeing the rights of dissident minorities. Destroy the constitutional rights of minorities, particularly the rights of those minorities that you so vociferously condemn, and you are marching... toward the destruction of democracy. This committee, under the guise of investigating subversive activities, has done its utmost to abolish democratic rights in the United States.
It has failed to distinguish between illegal activities and constitutional activities. It has sought to destroy the right to constitutional activities under the pretext of investigating illegal activities. The rights of minorities to freedom of press, speech, and petition have been endangered as never before by this committee. Oh, I know that when my friend the gentleman from Alabama gets up here he will say, "I subscribe to the doctrine of free speech." Let me say that what the Dies Committee has failed to recognize is the fundamental principle of application. There is a great deal of difference between mere subscription and application. I say that every dissident minority has the right to advocate, it has the right to organize, and it has the right to propagandize. The Dies Committee has failed to recognize the difference between subversive and constitutional.
Oh, it is perfectly easy to attack a dissident minority. The press applauds. In fact, "communism" has become very, very convenient for many, many Members of this House, and many people outside of it. If communism is destroyed, I do not know what some of you will do. It has become the most convenient method by which you wrap yourselves in the American flag in order to cover up some of the greasy stains on the legislative toga. You can vote against the unemployed, you can vote against the W.P.A. workers, and you can emasculate the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; you can try to destroy the National Labor Relations Law, the Magna Carta of American labor; you can vote against the farmer; and you can do all that with a great deal of impunity, because after you have done so you do not have to explain your vote. You do not have to defend yourselves to the country and to the unemployed, to labor or to the farmer. All you have to do is stand up here and say, "I am opposed to communism. Let us destroy communism." What are you going to do when there is no more communism in this country?
The Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities is now a standing investigatory committee with power to initiate legislation. I mean this to be a direct talk. The vaudevillian antics, the brass band tactics, the star chamber proceedings of the Dies Committee have put all of us on notice. Bluntly then, the present committee can make its choice. It can either adopt the Dies course of unfounded character assassinations, lynch-law, prosecutor-jury and executioner all in one - or it can proceed in a manner consonant with the American tradition of the right to be heard, the right of counsel and the right of confrontation of witnesses, placing emphasis on investigation of all foreignisms with honest judicious objectivity. If we are to have again an extravaganza of persecution - a deep-seated mania of embracing some I individually conceived notion of alienism, we face again a betrayal of our basic constitutionally guarded frights. The power to investigate is a great public trust. And we ask the newly constituted committee not for one instant to forget that.
In the final count, it remains with the American people whether it will countenance the continuation of the former practices of the Dies Committee. Illegality will never solve the problem of political lawlessness. As we have seen so clearly demonstrated in Europe, hate breeds hate and the vicious circle revolves with all its attending madness.
Let the over-zealous be reminded of Hawthorne's description of those "who go all wrong by too strenuous a resolution to go right."
I would prefer, if you would allow me, not to mention other people's names. Don't present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this Committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer. I have two boys, one thirteen months, one two weeks. Is this the kind of heritage that you would like to hand down to your children.
Stripling: You would refuse to act in a picture in which a person whom you considered to be a Communist was also cast; is that correct?
Robert Taylor: I most assuredly would and I would not even have to know that he was a Communist. This may sound biased; however, if I were even suspicious of a person being a Communist with whom I was scheduled to work, I am afraid it would have to be him or me, because life is a little too short to be around people who annoy me as much as these fellow travelers and Communists do.
We the undersigned, as American Citizens who believe in constitutional democratic government, are disgusted and outraged by the continuing attempt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities to smear the Motion Picture Industry.
We hold that these hearings are morally wrong because:
Any investigation into the political beliefs of the individual is contrary to the basic principles of our democracy;
Any attempt to curb freedom of expression and to set arbitrary standards of Americanism is in itself disloyal to both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.
When the facilities of the government of the United States are drawn on an individual it can be terrifying. The blacklist is just the opening gambit - being deprived of work. Your passport is confiscated. That's minor. But not being able to move without being tailed is something else. After a certain point it grows to implied as well as articulated threats, and people succumb. My wife did, and she was institutionalized. In 1953 the HUAC did a deal with me. I was pretty much worn down. I had no money. I couldn't borrow. I had the expenses of taking care of the children. Why am I subjecting my loved ones to this? If it's worth dying for, and I am just as idealistic as the next fellow. But I decided it wasn't worth dying for, and if this gesture was the way of getting out of the penitentiary I'd do it. I had to be employable again.
These people (those he named), if they had it in them, could have written books and plays. There was not a blacklist in publishing. There was not a blacklist in the theatre. They could have written about the forces that drove them into the Communist Party. They were practically nothing written. Nor have I seen these people interested in social problems in the decades since. They're interested in their own problems and in the protection of the Party.
In most cases the informers picked a route that seemed to them an easy solution to a difficult problem; in other words, they could handle their own friends, whom they testified against, better than they could handle the U.S. government harassing them. Schulberg just has to explain one thing: Why did he become an informer when they forced him to? And why didn't he become an informer before they forced him to? The reason was that before, he thought it wasn't a good thing to do. The Nazis pointed a gun up against his head and said, "Look, give us some names," and he says, "Yeah, I hate those guys anyway."
I believe America should arm to the teeth. I believe in universal military training. I attended Culver Military Academy during the last war and enlisted as a private. Due to my military training I was soon made an officer and it taught me a great many things. I believe if I was told to swim the Mississippi River I would learn how to swim. Every young man should have military training. There is no better thing for a young man than military training for his discipline, for his manhood, for his courage, and for love of his country. I know it was good for me. It never did me any harm.
There is much discussion about Communist propaganda. I think all who read the newspapers and the columns realize that the Communist Party in the past has appeared to be in no particular hurry about achieving its ends. 1 think to look for direct Communist propaganda in pictures at this particular moment might be a mistake. I think we should be well on our guard that the infiltration maybe is taking place at this time so that after the infiltration has reached a saturation point later on the screen may be used in a manner inimical to the best interests of our country.
I can't quote the lines of the play exactly but I can give you the sense of them. There is one place in which-it is unfair, may I say, to take a scene from its context and try to make it sound like Communist propaganda, because a Communist is very careful, very clever, and very devious in the way he sets the film. If I were to give you a line from that play straight out you would say "What is wrong with that line?" unless you knew that the Communist is trying in every way to tear down our free-enterprise system, to make the people lose faith in it, so that they will want to get something else-and the Communists have it waiting for them.
I will tell you of one line. The mother in the story runs a second-hand store. The son says to her, "You are not going to" in essence, I am not quoting this exactly because I can't remember it exactly-he said to her, "You are not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies from people poorer than we are.".
Many people are poorer and many people are richer.
As I say, you find yourself in an awful hole the moment you start to remove one of the scenes from its context.
Look, it is very hard to explain. It is almost impossible to convey to a free people what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship. I can tell you a lot of details. I can never completely convince you, because you are free. It is in a way good that you can't even conceive of what it is like. Certainly they have friends and mothers-in-law. They try to live a human life, but you understand it is totally inhuman. Try to imagine what it is like if you are in constant terror from morning till night and at night you are waiting for the doorbell to ring, where you are afraid of anything and everybody, living in a country where human life is nothing, less than nothing, and you know it.
Producer Dore Schary admitted knowing suspected Communist Hans Eisler but said he was not responsible for employing the composer and musician. The executive told the committee on October 29 that until such time as a man was proved to be a Communist he would continue to hire him. If the suspect was verified as a person dedicated to the overthrow of the government by force, Schary would not have hired him.
Stripling pursued the questions relating to Eisler. lie wanted to know if Schary would hire him based on what he had read about his pro-Soviet activities in the newspapers. Schary replied that he was not capable of answering the question for two reasons. First, he did not know Eisler's qualifications as a musician and, second, the United States Supreme Court had ruled that an employer could not arbitrarily refuse a man work because of his political convictions.
The chairman asked: ". .. assuming that Hans Eisler is a great artist; assuming also that he is a Communist, you would not hesitate to rehire him?" Schary retorted, "I would not hesitate to rehire him if it was not proven that he was a foreign agent. I would still maintain his right to think politically as he chooses."" In subsequent testimony that day he recanted and declared if all Stripling said about the composer was true he would not hire Eisler.
Schary stated that although he was not responsible for hiring Dmytryk and Scott, he would continue to employ them at RKO until they were proved to be foreign agents. He added that Brecht, to his knowledge, was never employed by RKO.
Stripling wanted to know if [he executive was aware that his company was producing a film written by Howard Fast and that the writer was a publicly avowed Communist. Schary replied that these circumstances had occurred before he came to the studio and after reviewing the Fast script, he found it "a very charming Story, not political whatsoever."
The chairman terminated the inquiry by reminding the witness of Rip Van Winkle, an allusion to an analogy he made earlier about the committee's efforts to awaken America from its long sleep in disregarding the facts of internal and external Communist aggression and expansion. The remarks of the chairman drew laughter from the crowded chamber.
The general conclusions drawn from the total testimony are worth noting.
Chairman Thomas never produced the list of pro-Communist films he promised. The films that were mentioned by the friends of the committee were nothing for the American public to be Concerned about. Though denying it, the committee did make a sustained effort to persuade Hollywood to make anti-Communist pictures. The dossiers of the ten unfriendly witnesses did authenticate that there were Communists in Hollywood. A total of thirty-five individuals were named as Communist Party members during the hearings. Eleven had the opportunity to reply. Lavery was not a Communist and said so. Brecht probably was but denied it.
The committee accepted much testimony at face value with no opportunity for many of those named as Communists to reply. The Screen Writers Guild was damaged by the hearings. The press forced the hearings to end prematurely. The entire proceedings were conducted in a circus like atmosphere. The committee was arbitrary in allowing witnesses to read prepared statements, usually determined by whether they were in sympathy with the investigation.
I refuse to answer the question on the following basis: The first and fifth amendments and all of the Bill of Rights protect me from any inquisitorial procedure, and I may not be compelled to cooperate with this committee in producing evidence designed to incriminate me and to drive me from my profession as an actor. The historical origin of the fifth amendment is founded in the resistance of the people to attempts to prosecute and persecute individuals because of their political views.
I would prefer not to mention names, if it is at all possible, of anyone. I don't think it is fair to people to do this. I have come to you at your request. I have come and willingly tell you about myself. I think that, if you would allow me, I would prefer not to be questioned about names. And I will tell you everything that I know about myself, because I feel I have done nothing wrong, and 1 will answer any question that you would like to put to me about myself. I would prefer, if you will allow me, not to mention other people's names.... The people at that time as I knew them-this is my opinion of them. This is my honest opinion: That these are people who did nothing wrong, people like myself.... And it seems to me that this is not the American way of doing things to force a man who is under oath and who has opened himself as wide as possible to this committee - and it hasn't been easy to do this -to force a man to do this is not American justice.
It was suggested that I talk with a man by the name of V. J. Jerome, who was in Hollywood at that time.
I went to see him. Looking back, it may be hard to understand why, after all these wrangles and arguments, I should go ahead and see V. J. Jerome. But maybe every writer has an insatiable curiosity about these things; I don't know.
Anyway, I went. It was on Hollywood Boulevard in an apartment. I didn't do much talking. I listened to V. J. Jerome. I am not sure what his position was, but I remember being told that my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book, wrong about the party; wrong about the so-called peace movement at that particular time; and I gathered from the conversation in no uncertain terms that I was wrong.
I don't remember saying much. I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the party. I didn't feel I had talked to just a comrade. I felt I had talked to someone rigid and dictatorial who was trying to tell me how to live my life, and as far as I remember, I didn't want to have anything more to do with them.
I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else.
I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American.
In the early fifties, the House Un-American Activities Committee was at its heyday, interrogating Americans about their Communist connections, holding them in contempt if they refused to answer, distributing millions of pamphlets to the American public: "One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism" ("Where can Communists be found? Everywhere"). Liberals often criticized the Committee, but in Congress, liberals and conservatives alike voted to fund it year after year. By 1958, only one member of the House of Representatives (James Roosevelt) voted against giving it
money. Although Truman criticized the Committee, his own Attorney General had expressed, in 1950, the same idea that motivated its investigations: "There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere - in factories, offices, butcher shops, on street corners, in private business - and each carries in himself the germs of death for society."
Eight of the Hollywood Ten were writers. The committee could easily have proved they conspired to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence by producing words written by them to that effect. The Congressmen did not, because undoubtedly no such writings exist. Charges made by Jack Warner regarding the subversion of Broadway theater by Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan were, as hundreds of other allegations, left unchallenged by the committee.
The spring, 1947, preview testimony of the friendly witnesses in Hollywood was only alluded to in the October hearings; it was never publicly released in its entirety. Jack Warner and Robert Taylor denied in October specific charges they had made earlier in the year.
Although it is doubtful that the committee could have elicited any direct or meaningful answers from the Hollywood Ten, it should have tried. To broach the $64 question so early in each man's interrogation eliminated any possibility of significant disclosures of Red activities in Hollywood.
The record clearly indicates that the inquisitors were primarily interested in forcing the unfriendly witnesses into contempt charges rather than investigating Communism in the American cinema.
Subsequent investigations in the 1950's would reveal that high-paid Hollywood artists contributed heavily to the CP causes; this would have been a proper field of inquiry in 1947. It was not touched upon.
Chairman Thomas' revelation that he had the names of seventy-nine prominent Hollywood Communists in his files, sixty-nine of whom presumably remained at large as Hollywood subversives, seemed to bother very few patriots. Resumption of a full-scale investigation of show business Reds did not occur until almost four years after the abrupt conclusion of the 1947 probe.
We must expect that a diverse society will always have extreme elements, willing to blame the nation's troubles on foreign subversion or alien ideologies and to adopt totalitarian strategies to rid us of the threat they alone perceive - to set their own standards for what is and is not good American thought and to pursue that deemed improper with almost total abandon.
Such groups are sad in themselves. But HUAC was something more. It brought the unparalleled power and respectability of the national government to the assault. It was able to stimulate the destruction of numerous careers, to crush individual expression and creativity to a much greater extent, and to kill many more new concepts than any collection of private extremists could possibly accomplish. Beyond its own direct actions, it lent at least some credence to any private charge of subversion against any individual or group or any novel idea. It helped damage the tone of our national politics for years. We can still feel its influence.