The Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was originally established in 1937 under the chairmanship of Martin Dies. 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 HUCA 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." John 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 the Federal Writers Project and other New Deal projects.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the HUAC

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."

The Alien Registration Act passed by Congress on 29th June, 1940, made it illegal for anyone in the United States to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government. The law also required all alien residents in the United States over 14 years of age to file a comprehensive statement of their personal and occupational status and a record of their political beliefs. Within four months a total of 4,741,971 aliens had been registered.

The main objective of the Alien Registration Act was to undermine the American Communist Party and other left-wing political groups in the United States. It was decided that the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), that had been set up by Congress under Martin Dies in 1938 to investigate people suspected of unpatriotic behaviour, would be the best vehicle to discover if people were trying to overthrow the government.

Hollywood Motion Picture Industry

In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named nineteen people who they accused of holding left-wing views.

One of those named, Bertolt Brecht, a playwright, gave evidence and then left for East Germany. Ten others: Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz,, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions.

Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and they all were found guilty of contempt of congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.

Larry Parks was the only actor in the original nineteen people named. He was also the only person on the list who the average moviegoer would have known. Parks agreed to give evidence to the HUAC and admitted that he had joined the Communist Party in 1941 but left it four years later. When asked for the names of fellow members, Parks replied: "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."

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The House of Un-American Activities Committee insisted that Parks answered all the questions asked. The HUAC had a private session and two days later it was leaked to the newspapers that Parks had named names. Leo Townsend, Isobel Lennart, Roy Huggins, Richard Collins, Lee J. Cobb, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan, afraid they would go to prison, were also willing to name people who had been members of left-wing groups.

Red Channels & the Blacklist

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 but had not so far been blacklisted. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party.

A free copy of Red Channels 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.

Edward Dmytryk, one of the original Hollywood Ten, had financial problems as a result of divorcing his wife. Faced with having to sell his plane and encouraged by his new wife, Dmytryk decided to try to get his name removed from the blacklist. On 25th April, 1951, Dmytryk appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee again. This time he answered all their questions including the naming of twenty-six former members of left-wing groups.

Dmytryk also revealed how people such as John Howard Lawson, Adrian Scott and Albert Maltz had put him under pressure to make sure his films expressed the views of the Communist Party. This was particularly damaging to those members of the original Hollywood Ten who were at that time involved in court cases with their previous employers.

If people refused to name names when called up to appear before the HUAC, they were added to a blacklist that had been drawn up by the Hollywood film studios. Over 320 people were placed on this list that stopped them from working in the entertainment industry. This included Larry Adler, Stella Adler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Joseph Bromberg, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, Hanns Eisler, Carl Foreman, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Dashiell Hammett, E. Y. Harburg, Lillian Hellman, Burl Ives, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Philip Loeb, Joseph Losey, Anne Revere, Pete Seeger, Gale Sondergaard, Louis Untermeyer, Josh White, Clifford Odets, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, Canada Lee, Orson Welles, Paul Green, Sidney Kingsley, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright and Abraham Polonsky.

It was now decided to use the Alien Registration Act against the American Communist Party. Leaders of the party were arrested and in October, 1949, after a nine month trial, eleven members were convicted of violating the act. Over the next two years another 46 members were arrested and charged with advocating the overthrow of the government. Other high profile spy cases at the time involving Alger Hiss, Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg, helped to create a deep fear in the United States that a communist conspiracy was taking place.

Joseph McCarthy

On 9th February, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, made a speech claiming to have a list of 205 people in the State Department that were known to be members of the American Communist Party (later he reduced this figure to 57). The list of names was not a secret and had been in fact published by the Secretary of State in 1946. These people had been identified during a preliminary screening of 3,000 federal employees. Some had been communists but others had been fascists, alcoholics and sexual deviants. If screened, McCarthy's own drink problems and sexual preferences would have resulted in him being put on the list.

McCarthy also began receiving information from his friend, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). William Sullivan, one of Hoover's agents, later admitted that: "We were the ones who made the McCarthy hearings possible. We fed McCarthy all the material he was using."

With the war going badly in Korea and communist advances in Eastern Europe and in China, the American public were genuinely frightened about the possibilities of internal subversion. McCarthy, was made chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, and this gave him the opportunity to investigate the possibility of communist subversion.

For the next two years McCarthy's committee investigated various government departments and questioned a large number of people about their political past. Some lost their jobs after they admitted they had been members of the Communist Party. McCarthy made it clear to the witnesses that the only way of showing that they had abandoned their left-wing views was by naming other members of the party.

This witch-hunt and anti-communist hysteria became known as McCarthyism. Some left-wing artists and intellectuals were unwilling to live in this type of society and people such as Joseph Losey, Richard Wright, Ollie Harrington, James Baldwin, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole and Chester Himes went to live and work in Europe.

At first Joseph McCarthy mainly targeted Democrats associated with the New Deal policies of the 1930s. Harry S. Truman and members of his Democratic administration such as George Marshall and Dean Acheson, were accused of being soft on communism. Truman was portrayed as a dangerous liberal and McCarthy's campaign helped the Republican candidate, Dwight Eisenhower, win the presidential election in 1952.

After what had happened to McCarthy's opponents in the 1950 elections, most politicians were unwilling to criticize him in the Senate. As The Boston Post pointed out: "Attacking him is this state is regarded as a certain method of committing suicide." One notable exception was William Benton, the owner of Encyclopaedia Britannica , and a senator from Connecticut. McCarthy and his supporters immediately began smearing Benton. It was claimed that while Assistant Secretary of State, he had protected known communists and that he had been responsible for the purchase and display of "lewd art works". Benton, who was also accused of being disloyal by Joseph McCarthy for having much of his company's work printed in England, was defeated in the 1952 elections.


In 1952 McCarthy appointed Roy Cohn as the chief counsel to the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. Cohn had been recommended by J. Edgar Hoover, who had been impressed by his involvement in the prosecution of Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg. Soon after Cohn was appointed, he recruited his best friend, David Schine, to become his chief consultant.

McCarthy's next target was what he believed were anti-American books in libraries. His researchers looked into the Overseas Library Program and discovered 30,000 books by "communists, pro-communists, former communists and anti anti-communists." After the publication of this list, these books were removed from the library shelves.

For some time opponents of Joseph McCarthy had been accumulating evidence concerning his homosexual activities. Several members of his staff, including Roy Cohn and David Schine, were also suspected of having a sexual relationship. Although well-known by political journalists, the first article about it did not appear until Hank Greenspun published an article in the Las Vegas Sun in 25th October, 1952. Greenspun wrote that: "It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities."

Joseph McCarthy considered a libel suit against Greenspun but decided against it when he was told by his lawyers that if the case went ahead he would have to take the witness stand and answer questions about his sexuality. In an attempt to stop the rumours circulating, McCarthy married his secretary, Jeannie Kerr. Later the couple adopted a five-week old girl from the New York Foundling Home.

In October, 1953, McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and realised that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy's activities.

The United States Army now passed information about Joseph McCarthy to journalists known to be opposed to him. This included the news that McCarthy and Roy Cohn had abused congressional privilege by trying to prevent David Schine from being drafted. When that failed, it was claimed that Cohn tried to pressurize the Army to grant Schine special privileges. The well-known newspaper columnist, Drew Pearson, published the story on 15th December, 1953.

Daniel Fitzpatrick, St Louis Post-Dispatch (23rd February, 1947)
Daniel Fitzpatrick, St Louis Post-Dispatch (23rd February, 1947)

Dwight Eisenhower also instructed his vice president, Richard Nixon, to attack Joseph McCarthy. On 4th March, 1954, Nixon made a speech where, although not mentioning McCarthy, made it clear who he was talking about: "Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply."

End of McCarthyism

Some figures in the media, such as writers Freda Kirchway, George Seldes and I. F. Stone, and cartoonists, Herb Block and Daniel Fitzpatrick, had fought a long campaign against Joseph McCarthy. Other figures in the media, who had for a long time been opposed to McCarthyism but were frightened to speak out, now began to get the confidence to join the counter-attack. Edward Murrow, the experienced broadcaster, used his television programme, See It Now, on 9th March, 1954, to criticize McCarthy's methods. Newspaper columnists such as Walter Lippmann and Jack Anderson also became more open in their attacks on McCarthy.

The senate investigations into the United States Army were televised and this helped to expose the tactics of Joseph McCarthy. One newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, reported that: "In this long, degrading travesty of the democratic process McCarthy has shown himself to be evil and unmatched in malice." Leading politicians in both parties, had been embarrassed by McCarthy's performance and on 2nd December, 1954, a censure motion condemned his conduct by 67 votes to 22.

Raymond Gram Swing, who had been forced to resign from the Voice of America because of McCarthy, argued in his autobiography, Good Evening (1964) that this did not mark the end of McCarthyism: "I am more than a little disquieted that McCarthy's condemnation by the Senate and his subsequent death have satisfied so many people that McCarthyism is over. For one thing, I consider that the condemnation by the Senate has given unwarranted satisfaction. It was based on an altogether peculiar sense of the importance of secondary matters. I am profoundly grateful that the committee went as far as it did. But I feel that it left out of account in its condemnation most of what Senator McCarthy had injuriously done. It ignored his roughshod disregard of civil rights and his irrepressible mendacity, and the fact that they existed while he was acting with the authority of the Senate. These transgressions were not specifically and helpfully rebuked at the time or ever. American principles and ethics were not strengthened by the Senate resolution of condemnation. The nation did not become healthier through it. It simply was rid of a menace because some Senate conservatives realized that their dignity was being sullied."

McCarthy lost the chairmanship of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. He was now without a power base and the media lost interest in his claims of a communist conspiracy. As one journalist, Willard Edwards, pointed out: "Most reporters just refused to file McCarthy stories. And most papers would not have printed them anyway." Although some historians claim that this marked the end of McCarthyism, others argue that the anti-communist hysteria in the United States lasted until the end of the Cold War.

Primary Sources

(1) Freda Kirchwey, The Nation (October, 1939)

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of democracy. We have not gone to war, and no excuse exists for war-time hysteria. Neither Communists nor even (German-American) Bundists are enemy agents. They deserve to be watched but not to be persecuted. The real danger is that general detestation of Communists and Bundists will lead to acts of outright repression supported not only by reactionaries but by disgusted liberals. Democracy was not invented as a luxury to be indulged in only in times of calm and stability. It is a pliable, tough-fibered technique especially useful when times are hard. Only a weak and distrustful American could today advocate measures of repression and coercion, or encourage a mood of panic. Now is the time to demonstrate the resilience of our institutions. Now is the time to deal with dissent calmly and with full respect for its rights.

(2) Vito Marcantonio, speech (23rd January, 1940)

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?

(3) Freda Kirchwey, The Nation (April, 1940)

At what moment does it become necessary to limit the freedom of everyone in order to suppress the danger lurking in a disloyal handful. The moment for drastic repression has not arrived, and the task of liberals in America is difficult but clear. They must fight to preserve the democratic safeguards contained in the Bill of Rights, while applying to Nazis and their supporters the equally democratic methods of exposure, counter-propaganda, and justified legal attack. Otherwise the Nazi invasion of Norway is likely to end in a victory for Martin Dies in America.

(4) Joseph McCarthy, speech at Wheeling, West Virginia (9th February, 1950)

The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer - the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.

While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of a spy ring, I have here in 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.

(5) Raymond Gram Swing, Good Evening (1964)

When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, on February 9, 1950, delivered his speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, announcing that the Secretary of State knew of 205 in the department who were members of the Communist party, an episode was begun in American history which ended with his condemnation by a Senate committee in 1954. In those four years he throve as a demagogue, and frightened many, if not all, diplomats into failing to give their frank opinions to the government for fear of being falsely accused of Communist tendencies. The government thus suffered from a debility among diplomats. Employees in the Information Agency had to smother their political judgments lest they be pilloried by Senator McCarthy's congressional committee. It was a season of terror for which Senator McCarthy somewhat incorrectly bears all the blame. He became the name-symbol of the epoch, not by accident, for that was precisely what he wanted. He found the Communist issue when he needed something to make himself known and powerful. Through his exploitation of it and by his attacks on innocent persons, he did the United States more harm at home, and in democratic countries abroad, than any individual in modern times. Perhaps more harm was done by Alger Hiss, without whose activities there might never have been a Richard Nixon, made glorious for having brought him to book; and without the Hiss episode, McCarthy would have remained obscure and ineffective. So it is not easy to say which man hurt his times more, Hiss or McCarthy.

Even so, I do not think all the blame for McCarthyism was McCarthy's, for it existed before McCarthy gave it its name. There is today a different kind of McCarthyism under different nomenclature, and presumably there will continue to be a threat of this distinctive form of slanderous bigotry so long as the United States permits freedom of thought and speech, or until bigotry itself is reduced by the rise of understanding.

I am more than a little disquieted that McCarthy's condemnation by the Senate and his subsequent death have satisfied so many people that McCarthyism is over. For one thing, I consider that the condemnation by the Senate has given unwarranted satisfaction. It was based on an altogether peculiar sense of the importance of secondary matters. I am profoundly grateful that the committee went as far as it did. But I feel that it left out of account in its condemnation most of what Senator McCarthy had injuriously done. It ignored his roughshod disregard of civil rights and his irrepressible mendacity, and the fact that they existed while he was acting with the authority of the Senate. These transgressions were not specifically and helpfully rebuked at the time or ever. American principles and ethics were not strengthened by the Senate resolution of condemnation. The nation did not become healthier through it. It simply was rid of a menace because some Senate conservatives realized that their dignity was being sullied.

About six months after the epochal McCarthy speech about Communists in the State Department, a book called Red Channels appeared, published by the company that issued Counterattack, a weekly newsletter purporting to disclose Communists and those favorable to Communism working in radio, and attempting to have them blacklisted by the industry. By this time the country could be said to have been in a fever about the McCarthy charges. So Red Channels attracted wide attention. The book did not mention me, nor had I been mentioned in the newsletter at the time the book was published. Red Channels did not present proof that any of the persons listed in it were Communists or fellow travelers. It simply called them that. The appearance of the book was an attempt by self-appointed judges to impose their unsubstantiated judgments upon the radio industry, and to do so for financial profit. The book both frightened those who suspected the Communists were infiltrating some of the key institutions of American life and wanted something done about them.

(6) Jessica Mitford, A Fine Old Conflict (1977)

The soil for the noxious growth of McCarthyism had been well prepared by the Truman administration, and the anti-Communist crusade was well under way, long before the junior senator from Wisconsin himself appeared on the scene. Joseph McCarthy was virtually unknown outside his home state until 9 February 1950, when he made his celebrated speech alleging that the State Department was in the hands of Communists, which catapulted him into the national limelight he enjoyed for the next five years.

Some signposts on the road to McCarthyism: 1947, Truman establishes the federal loyalty oath, barring alleged subversives from government employment. States and universities follow suit. The Attorney General, under authority of a Presidential executive order, publishes a list of subversive, proscribed organizations. 1948: Ten Hollywood screenwriters sentenced to a year's imprisonment for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about alleged subversion in the film industry. Mundt-Nixon bill introduced in Senate, requiring registration of Communists and members of 'Communist fronts'. Henry Wallace's campaign for the presidency on the Progressive Party ticket, into which the CP had thrown all its energy and forces, ends in disastrous defeat. 1949: Twelve top Communist leaders found guilty under the Smith Act of conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the Government by force and violence. Alger Hiss tried and convicted of perjury. Several of the largest left-led unions expelled from CIO.

Four months after McCarthy's opening salvo, the Korean War broke out, bringing Truman's foreign policy into harmony with his domestic drive against the Left and furnishing McCarthy with more ammunition for his anti-Communist crusade. In this climate most liberals turned tail. Senator Hubert Humphrey proposed establishing concentration camps for subversives, and declared on the floor of Congress: "I want them (Communists) removed from the normal scene of American life, and taken into custody." The American Civil Liberties Union, supposed guardian of First Amendment rights, instituted its own loyalty purge excluding from membership those suspected of harbouring subversive ideas.

(7) Archibald MacLeish, letter to Paul H. Buck (1st January 1953)

My radio reports that various Congressional Committees plan to investigate colleges and universities to determine whether they are riddled with Communists. Senator McCarthy is reported as including "Communist thinkers". Since he has already told us that he regards Benny de Vote and young Arthur Schlesinger as - Communist thinkers we have some notion of what that means.

You will recall that I am to be away the second half year. You will recall also that Senator McCarthy has already attacked me as belonging to more Communist front organizations than any man he has ever mentioned. He - or one of the other committees - can be expected to attack me again when he or they get around to Harvard - should be early in the campaign. It I am away in the British West Indies at the time I should like you to have the facts.

But before I set them down I should like to ask a question which must be in your mind and in the minds of many others. Has not the time come for the believers in the American tradition intellectual liberty - above all the believers in positions of responsibility on the faculties of the free universities - to take a firm stand on the fundamental issue? There is no disagreement, I take it, on the issue of Communists in teaching. No man who accepts a prior loyalty to any authority other than his own conscience, his own judgment of the truth, should be permitted to teach in a free society. That view I take it, is held by those responsible for the selection of teachers in all colleges and universities in this country. It is also applied in the case of Communists at least - though it is notoriously not applied in certain cases at the other extreme.

I have not been told what Communist-front organizations the Senator has in mind but I assume they include the League of American Writers and various other organizations of an antifascist character to which I belonged at the time of the Spanish War and during the rise of the Nazi danger and from which I removed myself when I entered the Government as Librarian of Congress in 1939.

My own personal position on the issue of Communism has been clear throughout, and the record is a matter of public knowledge. I was, I think I can say without immodesty, one of the first American writers to attack the Marxists. This was, of course, on the literary front since it was on the literary front I met them. In the early Thirties the Marxist position was, as you know, a fashionable position among the critics. Attacks on Communism were not the pleasant and profitable exercises they are now when all politicians and most publicists fall all over themselves and each other to demonstrate their detestation of everything Communism is or stands for. In the early Thirties, to attack the Communists was to bring the hornets out and the stings could hurt.

(8) Lee J. Cobb was one of those who was originally blacklisted but eventually agreed to do a deal with the HCUA.

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 HCUA 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.

(9) Roy Cohn, who worked closely with Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s wrote about his enemies in his book McCarthy (1968)

The fact that Joe McCarthy lived well within his means did not prevent his enemies from accusing him of trying to line his pockets out of hours. The chief harassment along these lines was led by William Benton who launched an investigation into his income-tax payments and occasional sources of outside income. This grew into a campaign that plagued McCarthy for years, even after the charges were dropped.

(10) Lyndon B. Johnson, on the death of Joseph McCarthy (3rd May, 1957)

Joe McCarthy had strength, he had great courage, he had daring. There was a quality about the man which compelled respect and even liking from his strongest adversaries.

(11) Barry Goldwater, With No Apologies (1979)

Joe McCarthy was unquestionably the most controversial man I ever served with in the Senate. The anti-anticommunists were outraged at his claims that some of the principals in the Truman and Roosevelt administrations actively served the communist causes.

McCarthy was supported by a strong, nationwide constituency, which included among others, Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of John, Bob, and Edward. A variety of respected, creditable federal employees disturbed by security risks in the national government provided McCarthy with a steady stream of inside information.

The liberals mounted a skillfully orchestrated campaign of criticism against Joe McCarthy. Under the pressure of criticism, he reacted angrily. It is probably true that McCarthy drank too much, overstated his case, and refused to compromise, but he wasn't alone in his beliefs.

(12) In his autobiography, Timebends, the playwright, Arthur Miller, wrote about the blacklisting of Louis Untermeyer (1987)

Louis Untermeyer, then in his sixties, was a poet and anthologist, a distinguished-looking old New York type with a large aristocratic nose and a passion for conversation, especially about writers and to become a poet. He married four times, had taught and written and published, and with the swift rise of television had become nationally known as one of the original regulars on What's My Line?, a popular early show in which he, along with columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, publisher Bennett Cerf, and Arlene Francis, would try to guess the occupation of a studio guest by asking the fewest possible questions in the brief time allowed. All this with wisecracking and banter, at which Louis was a lovable master, what with his instant recall of every joke and pun he had ever heard.

One day he arrived as usual at the television studio an hour before the program began and was told by the producer that he was no longer on the show. It appeared that as a result of having been listed in Life magazine as a sponsor of the Waldorf Conference (a meeting to discuss cultural and scientific links with the Soviet Union), an organized letter campaign protesting his appearance on What's My Line? had scared the advertisers into getting rid of him.

Louis went back to his apartment. Normally we ran into each other in the street once or twice a week or kept in touch every month or so, but I no longer saw him in the neighborhood or heard from him. Louis didn't leave his apartment for almost a year and a half. An overwhelming and paralyzing fear had risen him. More than a political fear, it was really that he had witnessed the tenuousness of human connection and it had left him in terror. He had always loved a lot and been loved, especially on the TV program where his quips were vastly appreciated, and suddenly, he had been thrown into the street, abolished.

(13) When Lillian Hellman appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1951 she willing to talk about her own political past but refused to testify against others.

To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I 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.

(14) Budd Schulberg was interviewed by Victor Navasky when he was writing his book, Naming Names (1982)

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.

(15) Whittaker Chambers, was one of those who helped provide evidence to support the idea of a communist conspiracy. However, in a letter to Henry Regnery on 14th January, 1954, he explained why he was having doubts about Joseph McCarthy.

All of us, to one degree or another, have slowly come to question his judgment and to fear acutely that his flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, his tendency to sacrifice the greater objective for the momentary effect, will lead him and us into trouble. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-Communist effort for a long while to come.

(16) Max Eastman, The Freeman (1st June, 1953)

Red Baiting - in the sense of reasoned, documented exposure of Communist and pro-Communist infiltration of government departments and private agencies of information and communication - is absolutely necessary. We are not dealing with honest fanatics of a new idea, willing to give testimony for their faith straightforwardly, regardless of the cost. We are dealing with conspirators who try to sneak in the Moscow-inspired propaganda by stealth and double talk, who run for shelter to the Fifth Amendment when they are not only permitted but invited and urged by Congressional committee to state what they believe. I myself, after struggling for years to get this fact recognized, give McCarthy the major credit for implanting it in the mind of the whole nation.

(17) After a tour of Europe in the summer of 1953, Philip Reed, head of General Electric, wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower (8th June, 1953)

I urge you to take issue with McCarthy and make it stick. People in high and low places see in him a potential Hitler, seeking the presidency of the United States. That he could get away with what he already has in America has made some of them wonder whether our concept of democratic governments and the rights of individuals is really different from those of the Communists and Fascists.

(18) Walter Lippmann, The Washington Post (1st March, 1954)

McCarthy's influence has grown as the President has appeased him. His power will cease to grow and will diminish when he is resisted, and it has been shown to our people that those to whom we look for leadership and to preserve our institutions are not afraid of him.

(19) Harry S. Truman, New York Times (17th November, 1953)

It is now evident that the present Administration has fully embraced, for political advantage, McCarthyism. I am not referring to the Senator from Wisconsin. He is only important in that his name has taken on the dictionary meaning of the word. It is the corruption of truth, the abandonment of the due process law. It is the use of the big lie and the unfounded accusation against any citizen in the name of Americanism or security. It is the rise to power of the demagogue who lives on untruth; it is the spreading of fear and the destruction of faith in every level of society.

(20) Edward Murrow, See It Now (11th March, 1954)

Mrs. Annie Lee Moss was suspended from her job with the Army Signal Corps in Washington because she was accused of being a "dues-paying, card-carrying Communist" in 1943. The charge was made by Mrs. Mary Markward, a former FBI counterspy who testified before the McCarthy committee that she had seen Mrs. Moss's name on a list of dues-paying Communists. Today, Senator McCarthy, who left the hearing early, told Mrs. Moss, "We had testimony that you are a Communist, and we are rather curious to know how people like yourself were shifted from waitress to the code room." Mrs. Moss then testified she did not work in the Signal Corps code room, had never been in a code room in her life. She said, "At no time have I ever been a member of the Communist Party, and I never saw a Communist card." She said she never subscribed to The Daily Worker and didn't know what Communism meant until 1948, five years after she was supposed to be a party member.

Committee Counsel Roy Cohn told the senators that the committee has evidence to corroborate that of Mrs. Mary Markward from another witness he did not name. At this point Democratic Senator McClellan, of Arkansas, objected. And Acting Chairman Mundt ordered Counsel Cohn's statement stricken from the record. Mundt explained that the "other witness" was now in contact with the FBI, and the committee would have to consider whether to release the name. McClellan objected again. He said, "That testimony shouldn't be revealed to the public until we have a chance to weigh it. If you cannot call a witness, you should not mention it." McClellan charged that Mrs. Moss was being tried by hearsay evidence, rumour and innuendo. And Democratic Senator Symington told her, "I believe you are telling the truth." Mrs. Moss replied, "I certainly am." And the Senator went on to say, "I believe in this country a person is innocent until proved guilty. I think it very important that evidence be presented along with implication of additional evidence." And he told the suspended Army Signal Corps employee, "If you are not taken back by the Army, come around and see me and I'll get you a job."

(21) Edward Murrow, See It Now (10th June, 1954)

Yesterday, after Senator McCarthy had named Mr. Fisher as a member of an organization which he termed "the legal arm of the Communist Party", Army Counsel Joseph N. Welch, of whose law firm Fisher is a member, became highly emotional. He said, "Until this moment; Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness." He begged that "this lad be not assassinated further." He asked if the Senator had "no sense of decency".

Mr. Welch, a veteran of the courtroom, was near to tears because a young man whom he liked, knew, trusted and worked with had been attacked. It is safe to assume, I think, that had Mr. Welch never heard of Mr. Fisher, his emotion - his anger - would have been considerably less. It seems to this reporter that there is a widespread tendency on the part of all human beings to believe that because a thing happens to a stranger, or to someone far away, it doesn't happen at all. Someone once said something to the effect, "Do you consider it strange that I regard a cut upon my finger as more important than the death of thousands, if I be separated from those thousands by oceans and continents?" For most of us reality attaches only to those things that strike near home, and that is as true of a bomb as of an accusation. The human conscience becomes calloused. The muscles of moral indignation become flabby when those who are being damaged, either in their bodies or their reputations, are remote and unknown. Despite modern communications it is difficult to communicate over any considerable distance, unless there be some common denominator of experience. You cannot describe adequately the destruction of a city, or a reputation, to those who have never witnessed either. You cannot describe adequately aerial combat to a man who has never had his feet off the ground. We can read with considerable equanimity of the death of thousands by war, flood or famine in a far land, and that intelligence jars us rather less than a messy automobile accident on the corner before our house. Distance cushions the shock. This is the way humans behave and react. Their emotions are not involved, their anger or their fear not aroused until they approach near to danger, doubt, deceit or dishonesty. If these manifestations do not affect us personally, we seem to feel that they do not exist.

Perhaps this is selfishness, perhaps it is lack of imagination - I don't know. I do remember discussing this aspect of human behaviour with many friends in London during the V-1 period, when those lethal machines, sounding like a slow-speed washing machine, would cut out directly overhead and nose down to explode several blocks away. The individual reaction was one of relief, and very little consciousness of, or compassion for, the individuals who were destroyed only a few blocks away, unless they happened to be personal friends. It must be presumed, I think, that Counsel Welch is familiar, very familiar, with Senator McCarthy's record and tactics. He had, up to yesterday, maintained an almost affable, avuncular relationship with the Senator. He was pressing Mr. Cohn - but by Mr. Cohn's admission doing him no personal injury - when Senator McCarthy delivered his attack upon Mr. Fisher, at which point Counsel Welch reacted like a human being.

(22) Dalton Trumbo, speech to the Screen Writers Guild when accepting the Laurel Award in 1970.

The blacklist was a time of evil, and that no one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil. Caught in a situation that had passed beyond the control of mere individuals, each person reacted as his nature, his needs, his convictions, and his particular circumstances compelled him to. There was bad faith and good, honesty and dishonesty, courage and cowardice, selflessness and opportunism, wisdom and stupidity, good and bad on both sides.

When you who are in your forties or younger look back with curiosity on that dark time, as I think occasionally you should, it will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims. Some suffered less than others, some grew and some diminished, but in the final tally we were all victims because almost without exception each of us felt compelled to say things he did not want to say, to do things that he did not want to do, to deliver and receive wounds he truly did not want to exchange. That is why none of us - right, left, or centre - emerged from that long nightmare without sin.

(23) Albert Maltz, one of the Hollywood Ten, was interviewed by the New York Times in 1972.

There is currently in vogue a thesis pronounced by Dalton Trumbo which declares that everyone during the years of blacklist was equally a victim. This is factual nonsense and represents a bewildering moral position.

To put the point sharply: If an informer in the French underground who sent a friend to the torture chambers of the Gestapo was equally a victim, then there can be no right or wrong in life that I understand.

Adrian Scott was the producer of the notable film Crossfire in 1947 and Edward Dmytryk was its director. Crossfire won wide critical acclaim, many awards and commercial success. Both of these men refused to co-operate with the HCUA. Both were held in contempt of the HCUA and went to jail.

When Dmytryk emerged from his prison term he did so with a new set of principles. He suddenly saw the heavenly light, testified as a friend of the HCUA, praised its purposes and practices and denounced all who opposed it. Dmytryk immediately found work as a director, and has worked all down the years since. Adrian Scott, who came out of prison with his principles intact, could not produce a film for a studio again until 1970. He was blacklisted for 21 years. To assert that he and Dmytryk were equally victims is beyond my comprehension.

(24) General Dwight D. Eisenhower, diary entry (1st April, 1953)

Senator McCarthy is, of course, so anxious for the headlines that he is prepared to go to any extremes in order to secure some mention of his name in the public press. His actions create trouble on the Hill with members of the party; they irritate, frustrate, and infuriate members of the Executive Department. I really believe that nothing will be so effective in combating his particular kind of troublemaking as to ignore him. This he cannot stand.

(25) Wilfrid Sheed, Clare Boothe Luce (1982)

For a Spellman, anti-communism rallied his flock into a Church militant and gave a fighting edge to their faith, while it also made him seem nationally important, a quasi-statesman; for Joe McCarthy, it gave a classic American showman a chance to do his stuff, and eventually to make a mockery of the whole cause; for "the Luces," it was a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of a global America, wielding a power and vitality like unto their own, in the cause of Western Christian civilization. Clare's friend Senator Arthur Vandenberg had told Harry Truman, "You've got to scare hell out of them," in order to get Americans involved in the outside world at all. In other words, you cannot have a Marshall Plan without a cold war; you cannot do good without an enemy to do it against.

Both Clare and Harry felt that isolationism would stunt America's growth and choke off its manifest destiny, which Harry had made his own, and they were willing to do whatever amount of saber-rattling would prevent this. But for them it had to be good clean saber-rattling, not the back-alley switch-blade stuff McCarthy went in for. Unfortunately, since most Americans can see only two of everything, us and them, Left and Right, all the anti-Communists found themselves herded into the same tent, like so many liberals. It was in vain for Time to attack Joe McCarthy as a vulgarian; Spellman gave Joe a memorial dinner, to bolster his own constituency; Fulton Sheen and Spellman went to Australia together to review the Pax Americana, as a sort of benign Cohn and Schine, and Clare was Sheen's convert. Around and around went the web, saints and knaves all weaving together.

McCarthy gave the Right a bad name, in which the Luces willy-nilly received their share. But he also gave it protection in the Mafia style. This had nothing to do with specific witch-hunts. It has often been said that Joe never came up with any real Communists, but it can be seriously debated whether he needed to. The chief object of the game was simply to neutralize the American Left and to keep it from mounting sustained attacks on such institutions as NATO and SEATO and our overseas military investment, or on the business structure at home that complements these: all Luce's babies. And in this respect, McCarthyism was a smashing success, with or without victims, with or without Joe himself.

For Luce to become a moderate, a mighty displacement had to occur, as with a large man on an elevator; and this was taken care of by the goon squad. By calling George Marshall a traitor and Dean Acheson "the Red Dean of Washington" the McCarthy gang moved the Left so far to the center that you could barely call it a Left at all. One spent so much time denying that one was a Communist or even a Socialist or a disarmer or a troop-withdrawer that the statement one finally felt free to make was scrupulously emasculated. This was the era that spawned liberals like Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow and John F. Kennedy (who, as we know, took sick leave when McCarthy was censured), colder-than-thou warriors against the veriest hint of communism.

Insofar as the Luce interventionist Right considered this a tolerable climate (it certainly made the Pax Americana hum), they can be said to have profited from McCarthyism, as a southern aristocrat profits from a redneck sheriff. With Clare, this tenuous link further alienated her from the young Catholic Left, which was having its own troubles. We were damned if we were going to be called Communists by anybody. But McCarthyism had given so many blunt weapons to the know-nothings that we spent desperate evenings distinguishing among shades of pink and agreeing finally to denounce McCarthy's "methods," as if McCarthy were anything but methods and as if his methods were not the sole reason for our having to argue like this in the first place.

(26) Archibald MacLeish, The Conquest of America (1949)

Never in the history of the world was one people as completely dominated, intellectually and morally, by another as the people of the United States by the people of Russia in the four years from 1946 through 1949. American foreign policy was a mirror image of Russian foreign policy: whatever the Russians did, we did in reverse. American domestic politics were conducted under a kind of upside-down Russian veto: no man could be elected to public office unless he was on record as detesting the Russians, and no proposal could be enacted, from a peace plan at one end to a military budget at the other, unless it could be demonstrated that the Russians wouldn't like it. American political controversy was controversy sung to the Russian tune; left-wing movements attacked right-wing movements not on American issues but on Russian issues, and right-wing movements replied with the same arguments turned round about.

All this took place not in a time of national weakness or decay but precisely at the moment when the United States, having engineered a tremendous triumph and fought its way to a brilliant victory in the greatest of all wars, had reached the highest point of world power ever achieved by a single state.