As the Cold war intensified, a wave of anti-Communist histeria developed. This was fueled by Soviet actions in Eastern Europe and, unlike the United States, unwillingness to substantially reduce military forces. The Communist Victory in China added to the public fear as did the annoncement that the Soviets had developed an atomic bomb. The public began to think that the Truman Administration was mismanaging the Cold War. Some Republicans began to intimate that disloyal Americans were undermining the American effort against the Communists. Relevations concerning the Rosenbergs passing atomic secrets were especially sensatuoinal. The Republican Congressional effort to root out susposed Communists began in ernest during 1947. The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, in 1947 began investigating Hollywood.
The Committee named people who they accused of holding left-wing views. Major Hollywood stars testified against friends. Others refused to testify and receivedporison terms.
Three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, in published "Red Channels",
a widely circulated pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed were members of subversive organisations. A blacklist developed and people's careers were ruined. Some of the best known individuals were: Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, John Garfield, Dashiell Hammett, Burl Ives, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Philip Loeb, Pete Seeger, Orson Welles, Paul Robeson, and Richard Wright.
The Govdernment began using the Alien Registration Act against the American Communist Party. Leaders of the Party were arrested and tried in 1949. Spy cases at the time involving Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg added to the public concer about an internal Communist threat. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, saw political capital in the public hysteria.
As the Cold war intensified, a wave of anti-Communist histeria developed. This was fueled by Soviet actions in Eastern Europe and, unlike the United States, unwillingness to substantially reduce military forces. The Communist Victory in China added to the public fear as did the annoncement that the Soviets had developed an atomic bomb. The public began to think that the Truman Administration was mismanaging the Cold War. Some Republicans began to intimate that disloyal Americans were undermining the American effort against the Communists. Relevations concerning the Rosenbergs passing atomic secrets were especially sensational.
The United States developed nuclear weapons during World War II. It was a massive research and development effort--the Manhattan Project. The Germans were unable to penetrate the security around thge Project, but the Soviets did. The Goldbergs were just one of the active Soviet spy rings. The first American atomic bomb was a uranium (fission) sucessfully andcsuccessfully tested (July 1945). A month latter, uranium and plutonium boms were used to end the Pacific War. The United states for a brief period had a monopoly on atomic weapons. American planners assumed that monoply would last some time. The Soviets had, however, their own nuclear experts and had begun their atomic project during the War. Stalin ordered the project after Soviet spies began reporting on the American project. The Soviet research was directed by nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov. The Soviets aided by their spy operations and captured German scientists, exploded their first atomic bomb (August 1949). It was no accident that within a year, the North Korans heavily armed with Soviet weapons launched the Korean War. America debated the H-bomb (fussion weapon). Oppehimer argued against it, but his loyalty was questioned. Teller argued for it. Unbeknownst to the Americans, the Soviets had already begun their H-bomb program. [Reed and Stillman] Stalin put NKVD Chief Beria in charge of the project. They weapons were exponentially more powerful than fission weapons. The Soviets tested a primitive fusion weapon (1953). The American H-bomb was the first true fusion weapon and was exploded over Bikini (1954). The Soviets followed with their own H-bomb (1955).
The Republicans swept the Congressional elections in 1946. The Republican Congressional effort to root out susposed Communists began in ernest during 1947. The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, in 1947 began investigating Hollywood. The Committee named people who they accused of holding left-wing views. Major Hollywood stars testified against friends. Others refused to testify and receivedporison terms. Three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, in published "Red Channels", a widely circulated pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed were members of subversive organisations. A blacklist developed and people's careers were ruined. Some of the best known individuals were: Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, John Garfield, Dashiell Hammett, Burl Ives, Philip Loeb, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Orson Welles, and Richard Wright.
The American Left has championed many important progressive measures such as social security, labor legislation, civil rights, and other issues. Perhaps because of the difficulty in achieving these reforms, many in the left have become very critical of America and American foreign policy. The Great Depression fueld these the questionong of both American and free enterprise capitalism.
Thus the Left was willing to accept the barbarities of Stalin while vehemently criticizing America. Perhaps a case can be made in the 1930s that the domensions of the Stalinist crimes were not fully understood, although the arrests and show trials were well publicized. During the War Soviet complicity with the NAZIs, first the a NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939)and then a series of aggressions in Eastern Europe, beginning with Poland (1939-40). These aggressions were largely forgotten by the valiant resistance of the Russian peoople to the NAZI invasion (1941). After the War, however, more information became available on the Stalinist system and the Soviets were clearly suppressing democractic rule in Easter Europe. Many Leftist intelectuals who parroted support for democracy and Civil Rights at home, were unwilling to hold the Soviets to the same standards. Part of the reason for this is many leftist intelectuals were so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that the use of oppressive measures was seemingly acceptavle when used by the Left. An example here is Ronald Radosh, a Red Diapper baby from the 1930s. Like other leftist-intelectuals, he was willing to if not accept, at least temper his criticism of the Soviets. Interestingly his conversion to the far Right late in life, left him willing to accept the brutalities of Franco in Spain. [Radosh]
Some Americans joined the Communist Party during the 1930s seeing the Depression as proving that free enterprise capitalism was ineffecient and unjust. Some university students joined the Communist Party more as a kind of youthful protest than out of any real committment. Many of the more committed new Communists were recent immigrants. The American Communist Party was controlled by Moscow. American Communists followed the Moscow lead. At first they supported a united front against Hitler and the NAZIs. After Stalin joined Hitler in the NAZI-Soviet Nom-Agression Pact (August 1939), the Communist Partt joined the isolationists and opposed defense expenditures. After the surprise NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941), American Communists switched again back to opposing Hitler. Some American Communists became engaged in espionag, both in America and other countries. One such spy was Isaiah "Cy" Oggins. He joined the Party (1920s). With his language skills and equally committed wife Nerma proved useful. He posed as an art collector and with his American passport did not arouse suspicion. He operated from safe houses in Paris and Berlin before being reassigned to China and Manchuria (1930). The exact nature of his assignments is buried deep in the KGB archive. During the Yeltsin period an American historian got a look at some heavily censored pages. He was arrested (1939) and then disappered (1942). No one knows why he was arrested and executed, but his minder may have attemoted to quit and Stalin tended to do away with people who knew too much. [Meier] Oggins is just one example of the Americans who committed themselves to Communism.
The Federal Government began using the Alien Registration Act against the American Communist Party. Leaders of the Party were arrested and tried in 1949. A fascinating book on the Party has been written from now openefd Soviet archives. [Haynes and Klehr]
Widely publicized spy cases at the time added to the public concern about an internal Communist threat. Two of the most important involved involving Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. At the time the degree to which the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan Project was not known. Only later were the Verona Intercepts lead to a fuller understanding of the Soviet spy network. Later Robert Oppenheimer himself came unders suspision. The Rosenbergs were not the most hamrful spys. There were others, including Klaus Fuchs who provided much more useful information. There is no doubt, however, Julius Rossenberg was a Soviet spy and was guilty of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. The Rosenbergs and Greenglasses grew up in New York City's Lower Easr Side. Conditions there turned many to radical politics. Both Julius and Ethel became committed Communists. The Rossenbergs like many Jews had also become despondent in the 1930s over the rise of the NAZIs and persecution of the Jews. Many American Communists in the 1950s still viewed the Soviet as an utopian state. The Soviet role in World War II had gained them great prestige. The chilling horrors of the Gulag were not yet well known. Most Communists ignored the extent to which the Soviets cooperated with Hitler after the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact and the Soviet aggressions in 1939-41. Ethel had little to do with the spying, but the Government hoped to force Julus to talk by threatening to execute her as well. The trial was held in 1951. Concerned that they had no real evidence on Ethel, the Government induced of all people her brother, David Greenglass, to testify falsely against her in exchange for lenient treatment for him and his wife. Greenglass had actually stole the material that Julius passed on to the Soviets. The Government believed incorrectly that Julius headed a major spy ring. [Roberts] In the end, neither talked and they were executed, leaving two boys orphans. Years after the trial, Greenglass resurfaced for a television interview. There was no an ounce of remorse for what he had done to his sister. While the Rosenbergs provided information of only limited value, they proved to be enormously effective in Soviet propaganda to condemn the United States.
Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, saw political capital in the growing anti-Communist sentiment. He charged that the Communists had penetrated the U.S. Government and traitors within were why the Communists had been so successful. McCarthy on delivered a speech in which he claimed to have a list of 205 people in the State Department known to be Communist Party members (February 9, 1950). McCarthy was grandstanding, his list was hardly a secret. It had actually been published earlier by the State Department (1946). The people on the list were hardly all Soviet spies. Some were Communists (which does not mean necessarily spies), but others were Fascists, alcoholics, and homsexuals. (McCarthy himself if not a Congressman might have been put on the list because of his drinking and homosexuality.) FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover played a major role in the rise of McCarythy, although it was unknown at the time. Hoover secretly provided McCarthy confidential FBI information. The Republican ledership in the Senate made McCarthy chairman of Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, giving him the opportunity to investigate communist subversion. McCarthy seized the opportunity and for 2 years conducted investigations often termed a witch hunt targeting the State Department and other Federal agencies. Federal employees brought before the Committee had few legal protections. McCarthy set out to ruin them unless they named Communist Party members. Favored targets were New Deal Democrats, many of who had left-wing political views. President Truman was portrayed as a bumbling incompetent with dangerous political views. Some of the finest civil servants were accused of being Communists, men like George Marshall and Dean Acheson. Critics of McCarthy had been defeated in the 1950 Congessional elections. as a result, few Senators dared object to his high-handed tactics. McCarthy McCarthy appointed Roy Cohn as the chief counsel to the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate (1952). Hoover had recommrened Cohn on the basis of his role in prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. McCarthy also targeted what he called anti-American books in libraries. His researchers prepared a list of 30,000 books by "communists, pro-communists, former communists and anti anti-communists."
Anti-Communist husteria did not end with McCarthy. Fringe groups like the John Birch Society made outlandish charges. Southern politicans accused Civil Rights leaders of Communist sympathies. I can remenber driving through Mississippi and seeing billboards with a photograph suposedly of "Martin Lurthur King at a Communist Training Camp". Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the attacks have continued, although the terminology has had to be changed. One particularly outlandish book charges, "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason." Or "Whenever the nation is under attack from within or without, liberals side with the enemy." [Coulter] This hardly requires comment, but left unsaid was the simple fact that it was President Truman who made the major decesions that set the successful American policy of resisting Soviet Communism in place. Nor did she mention President Kennedy's actions against the Soviets in Cuba.
Coulter, Ann. Treason: LiberalTreachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (Crown Forum, 2003), 355p.
Haynes, John Earl and Harvey Klehr.
Meier, Andrew. The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service (Norton, 2008), 402p. Meier not only tells us about Oggins, but provide a valuable look at the international Communist movement during the 1920s and 30s.
Radosh, Ronald. Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, The New Left, and the Leftover Left (Encounter: 2001), 216p.
Roberts, Sam The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair (Random House, 2001), 543p.
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