McCarthyism was more than just McCarthy Essay

This essay has a total of 3466 words and 14 pages.

McCarthyism was more than just McCarthy



'McCarthy gave his name to an age, but there was far more to McCarthyism than McCarthy'
Do you agree?

McCarthy may have given his name to an era but there was much more to McCarthyism than
just one man. In this essay the argument will be that there were many factors leading up
to the McCarthy era both internal and external and that McCarthy found a platform in
anticommunist fear, as it was popular issue at the time. And his fall from grace in 1954
may also be attributed to both internal and external factors that appeared to alleviate
the anticommunist threat.


Today we call it the McCarthy era. While convenient, the tribute is not without reason.
McCarthy’s villainy was so plain that his name became a curse in the year of his control.
Characterised as ‘crass and unprincipled, an unimaginative opportunist, and a distinctly
second rate politician’, McCarthy was also a ‘shrewd judge of public attitudes and temper’
. This blend made him an overpowering enemy. Elected into the senate in 1946 McCarthy was
almost invisible on the public scene until 9 February 1950 . It was then in Wheeling, West
Virginia, that he stumbled upon his cause. But the elements of McCarthyism were hardly
McCarthy’s alone, nor did they diminish after his fall. Joe McCarthy was just one, and not
the brightest, of the many inquisitors of the time. He was not a resourceful as his friend
J. Edgar Hoover . While McCarthy made the notion of security risks in the federal
bureaucracy a national obsession from 1950 to 1954, the foundations were well layed before
his arrival and stemmed back to 1945 and the end of the Second World War. However even
before the war had ended the ruminations of anticommunism had begun with the introduction
of the Smith Act which prohibited the teaching or advocating the overthrow of the
government .

Also before the end of the war the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) were confronting
people who worked in the state department with their political believes before the war.
One such case involved Josephine Herbst, who in 1932 had broadcast on behalf of the
Spanish Loyalist and had signed a petition in 1932 'protesting the violation of civil
liberties in Detriot' and had wrote an article for the New Masses on Cuba. Due to these
FBI investigations Herbst was dismissed from her job with the German section of the US
propaganda agency with no explanation . The fear that hung over America during this age
had begun without the introduction of Joe McCarthy.

One of the internal factors which paved the way for McCarthy's anticommunist crusade was
the introduction of the Truman doctrine on 12 March 1947 which proclaimed in presidential
request for aid to Greece and Turkey which set aside Americas previous closed door
mentality to world politics. Nine days later Executive Order 9835 was developed. This
order created loyalty security programs for federal employees. This may have been one
reason why McCarthy chose to campaign on the slogan Communists-in -Government and deal
particularly with the State Department.

Another instance of strong anticommunism before the emergence of McCarthy was the
Hollywood Ten trials, which began on 27 October 1947. The House of Un-American Activities
Committee's (HUAC) arraignment of the Hollywood left memorably dramatised the
anticommunist decade . The Committee issued subpoenas to those who worked in the film
industry that they knew had a radical background. Whether it be a part or production or
attending a rally run by the communist party or funded by the Communist Party of America
(CPUSA). However the dramatic tension lay in whether the accused would name friends,
colleagues and associates. The thrill could be felt either way, when Lillian Hellman
refused to name names or when Eliza Kazan did .

The climax of this drama was the moment of self-cleansing avowal or purging oneself, by
naming names to the committee. To name was to be exculpated to refuse was to prove oneself
guilty. And to take the Fifth Amendment, the right to silence under grounds of
self-incrimination, was to deepen the miasma of suspicion around you .

When HUAC cited ten Hollywood writers and directors with contempt of congress for taking
the Fifth Amendment the Hollywood Ten trials had begun. The daily media were outspoken in
their criticism of the Committee's purpose and methods of holding these ten men in
contempt. About a week later a cold war congress voted overwhelmingly to uphold the
contempt citations . The Hollywood ten included Ring Lardner Jr, Albert Maltz, Lester
Cole, Adrian Scott, Herbert Biberman, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie,
Samual Ornitz and Edward Dmytryk. They served prison terms of up to one year for refusing
to name communists and for their political beliefs.

The trial of the Hollywood Ten indicates that anticommunism was rife in all aspects of
society. And that no one, no matter how high up the social strata, would be spared the
harsh questioning and prison sentences that had been imposed for those HUAC believed to be
members of the Communist Party.

The fear that surrounded America during the fifties culminated in a most sensational case
involving the 'beau ideal of liberal politics Alger Hiss and a podgy unattractive editor
of Time magazine, Wittaker Chambers' . Hiss had been a senior official in the State
Department and at the time had Democratic friends. The Republican dominated HUAC listened
to the self-confessed former communist Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley who testified that
there were communists in the State Department and that Hiss was one of them .

Chambers accused Hiss of having been a member of the Harold Ware Group of espionage agents
of which Chambers was a member and Bentley his contact . When Chambers was pressured to
deliver some evidence to support his claims he suddenly produced 69 documents, four of
which were small notes in Hiss' handwriting. Chambers claimed that he had held these
documents since 1938 .

Then in December 1948 Chambers mentioned to Congressman Nixon that he had more information
that he had not told the committee about. Chambers took two HUAC officers out to his
pumpkin patch and with dramatic climax reached into a hollowed -out pumpkin and pulled out
five rolls of microfilm, two of which had been developed . The press got hold of the
sensation al story and the 'pumpkin papers' hit the headlines. The press was given the
story by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director who had been closely following the
Hiss-Chambers case through the help of Richard Nixon the same Congressman that Chambers
had confided in .

On 15 December 1948 a New York grand Jury indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury for
falsely denying that he passed State Department documents to Chambers and for denying that
he had met with Chambers after January 1937 . Hiss' first trial ended in a hung jury and
Hoover who needed a victory against communists asked for the Hiss case judge to be
impeached. Hiss was re-trialed in the November of the same year and with additional
evidence was convicted . Five days after his conviction Alger Hiss was sentenced to five
years imprisonment. And fifteen days after Hiss was sentenced Junior Senator McCarthy
addressed the Republicans Women's Club in Wheeling.

The Hiss-Chambers case shows that McCarthyism was well in place in America before McCarthy
famous Wheeling speech and without his involvement the successful conviction of a
prominent State Department member that took place. It also showed that the fear of
communism was well entrenched at this time as it was thought that communists were all
around them and indistinguishable from other members of their communities. This is
indicative that there was far more to McCarthyism than McCarthy.

Joe McCarthy may not have been involved in the Hiss Case however another virulent
anticommunist was, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s anticommunism did not arise out the
McCarthyist era he had been known as an anticommunist as far back as the first Red Scare
of the early 1920s, and Director of the FBI since 1924 . The FBI played a large part in
the destruction of the American Communist Party as this time and although it was not
Hoover alone who made the hunt for communists possible but it was Hoover who gave the Hunt
coherence. Hoover was known as the ‘high priest of American anticommunism. He was the most
ardent, enduring and prolific exponent, and he was both chief investigator and the
mastermind of the great inquisition known as the McCarthy period’ . This may have been due
to the fact that Hoover was well tuned into the masses and trusted by them. His form of
anticommunism was in line with the collective of the general population.

McCarthy did not fight the communists alone he to had Hoover’s help in the hunt for Reds.
He was supported by Hoover who saw in McCarthy an excellent instrument to advance his
repressive agenda. The director refined the senator before McCarthy began his crusade,
exceedingly helped him inn his heyday and then subtly withdrew from associations with him
when it looked like his down fall was imminent .

The Hoover – McCarthy friendship went as far back as 1947 when the then freshman senator
first arrived in Washington. Then when McCarthy returned from his speaking tour, he
telephoned Hoover and told him that he was gaining a lot of attention on the communist
issue. And he admitted that he had made up the communist numbers along the way and he
asked Hoover if the FBI could help him to obtain information to back up his claims .
Hoover who had set the conversation down on a memo had noted that McCarthy would be a very
useful tool for Hoover. As former aide of Hoover’s stated that ‘McCarthy was never
anything more than a tool of Mr. Hoover’s…He used him when he was useful and then, later,
dumped him when he wasn’t’ . Although the FBI could not find a shred of evidence to prove
that there was one single case of a communist in the State Department, the FBI agents
spent hundreds of hours pouring over Bureau security files and combing them for use by
senator and his aides.

Yet Hoover’s help went far beyond that, Crime Records supplied speechwriters for McCarthy
and two of his aides. And Lou Nichols personally took McCarthy under his wing and
instructed him in how to release a story just before the press deadlines, so that
reporters wouldn’t have time to ask for rebuttals . Even more importantly Nichols advised
McCarthy that he should avoid using phrases such as ‘card-carrying’ and relace them with
‘communist 'sympathisers’ or ‘loyalty risk’ which did not require as much prove of their
involvement with Communist Parties . When McCarthy won re-election and became chairman of
the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations
Committee, Hoover gave him names of ex-communists and information on what they could
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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