The rise and fall of HUAC

Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
#1
(author's note; contrary to popular belief, the late Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph "Tailgunner Joe " McCarthy never had anything to with HUAC- the House Un American Activities Committee, belonged to the Peermanent Committee on Investigations of the US Senate NOT the House)
The House Un-American Activities(then known as the Dies Commission was first formed in 1938 to investigate allegations of both Nazi and Soviet influence or propaganda in the US).
Its high point was when first Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers (admitted Soviet agents) accused several prominent Americans- such as State Department official Alger Hiss of being spies for Soviet intelligence or the "Hollywood Ten" of sneaking rpo-Soviet propaganda themes into films produced during WWII(when the US and USSR were allies) such as "Song of Russia" "North Star" and most notoriously "Mission To Moscow".
After Stalin's death and the tentative "Thaw" between East and West, HUAC lost its ability to frighten its critics( the decline of demagogues like Joe McCarthy also played a role). In 1959, the late US President Harry Truman publicly called the HUAC "the most Un American Activity " around. Critics noted HUAC's sedulous ignoring of violent white supremacists such as the KKK or Minutemen as well as La Cosa Nostra(Mafia) leaders# arguably as guilty of "Un American activities " as any Communist Party hack.
Abbie Hoffman publicly thumbed his nose at HUAC, turning up after a subpoena dressed as a Continental(Revolutionary) war soldier.
The rising controversy over the Vietnam War in the US as well as the dawn of detente between the US and USSR sealed HUAC's fate- in 1969 it was renamed SSIS(Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security"#) and 1975 it was disbanded and its functions transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Significantly even during the chilliest periods of the Cold War, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressly refused to set up a similar committee to investigate Britons accused of "un- or anti "British activities.

Terry
 

larkin

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
3,698
#3
Thank-you Terry

Seems to me that Congress is preparing to dust off this old relic of state tyranny. It should be easy since disregard for the Constitution is currently in voque.
 

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#4
A couple of points: It was Jerry Rubin not Abbie Hoffman who appeared before the HUAC dressed as an American Revolutionary War soldier (in another appearance he wore a Santa Claus costume). Hoffman was arrested when he appeared wearing a US flag shirt though Rubin, wearing a Viet Cong flag, was not arrested.

The House Un-American Activities Committee became the House Committee on Internal Security in 1969. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was always a separate entity and was formed in 1951.
 
Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
#5
But what will "Un-American" mean in 2018? The Soviet Union has long been kaput(as has Communism in general). Can you imagine someone asking "Are you now or have you ever been an adherent of the Muslim faith???"
I admit I got some points wrong- such as Jerry Rubin in actuality turning up to a HUAC hearing dressed as a Continental(Revolutionary War) soldier, and other issues, but my central point was that as former US President Harry Truman pithily put it in 1959- "HUAC is the most un-American institution around!" , noting as did many others, HUAC's sedulous ignoring of violent white supremacists such as the KKK and La Cosa Nostra(Mafia) bosses!

Terry
 

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#6
But what will "Un-American" mean in 2018? The Soviet Union has long been kaput(as has Communism in general). Can you imagine someone asking "Are you now or have you ever been an adherent of the Muslim faith???"
I admit I got some points wrong- such as Jerry Rubin in actuality turning up to a HUAC hearing dressed as a Continental(Revolutionary War) soldier, and other issues, but my central point was that as former US President Harry Truman pithily put it in 1959- "HUAC is the most un-American institution around!" , noting as did many others, HUAC's sedulous ignoring of violent white supremacists such as the KKK and La Cosa Nostra(Mafia) bosses!

Terry
We do see a similar trend in present day US's framing of its approach to terrorism, but given that this is a history site with a clear rule against discussion of contemporary politics, I sedulously try to avoid lapsing into such a discussion. :)
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
#7
Just how fraudulant the HUAC was can be gleaned from the fact that the first Chairperson of the HUAC 'S opening sessions a guy caled C Thomas Parnell ended up in the penitentiary were he met people jailed by the HUAC for not ratting on their friends-I love the irony of that.
The lush from Wiscnsin McCarthy was exposed on tv in 1954 by a an official under interrogation who exposed how crass McCarthy was in a Senate hearing.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
#8
Not only did Prime Minister Churchill refuse to have any truck with mimicking the HUAC but he invited American harmonica player from Baltimore Larry Adler to No 10 Downing Street to dinner fully aware that Adler -a committed left winger- had fled from the USA after he was ostracised for refusing to be a rat and name names to the HUAc.
Adler in his memoirs recounted that Churchill told him 'Mr Adler, I know why you came to Britain but I want you to know that you are welcome to stay in the UK for asl ong as you like and perform here'
Adler became very popular in British showbuiz and prospered.
Equaly the HUAC did British culture lots of unintentional favours as American Sam Wan amaker another refugee from the HUAC witch hunts not only had a successful actiing and directing career in Britain but was a major force in founding the GLOBE theatre IN London.
Another American HUAC refugee who came to Britain was Joseph Losey who went on to direct several iconic British movies.
I also love the irony of Larry Parks whose acting as Al Jolson was the big hit movie of 1946 worldwide.
Parks was subsequently crucified by the HUAC , driven out of Hollywood but when he died in 1975 former American left winger Parks was a very wealthy property developper in California.(If you can't beat em -join em)
I recommend that anyone looking fo a masterly book analysis of the HUAC and McCarthyiism era in the USA should read movie actor Robert Vaughan's PHD thesis published as a book called 'ONLY VICTIMS' in 1975.
Vaughan one of the original 'MAGNIFICENT SEVEN' movie cast brlilantly dissects the whole era of McCarthy and the HUAC.'
 

larkin

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
3,698
#9
Just how fraudulant the HUAC was can be gleaned from the fact that the first Chairperson of the HUAC 'S opening sessions a guy caled C Thomas Parnell ended up in the penitentiary were he met people jailed by the HUAC for not ratting on their friends-I love the irony of that.
The lush from Wiscnsin McCarthy was exposed on tv in 1954 by a an official under interrogation who exposed how crass McCarthy was in a Senate hearing.
Depicted in the Film, Trumbo
 

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