American History Discussion, history homework help

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What were the reasons that politics and culture became so narrow and repressive in 1950s America, even though communism was only a minor and small political movement in American society? (Bring typed notes and bullet points to class, for collection at end of class session.)

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rnion leaders,the medium-sizedcities that housedthe majority of the populaand the Roman Catholic Church. Each of the essaysin the collection makes a contribution to the literature on rs, politics, and postwarpolitical culture.Someare original forays into topics rave so far not attractedthe attention of professionalhistorians; and othersuse val researchand oral history to shedrevealing new light on existing historical rledge.Together,the chaptersin this volume provide the most comprehensive r thus far of how workers in specificunions and communitiesacrossthe nalived through, experienced,and indeed shapedthe characterof the Cold War ) grassroots. Lqbor qnd the Cold Wqr The Legqcy of McCcnthyism Err-sN Scnnecrrn fofes amesRestonquotedin JohnBarnard,WalterReutherand theRiseof tlrcAuto Workers of LaborOrgaBoston: Little,Brown,1983),102.JohnT. Dunlop,"TheDevelopment izations:A TheoreticalFramework,"in Insightsinto I'abor Issues,ed. RichardA' ,esterandJosephShister(NewYork: Macmilian,1948),180.SeealsoElizabethA. 'ones-Wolf,SellingFreeEnterprise:TheBusinessAssaulton I'abor and Liberalism, 945-1960(Urbana:Universityoflllinois Press,1994). Iowell JohnHarris,TheRight to Manage:Industial RelationsPoliciesof American Press,1982),118-125' lusiness in the1940s(Madison:Universityof Wisconsin Thelnndrum-Grffin Act and Union )oris Mclaughlin andAnita L.W. Schoomaker, (AnnArbor:Universityof MichiganPress,1979),180-181. )emocracy eds.,TheCold WarAgainstI'abor,2 vols. rnn FaganGingerandDavid Christiano, Berkeley:MeiklejohnCivil LibertiesInstitute,1987);SteveRosswurm,ed.,TheCIO's ,eft-LedUnions(New Brunswick:RutgersUniversityPress,1992);GeorgeLipsitz' lainbowat Midnight: Labor and Culturein the 1940s(Urbana:Universityof Illinois 'ress,1994);RonaldL. FilippelliandMark D. McColloch,ColdWarin the Working (Aibany:StateUniversity )lass:TheRiseandDeclineof theUnitedElectricalWorkers ,f NewYorkPress,1995). T ^,rj.pL.*ut#,Jri'u-:|, ' t' ^ ( tA" i\^g{atc ,, Crr(ut-Q&lJr-'.-, ' o ^ ( k''"' 2l'' 6Jr( r Port't' / (^to:_ rrt6&py '' . rP'v' ,16r,9t{ Luro Y;;;" ,l p D " Po)' ^ rr.. Rodlt' ,' ,/.lvf' ,€_0 \: I /CL, ,.01r". ,rr" . , F '' t . \uv\ ^ ^ .1) - l?P''r Ft"' I he political repressionof the Mccarthy period had a deleterious impact on American labor. Only the Communist Party was as deeply affected. Not only was the entire left wing of the labor movement destroyed,but many of the people who came under fire had union ties, such as the Hollywood Ten, or the thousandsof maritime workers thrown out of their jobs becauseof the federal government's Korean War Port Security program. We cannot ignore the damagethat McCarthyism did to the lives and careersof thesemen and women; but if we are to understandits broader impact on American labor, we need to focus on its institutional fallout. We should not exaggeratethat impact nor blame it for negative developments that stemmed from structural economic change.Nonetheless,the anticommunistcrusadeof the late 1940sand 1950sdid make a difference to the labor movement, even if that difference manifested itself mainly in shifted priorities and lost opportunities. If nothing else, McCarthyism tamedAmerican labor and broughtit into the Cold War political consensus. Moreover,by preventingthe nation'sunions,if so inclined,from building a broad-based social movementthat challengedcorporatevaluesand championedsocialjustice, McCarthyism narrowed political options for all Americans. I use the term "McCarthyism" advisedly here. The phenomenonthat we are looking at encomp,asses much more than the political career of the aberrant senator from Wisconsifi who gave it a name. It began years before he burst into the headlines,waving hb ever-ghanginglists of Communistsin the StateDepartment; and it continuedforGvdial yearsafter he self-destructed in the eyesof the nation's televisionviewersat the Army-McCarthy hearingsin the spring of 1954.Nonetheless,the word has historicalspecificity.It is a convenientand conciseway to refer to the anticommunistpolitical repressionof the early Cold War, to the multistrandeddomesticcampaignto destroythe influenceof every idea,institution,and individual connectedto American Communism. There were many reasonswhy McCarthyism targetedthe labor movement. Ever sincethe late nineteenthcentury,red-baitinghastraditionallybeenassociated with attemptson the part of hostile employersto suppressunions and weaken community supportfor organizedlabor. The McCarthy era's focus on labor was Ellen Schrecker Certainly,in those thus,in part,an updatedversionofall thoseearliercampaigns. employersfacedmilitantleft-wingunions,anticomindustrieswhereantagonistic munismwas a usefulway to roll back the gainsthoseunionshad madesincethe late 1930s.'Similarly,red-baitinghad long beena usefulweaponfor conservative labor leadersand their alliesto wield againsttheir Ieft-wingrivals.:But perhaps the most importantreasonwhy McCarthyismfocusedon Americanlaborwas becauseCommunismfocusedon Americanlabor. If we are to understandhow McCarthyismoperatedand how it affectedthe of the labormovementandtherestof Americansociety,we mustrelieveourselves myth that mostof its victimswere"innocentliberals,"apoliticalfolks who someto how turnedup on thewrongmailinglists,or whoseparentshadoncesubscribed the Daily Worker.True, suchunfortunateindividuals did exist, and they often got a lot of aftention.3But most of the men and women who were called before congressionalinvestigatingcommittees,hauledbefore grandjuries, or blacklistedby industrywereor hadbeenin or nearthe CommunistParty(CP). the entertainment And manyof themwereunionactivists. This shouldnot surpriseus.After all, whateverelseit stoodfor, the Communist Partyclaimedto speakfor the working class.Naturally,it soughta nichewithin the interestsofAmerican workers: thoseorganizationsthatmostdirectlyrepresented t.heirunions.And, at leastfor a few yean duringthe 1930sand 1940sbeforeMcCarthyism drove them out, Communistsdid havesomeinfluencewithin Americanlabor. Never as extensiveas its supportershopedor its enemiesfeared,that influencewas of somesignificancewithin a numberof unions.Eliminatingit affected nonetheless the labor movementin ways we arejust comingto understand. Althoughthe Cold War is over.AmericanCommunismhasbeensucha demonized and contradictorymovementthat it still provokesimpassioneddebate.o On the one hand,the CommunistParty was an authoritarianpolitical sectwhose adherentstried to conform to an inappropriateSoviet model and closedtheir eyes to the crimesof Stalin.On the otherhand,it was the most dynamicsectorof the left in the 1930sand40s.An entiregenerationof idealistsembracedthe Communist Party as the most effectivevehiclefor their political aspirations,whetherit was organizinglaborunions,opposingracialdiscrimination,or fightingfascism, imperialism,andwar.At the sametime,partymembersrverealsoconcealingtheir membership,repressingall internalopposition,and e','en,we must nori' admit, spyingfor the SovietUnion.'TheCP'srecord,in short,is mixed. Within the labor movementthe party threw someof its best cadresinto the organizearlyorganizingcampaignsofthe CIO. Theywereeffective,experienced ers who playedimportantroles in building unionsin the maritime,automobile, steel,and electricalindustries,as well as amongrvhite-collarand professional workers.Thesepeoplerecruitedfew ordinaryworkersinto the party,but they did rise to leadershippositionsin quite a numberof unions.They werehonest,hardworking union leaders,and recognizedas such.By the 1940s,Communistsand their allies led unionsthat containedabout20 percentof the membershipof all CIO unions.They had a sizable,thoughdwindling.positionof influencewithin the UAW and dominatedthe leadershipof UnitedElectrical.Radioand Machine Legacy of McCarthyism Workersof America (UE), InternationalLongshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), Mine, Mill, and SmelterWorkers,and about a dozen smaller unionsthatrepresented workerseverywhere, from the salmoncanneries ofAlaska to Alcatraz Penitentiary.u It is hard to assessthe extentto which the party shapedthe unionsit controlled.Many of the Communistswho roseto positionsof leadershipwere trade unionistsfirst andparty memberssecond.It wasnot unusualfor thesepeopleto ignore party directivesthat clashedwith union priorities, and in fact someof these laborleadersacruallyleft the CP whentheyfelt that its demandswerecontraryto the interestsof their unions.'Theyhad,afterall, joined the partyin largeparrbecausethey felt it would heip them build a strong labor movement.None of them even tried to transform their unions into revolutionary organizations.Nor was there any specificallyCommunistcomponentto the normal trade union functions of the organizations thesepeopleled.The mostexplicitsupporttheseunionsgave to the party'snonlabor policieswaswhat oneformerCommunistcalled"the resolutionbit"-endorsing CP causesin conventions and newspaper editorials., Still, the Communistunionsrueredifferent.Their leaderswereusually better educated,more militant, more class-conscious, and, in most cases,more democratic.And they rejectedbread-and-butter unionism,committingtheir organizationsto a wide rangeof socialreforms.o Thatcommitmentwasparticularlystrikingin the areaof racerelations.During the 1930sand 1940s,the CommunistPartywasthe only politicalorganization not specifically part of the civil rights movement that was dedicatedto racial equality.At a time when workplacesegregationwas common,the party pressedits laborcadresto fight discrimination.Suchan agendawasnot alwayspopularwith the rank-and-fi1e. The leadersof New York City's TransportWorkersUnion were reluctantto confrontthe racismof their mostlyIrish members.But racialequality hadbecomesucha centralissuewithin the CommunistmovementthattheTWU's leaderseventuallybeganto seekthe hiring of black bus driversand motormen. During World War II. when African Americans finally beganto break the color line, someCommunist-ledunionspioneeredan early form of affirmativeaction called"SuperSeniority,"as a way to ensurethat the newly-hiredblack workers would be abietoJleeptheirjobsafterthe war ended.r0 Though{heSemeasures did not increasethe left-ledunions'popularitywith the largemajorifypf white.,workers. they did appealto minority ones.They enabledunions'likethe ILWU, Mine-Mill, andFood,Tobacco,Agriculturaland Allied WorkersUnion (FTA) to get a foothold in the South and in such racially diverseareasas the Southwestand Hawaii.In keepingwith the party'semphasis on racial equality,theseunions often soughtways to promoteminority-group membersto leadership positions.In someplaces,theseunionsactuallyfunctioned like civil rightsorganizations.rr A good exampleof this kind of rights-basedunionismwas FfA Local 22 in Winston-Salem,North Carolina.The union imbued the African American women who werervorkingfor the R.J.ReynoldsCompanywith a senseof self-wonh,and enabledthem to challengethe demeaningway the companytreatedthem.Local 22 l0 EllenSchrecker alsoencoungedits membersto vote and to join the NAACP.Theseeffortswererewardedwith the electionof anAfrican Americanto theWinston-SalemBoardof A1dermenin 1947andwith improvedpublic servicesto the city's black community.r': The left-ledunionsalsopaid attentionto women'sissues.From thecigarette factoriesof North Carolinato New York City's public u'elfareagencies,these unions soughtout the subjugated,poorly-paid,and often non-white female workers overlookedby the rest of the labor movement.Not only did theseunions addresswomen'sissues,but some of them also encouragedthe developmentof strong women leaders.The LIE, which had more female membersthan the other big industrial unions,was a pioneer.During and after World War II, it fought for suchwomen'sissuesas equalpay for equalwork and opposedthe inequitiesinvolved with shuntingwomen off into "women'sjobs."'' As the historianDaniel Horowitz has discovered,none other than Betty Friedan wrote many of the tlE's most important policy statementsaboutwomen'sissuesduring the late 1940sand earlyI 950s.'o McCarthyismbroughtmost of theseeffortsto a halt. Friedanwas an indirect victim. Shelost herjob whenthe debilitatedllE hadto downsizeanddroppedher from herjob on its newspaper. Though the UE was one of the few partyJed unions to survivethe McCarthy era,it emergedweakenedand no longer able to push for women'srights or any of the other socialreformsthat it had previouslychampioned.Most of the other left-wing unions simply went under,unableto withstand the unrelentingassaultdirectedagainstthem.'5 The anticommunistcrusadeagainstthe labor left was effective becauseit came from so many different sourcesand employedso many different weapons. Employers,federalofficials,rival union leaders,Catholic priests,former Communists,right-wing joumalists, and politicians ail combinedto drive the Communist Party out of the labor movement.As part of an informal network of professional anticommunists,many of thesepeople had beenfighting the pafiy for years.The Cold War not only conferredlegitimacy on their campaign,but also brought new forcesonto the field, in particularthe federalgovernment. As a result,from the late 1940son, the Communistledunionswereunder constantattack.Theirleaderswerehauledbeforecongressional investigating committeesand grandjuries, subjectedto criminalprosecutions. kept underconstant surveillanceby the FBI, auditedby the IRS, and,if they were foreign born, threatThe unionswereequallyharassed. Not only did they have enedwith deportation. to contendwith internalschisms,extemalraids.and intransigentemployers,but they also were deniedthe protectionof the NLRB, called before the Subversive ActivitiesControlBoard,and expelledfrom the CIO. They were soonso beleagueredand preoccupiedwith defendingthemselvesand their leadersthat they couldbarelyperformtheirregulareconomicfunctions,let alonecarryout anykind of programof ambitioussocialreform.16 The most seriousdamagewas causedby the 1947Taft-HartleyAct. Designedto roll backmanyof the gainsthatthe labormovementhadmadesincethe Iate 1930s,the measurealsoincludedan anticommunist provision.Insertedas an afterthought, this provisionrevealedhow pervasivethe anticommunist consensus Icgacy of McCarthyism 11 had become.The only debateit occasionedconcemedthe best way to remove Communistinfluencefrom the labormovement,not the advisabilityof doing so. The measurethatwasfinally incorporated into the law wasSection9(h),which requiredall unionofficialsto signan affidavitaffirmingthattheyneitherwerein the party-identified as a movementthat soughtthe overthrowof the governmentby force and violence-nor had any sympathyfor its doctrines.Unions that did not complywith the law wereto be deniedthe servicesof the NLRB.,' It was not immediatelyapparentthat Secrion9(h) would haveany impact. Many mainstream laborleadersopposedthemeasurenot only because it infringed on civil liberties,but alsobecauseit seemedto be placinga burdenon the labor movementthat other seclorsof societydid not haveto bear.In addition,becauseof the act'sunclearlanguageabout"beliefin" and "supportfor" for the Communist Party,it wasobviousthara constiturionaichallengewas in the making.After Harry Truman'supsetvictory in the 1948presidentialelection,therewas also the possibility thatthelaw itself might be repealed. Instead,muchof theoppositionto Tafr Hartley peteredout. Most labor leadersleamed to live with the law, especially when the anticommunistsamong them realtzedhow damagingit was to the leftled unions.'' Hostile employerstook advantageof those unions' inability to rely on NLRB assistance to processunfair labor complaints.Claiming that the unions' failure to sign the affidavitsrevealedtheir lack of patriotism,theseemployersrefused to bargain.Unable to obtain federal support,the left-wing unions were all too often forced to engagein unpopularand debilitating strikes.At the sametime, rival unionssteppedup their raidson thenon-signingunionsand,for the first time. wereable to attractlargenumbersof workers.Unableto participatein NLRB elections, the left-led unions found themselvesin no-win situationswhere they had to appealto their supporters to vote for a "no union" option.Theseunions'vulnerabilitiesemboldened theirinternalopponents aswell.Anticommunistfacrionschallengedthe leadershipof the UE and the other leffwing unions and, with the help of such allies as the House Un-AmericanActivities Committeeand the Catholic Church,beganto win somesignificantbattles.'e By themiddleof 1949,it wasclearthatthelefr-ledunions'failureto comply with TafrHartley"wasinflictingseriousdamageand was,in fact,threatening their very survival,ilhere_was little hopethatthe law would be repealedandan equally dim prospectthafth_aSutrelne Court might overthrowit, especiallyafter the Steelu'orkers-thrmost importantunion involvedin the litigation-dropped the case and two of the Court's most liberal justicesdied.,oAccordingly,the left-wing unionsabandoned their oppositionto the law and authorizedtheir leadersto sign the affidavits.Compliance,however,createdproblemsin itself.for manyof these unions'leaderswereCommunists. In orderto bring their unionsinto compliance, they eitherhad to quit their positionsor elsequit the party.Most of them left the CP,oftenaccompanying their resignations with public statements defendingtheir politicalcommitmentandexp'laining why they supportedCommunism.r' Complyingwith the TafrHartleyAct did not, however,bring relief to the embattledunions.Their opponentsimmediatelyquestionedthe authenticityof 12 Ellen Schrecker from the pafty,insistingthat,despitetheir formal protestations, suchresignations Employerscontinuedto stonewall,refusingto theywerestill Communistsat hea-rt. bargainwith the left-ledunionsand pressingthe NLRB to stopprocessingtheir complaints.And the NLRB, equallyskepticalaboutthoseunions'compliance but unsureaboutits jurisdictionin the matter,urgedthe JusticeDepartmentto prosefor perjury." cutethe unions'leaders Nor did signing the affidavits preventthe CIO from expelling the left-led president,Philip Munay, had beenunderpresunions.Thoughthe organization's surefor yearsto purgethe Communist-ledunions,he had resistedout of a reluctanceto split the labormovement.But asthe CIO becameincreasinglytied to the Truman adrninistrationin the aftermathof TaftHartley, Murray's resistancebegan to fade.The party'sinsistencethat its labor cadressupportthe third-partypresidential campaignof Henry Wallacein 1948provokedthe break.After the left-led unionsrefusedto go aiongwith the CIO's requirementthat they refrain from backing Wallace,Murray camearound.Truman'selectoralvictory, in the words of one historian,"sealedthe doom of the Communistswithin the CIO." At its 1949convention the CIO formally expelled the UE (which had already walked out) and launchedchargesagainstten otherunions.'?3 The proceedingsbefore the three-manpanels that consideredthe charges againsteachof the left-wingunionsrverealmostidenticalto the operationsof all otheranticommunist investigations in the McCarthyera.Thereweretwo typesof evidence:testimonyfrom former Communistsidentifyingspecificunion leaders asparty membersand textsof resolutionsand newspapereditorialsthat seemedto parallel the party line. Significantly,the literary materialsthat the CIO'S prosecutors produceddealt almostentirely with mattersof foreign policy, not tradeunion issues.But the substanceof the evidencewas largely irrelevant,sincethe unfavorableverdicthadbeenreachedevenbeforethe tribunalsbegan.'o By the summerof 1950,whenthe SupremeCourtfinallyrejectedtheleftled unions' caseagainstthe Taft-Hartleyaffidavits,the patheticconditionof these marginalizedand ostracizedunionshad becomeobvious.The Court's majority echoedthe prevailingwisdomthat considerations of nationalsecurityjustifiedthe impositionof restrictionson Communistinfluencewithin the labormovement.If the UnitedStateswent to war againstthe SovietUnion, so the standardreasoning went, the leflwing unions might ...
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School: Duke University



America’s Politics and Culture in 1950s’ Name:
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1950 marked a year of rebellion and a great economic growth in the United States of
America. The year, which was known as Eisenhower era, could also be termed as a year of
conformity and restlessness. The main reasons that ...

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