Tuesday, June 11, 2013


An old adage comes to mind here; “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” And apparently, it's seeming like old times indeed. Back to the jolly days of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Here in this country, the good ol' U. S. of A., back when my Daddy, the high school drop out, soldier in two wars and proud possessor of VA benefits that allowed him to take college entrance exams and go into college in 1953, put him spang in the middle of the
McCarthyWitch Hunts and the House Un-American Activities Hearings, where Reds under the Beds were being ferreted out, right and left.

He came to the fore merely by fear alone; he did to us, what Stalin could only dream of. He made us weak and we doubted ourselves.

There is only one problem with this scenario. Although the American Communist Party had by this time been outlawed, Joseph McCarthy, the junior Republican Senator from Wisconson, who was a back bencher in the the U.S. Senate and the junior Senator from Wisconsin, needed to make some kind of name for himself, else he was going to lose his next election. After lobbying for commuting the death sentences of the Waffen-SS soldiers who were responsible for the massacre of US soldiers at Malmedy, he was named the “worst senator ever.” He needed to turn this around somehow and by one of those serendipitous strokes of luck, he did. At a 5 hour speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he mentioned that the State Department was just “full of communists and fellow travelers.” There is a matter of some debate, as the speech was not recorded. He gave a number of “205 or “57”* and Harry Truman was informed and then looked into this matter.
     *I looked up these numbers. They're real, but huh?

All sorts of mischief followed, with inquests into politicians', professors', actors', politicians' and several journalists' careers. People committed suicide over this. There were people who had been members of the American Communist party, but up until the Cold War (around 1953 with the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg execution) this was not a crime. Every time the focus drifted away from “Tailgunner” Joe, he would start waving his list of names around in the Senate.

Julius was recruited by the NKVD, but there still remains some question as to whether Ethel was or not. There were other agents recruited who served time; none were executed.

McCarthy was himself stunned by the response, when before he was overlooked; he was, to put it bluntly mediocrity personified. And that was on a good day. He also caused the Tydings Hearings Committees to be called. This was a subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee of Foreign Relations in 1950 to investigate “as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been employed by the Department of State.” Senator Tyding himself, in responding to irate Democrats over this mummery, responded, “(sic) Let McCarthy have his three days; he'll never show his face in the Senate again.”

Sadly, from it's beginning, the Committee was marked by partisan infighting. After the final report, penned by a Democratic majority, the Republicans on the committee refused to accept the language nor the verdict of the report. Three times the full Senate voted, split along party lines.

As time went on, McCarthy began to resemble Stalin and his purges. In fact, Stalin, watching the parade of shame, as McCarthy looked for “Reds under the Beds” said something to the effect of “We have no need to ruin America. McCarthy is doing it for us!” Then, Stalin went back to slurping vokda and having Lavrenti Berya in Lybyanka murdering his doctors or something, having run out of professors, intelligentsia and his own very remarkable Red Army Chiefs of Staff down to Major.

Fellow-traveler Imaginary Trotsky and I could write a whole column on Nikita Kruschev, who was on the front line and General Chuikov, the saviour of Stalingrad. I want this flag.

What caused this particular remark was this: McCarthy was going after our own Army, starting with George C. Marshall, who developed the Marshall Plan that enabled Europe to get back on its feet after a crippling war. McCarthy was enraged in the extreme when President Truman fired General MacArthur and called for his impeachment. JFK, himself a junior senator at the time, held his cards close to the vest and said nothing.

Eisenhower was planning on running for President and McCarthy was now very powerful, with his own permanent subcommittee on Investigations. Thus began the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, which would lead to his downfall. His lead investigator was Roy Cohn, and early in 1954, the U.S. Army accused both McCarty and Cohn of putting undue pressure on the Army to give favorable treatment to one G. David Shine, a former aide to Cohn. After 32 days of going back and forth with Senator Stewart Symington and Judge Joseph Welch, McCarthy was losing momentum, and once again, turned to one of his magic lists. Up to this point, McCarthy's star was waning. You can go to the trough only so many times. McCarthy was however, about to slit his own throat and never saw it coming.

Joseph Welch said (paraphrasing wildly here), “In all of these lists you brandish, we have yet to hear one name. You threaten, you bluster, but you never reveal. I would not doubt you, if you would give me but one name.” Joseph McCarthy said, “There is a fellow by the name of Fred Fisher.” (Mr. Fisher had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, a mouthpiece of the Communist party) Welch exploded. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness...” When McCarthy tried to resume his attack, Welch interrupted him. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

This was the first televised congressional hearing and it was the end of McCarthy's career. Americans were ashamed that they had bought into such knavery. We don't do this, anymore than we spy on ourselves with phone calls, or sign Patriot Acts. I know about lists. My father was in college during the McCarthy era and not just a few of his professors had their careers destroyed.

Then, we had the (what I call famous) infestation of FBI agents hovering around in the mid-70s. This was back when we weren't friends with the Saudis.. My father did some kind of mathematical voodoo at a munitions corporation that made personnel carriers. He sat at a desk, but had some people who worked in the “field” whatever in the hell that means. I'm guessing he did some kind of a logistical thing. Anyway, 2 of his guys dismantled and somehow snuck out with 2 complete personnel carriers and sold them to the Saudis; a big no-no then. So, we had pairs of guys in suits and sunglasses dropping in for coffee at 3 am for a while. My father was picking me up from school and we would drive aimlessly for hours, knowing that the Feebs were tailing us. My father loved fucking with their heads. My mother declared herself an anarchist-bomb thrower when, during one of the late night coffee clatches, the talk turned to politics. It was like she'd gotten up and pooped on the stove.

When I went to school, we had a huge Eastern European-Russian school of studies there and I took some glasses. I also joined the American Socialist party and went to rallies for Solidarity and ended up on the CBS evening news. I got a call from my dad on the other side of the country. He was hysterical. I know I'm on a list. We're all on a list of some kind. The NSA can listen all it wants. Collecting lists is my hobbies. Besides, the last time I looked, we still had a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and I know those like the back of my hand. Probably better than the folks at the NSA registering my keystrokes right this minute. Will it do any of us any good? That remains to be seen. This all started when George Bush signed the Patriot Act in 2003 and I think anyone who understands the basics of constitutional law knew then that that the death knell had rung. Anything passed into law that is that broad reaching and that porous is not good. It will be expanded upon no matter the best intentions; and how do you put the genie back in that bottle?

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