<Photograph: Protesting the US Supreme Court Brown Decision of 1954>
Although anti-communism began in the USA when the USSR first arose, and US political parties opposed communism relentlessly until its fall in 1991, the character of anti-communism in the postwar US became a type of hysteria in many US communities. In simple terms, the US extreme right-wing after World War Two became so twisted that instead of attacking foreign enemies, it chose to attack Washington D.C. as the original and authentic source of the communist menace.
This began in earnest around 1951 when Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) took over the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) in response to President Truman’s decision to dismiss General Douglas MacArthur from his command in Korea. Widespread protests among extreme right-wing elements in America were accusing President Truman of communism.
Most Americans had always remained guarded against Soviet propaganda. Most Americans approved of FBI surveillance of Soviet sympathizers in the US. But the US extreme right-wing had become hysterical. They lost all confidence in the US government and they formed local, state, and national organizations to fight communism as they defined it locally – in terms they could understand.
SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY
Anti-communist hysteria found a voice in Senator Joe McCarthy who staked his career on charging individual government workers in Washington DC with secret membership in the Communist Party.
Senator McCarthy quickly captured the popular imagination as he reduced political debate to these simple-minded accusations. McCarthy encouraged participation in politics among those with the least knowledge of the issues, chanting that there were communists in high places in Washington DC. Millions of American voters chose to support McCarthy’s HUAC for several years.
From 1951 through 1957, “McCarthyism” dominated the scope of public debate in Washington DC. By January 1954, for example, as many as 50% of American voters supported McCarthy’s hysteria, with 29% opposed, and 21% with no opinion. McCarthy’s followers famously accused Hollywood producers of secretly promoting Soviet political propaganda through its famous movie stars.
However, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow, on March 9, 1954, used TV to broadcast, “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” which consisted mainly of clips of McCarthy accusing the Democratic Party of “twenty years of treason,” and describing the ACLU as “a front for, and doing the work of, the Communist Party.”
Also, in March 1954, Vermont Republican Senator Ralph Flanders advised McCarthy to turn his anti-communist fervor to a useful target – the worldwide rise of communism outside America. McCarthy did not change his tune.
One month later, Flanders compared McCarthy to Adolf Hitler because he spread “division and confusion” inside the US. Flanders said that “if the junior Senator from Wisconsin was in the pay of the Russians he could not have done a better job for them.”
Flanders next introduced a resolution to censure McCarthy, saying, “It is not his breaches of etiquette... or rules ...or laws which were so disturbing,” but his overall behavior. Flanders added a “bill of particulars” listing 46 charges to his censure resolution.
A special committee was appointed to study the resolution. Hearings began on August 31, 1954. After two months of hearings, the Watkins Committee recommended that McCarthy be censured on 2 of the 46 counts, namely:
(1) That McCarthy had “failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Rules and Administration”, and “repeatedly abused the members who were trying to carry out assigned duties ...”
(2) That McCarthy had charged “three members of the Watkins Select Committee with ‘deliberate deception’ and ‘fraud.’
McCarthy exclaimed to the media that the special Senate session was a ‘lynch party’ by “the unwitting handmaiden, involuntary agent, and attorneys in fact of the Communist Party!” By November 1954, however, the percentage of American voters who supported McCarthy had fallen to 35%, with 45% opposed, and 19% with no opinion.
McCarthy exclaimed to the media that the special Senate session had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity.”
In response, on December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to “condemn” McCarthy on both counts by a vote of 67 to 22. (JFK abstained. In his defense, Arthur Schlesinger exclaimed, “Hell, half the voters in Massachusetts look on McCarthy as a hero!”) Despite the condemnation, the habit of McCarthyism remained strong in the US for many years.
THE US RADICAL RIGHT AFTER MCCARTHY
In 1954, US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren stunned America with his Brown Decision, which mandated that all US public schools must open their doors to racial integration. A widespread social protest began, by far loudest in the South. Calls to “Impeach Earl Warren” were heard throughout the land, and the calls lasted for several years.
In 1957 Senator Joseph McCarthy died from complications due to alcoholism. The problem of the US right now became – who would take his place? Many candidates arose, the most vital of whom were:
1. Robert Welch and his John Birch Society. They continued the message of Senator McCarthy, accusing all US Presidents since FDR of communism. They also sold bumper-stickers exclaiming, “Impeach Earl Warren!” Their numbers expanded nationwide.
2. George Stuart Benson, President of Harding College in Arkansas, and publisher of the NATIONAL PROGRAM LETTER, started a political education program with films and keynote speakers echoing McCarthyism in various degrees. Their most popular movie was COMMUNISM ON THE MAP, distributed by MGM, and seen by at least 35 million people.
3. Dr. Fred C. Schwarz and his CHRISTIAN ANTI-COMMUNIST CRUSADE also started a school and public seminar program. Schwarz exclaimed, “a communist dictator will rule the US by 1973...San Francisco will be the headquarters of the US communist leadership.” Supporters of Schwarz included LIFE magazine, Richfield Oil Co., Schick Safety Razors Co., and Technicolor Inc. One of his speakers, Colonel Mitchell Page, said that impeaching Earl Warren was not enough - he should be hung. Others said that fluoridation of water was a tool of communist psychiatrists. A typical Schwarz seminar lasted five 12-hour days. Schwarz became quite wealthy from these activities.
4. Billy James Hargis started a non-profit, segregated University and a public speaking seminar program called the CHRISTIAN CRUSADE to advocate of racial segregation, calling Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Brown Decision a “communist plot.” He became a self-made millionaire, held in highest esteem in his hometown of Dallas, Texas.
5. Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith (Disciples of Christ) founded the CHRISTIAN NATIONALIST CRUSADE. His platform was: (1) to preserve the USA as a Christian nation; (2) to outlaw communism; (3) to defend Free Enterprise; (4) to fight mongrelism of the races; (5) to deny all foreign aid; (6) to reject all foreign alliances; (7) to deny US immigration to non-WASPs; and (7) to reject the One World Government. Smith’s newsletter, THE CROSS AND THE FLAG, complained: (a) that Washington DC is 75% Negro; (b) that communist Jews ruled the Supreme Court; (c) that Jewish international bankers told Earl Warren what to do; and (e) that Jewish chemists invented heroin so that Khrushchev and Fide Castro could push it in the US to weaken the US.
6. Robert B. DePugh was basically a believer in the John Birch Society doctrine that the United Nations is a communist plot designed to conquer the US Government. In late 1960, while a member of the US Reserve Officer’s Association, he started the paramilitary nationwide group called, The Minutemen, open to the general public. Their records were entirely secret, although some members boasted of their leadership in the Minutemen, including former FBI chief Guy Banister and the resigned General Walker.
Other famous rightists that came after Senator Joe McCarthy include Phoebe Courtney (CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY OF AMERICA), Kent Courtney (THE INDEPENDENT AMERICAN), Dr. Clarence Manion (MANION FORUM), and Dr. Carl McIntire, an outspoken Nixon hater who used his radio station, WXUR, his weekly newspaper, THE CHRISTIAN BEACON, and his nationally broadcast program, the 20th CENTURY REFORMATION HOUR, to attack the NAACP, the ADL, the AFL-CIO, the NCC, the WCC, NAE, the Pope, Billy Graham, and the FCC.
Based on this American right-wing background, one can more easily see the conditions in the US that would welcome a character like the resigned General Edwin A. Walker, the racial segregationist and veteran of WW2 and the Korean War who had become an ultra-right-wing activist.
The Korean War had demoralized Walker, yet he still served Eisenhower faithfully from 1957 through 1959 by successfully leading federal troops in Arkansas’ Little Rock High School to racially integrate the school. Yet, in 1959, Walker joined the John Birch Society, left Arkansas, and submitted his resignation from the Army. Eisenhower rejected Walker’s resignation, however, and promoted him to his biggest command: 10,000 troops and their families in Augsburg, Germany, defending the Berlin Wall.
In Germany in 1960, General Walker came into conflict with the US Army newspaper, namely, the Overseas Weekly. This newspaper had begun secretly following Walker because he was 50 years old, unmarried, and never known to have had a girlfriend. Walker sued them in civil court and won.
The next week, however, on April 17, 1961, the Overseas Weekly paper devoted the front page and several extra pages to expose Walker as a John Birch Society member, disloyal to America. This caused a scandal not only in Europe, but in the USA. That very day the US General Staff dismissed Walker from his command, pending an inquiry.
Later that year, Walker resigned from the Army, forfeiting his Army pension. Walker then moved to Dallas, complained he had been “muzzled” by the communist Establishment in Washington DC. He began a successful career as a public anti-communist speaker. His speaking points were taken from John Birch Society doctrine – accusing the UN, NATO, Foreign Aid, and the Civil Rights Movement of being communist plots aimed at destroying America.
Soon, Walker came into direct conflict with JFK at Ole Miss University on September 31, 1962, when an African-American Airforce veteran, James Meredith, insisted on registering as a student there. Walker called for protestors from every State in the Union, “ten-thousand strong,” to come to Mississippi to protest. They did. And JFK also sent thousands of federal troops into Mississippi to face them down.
The result was a massive racial riot that left hundreds wounded and two dead – and General Walker was remanded to a Missouri insane asylum for a 90-day evaluation. Walker was out in three days. He was exonerated in January 1963, and before that year was over, JFK was assassinated.
It may be refreshing to reflect upon the politics of 2023 and compare them with the politics of 1963, to realize that we are not so hugely different today than the way we were back then. Perhaps refreshing is too strong a word in this context.
(c) Copyright 2023 by Trejo Academic Research.