Anti-communism in the House and Senate

Anti-communism in the House and Senate

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The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was created in 1938 to investigate un-American propaganda and disloyalty. In session, the committee members leveled accusatory questions that made their subjects so nervous that they often revealed names to get out of the hot seat.

Popular Front Era

The early work of HUAC was aimed mostly at German-American involvement in Nazism, and Ku Klux Klan activity.Little of note emerged from its investigations of Nazis or Klansmen, but the committee came into its own when it acted on suspicions that some people with Communist sympathies and links worked for the U.S. government. Radical students in the 1930s had often been attracted to Marxism, particularly in the "Popular Front" era. Several of those people had reached positions of power by the late 1940s. Conservative voices in Congress tended to be extremely suspicious of such people, believing that those Marxists had dual loyalty, and were either actual or ideological agents of the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin.For example, the committee investigated communism in the Works Progress Administration (WPA), including the Federal Theater Project. In 1938, Hallie Flanagan, head of the Federal Theater Project, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge that the project was overrun with communists. Flanagan was called to testify for only a part of one day, while a clerk from the project was called in for two entire days. That may have had something to do with the fact that one of the members of the committee embarrassed himself by asking whether the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe¹ was a member of the Communist Party.

Post-World War II

There were fears that agents were actively working to overthrow the United States from within, and thus had to be forcibly removed from any positions of influence. For instance, the committee, with the leadership of such congressmen as Richard M. Nixon, brought about the trial and imprisonment of Alger Hiss.

HUAC became a standing (permanent) committee in 1946. Under the mandate of Public Law 601, passed by the 79th Congress, the committee of nine representatives investigated suspected threats of subversion or propaganda that "attacks the form of government guaranteed by our Constitution."

HUAC looked into alleged communist propaganda by Hollywood. Such “friendly” HUAC witnesses as Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney blamed Hollywood labor conflicts on communist infiltration. Reagan and Disney portrayed the labor struggles solely in terms of a battle between forces for and against communism. One of the most famous results of HUAC intimidation was the Hollywood Blacklist in 1947, which included the Hollywood Ten. Following their testimony before HUAC, those 10 writers, producers and directors were forced into seclusion and barely able to keep their movies on the screen.

One of the committee's specialties was to investigate a particular political organization, and to label it a communist front if, in the committee's judgment, the group was effectively under the control of the Communist Party or known party members. Some individuals — such as W.E.B. DuBois and I.F. Stone — were found to have been affiliated with literally dozens of Comintern-sponsored groups; although, in reality, many of the groups were nothing more than glorified petition drives and disappeared after a single publicity campaign on behalf of a particular cause expired.

Civil Rights Era

In its later years, HUAC investigated the New Left, but those probes were less successful. Such young witnesses as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman had much less to lose than the targets of the earlier investigations, and they swayed public opinion in their favor by openly defying the congressmen and making the investigations look ridiculous by performing such pranks as appearing in a clown suit.

In June 1966, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Stokely Carmichael, first voiced the slogan “Black Power” during a march in Mississippi. James Meredith had initiated the march to protest white resistance, in defiance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to black voter registration. Meredith was shot and wounded, but other black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Carmichael, continued the march.

Carmichael appeared before HUAC to answer questions about his and SNCC's communist affiliations. Carmichael invoked the Fifth Amendment as his reply to many of the questions.

Carmichael’s rhetoric, influenced by Malcolm X, signified a growing divide in the civil rights movement between those who encouraged interracial collaboration and those who advocated black separatism. Carmichael left SNCC in 1967 and joined the Black Panther Party.

Although he advocated an international struggle to end capitalism, the following year Carmichael announced ² that “Communism is not an ideology suited for black people.” Carmichael moved to Guinea in 1969, where he changed his name to Kwame Ture and formed the Pan-Africanist All-African People’s Party. He died in 1998.

In 1969, the House changed the committee's name to the Committee on Internal Security. The House abolished the committee in 1975 and its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.

After Martin Dies stepped down as chairman of HUAC in 1944 he was succeeded by Edward Hart (1945), John S. Wood (1945-46), John Parnell Thomas (1947-48), John S. Wood (1949-1952), Harold Velde (1953-54) and Francis Walter (1955-63). Other major members of HUAC included John Rankin of Mississippi, Karl Mundt of South Dakota and Richard M. Nixon of California.And in the SenateHUAC is occasionally mixed up with the Senate Committee on Government Operations, of which Senator Joseph McCarthy was a member. The Senate committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was especially involved in probing purported communists in the 1950s, especially following McCarthy's rise to chairman. The House and Senate committees were two separate entities. McCarthy was not associated with HUAC and did not serve in the House of Representatives.“McCarthyism,” a parallel crusade named after Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, also was a period of intense anti-communism and also is popularly known as the second Red Scare. It took place primarily from 1948 to 1954, when the U.S. government was engaged in suppression of the American Communist Party, its leadership, and others suspected of being communists or communist sympathizers. During that period, people from all walks of life became the subject of aggressive witch hunts, often based on inconclusive or questionable evidence.

Supporters of McCarthyism have argued that McCarthy's intentions were good and that, before the worst of his anticommunist campaign, he acted in good faith against what he truly believed was a malicious communist conspiracy within the government. Recently declassified Soviet-era documents have, in fact, confirmed that Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. State Department in the 1930s and 1940s. However, as McCarthy's accusations became more sweeping, and as he attacked more prominent figures within the government and military, his strength faltered.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, a candidate for the presidency in the 1952 election, disagreed with McCarthy's tactics, but on one occasion was required to make a campaign stop with him in Wisconsin. There, he intended to make a comment denouncing McCarthy's agenda, but under the advice of a conservative colleague, cut that part from his speech. He was widely criticized during his campaign for selling out to pressure and abandoning his personal convictions because of party pressures. After being elected president, he made it clear to those close to him that he did not approve of McCarthy or his proceedings and he worked actively to shut down his operation.

¹ Marlowe was born in Canterbury, England, in 1564 and died on May 30,1593.
² Excerpted from statements made by Stokely Carmichael on Pacifica Radio, U.C. Berkeley, at the Free Huey Rally, February 1968:

"The ideologies of communism and socialism speaks to class structure. They speak to people who ... oppressed people from the top down to the bottom. We are not just facing exploitation, we are facing something much more important. We are facing because we are the victims of racism.

"Communism nor socialism does not speak to the problem of racism. And racism for black people in this country is far more important than exploitation, 'cause no matter how much money you make when you go into the white world, you are still a nigger ... you are still a nigger ... you are still a nigger. So that for us, the question of racism become uppermost in our minds. It become uppermost in our minds. How do we destroy those institutions that seek to keep us dehumanized? That is all we're talking about."

Republican senator uses People’s World in anti-communist smear attack

The Republican Party’s anti-communist election crusade is still going strong, although it doesn’t appear to be winning over many voters. The latest target of the modern-day McCarthyite witch-hunt is Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff. His opponent, Trump loyalist Sen. David Perdue, has accused Ossoff of being backed by the Communist Party USA.

The evidence of Ossoff’s supposedly red credentials?

In April 2017, People’s World published an article about Ossoff’s run for Congress that was written by former PW staff writer Larry Rubin. The Facebook account of the Communist Party shared the article to its page at the time. For Perdue, that was apparently proof enough that Ossoff keeps company with radical leftists.

The article, headlined “Progressive may win Newt Gingrich’s seat, handing Trumpism a major defeat,” covered Ossoff’s lead in Georgia’s “jungle primary,” where Republicans and Democrats were all competing to win the 6th District seat vacated by Tom Price, who joined the Trump cabinet.

Ossoff made it to the run-off but barely lost in the final tally—winning 48.22% to Republican Karen Handel’s 51.78%. This time, Ossoff has Perdue running scared in his fight to hold onto his U.S. Senate seat. The latest poll shows Perdue at 49% and Ossoff at 46%, a difference that is well within the margin of error.

And that explains why Perdue is bringing out the old socialist boogeyman to smear Ossoff. Addressing an Oct. 2 meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group that bills itself as a bridge between Evangelicals and the Tea Party, Perdue made his indictment:

“It’s just outrageous what they”—Democrats—“want to do,” he said. “This is not just radical this agenda is very dangerous. And as a matter of fact, my opponent is actually endorsed by the Communist Party in the U.S., if you can believe that.”

The article offered by the Perdue campaign as evidence of Ossoff’s red credentials is an April 2017 story by former PW staff writer Larry Rubin. The article was subsequently shared by the CPUSA on its Facebook page.

It was a repeat of the same accusation he’d made the day before during an interview with right-wing radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Perdue tried to play up Ossoff’s age (he’s 33), the alleged Communist connection, and the old “outside agitator” line long used by Southern conservatives as reasons for Georgians to reject his challenger.

“I’m running against a kid named Jon Ossoff, who has been endorsed by the Communist Party,” Perdue dismissively told Hewitt. He then blamed a supposed influx of imported voters from blue states like “California, Illinois, and New York” for the fortunes of his struggling campaign.

The fact of the matter is that neither the Communist Party, according to a party spokesperson, nor People’s World, for that matter, has endorsed Ossoff—either now or in any previous election.

Roberta Wood, a member of the National Board of the Communist Party USA, told the press in no uncertain terms, “The Communist Party did not endorse him.” She went further, saying that unless a candidate is a nominee of the CPUSA, then they don’t get an official nod from the Communists. “We do not endorse candidates of other parties.”

Perdue’s nonsense caught the attention of fact-checkers at The Washington Post. Dissecting his charge against Ossoff, Post writer Glenn Kessler asked, “Seriously, when does posting a news article on a Facebook page constitute an endorsement?”

He gave Perdue a rating of “four Pinocchios”—the maximum—on the newspaper’s fact-checking scale. Essentially, that means the claim is just a flat-out lie.

When approached about the matter, the Perdue campaign dug in its heels and turned out more inaccurate claims. A spokesperson accused the Communist Party of lying about its policy of not endorsing non-Communist candidates, pointing to the alleged endorsement of Joe Biden by the “president of the CPUSA.” The CPUSA has no such officer.

As it turns out, it was neither of the CPUSA’s two national co-chairs, Rossana Cambron or Joe Sims, that the Perdue campaign was referring to. Instead, it was Bob Avakian, the head of a Maoist sect called the “Revolutionary Communist Party,” which was offered to prove the CPUSA’s dishonesty.

There is no connection between Avakian’s group and the actual Communist Party.


Republicans’ rabid anti-communism is a sign of their political weakness

Unable to substantiate its accusations, Perdue’s campaign simply returned to the tactic of name-calling. With no evidence, it said Ossoff had “lurched even further to the left” and that he “unquestionably supports the…radical, socialist agenda.”

Like Trump and the Republican Party nationally, Perdue is getting desperate and is willing to resort to whatever trick he thinks might help him fend off insurgent anti-GOP sentiment. Back in 2014, Perdue slapped the “terrorist” label on his opponent, Michelle Nunn. This time, with Ossoff, it’s the “communist” smear.

Instead of damaging Ossoff, though, Perdue is exposing himself and the president he supports. Regularly referred to as “Trump’s favorite senator,” Perdue was the first Fortune 500 CEO ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate. He made his millions overseeing companies like Reebok and the discount retail chain Dollar General. He’s set himself up as one of the Senate’s top anti-immigrant voices and has been a central link between the Trump White House and Republican leaders in the Senate. He and the president are regular pals on the golf course.

Asked about Perdue’s attempted weaponization of People’s World, this publication’s editor-in-chief, John Wojcik, said, “One thing about these ‘red scare’ types—something that is almost universally true—is that whenever they throw around anti-communist charges, you can bet they themselves have never done anything positive for working people.”

The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism

But other forces also contributed to McCarthyism. The right-wing had long been wary of liberal, progressive policies like child labor laws and women's suffrage, which they viewed as socialism or communism. This was especially true of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. As far as the right was concerned, "New Dealism,&rdquo was heavily influenced by communism, and by the end of WWII it had ruled American society for a dozen years. During the McCarthyism era, much of the danger they saw was about vaguely defined "communist influence" rather than direct accusations of being Soviet spies. In fact, throughout the entire history of post-war McCarthyism, not a single government official was convicted of spying. But that didn&rsquot really matter to many Republicans. During the Roosevelt Era they had been completely shut out of power. Not only did Democrats rule the White House, they had controlled both houses of congress since 1933. During the 1944 elections the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey had tried to link Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal with communism. Democrats fired back by associating Republicans with Fascism. By the 1946 midterm elections, however, fascism had largely been defeated in Europe, but communism loomed as an even larger threat. Republicans found a winning issue. By &ldquoRed-baiting" their Democratic opponents—labeling them as "soft on communism," they gained traction with voters.

To bolster his claim that Hiss was a communist, Chambers produced sixty-five pages of retyped State Department documents and four pages in Hiss's own handwriting of copied State Department cables which he claimed to have obtained from Hiss in the 1930s the typed papers having been retyped from originals on the Hiss family's Woodstock typewriter. Both Chambers and Hiss had previously denied committing espionage. By introducing these documents, Chambers admitted that he had lied to the committee. Chambers then produced five rolls of 35 mm film, two of which contained State Department documents. Chambers had hidden the film in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm, and they became known as the “pumpkin papers".

From Lee case no. 40:
The employee is with the Office of Information and Educational Exchange in New York City. His application is very sketchy. There has been no investigation. (C-8) is a reference. Though he is 43 years of age, his file reflects no history prior to June 1941.

McCarthy's speech was a lie, but Republicans went along for political gain. Democrats tried to pin him down on his list, and McCarthy first agreed, and then refused to name names. He couldn't have named any names if he had wanted to. The Lee List used only case numbers. He did not get a copy of the key to the list, matching names with the case numbers, until several weeks later. Democrats had little choice but to agree to the creation of a committee to investigate McCarthy's charges. They also acceded to Republican demands that the Congress be given the authority to subpoena the loyalty records of all government employees against whom charges would be heard. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon insisted that the hearings be conducted in public, but even so, the investigators were able to take preliminary evidence and testimony in executive session (in private). The final Senate resolution authorized "a full and complete study and investigation as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been employed by the Department of the State."

June 14, 1954: In a gesture against the "godless communism" of the Soviet Union, the phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

August 24, 1954: The Communist Control Act was signed by President Eisenhower. It outlawed the Communist Party of the United States and criminalized membership in, or support for, the Party.



The lieutenant governor serves as president of the Senate but only votes in the event of a tie. In the absence of the lieutenant governor, the president pro tempore serves as the presiding officer. The president pro tempore is elected by the majority party caucus but must also be confirmed by the entire Senate. ΐ] Α]

Current leadership and members

  • Senate president:Denny Heck (D)
  • President Pro Tem:Karen Keiser (D)
  • Majority leader:Andy Billig (D)
  • Minority leader:John Braun (R)


See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries
State legislators
SalaryPer diem
$52,766/year. Increases to $56,881 on July 1, 2020.$120/day

Swearing in dates

Washington legislators assume office the second Monday of January. Β]

Membership qualifications

Section 7 of Article 2 of the Washington State Constitution states, "No person shall be eligible to the legislature who shall not be a citizen of the United States and a qualified voter in the district for which he is chosen." Γ]

The Senator Who Stood Up to Joseph McCarthy When No One Else Would

“It is high time we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom.”

Those words, spoken by Margaret Chase Smith, freshman senator from Maine, never mentioned Joseph McCarthy by name, but it was abundantly clear to all who listened that her criticisms were leveled directly at him. Her speech represented a highlight for the congressional maverick with a career full of similar moments of bipartisanship.

Earlier that day, June 1, 1950, Smith had bumped into the bombastic Wisconsin senator as they made their way to work. Only four months earlier, McCarthy had delivered an inflammatory speech claiming 205 people working in the State Department were secretly communists. Since then, Smith had been closely following his words and actions, meant to undermine the Democratic party and seed suspicion everywhere.

According to journalist Marvin Kalb, the senators’ interaction that morning was a prelude of what was to come. McCarthy regarded Smith and noted, “Margaret, you look very serious. Are you going to make a speech?”

“Yes, and you will not like it,” she responded.

After passing out copies of the speech to the press gallery, Smith approached the Senate floor and began her “Declaration of Conscience.” In it, she addressed what she saw as McCarthy’s dangerous accusations and the partisan bickering it resulted in.

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism,” Smith said, in another thinly veiled jab at McCarthy’s tactics. Importantly, she was also quick to point out the Truman administration had failed to do enough to prevent the spread of communism at home and abroad. But her conclusion called on all politicians, regardless of party affiliation, to stand for the defense of civil liberties.

“It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life,” said Smith.

It was a remarkable moment, not only because Smith was a woman, or the first person to speak out against McCarthy, but because she was willing to speak out against her fellow Republicans. Again and again over the 32 years she spent in Congress, Smith defended her values, even when it meant opposing the GOP—and even when it cost her personally.

Smith’s political career began shortly after she married Clyde Harold Smith, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1936. Margaret traveled with her husband to Washington, D.C., where she managed his office, and, in 1940, before the end of his term, Clyde asked Margaret to run for his seat just before he died of a fatal heart condition. Not only did she win the special election to finish his term, she won her own full term in Congress by running on a platform of supporting pensions for the elderly and military expansion.

Over the next eight years, Smith repeatedly won reelection to the House as a Republican, though she mostly followed her own conscience and frequently voted across party lines. She sponsored legislation to make women recognized members of the military rather than volunteers and voted against making the House Select Committee on Un-American Activities (which investigated communism) a permanent committee. She would also support Democratic legislation like FDR’s Lend-Lease program.

When one of Maine’s senators chose not to return in 1947, she decided to run for his seat. According to a biography from the United States House of Representatives, “The state Republican Party, stung by Smith’s many votes across party lines, opposed her candidacy and supported Maine Governor Horace A. Hildreth in the four-way race.” But Smith earned far more votes than any of her opponents, becoming the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate.

When McCarthy began his accusations of communism run amok in the American government, Smith, like many others, was initially concerned that he might be right. She had been a fervent anti-communist throughout her political career and introduced a bill to outlaw the Communist Party in 1953, three years after her speech against McCarthy. What she didn’t agree with were her colleague from Wisconsin’s tactics—the fearmongering, the smearing of reputations, and finding people guilty before they had a chance to defend themselves.

“She was worried that what [McCarthy] was doing was undermining the anti-communism movement, that his methods were going too far,” says historian Mary Brennan, author of Wives, Mothers, and the Red Menace.

It soon became clear that McCarthy had grossly exaggerated his claims. By the spring of 1950, Smith said, “Distrust became so widespread that many dared not accept dinner invitations lest at some future date McCarthy might level unproved charges against someone who had been at the same dinner party.” Smith decided to act, since no one else seemed willing to, and gave her speech with the support of only six other Republican senators.

McCarthy’s response was typical of his behavior to any critics: he dismissed her, nicknaming Smith and her colleagues “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.” Meanwhile, media outlets like the Saturday Evening Post shamed Smith and her co-signers for being communist-sympathizers, calling them “the soft underbelly of the Republican Party.”

Yet Smith received a large share of praise as well as censure. Newsweek pondered whether Smith might be the next vice president, while financier and statesman Bernard Baruch went even further, stating that if a man had given such a speech “he would be the next president.” Smith received campaign donations from across the country for the 1952 elections, Brennan says, all of which she politely returned, saying she was running in a state race, not a national one.

But for all the furor her speech produced, Smith quickly fell out of the limelight when North Korean forces invaded the South at the end of June. “The boiling intensity of the Cold War had the ironic effect of sidelining Smith and elevating McCarthy, whose anticommunist crusade only grew wider and stronger,” Kalb writes in Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy.

The one person who didn’t forget Smith’s speech was McCarthy himself. “Her support for the United Nations, New Deal programs, support for federal housing and social programs placed her high on the list of those against whom McCarthy and his supporters on local levels sought revenge,” writes Gregory Gallant in Hope and Fear in Margaret Chase Smith’s America. When McCarthy gained control of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (which monitored government affairs), he took advantage of the position to remove Smith from the group, replacing her with acolyte Richard Nixon, then a senator from California. Although she remained a member of the Republican party, party leaders never quite knew how to make sense of her, Brennan says.

“I don’t know that she would’ve felt a lot of loyalty to the Republican Party the way some others did. There was a sense that they didn’t like what McCarthy was doing, but he was attacking the Democrats and that was good. And she came along and said, that’s true, but he’s undermining our cause and that’s bad.”

Despite being briefly sidelined by McCarthy for standing her ground, Smith remained a savvy enough politician to survive. She held a record for casting 2,941 consecutive roll call votes between 1955 and 1968, which was interrupted only by her recovery from hip surgery. And in 1964, she announced she was running for President. Though she never made it past the primaries, she still became the first woman to have her name put in for nomination for the presidency by a major political party.

As for the incident with McCarthy, Smith wasn’t the one who to bring him down or spur others to action. He wouldn’t fall until 1954, after considerable damage had been done. But Smith did vote to censure him in 1954, and, Brennan says, she refused to sign a card from other Republicans apologizing for censuring him.

“That was the thing about her,” Brennan says. “She was very much what you’d think of when you think of a stereotypical Yankee. This is the principal, this is what I’m standing for, and I’m not deviating from this.”


During its first quarter century, the new United States government had to find its way in the world while attending to the nation’s business. Leaders met with Indian nations and faced often-hostile relations with European powers while coping with conflicts between emerging political parties and working out relationships among the three new branches of government.

The First Congress (1789–1791) laid the foundation built upon by future congresses: It inaugurated the president, created government departments, established a system of courts, passed the Bill of Rights, and enacted laws needed by the new country to raise money and provide for other essential needs. Meeting first in New York City and then in Philadelphia, legislators moved in 1800 to the new Capitol in the District of Columbia.

The founding era concluded with the War of 1812. As the nation fought to confirm its independence from Great Britain, British forces invaded Washington in the summer of 1814 and set fire to its public buildings, including the Capitol. Despite the turbulence and uncertainty of these times, the nation successfully developed a functioning government based on the principles of representation.

Anti-communism in the House and Senate - History

Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, fueled fears during the early 1950s that communism was rampant and growing. This intensified Cold War tensions felt by every segment of society, from government officials to ordinary American citizens. Photograph of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, March 14, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration.

Joseph McCarthy burst onto the national scene during a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950. Waving a sheet of paper in the air, he proclaimed: “I have here in my hand a list of 205…names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping [US] policy.” Since the Wisconsin Republican had no actual list, when pressed, the number changed to fifty-seven, then, later, eighty-one. Finally he promised to disclose the name of just one communist, the nation’s “top Soviet agent.” The shifting numbers brought ridicule, but it didn’t matter, not really: McCarthy’s claims won him fame and fueled the ongoing “red scare.”

Within a ten-month span beginning in 1949, the USSR developed a nuclear bomb, China fell to Communism, and over 300,000 American soldiers were deployed to fight land war in Korea. Newspapers, meanwhile, were filled with headlines alleging Soviet espionage.

The environment of fear and panic instigated by McCarthyism led to the arrest of many innocent people. Still, some Americans accused of supplying top-secret information to the Soviets were in fact spies. The Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage and executed in 1953 for giving information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. This was one case that has proven the test of time, for as recently as 2008 a co-conspirator of the Rosenbergs admitted to spying for the Soviet Union. Roger Higgins, “[Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury],” 1951. Library of Congress.

During the war, Julius Rosenberg had worked briefly at the US Army Signal Corps Laboratory in New Jersey, where he had access to classified information. He and his wife Ethel, who had both been members of the American Communist Party (CPUSA) in the 1930s, were accused of passing secret bomb-related documents into the hands of Soviet officials. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were indicted in August 1950 on changes of giving ‘nuclear secrets’ to the Russians. After a trial in March 1951, the Rosenbergs were found guilty and executed on June 19, 1953.The Rosenbergs offered anti-communists such as McCarthy the evidence they needed to allege a vast Soviet conspiracy to infiltrate and subvert the US government, allegations that justified the smearing all left-liberals, even those resolutely anti-communist. In the run-up to the 1950 and 1952 elections, progressives saw this not as a legitimate effort to expose actual subversive activity, but rather a campaign to tarnish the reputations of ‘New Dealers’ in the Democratic Party.Alger Hiss was another prize for conservatives, who identified him as the highest-ranking government official linked to Soviet espionage. While working for the State Department’s Office of Far Eastern Affairs, Hiss had been a prominent member of the US delegation to Yalta before serving as secretary-general of the UN Charter Conference in San Francisco, from April-June 1945. He left the State Department in 1946. Hounded by a young congressman named Richard Nixon, public accusations finally won results. On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers gave testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) claiming that he and Hiss had worked together as part of the secret ‘communist underground’ in Washington DC during the 1930s. Hiss, who always maintained his innocence, stood trial twice. Following a ‘hung jury’ decision in July 1949, he was finally convicted on two counts of perjury, the statute of limitations for espionage having expired.Although later evidence certainly suggested their guilt, the prominent convictions of a few suspected spies fueled a frenzy by many who saw communists everywhere. Not long after his February 1950 speech in Wheeling, Joe McCarthy’s sensational charges became a source of growing controversy. Forced to respond, President Truman arranged a partisan congressional investigation designed to discredit McCarthy. The Tydings Committee held hearings from early March through July, 1950, then issued a final report admonishing McCarthy for perpetrating a “fraud and a hoax” on the American public.American progressives saw McCarthy’s crusade as nothing less than a political witch hunt. In June 1950, The Nation magazine editor Freda Kirchwey characterized “McCarthyism” as “the means by which a handful of men, disguised as hunters of subversion, cynically subvert the instruments of justice…in order to help their own political fortunes.” Truman’s liberal supporters and leftists like Kirchwey hoped that McCarthy and the new ‘ism’ that bore his name would blow over quickly. Yet ‘McCarthyism’ was ultimately just a symptom of the widespread anti-communist hysteria that engulfed American society during the first Cold War.Faced with a growing awareness of Soviet espionage, and a tough election on the horizon, in March 1947 Truman gave in to pressure and issued Executive Order 9835, establishing loyalty reviews for federal employees. In the case of Foreign Service officers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was empowered to conduct closer examinations of all potential ‘security risks’ congressional committees, namely the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI), were authorized to gather facts and hold hearings. Following Truman’s “loyalty order,” anti-subversion committees emerged in over a dozen state legislatures, while review procedures proliferated in public schools and universities across the country. At the University of California, for example, thirty-one professors were dismissed in 1950 after refusing to sign a loyalty oath. The Senate Internal Security (McCarran) Act passed in September 1950 mandated all “communist organizations” to register with the government and created a Senate investigative subcommittee equivalent to HUAC. The McCarran Act gave the government greater powers to investigate sedition and made it possible to prevent suspected individuals from gaining or keeping their citizenship. Between 1949 and 1954, HUAC, SPSI, and a new McCarran Committee conducted over one hundred distinct investigations of subversive activities.

There had been an American communist presence. The Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) formed in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution when the Bolsheviks created a Communist International (the Comintern) and invited socialists from around the world to join as they raised the red banner of revolution atop the palace in Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg). During its first two years of existence, the CPUSA functioned in secret, hidden from a surge of anti-radical and anti-immigrant hysteria, investigations, deportations, and raids at the end of World War I. The CPUSA began its public life in 1921, after the panic subsided. Communism remained on the margins of American life until the 1930s, when leftists and liberals began to see the Soviet Union as a symbol of hope amid the Great Depression.

During the 1930s, many communists joined the “Popular Front,” an effort to adapt communism to the United States and make it mainstream. During the Popular Front era communists were integrated into mainstream political institutions through alliances with progressives in the Democratic Party. The CPUSA enjoyed most of its influence and popularity among workers in unions linked to the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Communists also became strong opponents of southern ‘Jim Crow’ segregation and developed a presence in both the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The CPUSA, moreover, established “front” groups such as the League of American Writers, in which intellectuals participated without direct knowledge of its ties to the Comintern. But even at the height of the global economic crisis, communism never attracted many Americans. Even at the peak of its membership, in 1944, the CPUSA had just 80,000 national “card-carrying” members. From the mid-1930s through the mid-1940s, “the Party” exercised most of its power indirectly, through coalitions with liberals and reformers. But in the late 1930s, particularly when news broke of Hitler and Stalin’s non-aggression pact of 1939, many fled the Party, a bloc of left-liberal anti-communists purged remaining communists in their ranks, and the Popular Front collapsed.

Lacking the legal grounds to abolish the CPUSA, officials instead sought to expose and contain CPUSA influence. Following a series of predecessor committees, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was established in 1938, then reorganized after the war and given the explicit task of investigating communism. By the time the Communist Control Act was passed in August 1954, effectively criminalizing Party membership, the CPUSA had long ceased to have meaningful influence.

Anti-communists were driven to eliminate remaining CPUSA influence from progressive institutions, including the NAACP and the CIO. The Taft-Hartley Act (1947) gave union officials the initiative to purge communists from the labor movement. A kind of “Cold War” liberalism took hold. In January 1947, anti-communist liberals formed Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), whose founding members included labor leader Walter Reuther and NAACP chairman Walter White, as well as historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Working to help Truman defeat former vice-president Henry Wallace’s popular front-backed campaign in 1948, the ADA combined social and economic reforms with staunch anti-communism.

The domestic Cold War was bipartisan, fueled by a consensus drawn from a left-liberal and conservative anti-communist alliance that included politicians and policymakers, journalists and scientists, business and civic/religious leaders, and educators and entertainers.

Led by its imperious director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI took an active role in the domestic battle against communism. Hoover’s FBI helped incite panic by assisting the creation of blatantly propagandistic films and television shows, including The Red Menace (1949), My Son John, (1951), and I Led Three Lives (1953-1956). Such alarmist depictions of espionage and treason in a ‘free world’ imperiled by communism heightened a culture of fear experienced in the 1950s. In the fall of 1947, HUAC entered the fray with highly publicized hearings of Hollywood. Film mogul Walt Disney and actor Ronald Reagan, among others, testified to aid investigators’ attempts to expose communist influence in the entertainment industry. A group of writers, directors, and producers who refused to answer questions were held in contempt of Congress. This ‘Hollywood Ten’ created the precedent for a ‘blacklist’ in which hundreds of film artists were barred from industry work for the next decade.

HUAC made repeated visits to Hollywood during the 1950s, and their interrogation of celebrities often began with the same intimidating refrain: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” Many witnesses cooperated, and “named names,” naming anyone they knew who had ever been associated with communist-related groups or organizations. In 1956, black entertainer and activist Paul Robeson chided his HUAC inquisitors, claiming that they had put him on trial not for his politics, but because he had spent his life “fighting for the rights” of his people. “You are the un-Americans,” he told them, “and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” As Robeson and other victims of McCarthyism learned first-hand, this “second red scare,” in the glow of nuclear annihilation and global “totalitarianism,” fueled an intolerant and skeptical political world, what Cold War liberal Arthur Schlesinger, in his The Vital Center (1949), called an “age of anxiety.”

Many accused of Communist sentiments vehemently denied such allegations, including the one of the most well-known Americans at the time, African American actor and signer Paul Robeson. Unwilling to sign an affidavit confirming he was Communist, his U.S. passport was revoked. During the Cold War, he was condemned by the American press and neither his music nor films could be purchased in the U.S. Photograph.

Anti-communist ideology valorized overt patriotism, religious conviction, and faith in capitalism. Those who shunned such “American values” were open to attack. If communism was a plague spreading across Europe and Asia, anti-communist hyperbole infected cities, towns, and suburbs throughout the country. The playwright Arthur Miller, whose popular 1953 The Crucible compared the red scare to the Salem Witch Trials, wrote, “In America any man who is not reactionary in his views is open to the charge of alliance with the Red hell. Political opposition, thereby, is given an inhumane overlay which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized intercourse. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence. Once such an equation is effectively made, society becomes a congerie of plots and counterplots, and the main role of government changes from that of the arbiter to that of the scourge of God.”

Rallying against communism, American society urged conformity. “Deviant” behavior became dangerous. Having entered the workforce en masseas part of a collective effort in World War II, middle class women were told to return to house-making responsibilities. Having fought and died abroad to for American democracy, blacks were told to return home and acquiesce to the American racial order. Homosexuality, already stigmatized, became dangerous. Personal secrets were seen as a liability that exposed one to blackmail. The same paranoid mindset that fueled the second red scare also ignited the Cold War “lavender scare.”

American religion, meanwhile, was fixated on what McCarthy, in his 1950 Wheeling speech, called an “all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity.” Cold warriors in the US routinely referred to a fundamental incompatibility between “godless communism” and god-fearing Americanism. Religious conservatives championed the idea of traditional nuclear god-fearing family as a bulwark against the spread of atheistic totalitarianism. As Baptist minister Billy Graham sermonized in 1950, communism aimed to “destroy the American home and cause … moral deterioration,” leaving the country exposed to communist infiltration.

In an atmosphere in which ideas of national belonging and citizenship were so closely linked to religious commitment, Americans during the early Cold War years attended church, professed a belief in a supreme being, and stressed the importance of religion in their lives at higher rates than in any time in American history. Americans sought to differentiate themselves from godless communists through public displays of religiosity. Politicians infused government with religious symbols. The Pledge of Allegiance was altered to include the words “one nation, under God” in 1954. “In God We Trust” was adopted as the official national motto in 1956. In popular culture, one of the most popular films of the decade, The Ten Commandments (1956), retold the biblical Exodus story as a Cold War parable, echoing (incidentally) NSC 68’s characterization of the Soviet Union as a “slave state.” Monuments of the Ten Commandments went to court houses and city halls across the country.

While the link between American nationalism and religion grew much closer during the Cold War, many Americans began to believe that just believing in almost any religion was better than being an atheist. Gone was the overt anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic language of Protestants in the past. Now, leaders spoke of a common “Judeo-Christian” heritage. In December 1952, a month before his inauguration, Dwight Eisenhower said that “our form of government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply-felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Joseph McCarthy, an Irish Catholic, made common cause with prominent religious anti-communists, including southern evangelist Billy James Hargis of Christian Crusade, a popular radio and television ministry that peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Cold War religion in America also crossed the political divide. During the 1952 campaign, Eisenhower spoke of US foreign policy as “a war of light against darkness, freedom against slavery, Godliness against atheism.” His Democratic opponent, former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson said that America was engaged in a battle with the “Anti-Christ.” While Billy Graham became a spiritual adviser to Eisenhower as well as other Republican and Democratic presidents, the same was true of the liberal Protestant Reinhold Niebuhr, perhaps the nation’s most important theologian when he appeared on the cover of Life in March 1948.

Though publicly rebuked by the Tydings Committee, McCarthy soldiered on. In June 1951, on the floor of Congress, McCarthy charged that then-Secretary of Defense (and former secretary of state) Gen. George Marshall had fallen prey to “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” He claimed that Marshall, a war hero, had helped to “diminish the United States in world affairs,” enable the US to “finally fall victim to Soviet intrigue… and Russian military might.” The speech caused an uproar. During the 1952 campaign, Eisenhower, who was in all things moderate and politically cautious, refused to publicly denounce McCarthy. “I will not…get into the gutter with that guy,” he wrote privately. McCarthy campaigned for Eisenhower, who won a stunning victory.

So did the Republicans, who regained Congress. McCarthy became chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI). He targeted many, and turned his newfound power against the government’s overseas broadcast division, the Voice of America (VOA). McCarthy’s investigation in February-March 1953 resulted in several resignations or transfers. McCarthy’s mudslinging had become increasingly unrestrained. Soon he went after the U.S. Army. After forcing the Army to again disprove theories of a Soviet spy ring at Ft. Monmouth in New Jersey, McCarthy publicly berated officers suspected of promoting leftists. McCarthy’s badgering of witnesses created cover for critics to publicly denounce his abrasive fear-mongering.

On March 9, CBS anchor Edward Murrow, a cold war liberal, told his television audience that McCarthy’s actions had “caused alarm and dismay amongst … allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies.” Yet, Murrow explained, “He didn’t create this situation of fear he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”

Twenty million people saw the “Army-McCarthy Hearings” unfold over thirty-six days in 1954. The Army’s head counsel, Joseph Welch, captured much of the mood of the country when he defended a fellow lawyer from McCarthy’s public smears, saying, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” In September, a senate subcommittee recommended that McCarthy be censured. On December 2, 1954, his colleagues voted 67-22 to “condemn” his actions. Humiliated, McCarthy faded into irrelevance and alcoholism and died in May 1957, at age 48.

By the late 1950s, the worst of the second red scare was over. Stalin’s death, followed by the Korean War armistice, opened new space—and hope—for the easing of Cold War tensions. Détente and the upheavals of the late 1960s were on the horizon. But McCarthyism outlasted McCarthy and the 1950s. McCarthy made an almost unparalleled impact on Cold War American society. The tactics he perfected continued to be practiced long after his death. “Red-baiting,” the act of smearing a political opponent by linking them to communism or some other demonized ideology, persevered. McCarthy had hardly alone.

Congressman Richard Nixon, for instance, used his place on HUAC and his public role in the campaign against Alger Hiss to catapult himself into the White House alongside Eisenhower and later into the presidency. Ronald Reagan bolstered the fame he had won in Hollywood with his testimony before Congress and his anti-communist work for major American corporations such as General Electric. He too would use anti-communism to enter public life and chart a course to the presidency. In 1958, radical anti-communists founded the John Birch Society, attacking liberals and civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. as communists. Although joined by Cold War liberals, the weight of anti-communism was used as part of an assault against the New Deal and its defenders. Even those liberals, such as historian Arthur Schlesinger, who had fought against communism found themselves smeared by the red scare. Politics and culture both had been reshaped. The leftist American tradition was in tatters, destroyed by anti-communist hysteria. Movements for social justice, from civil rights to gay rights to feminism, were all suppressed under Cold War conformity.

Anticommunism in Postwar America, 1945–1954: Witch Hunt or Red Menace?

Cover to the propaganda comic book "Is This Tomorrow" - 1947.

In the aftermath of World War II relations between the United States and the Soviet Union went from alliance to Cold War. In this curriculum unit students will study this turbulent period of American history, examining the various events and ideas that defined it, and considering how much of the anticommunist sentiment of the era was justified, and how much was an overreaction.

Guiding Questions

Why was Soviet espionage such an important issue in the late 1940s and early 1950s?

What constitutes an "un-American" activity?

How did the House Un-American Activities Committee go about defining and investigating individuals and organizations?

What impact did Joseph McCarthy have on American anticommunism?

Learning Objectives

Identify the primary subjects of FBI investigation on espionage charges.

Explain the Venona project, including how it worked and what purpose it served.

Articulate the reasons why the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage.

Examine the goals and methods of the HUAC.

Explain why HUAC targeted Hollywood, and offer an opinion regarding whether this investigation was justifiable.

Articulate the issues involved in the Alger Hiss case.

Evaluate whether HUAC lived up to its stated purposes.

Enumerate the charges that McCarthy made against the Truman administration, and explain why they had such an impact.

Articulate the views of McCarthy's critics, namely Truman and Margaret Chase Smith, and assess their validity.

Explain Eisenhower's attitude toward McCarthy, and give an informed opinion as to whether Eisenhower should have done more to stop him.

Articulate the reasons for McCarthy's downfall in 1954.

A More Perfect Union
History & Social Studies

Curriculum Details

Americans emerged from World War II with a renewed sense of confidence. They had, after all, been part of a global alliance that destroyed the military power of Germany and Japan. Moreover, as the only major combatant to avoid having its homeland ravaged by war, the U.S. economy was clearly the strongest in the world. And, of course, the United States was the only country in the world to possess that awesome new weapon, the atomic bomb. Surely, they believed, they were witnessing the dawn of a new golden age.

It was not long before these glorious expectations were dashed. Over the next five years relations between the United States and the Soviet Union went from alliance to Cold War. To make matters worse it seemed like the Soviets might be winning. In 1948 a communist government seized power in China, the world's most populous country. The following year Moscow successfully tested an atomic device of its own, and in 1950 troops from the Soviet satellite state of North Korea launched a war of aggression against South Korea. To many, it seemed as though a new and infinitely more destructive world war was on the horizon—and this time the United States might actually lose.

How could these setbacks be explained? The arrest and prosecution of a number of Soviet spies in the United States seemed to provide at least a partial answer. Perhaps it was the activity of disloyal Americans—in the Federal Government, in Hollywood, in the schools, etc.—that allowed China to "go communist," that handed Russia the bomb, and invited Stalin's puppets in North Korea to attack their neighbors to the South. But what constituted disloyalty? Was it only to be defined as outright spying or sabotage? Might someone who belonged to the Communist Party be considered disloyal, whether or not he had committed any overt act against the United States? And what about a screenwriter who interjected pro-Soviet themes into a Hollywood movie, or a songwriter who criticized some aspect of American society in one of his songs?

These were the sorts of questions that were on the minds of plenty of Americans in the late 1940s and early 1950s, an age in which Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, the House Un-American Activities Committee, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and of course Joseph McCarthy become household words. In this curriculum unit students will study this turbulent period of American history, examining the various events and ideas that defined it, and considering how much of the anticommunist sentiment of the era was justified, and how much was an overreaction.

Lesson Plans in Curriculum

Lesson 1: Soviet Espionage in America

The hunt for Communists in the United States clearly reached the point of hysteria by the early 1950s, but what is often overlooked is that it had its origins in a very real phenomenon. This lesson will expose students to recently declassified FBI documents and transcripts of the Rosenberg trial. It will encourage them to think seriously about the extent of the Soviet espionage network in America, thus setting the stage for a proper understanding of later hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy.

Lesson 2: The House Un-American Activities Committee

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union had deteriorated to the point of "cold war," while domestically the revelation that Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government created a general sense of uneasiness. This lesson will examine the operations of House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the late 1940s.

Lesson 3: The Rise and Fall of Joseph McCarthy

A freshman senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, shocked the country in 1950 when he claimed to possess evidence that significant numbers of communists continued to hold positions of influence in the State Department. In this lesson students will learn about McCarthy's crusade against communism, from his bombshell pronouncements in 1950 to his ultimate censure and disgrace in 1954.

A Capitol in Ruins

When nations go to war, too often it is assumed that the conflict will be quick and victorious. That was the case in 1812. The United States sought an end to British impressment of American sailors, hoped to counter British policies that provoked Indian raids in the western territories, and looked for a way to annex Canada in order to lessen British influence in North America. A group of congressional &ldquoWar Hawks,&rdquo led by Speaker of the House Henry Clay, pressured President James Madison to take action, issuing a declaration of war on June 17, 1812. The War of 1812 lasted until 1815.

The war did not go as planned for either side. The United States had a regular army, but it was small and poorly trained. State militias proved to be unreliable. Instead of capturing Canada, the U.S. nearly lost Detroit. The fiercest fighting came in northern states, in the Great Lakes region, and along the Canadian border, but as a diversionary tactic England dispatched a fleet of ships to the mid-Atlantic coast.

In August 1814, British troops sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and up the Patuxent River, then fought their way towards Washington. On August 24, using torches and gunpowder paste, they burned the Capitol, the president&rsquos house, and other government buildings. By the time a summer rainstorm doused the flames, the Capitol was barely more than a burned-out shell. The Senate&rsquos beautiful chamber, according to architect Benjamin Latrobe, was left &ldquoa most magnificent ruin.&rdquo

Less than a month later, on September 19, the Senate convened a new session in a state of crisis. In the wake of the disastrous attack, President Madison arranged for Congress to meet temporarily in the city&rsquos only available building, Blodgett's Hotel, which housed the Patent Office. As senators gathered in their hastily fitted legislative chamber, they sought answers to many questions: Should the government remain in Washington? Should the blackened and blistered Capitol be rebuilt? And perhaps most importantly, how could such an invasion have taken place? While Congress pondered such questions, workers began rebuilding the Capitol. Senators returned to their chamber four years later, but it would take another decade for the Capitol finally to be completed.

The war ended in 1815 with ratification of the Treaty of Ghent. Neither nation achieved its objectives. In fact, the treaty addressed few of the United States' concerns, but U.S.-Britain relations did enter a period of stability.

What did the Senate gain from the war? It got a valuable book collection, purchased from Thomas Jefferson to replace the destroyed congressional library. Before long, a perhaps wiser Senate created its first permanent standing committees to provide the legislative expertise needed to rebuild the Capitol and to restore confidence in the nation. And in 1819 the Senate occupied a redesigned, enlarged, and beautifully rebuilt chamber, furnished with lovely new mahogany writing desks still in use today in the modern Senate Chamber.

A History of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

The gay and transgender community made significant progress over the past year in the fight for equality. Congress voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” President Barack Obama and his administration determined the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. And New York recently passed a law with bipartisan support that will allow loving gay and lesbian couples to marry. But another important issue—ending workplace discrimination—remains outside of the media and public’s attention despite the fact that gay and transgender employees are fired, not hired, and harassed on the job at alarmingly high rates.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, would make it illegal under federal law to discriminate in any aspect of employment based on someone’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. It also protects workers from discrimination because of associating with other workers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and protects all workers from retaliation if they complain about sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.

These protections would extend to all federal, state, and local government agencies employment agencies unions and private employers with 15 or more employees. ENDA includes explicit exemptions for religious organizations and religiously affiliated entities, including all houses of worship, missions, or schools that have the purpose of religious worship or teaching religious doctrines.

A patchwork of state and local laws currently provide gay and transgender workers some protections from employment discrimination. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 15 of those states also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity. But that means it remains legal in 29 states to fire employees because they are gay, and in 35 states because they are transgender.

Passage of federal legislation, such as ENDA, is the only way to ensure these protections are extended across all states and to all workers.

ENDA’s premise is simple enough. But nothing about passing ENDA has been simple, as a review of its history shows. A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced ENDA in both houses of Congress but more public education and advocacy likely needs to be done before the bill becomes law.

Past attempts to pass ENDA

Initial congressional efforts to end gay and transgender discrimination grew out of increasing activism on the part of gay and transgender people following a series of protests across the nation against police harassment and brutality directed at the LGBT population. The most famous of these protests was the Stonewall Rebellion where a group of gay and transgender patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City fought back against a police raid, following a long history of harassment and arrests by city cops.

Shortly after this series of protests, Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the Equality Act of 1974, which sought to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals, unmarried persons, and women in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, museums, libraries, and retail stores. The act marked the first-ever national piece of proposed legislation that would end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the United States. It did not, however, include transgender people.

Hopes were high for passage when the act was introduced because of the increased and unprecedented media coverage gay rights issues were receiving. Also, along with the protests mentioned above, the early 1970s saw the establishment of new gay rights organizations and the first pride parades, which took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Further, the overall climate in the country seemed ripe for the expansion of civil rights with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have prohibited the denial of equal rights under the law on the basis of sex. (The ERA ultimately failed to be ratified by enough states to be added to the U.S. Constitution).

Unfortunately, the Equality Act of 1974 never earned enough support to make it out of committee in the House, and it was never introduced in the Senate. Similar bills and efforts also failed in the late 1970s.

The momentum that propelled the introduction of the Equality Act would not be seen again until the late 1990s. This was not due to lack of effort, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, but rather to three political and social factors that prevented these equality measures from gaining traction nationally in the 1980s and early 1990s:

  • Well-organized antipathy toward gay and transgender individuals (for example, Anita Bryant’s anti-LGBT “Save Our Children Campaign” and Pat Buchanan’s “culture war”)
  • The emergence of AIDS, which diverted gay activists’ time, money, and attention away from other issues affecting the population
  • The takeover of the federal government, beginning in 1994, by lawmakers who were beholden to socially conservative voters who demanded opposition to equality claims for women, racial minorities, immigrants, and gay and transgender individuals

While the Equality Act of 1974 was broad, ENDA is narrowly focused on a single issue: employment discrimination. Lawmakers first introduced ENDA in 1994. That version of the law would have made it illegal to discriminate against employees in all aspects of employment based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation (gender identity would not be added until 2007). Both the House and Senate versions of ENDA died in committee that year, a story that would be repeated for the next several years (though in 1996 ENDA received a floor vote in the Senate but failed by a one-vote margin). After 1996 a version of ENDA was introduced in every session of Congress except the 109th.

In 2007 members of Congress introduced the first version of ENDA that included discrimination prohibitions on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, this inclusive version of ENDA died in committee. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) made a second attempt at moving the bill through, this time without the provisions protecting transgender workers from discrimination.

That year the House passed ENDA by a vote of 235 to 184. In the Senate, however, the bill was not referred to a committee or brought to the floor for a vote. ENDA likely failed to come to a vote in the Senate due to the exclusion of gender identity from Rep. Frank’s bill.

Following the 2007 House vote on ENDA, a general consensus emerged among advocates that all future versions of ENDA must include language that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. As such, members of the next Congress introduced ENDA in both the House and Senate that included both sexual orientation and gender identity in 2009.

Both the House and Senate held hearings on the issue but a crowded legislative calendar made ENDA difficult for Congress to prioritize, especially given the debates surrounding health care, reforming financial regulations, the Bush tax cuts, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, and the passage of the gay and transgender inclusive hate crimes law in 2009.

The latest version

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and 148 co-sponsors (as of July 19, 2011) introduced the latest version of ENDA in the House in April of this year. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and 39 co-sponsors (as of July 19, 2011) introduced a similar bill in the Senate around the same time.

At the time of House introduction, Rep. Frank said that it is highly unlikely ENDA will pass during this Congress because of the House’s conservative makeup. But he stressed that it was important for advocates to continue educating lawmakers and the public about the problem of gay and transgender workplace discrimination to increase the bill’s chances of passing in future sessions of Congress.

With strong public support for workplace discrimination laws for gay and transgender workers, it is time for Congress to finally move this bill forward. Rep. Frank’s assessment of the current conservative House is likely accurate but this issue is not one that should divide lawmakers. Equal opportunity in the workplace for all should be a basic tenet that even the most ideologically divided Congress can agree upon.

Jerome Hunt is a Research Associate at American Progress.


[1]. In this column, the term “gay” is used as an umbrella term for people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

[2]. This includes Nevada and Connecticut, which both passed gender identity employment protection laws earlier this year. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Nevada’s bill into law, which will go into effect October 1, 2011. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed Connecticut’s bill into law, which will also go into effect October 1, 2011.

You know who was into Karl Marx? No, not AOC. Abraham Lincoln.

It was December 1861, a Tuesday at noon, when President Abraham Lincoln sent his first annual message ⁠ — what later became the State of the Union ⁠— to the House and Senate.

By the next day, all 7,000 words of the manuscript were published in newspapers across the country, including the Confederate South. This was Lincoln’s first chance to speak to the nation at length since his inaugural address.

He railed against the “disloyal citizens” rebelling against the Union, touted the strength of the Army and Navy, and updated Congress on the budget.

For his eloquent closer, he chose not a soliloquy on unity or freedom but an 800-word meditation on what the Chicago Tribune subtitled “Capital Versus Labor:”

“Labor is prior to and independent of capital,” the country’s 16th president said. “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

If you think that sounds like something Karl Marx would write, well, that might be because Lincoln was regularly reading Karl Marx.

President Trump has added a new arrow in his quiver of attacks as of late, charging that a vote for “any Democrat” in the next election “is a vote for the rise of radical socialism” and that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other congresswomen of color are “a bunch of communists.” Yet the first Republican president, for whom Trump has expressed admiration, was surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel.

Of course, Lincoln was not a socialist, nor communist nor Marxist, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) aren’t. (Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) identify as “democratic socialists.”) But Lincoln and Marx ⁠— born only nine years apart ⁠— were contemporaries. They had many mutual friends, read each other’s work and, in 1865, exchanged letters.

When Lincoln served his sole term in Congress in the late 1840s, the young lawyer from Illinois became close friends with Horace Greeley, a fellow Whig who served briefly alongside him. Greeley was better known as the founder of the New York Tribune, the newspaper largely responsible for transmitting the ideals and ideas that formed the Republican Party in 1854.

And what were those ideals and ideas? They were anti-slavery, pro-worker and sometimes overtly socialist, according to John Nichols, author of the book “The ‘S’ Word: A Short History of an American Tradition … Socialism.” The New York Tribune championed the redistribution of land in the American West to the poor and the emancipation of slaves.

“Greeley welcomed the disapproval of those who championed free markets over the interests of the working class, a class he recognized as including both the oppressed slaves of the south and the degraded industrial laborers of the north,” Nichols writes.

Across the Atlantic, another man linked the fates of enslaved and wage workers: Marx. Upon publishing “The Communist Manifesto” with Friedrich Engels in 1848, the German philosopher sought refuge in London after a failed uprising in what was then the German Confederation. Hundreds of thousands of German radicals immigrated to the United States in this same period, filling industrial jobs in the North and joining anti-slavery groups. Marx had once considered “going West” himself, to Texas, according to historian Robin Blackburn in his book “An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln.”

Marx was intensely interested in the plight of American slaves. In January 1860, he told Engels that the two biggest things happening in the world were “on the one hand the movement of the slaves in America started by the death of John Brown, and on the other the movement of the serfs in Russia.”

He equated Southern slaveholders with European aristocrats, Blackburn writes, and thought ending chattel slavery “would not destroy capitalism, but it would create conditions far more favorable to organizing and elevating labor, whether white or black.”

Watch the video: Β. Λεβέντης προς ΚΚΕ - Δεν έχετε καταλάβει ότι έπεσε ο κομμουνισμός (July 2022).


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