McCARTHISM - and what we learn from it

The purpose of this website is to point out a fundamental systemic flaw in economics and society, which is doing terrible harm to our Millennial Generation. It is not to pillory any individual Oldies, who have grown up - and now grown old - under that flawed system.

Pointing out Fundamental Flaws can lead to being called Fundamentalist! Not all Moslems are a danger - yet ignorant non-Moslems, post 9/11, too easily bracket together anyone with a slightly Mediterranean or darker skin "Fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists about to blow us all up"!

There are flaws in Western Civilization - one major flaw being the subject we focus on here, namely our obsession with property over real entrepreneurial wealth creation - and there are flaws in Islamic culture as lived by a minority of Moslems (which we won't go into here). We can - and must - discuss, analyse and re-design our society around the systemic flaws, which are held up for scrutiny here.
We must not seek scapegoats and, by so doing, push the truel problem underground.
In the 1950s, "McCarthysim" was a foolish distraction from the job of debating Soviet Communism and more importantly, improving U.S. capitalism at home. It was a very nasty episode answer then, nor is scapegoating politicians and BAD-ECONOMISTS who give them poor advice, the purpose of this site.
The extract below, from the auto-biography of playwright Arthur Miller (one-time husband of Marilyn Monroe, whom he refers to), covers his involvement with Senator McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC - also referred to). We include to illustrate how fear of "the other" - in this Capitalist Democratic America's fear of Communist, Soviet Russia - can lead to excesses. HUAC did little to destroy the Soviet system in Russia, nor to help Americans really understand the flaws in Communism or the flaws in Capitalism.

We do not want BAD-ECONOMISTS to be called before some future Parliamentary or Peoples Committee of Un-British Activities! We want the flaws in current economic thinking to be properly understood and the remedies - especially Tax Reform - planned and undertaken, which will correct the injustices and inefficiencies that those economists fail to see or hide from Society.

From "Timebends: A Life" by Arthur Miller, (1987) Methuen, London. ISBN 0-413-41480-9
Chapter Five, page 328 --
Finally sick of pretending to be a landlord, especially Henry Davenport's landlord, I managed to sell our Grace Court house and buy a mid-nineteenth-century single-family on nearby Willow Street, one block from the river. (I learned later that the anonymous purchaser of our house, acting through an agent for fear that no one would sell to him directly, was W.E.B. Du Bois, the great black historian.) Trying to send up all the signals of a confident marriage, I spent a week installing a new subfloor in the entrance hall, laid cork on that, built all sorts of conveniences in the kitchen, did fifty things a man does who believes in a future with his family, but ease of mutual trust had flown from us like a bird, and the new cage was as empty as the old where no bird sang.

Occasionally I got a note from Marilyn that warmed my heart. In strangely meandering slanted handwriting that often curled down margins and up again on the other side of the paper, using two or three different pens with a pencil thrown in, she talked about hoping we could meet again when she came east on business, and offered to come without any excuse if I gave here some encouragement. I wrote back a muddy, formal note saying that I was not the man who could make her life happen as I knew she imagined it might, and that I wished her well. Still, there were parched evenings when I was on the verge of turning my steering wheel west and jamming the pedal to the floor. But I wasn't the man who was able to do that either.

At the same time that I was wrestling with this inner turmoil, rumours of weird games going on under HUAC pressure were rocking the theatrical community.

But there were a few HUAC forays into New York, and one heard now of prospective witnesses making deals to name each other before the Committee, thus to ease their consciences about informing. Inevitably, some individuals refused to play and were named without their agreement, but their resistance only justified their newly reborn former comrades in nailing them as hardcore Communists.

For me the spectacle was depressing, and not those who grovelled before this tawdry tribune of moralistic vote-snatchers, but I had as much pity as anger toward them. It bothered me much more that with each passing week it became harder to simply and clearly say why the whole procedure was vile. Almost to a man, for example, the accused in 1950 and 1951 had not had a political connection since the late thirties or early forties, when in their perfectly legitimate idealism they had embraced the Russian Revolution as an advance for humanity. Yet the Committee had succeeded in creating the impression that they were pursuing an ongoing conspiracy. For another thing, they were accused of having violated no law of any kind, since the Communist Party was legal, as were its fronts, which most often espoused that did not so much as hint at socialist aims.

Swirling about the hearings was a moral confusion that no one seemed able to penetrate and clarify, even by bending history now and then; [...]

page 330 --

Perhaps more disturbing to me than all the rest was the atmosphere being created, a pall of suspicion reaching out not only to radio and television and movie studios but onto Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights, whose minister, Reverend William Howard Melish, was hounded out of his pulpit, and his family out of their home, by an anti-Communist campaign among a divided vestry. While his aged father, John Howard Melish - in former years the handsome, popular minister of this immense and beautiful Episcopal church, the clergyman who for decades had sworn New York's mayors into office - lay bedridden on the top floor, the son and his family were put out in the street. As head of a section of Russian War Relief, he had become a rather naive believer in the goodness of Soviet aims, if not of the system. That he had never ceased being a devout Christian no one seemed to question, and over the many long months of his self-defense, ending in a civil court case upholding his bishop's right to fire him, I could only conclude that the country was intending to become a philosophical monolith where no real differences about anything important would be tolerated. In terms of my work, however, I had already adapted An Enemy of the People - which the Melish case almost amazingly duplicated, sown to a certain muddleheaded stubbornness in the main characters - and that play had not worked.

I would not have put it in such terms in those days but what I sought was a metaphor, an image that would spring out of the heart, all-inclusive, full of light, a sonorous instrument whose reverberations would penetrate to the centre of this miasma. For if the current degeneration of discourse continued, as I had every reason to believe it would, we could no longer be a democracy, a system that requires a certain basic trust in order to exist.I had known about the Salem witchcraft phenomenon since my American history class at Michigan, but it had remained in mind as one of those inexplicable mystifications of the long-dead past when people commonly believed that the spirit could leave the body, palpably and visibly. My mother might believe it still, if only in one corner of her mind, and I suspected that there were a lot of other people who, like me, were secretly open to suggestion. As though it had been ordained, a copy of Marion's Starkey's book The Devil in Massachusetts fell into my hands, and the bizarre story came back as I had recalled it, but this time in remarkably well-organised detail.

At first I rejected the idea of a play on the subject. My own rationality was too strong, I thought, to really allow me to capture this wildly irrational outbreak. A drama cannot merely describe an emotion, it has to become that emotion. But gradually, over weeks, a living connection between myself and Salem, and between Salem and Washington, was made in my mind - for whatever else they might be, I saw the hearings in Washington, were profoundly and even avowedly ritualistic. After all, in almost every case the Committee knew in advance what they wanted the witness to give them: the names of his comrades in the Party. The FBI had long since infiltrated the Party, the informers had long ago identified the participants in various meetings. The main point of the hearings, precisely as in seventeenth-century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows - whereupon he was let loose to rejoin the society of extremely decent people. In other words, the same spiritual nugget lay folded within both procedures - an act of contrition done not in solemn privacy but out in the public air. The Salem prosecution was actually on more solid legal ground since the defendant, if guilty of familiarity with the Unclean One, had broken a law against the practice of witchcraft, as civil as well as a religious offence; whereas the offender against HUAC could not be accused of any such violation but only of a spiritual crime, subservience to a political enemy's desires and ideology. He was summoned before the Committee to be called a bad name, but one that could destroy his career.

In effect, it came down to a governmental decree of moral guilt that could easily be made to disappear by ritual speech: intoning names of fellow sinners and recanting former beliefs. This last was probably the saddest and truest part of the charade, for by the early 1950s there were few, and even fewer in the arts, who had not left behind their illusions about the Soviets.It was this immaterial element, the surreal spiritual transaction, that now fascinated me, for the rituals of guilt and confession followed all the forms of a religious inquisition, except, of course, that the offended parties were not God and his ministers but a congressional committee.