‘McCarthyism’ by the numbers
A big deal in the online world of late has been a bitter debate about the conduct of American policy in our 50-year Cold War with the Soviet Union and its agents.
At the center of this fierce dispute is author Diana West, whose recent book, American Betrayal (St. Martin’s), is a hard-hitting critique of President Franklin Roosevelt, his aide Harry Hopkins, and various of their colleagues, saying concessions they made to Moscow during the Second World War were calamitous for US and free world interests. She further contends that such concessions were frequently influenced by concealed pro-Reds and Soviet agents serving on official American payrolls.
So arguing, Ms. West has triggered a barrage of charges from defenders of FDR and others, challenging her thesis, her scholarship, and even her mental stability, saying that such a book should never have been written. “Right wing loopy,” “conspiracy theorist,” and not properly “house-trained” are among the epithets hurled in her direction.
This concerted onslaught has been in my view brutal and unseemly, but in one respect at least it’s served a useful purpose. That positive angle – counter-intuitive at first glance – is that the accusations leveled against Ms. West include numerous references to “McCarthyism”– alluding to the senator from Wisconsin who gave his name to a decisive epoch in our death struggle with the Kremlin.
As is well-known, “McCarthyism” was an alleged focus of political evil in the 1950s: Accusations of Communist taint, without factual basis; bogus “lists” of supposed Communists who never existed; failure in the end to produce even one provable Communist or Soviet agent, despite his myriad charges of subversion.
Such is the standard image of “McCarthyism” set forth in all the usual histories and media treatments of the era. And such is the image relied on by the critics of Ms. West to discredit her book and dismiss her as a crackpot. By arguing that pro-Red elements in our government exerted baleful influence on US policy to suit the aims of Moscow, it’s said, she becomes “McCarthy’s heiress,” reprising the evils of the fifties.
All of which, from my standpoint, has one beneficial feature – though it probably doesn’t make things less unpleasant for Ms. West. It pushes the issue of McCarthy and McCarthyism to the forefront, where it ought to be, and where it’s now possible to view his cases in ways not feasible years ago when the relevant data weren’t open to the public.
Even today, there is much that we don’t know – documents that have vanished, ancient records mysteriously censored, deceptions still in circulation. But there is also a lot of information available for those who care to view it: sizable tranches of McCarthy’s papers, and those of his opponents; reams of formerly confidential data from the FBI; thousands of pages of hearing transcripts and archives of his and other committees of Congress; intercepted Soviet communications and revelations from Cold War defectors; and so on.
Looking at this mass of materials and matching them up with McCarthy’s cases, the main thing to be noted is a recurring pattern of verification. Time and again, we see the suspects named by McCarthy and/or his committee – treated at the time as hapless victims – revealed in official records as what McCarthy and company said they were – except, in the typical instance, a good deal more so.
The accompanying table (posted at the end of this article) provides a sample of some of the suspects named by McCarthy, his aides, or in his committee hearings, and reflects what is now known about them, based on official records. (Some of it known even then, but ignored or misrepresented.) Analyzing this list of 50, we find all of them either (a) identified in sworn testimony, or in FBI and other once-confidential official security records, as Communists or Soviet agents, and/or (b) pleading the Fifth Amendment when asked about such activities, saying a truthful answer would tend to incriminate them.
As is self-evident from this line-up, it’s untrue that McCarthy never spotted a single Communist or Soviet agent, or – per one variation — came up with only a handful of valid cases. He in fact tracked down a small army of such people, and the roster given here is merely a sampling of the flagrant suspects who attracted his attention.
This is most obviously so of the Fifth Amendment pleaders. Our table of 50 includes 18 McCarthy cases who refused to answer questions concerning Red connections, but these were only a fraction of the total who claimed the privilege. All told, an astonishing 100 – plus McCarthy suspects would plead the Fifth before his committee (the bulk of these in the FortMonmouth/ defense-supply probe that triggered the Army-McCarthy hearings.)
Also, contra the standard image, McCarthy and his staffers in the usual instance did not allege that his suspects were Communists or Soviet agents – though in some famous cases (Owen Lattimore, Annie Lee Moss) this did happen – for the simple reason that the probers didn’t then know the total story. More typically, they wielded dossiers concerning adverse security findings, membership in pro-Red groups, and so on – thereby understating the scope and nature of the problem.
Thus such named McCarthy suspects as Solomon Adler, T.A. Bisson, Lauchlin Currie, Mary Jane Keeney and many others were not then explicitly IDed as Soviet assets, though in fact they were. McCarthy knew enough to spot them as bad actors — in many cases knew a lot– but didn’t know what we know today.
Add the fact that, in case after significant case, McCarthy suspects were linked in ever-widening circles to a host of other operatives of like nature. Such as Adler, Currie, Keeney or the egregious pro-Soviet apparatchik Robert Miller were all parts of much larger networks, each with multiple contacts in the government, press corps, and outside groups of shadowy purpose.
All told, the McCarthy cases linked together in such fashion amounted to several hundred people, constituting a massive security danger to the nation. However, numbers per se were not the central issue. By far the most important thing about his suspects was their positioning in the governmental structure, and other posts of influence, where they could shape American policy or opinion in favor of the Communist interest. This they did on a fairly regular basis, a subject that deserves discussion in its own right.
For now, enough to note that the standard version of McCarthy and “McCarthyism” being wielded to discredit Diana West is, throughout, a fiction. How and why it was concocted, and is being repeated even now, must be the topic for another essay.
M. Stanton Evans, a long-time contributor to Human Events, is the author of Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and co-author (with Herbert Romerstein) of Stalin’s Secret Agents.
McCarthy Suspects in Official Security Records
Suspects named by McCarthy, his aides or before his committee, identified in sworn testimony, FBI archives or other official security records as Communists or Soviet agents, or took the Fifth Amendment when asked about such matters.
1 . Adler, Solomon 26. Levitsky, Joseph*
2. Aronson, James * 27. Lovell, Leander
3. Barr, Joel 28. Mandel, William *
4. Belfrage, Cedric * 29. Miller, Robert
5. Bisson, T.A. 30. Mins, Leonard *
6. Carlisle, Lois 31. Moore (Gelfan), Harriet *
7. Chew Hong 32. Moss, Annie L.
8. Chi Chao ting 33. Neumann, Franz
9. Coe, V. Frank * 34. Older, Andrew
10. Coleman, Aaron 35. Peress, Irving *
11. Currie, Lauchlin 36. Posniak, Edward
12. Dolivet, Louis 37. Post, Richard
13. Duran, Gustavo 38. Remington, William
14. Field, Frederick 39. Rosinger, Lawrence*
15. Glasser, Harold *
16. Graze, Gerald 40. Rothschild, Edward *
17. Graze, Stanley 41. Sarant, Alfred
18. Hanson, Haldore 42. Smedley, Agnes
19. Henderson, Donald * 43. Snyder, Samuel*
20. Hyman, Harry * 44. Stein, Guenther
21. Jaffe, Philip 45. Stern, Bernhard *
22. Karr, David 46. Taylor, William H.
23. Keeney, Mary Jane 47. Ullmann,Marcel *
24. Lattimore, Owen 48. Wales, Nym
25. Levine, Ruth * 49. Weintraub, David
50. Weltfish, Gene *
* Took Fifth Amendment as to Communist/ Soviet activity-affiliation
Solomon Adler, Chi Chao Ting, and V. Frank Coe would all abscond to Communist China. Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, members of the Rosenberg spy ring who worked at Fort Monmouth and related commercial labs in the 1940s, would flee to the Soviet bloc before the McCarthy Monmouth hearings started. Philip Jaffe would self-identify as a Communist in his memoirs.