Today, the 14th of November, would be the 108th birthday of Joseph McCarthy – a great man, who sacrificed everything he had in a fight against foreign enemies and their domestic agents. His image and deeds have been maligned to such an extent that even conservatives use the word McCarthyism as a term of abuse.
Many readers might have been taught lies about McCarthy in school. Here are the facts.
- In the 1930’s & 1940’s, Soviet agents infiltrated the American government (especially the State Department), American scientific organizations (including the Manhattan Project), and numerous other institutions. The US Communist Party (CPUSA) was a tool of the Soviet Union, receiving and exactly following directions from Stalin, and actively recruiting spies and agents of influence. It demonstrated that spectacularly by flip-flopping on Nazism when the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact was signed in 1939, and again when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
- In his uphill battle against the Communist infiltration of the US government, McCarthy relied on his analysis of publicly known facts, the testimonies of several recanting Communists, and indirect information that he received from the military and FBI. He probably did not have access to the Venona decrypts, which proved the existence of the agents’ network and identified some agents beyond reasonable doubt. Curiously, these decrypts were kept secret from the public until the end of the Cold War, although their publication would not have harmed national security even in 1950, and the Soviet spies had their hands on them anyway. When the Soviet intelligence archives were finally opened after 1992, the materials found in them confirmed beyond any doubt the existence of a vast Soviet agent network in the US from the mid-1930’s to mid-1950’s, along with the CPUSA’s role as adjunct to Soviet intelligence.
- McCarthy committed none of what would be later called ‘McCarthyism.’ His main “sin” was speech:
- He drew the nation’s attention to the Communist infiltration of several government agencies;
- When pressed for names by the guilty parties or their associates, he gave those names;
- He demanded the Soviet agents and their associates be removed from government positions in which they assisted or could assist the enemy.
McCarthy correctly pointed out that “A government job is a privilege, not a right,” and defended his position that “American People Entitled to Benefit of Doubt [not less than the Soviet agents and their collaborators]”. Responding to accusations of assigning “guilt by association,” he showed the dishonesty of such accusations, and stressed that he was instead utilizing what he called “GUILT BY COLLABORATION” (these are actual quotes from McCarthyism – The Fight For America, by Joseph McCarthy, 1952; page 79)
One should call a spade a spade, and McCarthy did not shy away from calling traitors traitors. McCarthy named the names, but his methods were equally important: “Another salient feature of the McCarthy hearings [in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, of which he was Chairman in 1953-54] was the rule that no one should be named as a Communist, pro-Communist, or subversive unless the person named was given notice and the opportunity to respond directly …” (from Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies, by M. Stanton Evans, 2007.)
- McCarthy demanded the removal of the Soviet agents and their known associates from their high-impact government positions. That was all! He prosecuted NOBODY and did NOT call for any prosecutions. And he backed his statements with voluminous evidence. Compare that with the six-year litany of calls to prosecute and jail the climate realists, emanating from Democratic Senators and Congresspersons, and the recently launched political investigation by Loretta Lynch and Democratic Attorneys General.
As the Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, McCarthy called his “clients” witnesses (not suspects), permitted and advised them to have counsel present, gave them time to obtain counsel, and let them say almost anything they wanted, including ideological rants.
McCarthy was not involved with the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is not to say that anything was wrong with HUAC, but critics of McCarthy often lump them together to allege the persecution of innocent Commies and their accomplices.
- Instead of rebutting each lie that the Left has concocted about McCarthy, I will quote Blacklisted by History again:
“… the field of McCarthy studies and related Cold War history was left mostly to his political foes, dominant in intellectual circles when he lived and virtually unchallenged in academic and media precincts since. With a handful of exceptions, what purport to be histories of the era or biographies of McCarthy have been written by his severest critics. The views of his opponents are thus presented as the ‘facts,’ while significant data to the contrary have been denied, distorted, and in many cases suppressed entirely.”
The Soviet intelligence infiltration went unchecked from the early 1930’s until the late 1940’s, resulting in a wide agent network, reaching very high. The Allied status of the Soviet Union in 1941-1945 helped a lot, as did a group of legitimate political associations and whole social layers holding Communist or pro-Communist views, although they often differed on what Communism was or should have been. It appears that the boundaries between the Soviet agents’ network and legitimate left-wing associations disappeared over time. By the late 1940’s, many progressives got drawn into aiding the foreign enemy. Some high-level government officials and Democratic Party rainmakers were among them. The Soviet collaborators’ network can be likened to a cabbage. The head consisted of the spies and agents receiving and executing orders from the Kremlin. They were surrounded by layers of aiders, aiders of the aiders, and so on. McCarthy investigated only suspects that held influential positions in the government or military, many of whom were trusted by their bosses: high ranking civilian servants and military officers. These good but sometimes naïve men felt duty-bound to defend their subordinates, and hated that some junior Senator from Wisconsin was meddling in their business. This resulted in several showdowns that hurt McCarthy and eventually led to his censure.
The collaborators’ network inside Truman administration was powerful enough to convince Truman it did not exist! The network of Soviet agents and the role of CPUSA in it had been exposed long before Republicans won Congress and McCarthy was elected Senator in 1946. Why did Truman ignore all the evidence, including reports of Dies Committee, testimonies of the communist defectors Walter Krivitsky, Igor Gouzenko, Victor Kravchenko, ex-communists/spies Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, and much more? Apparently, Communist collaborators in the administration had convinced him that all those revelations were just products of partisan politics, trumped up or even made up by Republicans and other opponents of the Democrat politics.
Republican Congress victory dragged Truman to establish a weak loyalty screening program, but even in 1948 Truman called the public concerns about the Soviet infiltration as “baloney”. After the Soviet atomic bomb test in 1949 and the Korean War break out in 1950, the Democrats recognized the magnitude of their screw up. And they decided to fight on two fronts: against the enemy’s network inside, and against McCarthy outside. The fight against McCarthy they won, leaving America confused.
Apparently, this confusion grew into a very deep trauma. It led to a public perception that conservatives are the true danger to the freedom of speech. Since the censure of McCarthy, it became a norm of public life to perceive any accusation coming from the left as an expression of free speech, and similar accusations against the left as a suppression of free speech. And it became common to ignore and dismiss as a “conspiracy theory” any evidence that some foreign enemy might have a large network of agents in positions of power inside of the United States.