Note by Hunterbear:

Contemporary thoughts and comment on Red Scares -- including Now.

These witch-hunting campaigns and subsequent human tragedies were, of
course, very common indeed in the United States from the late 1940s well
into the 1960s -- and, in some places, continued thereafter for many, many
years indeed. [And sometimes they never stopped.]  A vast number of lives
were wrecked in academia and in many, many other career/vocational settings.
The damage to a very vast number of people and their families and to civil
liberties and social justice and free inquiry is beyond calculation.  It was
simply hideous.

Now, of course, in an atmosphere of spontaneous and deliberately
manufactured fear and hysteria, this country is already well into at least
the outer edges of a yet another Red Scare -- and, for the many presently
incarcerated / imprisoned victims, it's far, far worse than even that.
There was certainly much vigorous opposition to the Red Scare of
mid-century -- and that of the World War I / early 1920s era, and various
other comparable situations, and there is, fortunately,  much rapidly
increasing opposition to this particular madness -- and to its collateral
dimensions: rising racism,  expanding war,  mounting and general repression.

But civil libertarian approaches back in the Last Red Scare could often be
very dangerously relativistic in many quarters: Communists -- and
Trotskyists -- were  among those frequently consigned to limbo and left to
fend for themselves by the civil liberties "respectables", as were often
those simply alleged to be CPUSA or SWP.  In some instances, renegade
academics such as Sidney Hook, pandering to the witch-hunting forces, took
the position that CPs, for example, had no right to teach and should be
given no civil liberties protection whatsoever. This was more than a
slippery slope.  It proved to be a skid road right over the  very steep
canyon wall.  The ACLU copped out badly in those years -- leading to the
formation, by Harvey O'Connor and Corliss Lamont and others, of the
effective Emergency Civil Liberties Committee [later the National Emergency
Civil Liberties Committee.]

Witch-hunters, of course, dearly love a relativistic approach to civil
liberties.  Last time around, what started out as an attack on the Communist
leaders wound up going after people who simply subbed to The Nation and New Republic and Progressive.  The Industrial Workers of the World -- and, by
implication anyone who was or had been a member of it -- clear back to its
formation in 1905 -- was placed in the late '40s on the U.S. Attorney
General's formal "subversive list" which included  hundreds of organizations
[many defunct for years]  which were arbitrarily  so listed. This infamous
List, which was accorded "holy writ" status by reactionaries and cowards,
served, among all its other nefarious purposes, as the formal basis for
blacklisting and harassing tens of thousands of people.

Militant unions such as Mine-Mill, United Electrical Workers, International
Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Food and Tobacco, American
Communications Association, Fur and Leather, United Public Workers, and
others were systematically attacked -- and, while a few survived, most were
destroyed. Much of "mainline" American labor simply caved in to the forces
of repression -- as did the Democratic Party. [To some extent, neither seems
to have recovered from that!] The FBI and the House Un-American Activities
Committee and the McCarthy Committee and the Senate Internal Security
Subcommittee  and various comparable state legislative committees thrived --
as did flocks of well-paid finks that poured out their holes such as Ben
Gitlow, J.B. Matthews, Whitaker Chambers, and Harvey Matusow [who later
publicly and spectacularly recanted his widespread, destructive perjury.]

Organize, fight, and continue organizing and fighting -- on all fronts -- is
the only way in which these dark, stifling clouds and their lethal lightning
can ever be driven from the sky:  hopefully forever.  But this time around,
let's hope that "an injury to one is an injury to all" has really genuine
flesh and bones and feathers on it -- and teeth in it! -- and produces
effective and supportive action to all victims of the witch-hunters, whoever
and whatever they are.

In Solidarity -  Hunter [Hunterbear]



Note by Hunterbear:

I'm posting this piece of mine which focuses on the Red Scare and its
variants  -- once again. [I posted it initially on many lists on May 11 with
the just released newspaper stories from University of Colorado dealing with
the newly opened Red Scare papers of a half century ago from that
institution -- and great injustice.  Those lengthy and quite worthwhile
articles are readily available in any List Archives as my post, "Red Scare
papers released at U Colorado [with Hunterbear notes]." Here, I'm posting
these new comments of mine -- as well as those from my earlier discussion of
the nature of the Red Scare.

What we are getting on ASDnet is some of the same petty sniping at Paul
Robeson and his contemporary admirers et al [a widening et al. for sure!]
that's occurred in the dreary past.  Increasingly,  some of the louder
voices on ASDnet seem more comfortable  attempting to take apart  fellow

radicals -- historical and contemporary -- than in challenging capitalism
and  effectively fighting Bush/Ashcroft repression [at least a couple
thousand illegally incarcerated people in the USA of today -- probably
more], combating rapidly expanding racism, substantially questioning and
opposing the proliferating and sanguinary so-called "war" -- or even in
explicitly advocating vigorous democratic socialism.

Why so silent on these Real Issues?  I thought that was where socialists
were supposed to be:  challenging injustice on all fronts and carrying high
the flag of bona fide socialism! While some at ASDnet are certainly true to
those commitments, we so often get, on that list,  the kind of red-baiting
and anti-Left sniping that one would expect from Social Democrats USA and
its destructive Al Shanker traditions.  That certainly is not my idea, BTW,
of any moral ground or measure!  Quite the contrary.

The just out [May/June] issue of the always excellent Against the Current
carries a number of activist pieces on key issues.  There are several,
including a substantial one of mine, focusing on the nature and implications
of Bush/Ashcroft repression.  Check it  all out.  ATC has guts.  And there
are certainly other very solid and fine Left journals.

I grew up in two very vigorous and vital cultural settings, Native American
and Western American,  where it's never, traditionally, been considered
proper to ask people, anyone, about their background -- with the sometime
exception of people who are running for local, state, Federal offices.
Certainly, in the labor traditions out of which I come, Red-baiting is
simply playing the game of the Bosses.  If people are going to tell you
something, they will.  Essentially, it's their business -- an old
libertarian principle which I'm not about to discard for anyone or for
anything.  I still operate on the cardinal premise that I'll make my own
judgments -- and "I'll kill my own snakes."

I remember a story told me, from the '30s, by a California  farm labor
organizer who was, years later, a major mentor of mine.  One man, around a
cooking fire, asked another in a migrant camp, "Are you an IWW?"  And the
man so asked, wearing a black Stetson, [who was a Wobbly],  reached into his
black-coat pocket, took out a huge revolver which he cocked and pointed at
the questioner. "That," he said, "is none of YOUR Goddamned business."

In any event, no one, really committed to civil liberties and social
justice, who was actually on the scene and functioning as a bona fide
radical  during, say, the Red Scare of Mid-Century and Beyond -- when tens
and tens of thousands were losing jobs and being blacklisted, when a person
could be jailed for years in a Federal prison for simply being an active
Communist Party leader [no more and no less] -- would in any way seek,
directly or subtly, to force someone to talk about their "memberships," past
or present.  That was the cunning game played by HUAC, SISS, FBI, and a host
of state witch-hunting outfits and their sycophants and others.

And, for years, in those reactionary and venomously hostile  judicial and
legislative inquisitorial frameworks,  it was "legally" impossible for a
targeted individual to answer "some questions and not others" without being
"legally" obligated [under  inevitable penalty of contempt] to answer
all questions. Look at the Hollywood Ten cases -- where principled refusal
to answer certain questions ["e.g., name names"] led to Federal prison
terms.  Hence honorable people of all sorts of Left views were forced into
simply taking the Fifth Amendment on everything.

These issues were raised in the late '50s by, among others, Carl Braden and
Frank Wilkinson in their HUAC contempt cases. Each of these courageous
persons refused to answer on the grounds of the First Amendment [free
speech] -- and each was imprisoned by the Feds for the better part of a
year.  A decade or so later, Pete Seeger won his contempt case on the
grounds of the First.

Anyway, here are my Red Scare comments of the other day [May 11]: 



Note from Hunterbear:

From two enthusiastic, younger activists based in Brooklyn, this now
feathered-out Link to a project in which each of them has been much
involved:  National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case.

The Rosenberg Tragedy is something that richly warrants reopening in any
case -- its injustices cry out across decades and generations.  But, given
the gray and rapidly darkening skies of repression in America north of
Mexico, its legacy and lessons carry enormously contemporary relevancy.

Any person with an ounce of honesty in his or her makeup who was alive and
aware during the Cold War / Red Scare epoch which seared -- and scarred --
civil liberties and human rights generally in both the United States and
Canada for years, will certainly understand my contention that any Federal
targets in the "Rosenberg case" stood about as much chance of getting a fair
trial as did Mack Charles Parker -- a Black man falsely accused of rape in
Pearl River County, Mississippi in 1959.  Mack Parker was lynched --
directly and physically -- by a mob of Anglo "respectables" all of whose
names were widely known at the time and none of whom was ever punished for his murder.

One of the current oddities afoot these days is the fervent embrace,
selectively -- by an entourage of right-wing American historians, some
wearing neo-liberal clothing -- of various self-serving alleged reports by
Soviet operatives that are currently being "discovered"  in Russian archives
and marketed globally to eager book-writing academics.  Some of these
"documents" -- touted enthusiastically in the US right wing press [e.g.,
American Spectator] -- are held to hold a few words which cast doubt on the
innocence of the Rosenbergs et al.  Several years ago, the American
Spectator ran things professing to have found the CPUSA membership card of
Harry Bridges of ILWU in Soviet archives.  [On that one, I can only say,
I've got a nice stretch of Arizona sea coast to sell -- real cheap, for

For my part, a Native activist who came of age during the years of the Red
Scare and who remembers its manufactured and spontaneous and extraordinarily destructive fear and hysteria only too well, I'd never trust anything -- ever -- like the FBI or CIA -- or the NKVD / MVD / KGB.

If any readers of this have ever read that great Arthur Koestler novel,
Darkness at Noon [New York:  Macmillan, 1941 -- and many subsequent
editions], they'll certainly savvy what I mean when I say that the Old
Bolshevik policeman, Ivanov and his old friend and charge, Old Bolshevik
organizer Rubashov [possibly drawn in part from Karl Radek], were men of
great grace and honour. But Gletkin, the New Cop & Sycophant, of the
post-Revolution generation, much closer than a first cousin to J. Edgar Hoover et al., did them both in with cold-blooded efficiency.

The stony faced, tight-lipped men in dark suits that surrounded Hoover and
filled the seats of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the
Senate Internal Security Subcommittee etc. et al., live in continuing
incarnations in the FBI and the Justice Department and related police
agencies of today.  They appear to have no sense whatsoever of the Bill of
Rights.  Of the Gletkins, thought Rubashov, "they were born without umbilical cord, without frivolity, without melancholy."

As this country and Canada now plunge ever deeper into manufactured
and spontaneous [and frequently self-serving] fear and hysteria -- replete
with summary arrests and mass incarcerations and other rapidly proliferating
injustice -- this comprehensive website on the sanguinary times in which
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg  and other victims lived and died is well worth
extensive visiting.

Hunter [Hunterbear]


From Rob and Dan [Hawaii] to Hunterbear:

aloha. we are pleased and proud, honored and enthused to notify you
that as of sunday, the 7th of april, 2002, 11:00am daylight savings
time, the site ( is officially up!

may the spirit of spring and the energy of the new embrace you like a
playful puppy. all the best, rob and dan

ps - for a printer-friendly one page summary of the site, please go to:


Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]  ( social justice )