The Fund for the Republic Faces McCarthyism

excerpt from a book by Thomas Reeves, Freedom and the Foundation

Reeves, Thomas C. (b. 1936), Freedom and the Foundation, the Fund for the Republic in the Era of McCarthyism (New York: Knopf, 1969)
                         This book is available in the Van Pelt Library
                         stacks; the call number is AS911.F813 R4

NOTE: The Fund for the Republic, what we'd call today a "think tank," sponsored several studies assessing the damage done by anticommunism and McCarthyism. For this it was roundly attacked and deemed "unAmerican." The following excerpt gives you a sense of the controversies the Fund endured because of its support of such studies. The passage below begins by summarizing two such studies, The Draftee and Internal Security by Rowland Watts, and Case Studies in Personal Security by Adam Yarmolinsky.

The first [of the two studies sponsored by the Fund] was The Draftee and Internal Security, by Baltimore attorney Rowland Watts. It was a path-breaking, two-volume report on the Army's practice (tightened after the confrontations with Senator McCarthy) of giving "undesirable" discharges to drafted servicemen on grounds of their pre-induction activities and associations. Scores of cases, acquired from defendants and their attorneys, were presented in detail, documenting appalling examples of military ignorance and fear for which young men suffered shame and denial of future employment opportunities without adequate recourse to their legal and constitutional rights. Men were branded by the Army as "almost subversives" on such evidence as the past beliefs of relatives (in one case, those of a deceased mother-in-law), chance remarks at school, and associations with organizations listed by the Attorney General or cited by a witness before an investigating committee. Security officers were often careless with their facts and held the liberal and radical opinions of their suspects with less than enthusiasm. (One question asked of a hapless lad was: "Why did you, a white person, belong to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?") And little could effec- tively be done in one's defense. Only seven days were given to answer charges in writing, Watts noted, and "few could do more than pit their own written word against the unrevealed 'information' in the Confidential file." The author summarized the most serious injustices current to the Army's Military Personnel Security program thus:

            1. Denial of any hearing to many men.
            2. Denial of a valid hearing to all of the men charged with 
                 allegations of derogatory information.
            3. Imprisonment without trial.
            4. Punishment without conviction of crime.
            5. Deprivation of property rights.
            6. Imposition of attainder.
He called for a new military security system in which the Army granted discharges solely on the basis of service rendered while on active duty, one which would give soldiers in security cases "the same full hearing rights that are guaranteed him by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in defending himself against any other charge." Watts furthermore advised against passage of the Butler bill, an ultraconservative attempt, then being weighed by Congress, to require a security clearance of all citi- zens having access to "defense facilities."

Adam Yarmolinsky's Case Studies in Personnel Security was an unprecedented presentation of 50 federal security cases, taken from a collection of over 200 gathered from 12 cities by 123 lawyer-interviewers. The study, published by the Bureau of National Affairs, was part of the New York City Bar Association's project on the federal loyalty-security program. The case histories were used with the consent of the employees involved and their attorneys; government files, of course, were not avail- able to the interviewers. "While we realize that the usefulness of a study of this kind is circumscribed by the limitations on the available material," Yarmolinsky wrote, "we feel that it will provide useful and indeed essential material for an understanding of how the security programs operate from day to day."

The cases were damning evidence of the suspicion, confusion, haste, and lack of scruple that went into producing the Administration's latest count of "security" separations: 8,008. In case after case, government employees were faced with vague and often irrelevant charges; were forced to hire attorneys while suspended without pay, for weeks and even months; were denied access to evidence used against them; were denied the opportunity to cross-examine anonymous informers; and vere denied any real right of appeal. Grounds for suspension and discharge might be a slightly unorthodox comment, a joke, a rumor about homosexuality--might be anything read or said in one's entire lifetime that could be found objectionable in the effort to "defend national security." One Government Printing Office security officer, for example, charged a GPO employee with "left-wing" leanings because he had allegedly used the expression "second- class citizen." It turned out that the accused had said he would "rather be a second-class citizen in Mississippi than a first-class citizen in Russia." One postal worker was accused of having Communist art and literature in his home. The hearing revealed reproductions of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, and Modigliani, along with a single copy of Das Kapital, recommended years earlier for a college course. One clerical worker with twenty-six years of government service was suspended from his position for, among other reasons: (1) expressing unspecified "pro-Communist" remarks; (2) having "consistently embarrassed" his agency by not paying his debts promptly; and (3) for being a "trouble maker, ant agonizer, and braggart."

Senority, previous security clearances, a nonsensitive position--there were no certain protections from the most ludicrous accusations by unknown sources with secret evidence. The burden of proof lay with the accused; he was guilty until he could prove himself innocent. And how does one substantiate innocence to the charge of having spoken in a "pro-Communist" manner? The elderly clerk mentioned above, Russian-born and possessing a slight accent, before entering a mental hospital from the strain of the prolonged, expensive, and mysterious proceedings, protested frantically:

I am an ultra-conservative. I am a God-fearing man . . . my back- ground is anti-Socialist, anti-Communist. My family were small property owners, branded by the Reds as "burjois," "exploiters." My father was a journalist.... He was tortured by the Cheka, beaten by a lead-filled whip. My mother, the epitome of saintliness and piety, was killed by Tarashchantzy, members of a Red Military Division . . . She protested the nationalization of our printshop--a devious trick of the Communists to deprive the property owner of his property and converting it into national commune. I was not given a chance to bury her. I fled from the Red Terror.... I solemnly swear that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, nor a fellow-traveller, nor a member of any subversive organization, that I have never subscribed to any subversive publications, never attended meetings, that I fled from Red tyranny ... I am 100% American....
Was this Orwellian pursuit of peculiarity really necessary? Was it an invaluable part of what Attorney General Brownell roudly called the "drive to exterminate the Communist Party and Communist espionage in this country" ? There was very little if any evidence to sustain the affirmative. Federal authorities had provided no concrete public information of late on the nature and extent of internal subversion. Congressional committees continued to drag before the television cameras the reliable cast of characters used in the past to garner publicity and generate suspicion. The most persistent seekers of treason, it seemed, were at the same time the most consistent seekers of personal fame and power, and the most eager to identify liberal thought and legislation with Soviet designs on the freedom of man. The extreme peril of Communist saboteurs, the fear employed to justify the utilization of police-state methods against millions of Americans in government service and private industry, was becoming increasingly questionable by mid-Igss in the absence of supporting evidence. The Yarmolinsky study, while it contained no final judgments or conclusions, reaffirmed the suspicions of many who thought the government's violations of constitutional safeguards unwarranted, politically inspired, and dangerous to the future of liberty.

The New York Times lauded both the Watts and Yarmolinsky studies, proclaiming "it is apparent that the curtain of mystery that has to a large degree unnecessarily descended upon this field is at last about to be penetrated." A right-wing Brooklyn newspaper, the Tablet, condemned the books (and The New York Times) vigorously, and wondered: "How the living mem- bers of the Ford family can stand by while the Fund for the Republic . . . uses the inheritance of their great progenitor to sabotage efforts to expose the Communist conspiracy to take over the United States is incredible."

On September 1 [1955] the Fund's executive committee assembled and made two appropriations (previously approved by Fund attorneys) to assist the work of Senator Hennings's Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. The sum of $7,000 was granted for assistance in typing, editing, and distributing transcripts of the hearings; $15,000 went to American University's Bureau of Social Science Research for tabulation and analysis of subcommittee questionnaires.

Phillip Taft of the department of economics at Brown Univer- sity was quoted as having told Professor Sutherland: "You de- serve a vote of thanks from the communist party." Several important anti-Communist references were omitted from the book. Dr. John Sessions, in a very review for the New Leader, noted the absence of works by Dwight Macdonald, Arthur Koestler, Bertram Wolfe, Max Eastman, Norman Thomas, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Angelica Balabanoff, first secretary of the Communist Internationale. If the bibliography's faults did not merit the reviewer's often intemperate language, they were all the same quite real. In fact, Dr. [Robert] Hutchins [President of the Fund for the Republic; former President of the University of Chicago] told the board shortly, the authors of the project had been discussing revision for six months.

Dr. Sutherland replied to critics by saying that no more than "a few dozen omissions at most" had been pointed out to date. "When you consider the thousands of entries, that does not appear too bad, and we certainly will include those omissions which appear worthwhile in the revision." Committee member Clinton Rossiter, reached by reporters at Cornell, said: "I am taking full responsibility for a revision and expansion to correct some of these mistakes." The Reverend Joseph M. Snee, S.J., professor of law at Georgetown University, and another member of the Sutherland committee, responded with a letter to the Fund on November 2 which was released to the press the following day. "I am not at all surprised that a pioneer work of this kind should contain omissions and imperfections." Honest criticism was welcome, he wrote, but it ought not to warrant attacks upon the motives of the bibliography's compilers. (To Fulton Lewis, Jr., the possibility was very real "that somehow, the anti-anti-communist attitude has touched this work.") Privately, Rev. Snee echoed Professor Sutherland's sentiments: it was time to "take courage rather than take cover." A weary spokesman for the Fund exclaimed to reporters: ". . . the bibliography was prepared independently of the Fund. We had absolutely nothing to do with its contents and never touched the manuscript."

Throughout the past months of controversy (Joseph Lyford referred to them as 'these troubled times") Paul Hoffman had been busy handling his duties for the Studebaker Corporation, traveling around the country completing speaking engagements, and keeping up with his enormous correspondence. In September he had mailed a form letter and a copy of the Fund's press release responding to the charges of Seaborn Collins to hundreds of professional men and organizations. Of the dozens of replies there was but one clearly critical response. The publisher of the Harlowton (Montana) Times wrote:

When you begin combatting Republicans of stature such as Senator McCarthy and when your objectives are frankly New Dealish and Democratic as they obviously are you have sacrificed your right to be considered as an organization devoted to America.
Scores of the most prominent and respected citizens in the nation joined with their counterparts in towns and villages in every section of the country in enthusiastic and complete support of the Fund's purposes and deeds. The letters illustrated the relatively small quantity to date of the Fund's severe critics. But this minority, most of which was predictably defiant, was vociferous and determined, and there was no telling what damage it might cause in the future.

  • Dorothy Jones's Fund for the Republic study of HUAC's negative impact on film-making is cited by Victor Navasky in Naming Names.


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