American Stasi

-->
American History, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Joe McCarthy

R.S. McCain Channels Joe McCarthy

Today the FBI released its extensive files on the late Howard Zinn, the popular historian known especially for his book A People’s History of the United States. The FBI opened an investigation of Zinn in 1949 because of his association with what were called “Communist Front” groups. Zinn denied being a member of the Communist Party USA when questioned by agents in the 1950s.

However, in the 1960s the FBI renewed its interest in Zinn because Zinn was critical of the FBI. Apparently Zinn was especially critical of the FBI’s investigations of the civil rights movement. Of course, we know now that J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO project attempted to infiltrate, disrupt and marginalize the civil rights movement from within, including the nonviolent movement of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King himself was under FBI surveillance for much of the last few years of his life. COINTELPRO often operated outside of the law and constitutional prohibitions on warrantless government surveillance.

How much Zinn knew about what the FBI was up to I do not know, but at a civil rights protest in the 1960s he declared the U.S. had become a “police state.” This pissed off the Bureau, which then tried to get Zinn fired from his professorship at Boston University. Which pretty much proves that Zinn had a point. Apparently the files also contain detailed accounts of Zinn’s activities in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam years. At that time I don’t believe the FBI had evidence Zinn was doing anything illegal; it just didn’t like Zinn’s politics.

But just to show that leopards don’t change their spots, or something, our buddy Robert Stacy McCain apparently spent hours piecing together whatever he could find in the documents that tied Zinn to the Communist Party USA so that he could say Zinn lied about being a member.

I read through this as much as I could stand, and it’s mostly guilt-by-association stuff. For example, McCain finds it significant that Zinn thought the state of New York was liable for property damage caused by the Peekskill riots. These were riots in 1949 that stopped a concert by Paul Robeson, the African American singer “known for his strong pro-trade union stance on civil rights and his outspoken beliefs in international socialism, anti-lynching legislation and anti-colonialist movements.” McCain sneers that the riots were “a once-famous cause célèbre of the Left,” apparently siding with the rights of real American patriots to form a riotous mob and violently attack people because of their race and/or politics.

Zinn clearly was actively engaged in many of the same causes as the old CPUSA in those years. In the 1940s he was active in the International Workers Order, an “insurance, mutual benefit and fraternal organization” affiliated with CPUSA. Whether Zinn was a card-carrying member of CPUSA itself or just a fellow-traveler isn’t really clear, though.

And in any event, given the totalitarian activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. Joe McCarthy’s relentless witch hunts, I wouldn’t blame Zinn for lying to the FBI if he was a member.

But finally McCain gets to his smoking gun — an FBI agent found that Zinn’s name and address were on a “list of addressograph stencils at Communist Party Headquarters.” Yes, my dear, Zinn was on the Communist Party’s mailing list. So he must have been a member. Like we’re all members of every organization that sends us mail.

Hey, I get email from the Tea Party Movement. Does that make me a teabagger?

I like this bit of McCain’s –

One of the things you can learn from M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on Joe McCarthy’s investigations, Blacklisted by History, is how deeply the FBI had penetrated CPUSA. One reason that McCarthy’s was sometimes unable to publicly substantiate his accusations was that he relied on secret information passed along by the FBI. McCarthy couldn’t identity the source of his information without compromising the FBI’s investigations, so when his critics tried to make it appear that McCarthy’s suspicions were without merit, McCarthy couldn’t simply say, “Here is the FBI file.”

One of the things you learn from other books on McCarthy, such as David Oshinsky’s A Conspiracy So Immense, is that after McCarthy started making a splash with his mysterious lists of spies, Hoover began feeding him names of people the FBI hadn’t been able to find enough dirt on to prosecute, but Hoover still suspected them of something. The fact remains that no one McCarthy targeted was ever found to be guilty of espionage, and this is still true after the release of the “Venona Papers,” wingnut myth to the contrary.

The point lost on McCain is that most of the time Zinn was under surveillance, Zinn was not doing anything criminal. He was under surveillance purely because of his political beliefs.

And the great irony is that if people like McCain were allowed to run America without restraint, he’d be rounding up everyone whose politics he doesn’t like (most of us) and sending us off to re-education camps. Just like the you-know-who. If McCain had his way, he’d organize an American Stasi.

Update: More by Justin Elliott at Salon — five different FBI special agents submitted surveillance reports on Zinn’s participation at one, and the same, anti-draft public meeting. He was also found to be on the mailing list of a Communist bookstore (I don’t know if this is the same mailing list already mentioned, or not).

“There’s also a fair amount here about Zinn’s 1974 trip to North Vietnam with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, during which they received three freed American POWs,” Elliott writes. McCain also had brought up the trip to Hanoi as proof of Zinn’s communist activities, but McCain left out the part about freeing POWs. Fascinating.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Share
37 Comments

34 Comments

  1. The Mole  •  Aug 1, 2010 @7:14 am

    Robert Stacy McCain is a card carrying member of the Sons of the Confederacy. He is a White Nationalist and a Racist Bigot to his damn core.

    Ignore his sorry butt.

  2. erinyes  •  Aug 1, 2010 @7:15 am

    The great irony indeed.
    A universe of irony has opened since Obama was elected.
    It is now not a bad thing to carry signs smearing the POTUS as a communist and openly bashing his policy; four short years ago, such behavior would have been called treason or “blasphemy”.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 1, 2010 @8:13 am

    We’ve had an expanding American Stasi-Lite for years. And, unfortunately, President Obama isn’t doing anything about slowing that down. Any of you regulars know my reasoning, so I won’t bore you, but basicaly it boils down to as a Democrat, and as the first African-American President, he can’t afford to have another 9/11, or even a much lesser version, on his watch.
    Our version of the Stasi goes back to The Pinkertons, then the FBI and CIA (which DID do domestic spying), and now to the NSA and God alone knows what parts of Homeland Security.
    I remember one of my closest friends (and still is) called and told me that he had applied for a job with the CIA, this was towards the middle-latter part of the 1st Reagan Adiminstration.
    Great, I told him. If you need a recommendation, let me know (I was running a small start-up satellite TV company in NYC at the time). There was a long pause on the phone, and then he said, “Thanks, but I’m not even telling anyone I even KNOW you!”
    He explained that with my Russian background, knowledge of the language, and history of activitism in a number of causes and groups varying from pro affirmative action, to anti-nuke, to anti any number of Reagan policies, he would have to deny, if asked, not having known me, he couldn’t really do that, but having been close to me.
    That kind of hurt, but I understood.
    Sometimes, back in the day, I used to flatter myself by thinking that our government has files on little old me. I thought of ‘FOIA’ing myself a few times, just for shits and giggles.
    But in reality, it’s no laughing matter. And now, after all of my activities in the ’00′s, as a leader of anti-war, anti-torture, anti-rendition, anti-Bush regime, organizations and rallies in North Carolina, I now have no doubt that they do have a file. Now, I didn’t and don’t flatter myself so much that I think it’s huge and they suspect that I’m some grand version of “An Enemy of the People,” but I was worried enough to come up with my (rather extreme) moniker of ‘c u n d gulag.’
    The Bush years really did worry me, if not outright scare me. What scares me more now is not just the metastasizing strength and number of these varying Stasi-like organizations, but what might (will?) happen when a Republican President is again elected, and if they have a compliant, let alone Republican Congress.
    If they are elected, which of our current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls do you think will not move towards acting on information at the slightest provocation, instead of merely surveilling it? Yeah, me neither…
    Do I worry about this even with Obama as President? Sure, and so should you. I don’t worry so much that HE will use them, but, as has been proven over and over again in history, when such powers are handed over, they will be used – if not today, then tomorrow.
    Any spark of national ‘insecurity’ could cause these organizations to up their security measures. How else, or better, to validate their existances than, instead of merely securing information, they start to ‘secure’ the people they perceive from that information to be the causes of the national insecurity?
    I may yet c u n d gulag…

    - On a lighter note: I really do need a job. I have waaaaaay too much time on my hand and have gotten wordy beyond measure here. Sorry, Maha. I’ll try to keep it short and pithy from now on, instead of long and pissy.

  4. maha  •  Aug 1, 2010 @8:41 am

    c u n d gulag — please, write as much as you like and as often as you like. I don’t mind long and pissy at all.

  5. uncledad  •  Aug 1, 2010 @10:10 am

    I think McCAin’s post is an audition for the Glenn BecKKK show! He loves all the old sixties lrft wing subversive crap.

  6. Felicity  •  Aug 1, 2010 @11:27 am

    Two things: The Communist Party of the US is a legitimate political party, anyone can join it as did many Americans in the ’20′s and ’30′s. Imagine their surprise when hauled before HUAC and accused of what amounted to treason against the US because they (usually had) been a member of the Party. On what grounds? Constitutional? There’s nothing in the Constitution dealing with political parties.

    Years ago we participated in a Mass at the Nevada Test Site, just outside Las Vegas. Berrigan was the presider. I am unable to fathom why or how that peaceful and quite beautiful ceremony would be a threat to the government of the United States.

  7. Swami  •  Aug 1, 2010 @11:38 am

    I’ve already put McCain in a box, so nothing he’s gonna say is going to get any consideration for being worthwhile. He’s an intellectual lightweight who employs the same lame techniques as the Confederate Yankee. Gathering the irrelevant to create the illusion of something, and then bouncing it around the wingnut circuit to accumulate kudos for being some sort of intellectual accomplishment. McCain’s wingnut acclaimed great investigative research on Zinn rises to the level of a mediocre 8th grade book report.

    Gulag..If they come and ask me if I know you I’ll deny knowing you like Peter denied Jesus. ” I don’t know that crazy Cossack”

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 1, 2010 @11:43 am

    Swami,
    LOL!!!
    Ah, but by calling a “that crazy Cossack,” you have already admitted too much!

  9. erinyes  •  Aug 1, 2010 @4:58 pm

    SEE U In DE Gulag,
    Who’da thunk.
    I tell my assistants to NEVER overlook the obvious; I learned something new today.

  10. erinyes  •  Aug 1, 2010 @5:18 pm

    Felicity, I simply can’t wrap my mind around the term “antiwar radical”.
    The “radicals” are the asshats who want to kill any persons designated by the state as “enemy”.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 1, 2010 @5:51 pm

    erinyes,
    What, too subtle? :-)

  12. Bonnie  •  Aug 1, 2010 @6:06 pm

    Howard Zinn was a kind, caring human being. He wanted nothing more than peace for every one every where. He is a hero.

  13. goatherd  •  Aug 1, 2010 @7:21 pm

    Gosh, I remember picking up “People’s History” and being just charmed by it. I couldn’t put it down. I’ll have to dig it out again.

    I remember the chill of the McCarthy era as a child. My grandmother was Slovak (from Nemecka Lupca, now Partisanska Lupca) my father’s step father from Ukraine and a real cossack. My father told me how he could ride two horses at once standing with a foot on each horse’s back and swing down around a horse’s neck and back up into the saddle, which you have to admit, even beats a good set of rope tricks. They spoke Russian in the household, so my father learned it as he leaned English. (I thought for a long time that my grandfather had a speech impediment, but, that’s another story.)

    My parents were at Ladd Field during WWII. My father was supply officer and ran the motor pool, they repaired airplanes. As a side assignment, he was in charge of part of the Lend Lease Program. He prepared and turned over P-39′s (Bell Aircobras) to Russian pilots. The abiliity to speak Russian was a big advantage in this capacity. But, scarcely a decade after his service, speaking Russian was cause for suspicion. So my mother (Scots-Irish, North England, you know, border people) would shut him up very quickly if he spoke a word of Russian or Slovak at home. Teaching me Russian would be passing on a curse, so I had to learn from books. (I never got the declensions, but at least when I go to Greece, I can read the street signs.) So I traded my heritage and I hope I got more than George W. Bush in return.

    I had to sign a loyalty oath during the “Reagan” era and it made me feel like a coward. But, I needed the work, and I suppose I’d do the same today. My father was cowed because he was a “premature anti-fascist” and he campaigned for Norman Thomas. My room mate from the early ’80′s requested his file and we found our phone had been tapped due to the “Central American” question at the time. This all adds up, but not to the “Land of the Free”.

    I never felt less “American” than when I signed that oath. I had naively thought that they were antiquated memories of a darker time.

    So, I’ll pour a bit of Luksusowa to spit in McCarthy’s face. Cundgulag, “Nostrovia!!”

  14. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 2, 2010 @8:03 am

    goatherd,
    Spaseebo!

    And good for you to try to learn the language on your own.
    Me? I didn’t speak English until I went to Kindergarden. My first few minutes, I was kind of laughing to myself at how none of the other kids knew how to speak. Then, it dawned on me who the one with the problem really was! :-)

  15. joanr16  •  Aug 2, 2010 @1:15 pm

    If RS McCain channels Joe McCarthy, does that mean Matt Drudge channels Roy Cohn?

    Gulag, in a fair universe, you’d get paid for your comments. Paid by the word, sir, and including apostrophes! I’m torn between rooting for you to find a job and missing your comments when you have one.

  16. Felicity  •  Aug 2, 2010 @1:33 pm

    goatherd – I refused to sign the Oath (so of course I ended up working without pay.) Not only was it an insult to be told to sign it, I actually fantasized that signing it could in future come back to bite me in the ass. It was the ’50′s after all, and weren’t innocent people being dragged before HUAC accused of being Communists because they had (innocently) joined the Party in the ’30′s? Signature on any Oath is never to be taken lightly – one never knows what one regime considers an acceptable act, the next regime may consider it to be treasonous.

  17. Swami  •  Aug 2, 2010 @1:51 pm

    Felicity, goatherd…What’s the deal with a loyalty oath. I never heard of such a thing being required by the government aside from an oath of allegiance that’s required by the military. The same oath the President swears to on inauguration day.

  18. Felicity  •  Aug 2, 2010 @2:51 pm

    Swami – in my case to be an employee of the state of California in the ’50′s, one had to sign a loyalty oath, a pledge of loyalty to the government of the US, if I remember correctly. I was a down-in-the-mouth-starving music major who was offered a job accompanying voice majors but to get the job I had to sign the oath if I wanted to get paid.

    What’s interesting is that such a ‘requirement’ today would probably cause the blog world to explode with righteous indignation whereas in the ’50′s it caused nary a stir. If I remember correctly it didn’t even make the evening news and even if it had the 20-something ’50′s crowd had more-or-less moved beyond the ‘evening news’ as we were busy solving ancient philosophical puzzles and reading our poetry by candle light to our fellow intellectuals while we sipped wine that turned our teeth blue. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

  19. angullimala  •  Aug 2, 2010 @4:50 pm

    I think RSM is largely a subhuman piece of feces but, frankly, I’m no fan of Howard Zinn or his PHOTUS either. My main problem was the way he portrayed every concrete advance in Workers rights as a setback because it stole energy from push for a more dramatic revolution. Ending child-labor? The 40 hour work week? The abolition of slavery? All of these and more are portrayed as bad things .. merely table scraps given by the rulers to forestall/avoid the revolution that would have made a truly just society had it been allowed to occur.

    That’s exactly the kind of attitude that caused workers to wonder if some of the Communists were more interested in experimenting with their theories of societies than with actually improving the daily lives of the workers whose interest they claimed to represent.

    It’s an important source of factual information on some of the peoples who were previously ignored by historians, but thats about it.

  20. Swami  •  Aug 2, 2010 @4:55 pm

    Thanks for the info, Felicity.. I assume that was the height of the McCarthy era. I was still in short pants when that was going on. I do remember as a kid singing a little ditty to the tune of the Pepsodent jingle..” You wonder where your parents went… when they talk against the government” — in reference to the Russians.

  21. Jazzpotato  •  Aug 2, 2010 @5:34 pm

    I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but when I was hired at UCLA Hospital in 1979, among the seemingly endless paperwork I did sign that oath to the State of California, and if my memory is correct, also one that I wasn’t a communist. Wow. And the new hospital is called Ronald Reagan Medical Center, HA!

  22. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 2, 2010 @6:35 pm

    joan,
    Kinder words were never spoken…

  23. Swami  •  Aug 2, 2010 @9:14 pm

    Hey, off topic..but I heard that J Edgar was a pretty hot item in his fishnet stockings and garter belt. As a matter of fact, I’d bet he was a pioneer for hypocritical conservative values. I think he put a lot of emphasis into running down and rounding up them ungodly homosexuals. It’s only fitting that they named a Federal building after him.

  24. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @1:13 am

    “He was under surveillance purely because of his political beliefs. ”

    Makes perfect sense. As an outright apologist for mass murderers Stalin (and Mao later), and his anti American activities and leanings, security agencies would not be properly doing their jobs if they were not keeping an eye on this guy.

  25. maha  •  Aug 5, 2010 @6:32 am

    Makes perfect sense. As an outright apologist for mass murderers Stalin (and Mao later), and his anti American activities and leanings, security agencies would not be properly doing their jobs if they were not keeping an eye on this guy.

    Dear Flaming Idiot: There is no evidence Zinn was a Stalinist or Marxist or that he advocated any kind of violence against anybody. Quite the opposite, actually. There is plenty of evidence J. Edgar Hoover had multiple loose screws and used the FBI unlawfully for his own personal agenda, however. And the point is that the real threat of totalitarianism was coming from J. Edgar Hoover, not Zinn.

  26. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @12:51 pm

    With Zinn advocating for radical ‘revolution’ placing far more power over individuals in the hands of the State than it already has (too much of), including total State control over economic choices, production, distribution and every facet of life, I’m hard pressed to see even Hoover’s abuses as anywhere near as totalitarian as what Zinn advocated.

  27. maha  •  Aug 5, 2010 @1:09 pm

    With Zinn advocating for radical ‘revolution’ placing far more power over individuals in the hands of the State than it already has (too much of), including total State control over economic choices, production, distribution and every facet of life,

    Zinn didn’t advocate any of those things, so you’re still a flaming idiot. He dedicated his life to giving people more freedom from tyranny in all its forms, so you are slandering a good man. I suggest in the future you get your facts straight before you form opinions.

  28. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @1:14 pm

    There is no case in which the kind of ‘revolutionary’ govt reshaping all of economics and society does so without intentional recourse to the full coercive power of the State.

    Perhaps you are confusing goals you agree with and nice wishes for humans with the reality of the kind of actions and power it takes to impose these ideals.

    I appreciate the commentary but do feel you are being needlessly hostile.

  29. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @1:15 pm

    And, I’ll add, it is not ‘freedom from tyranny’ to be forced to serve Zinn’s goals or anyone elses other than their own.

  30. maha  •  Aug 5, 2010 @2:53 pm

    There is no case in which the kind of ‘revolutionary’ govt reshaping all of economics and society does so without intentional recourse to the full coercive power of the State.

    Please, flaming idiot, try to get this through your thick head: The only way Zinn wanted a revolutionary reshaping of government was to extend full civil liberties and equality to all Americans, regardless of color, and to keep limits on the police powers of the state. He was not in any way, shape, or form proposing a Marxist centrally controlled economy.

    I appreciate the commentary but do feel you are being needlessly hostile.

    I’m sorry that I have absolutely no patience with blockheads who repeat lies and slander.

  31. maha  •  Aug 5, 2010 @2:55 pm

    And, I’ll add, it is not ‘freedom from tyranny’ to be forced to serve Zinn’s goals or anyone elses other than their own.

    Who was proposing that anyone be forced to serve “Zinn’s goals,” except as much as Zinn’s goals were full and unfettered expression of the liberties promised in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence?

  32. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @5:19 pm

    “Please, flaming idiot, try to get this through your thick head: The only way Zinn wanted a revolutionary reshaping of government was to extend full civil liberties and equality to all Americans, regardless of color, and to keep limits on the police powers of the state. He was not in any way, shape, or form proposing a Marxist centrally controlled economy. ”

    He wanted ‘equality’ including positive rights to goods and services created by others, but not in such a way as those others had to be compelled to provide them?

    What mechanism are we supposed to believe ‘revolution’ entails, unless it’s gaining enough power to use force against those who will not submit their property and money to the State to supply these ‘rights’ to a house, or health care, or food, etc, to other people? Some ‘change’ where no power is necessary to do these things and no cops and laws and State structure is used to compel these actions?

    Simply saying he wanted to expand and guarantee all those nice sounding things is not attending to the details of what must be done to do so.

  33. Paul  •  Aug 5, 2010 @5:24 pm

    “Who was proposing that anyone be forced to serve “Zinn’s goals,” except as much as Zinn’s goals were full and unfettered expression of the liberties promised in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence”

    Zinn, of course. Wasn’t he advocating his ideas be followed? Yes.

    “Excepting’ and the following comments do not change the mechanism necessary for what Zinn advocated to be realized.

  34. maha  •  Aug 5, 2010 @9:14 pm

    What mechanism are we supposed to believe ‘revolution’ entails,

    I guess you weren’t paying attention, but much of the stuff Zinn advocated while J. Edgar Hoover was spying on him was enacted in the 1960s. There was the 24th Amendment (ending the poll tax), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited all kinds of racial discrimination, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. See, they had the revolution decades ago and you didn’t even notice!

    Now I’m going to ban you from the site, because I’m starting to think you’re psychotic. Do see a doctor. Thanks much.

3 Trackbacks



    About this blog



    About Maha
    Comment Policy

    Vintage Mahablog
    Email Me


















    Support This Site







    eXTReMe Tracker













      Technorati Profile