MCCARTHYISM 2010 AS MARILYN STEWART'S UPC LIES CONTINUE: UPC adds a dose of addled McCarthyism as it continues its Race To The Bottom in campaign slanders, lies, and fabrications

With only five days to go before the most important union election in recent Chicago memory, Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) added another piece of nonsense to its Hall of Shame by trying to jump start a bit of McCarthyist hysteria against CORE and Stewart's opponent, King High School Chemistry teacher Karen Lewis. The latest broadside was a bit of McCarthyist rhetoric issued by Kathy Donovan, a UPC stalwart (and UPC candidate for elementary functional vice president) who was once featured in Substance defending special education programs (at a time when Marilyn Stewart wasn't) and should have known better.

Above, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy helped pollute American politics with red baiting until he was discredited and his name became synonymous with witch hunts and the subject of literature, including Arthur Miller's play about the Salem Witch Hunts, "The Crucible." Now that Chicago's United Progressive Caucus has revived McCarthyism during the last week of the CTU election campaign, a "teachable" moment for both teachers and students has come upon us. Substance will be providing both history and literary lesson plans for people who want to update their information on McCarthyism and use it for educational purposes during the final week of the CTU election campaign. Rather than rehash the UPC drivel, which will be circulated widely we're sure, the editors and staff of Substance consulted and decided that the UPC campaign constitutes what teachers know as a "learning moment" for Chicago teachers, students, and citizens.

McCarthyism — along with the union busting, racism, male chauvinism, and anti-Semitism that accompany it — deserves the attention of every teacher and student today. After all, once U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy was censured by the U.S. Senate and marginalized after his fulminations in the early 1950s, his name became synonymous with perverted slanders substituting for political discourse. It was only by the late 1990s and early 21st Century that the same kinds of stuff was tried again, only this time by Republicans under the name of "Swift Boating" — usually orchestrated by Karl Rove and bankrolled by the unlimited number of dollars Republicans have had at their disposal. The past two years, the raw residue of the stuff has been given new life by Glen Beck, the ideological guru of the "Tea Party" fanatics, right down to a defense of McCarthy and attacks on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Full disclosure: Having been blacklisted from teaching for eleven years now, I take McCarthyist stuff personally, as well as politically. So when the UPC took another turn down its low road in the current campaign, elevating blacklisting and BS to the level of standard pre-election fare, it was more than just political. But without further ado, here are some of the narratives about the historical McCarthyism. This time, I think we'll call the 2010 versions in the Chicago Teachers Union not "Donovanism" but "Stewartism" — since all of the UPC's nonsense is authorized and approved by CTU President Marilyn Stewart.

Without the support of Marilyn Stewart and her United Progressive Caucus (UPC), many of the attacks on teachers and teacher unionism would have been weaker. One of those attacks, merit pay, was approved by Stewart without real consultation with the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates. Above, Stewart joined (then) U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, future U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and CPS "Chief Education Officer" Barbara Eason Watkins at Chicago's Wentworth Elementary School in December 2008 to sing the praises of Chicago's merit pay program, called TAP. A week after the photo above was taken, Arne Duncan was named by President elect Barack Obama to be Spellings's successor, and the preliminaries of "Race To The Top", based on the Chicago Plan that Stewart supported, were on the agenda for the U.S. Department of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. "While the House Un-American Activities Committee had been formed in 1938 as an anti-Communist organ, McCarthy’s accusations heightened the political tensions of the times. Known as McCarthyism, the paranoid hunt for infiltrators was notoriously difficult on writers and entertainers, many of whom were labeled communist sympathizers and were unable to continue working. Some had their passports taken away, while others were jailed for refusing to give the names of other communists. The trials, which were well publicized, could often destroy a career with a single unsubstantiated accusation. Among those well-known artists accused of communist sympathies or called before the committee were Dashiell Hammett, Waldo Salt, Lillian Hellman, Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin and Group Theatre members Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan, and Stella Adler. In all, three hundred and twenty artists were blacklisted, and for many of them this meant the end of exceptional and promising careers.

During this time there were few in the press willing to stand up against McCarthy and the anti-Communist machine. Among those few were comedian Mort Sahl, and journalist Edward R. Murrow, whose strong criticisms of McCarthy are often cited as playing an important role in his eventual removal from power. By 1954, the fervor had died down and many actors and writers were able to return to work. Though relatively short, these proceedings remain one of the most shameful moments in modern U.S. history. (Arthur Miller, "McCarthyism", PBS, 2006).

Wikipedia is also very concise and good on the subject:

As early as April 24, 1949, the Red Scare, before Joseph McCarthy, was drawing a humorous retort from Herb Block, cartoonist for the Washington Post. Before McCarthy, McCarthyism took the form of red baiting teachers and other professionals who encouraged what today is called "critical thinking." A minority of union leaders, including some in the teachers' unions, encouraged red baiting and McCarthyism, adding a dark disgraceful page to the history of American public school teaching and unionism. (Substance caption by George N. Schmidt)."McCarthyism is the political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term specifically describes activities associated with the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by heightened fears of communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.

"During the post–World War II era of McCarthyism, many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned,[1] laws that would be declared unconstitutional,[2] dismissals for reasons later declared illegal[3] or actionable,[4] or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute."

Although not as popular as "To Kill a Mockingbird," Arthur Miller's 1953 play (above, the first Broadway playbill) "The Crucible" was Miller's answer to McCarthy and red baiting. The Crucible long outlived the junior senator from Wisconsin and those who encouraged him.The opportunity to teach about McCarthyism in 2010 using members of the United Progressive Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union is unprecedented in recent history. While English teachers have long taught Arthur Miller's famous play "The Crucible" in the context of Miller's use of the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for McCarthyism and the Red Scare, once the Red Scare receded during the 1960s and 1970s, the McCarthyists had been, for a time, relegated to the fringes of life in the USA.

Now they are back in the sun.

Since current transparency requirements, including the requirement that First Class provide the name of everyone posting, allows everyone to know who is saying what, it's a chance for classroom and college-level encounters with actual McCarthyists. Imagine a debate at Northeastern Illinois University, for example, between a UPC slanderer and someone from CORE who had just been red-baited? One of the things about McCarthyism that is generally left out of the most common renditions of it is how much underlying racism there was to the entire project of the ruling class. By the end of World War II, great gains had been made by African American and other minorities in the USA, most importantly as a result of the war. In 1947, Jackie Robinson's ability to integrate major league baseball was the direct result of Robinson's service in the U.S. armed forces during World War II and the movement of working people and veterans against "fascism overseas and racism at home." One of the most important targets if McCarthyism was the union movement, which emerged from World War II the strongest in U.S. history, in part because it had been able to overcome many of the historic racial divides that had kept American workers in the mercy of their bosses.

A bit blurry, but still visible, the famous picket line scene from "Salt of the Earth," a movie that was blacklisted by McCarthyism because it showed how unions, by battling racism and sexism as well as the exploitation of workers, could become stronger and stronger. The picket lines in "Salt of the Earth" had to be "manned" by the women, mostly wives of the miners, after the union was enjoined by the courts from picketing. In many ways, every union movie made since 1956 (when "Salt of the Earth" was completed and banner in the USA) owes much of its trajectory to "Salt of the Earth." The famous picket line scene in "The Harlan County Wars" (for example) draws on the same spirit as the women's picket line in "Salt of the Earth" (although the miner's wives in "Harlan County" are armed as well as the scabs). Although it depicts a strike that took place 30 years before "Salt of the Earth," the famous union movie "Matewan" also shows how by struggling against racism and sexism, workers' movements and unions become stronger. Photo from archives.One of the best portrayals of how the racism worked for workers was done in the movie "Salt of the Earth". Now a classic, but banned for nearly a quarter century (with its creators, including some of the actors, blacklisted by McCarthyism) "Salt of the Earth" showed how organizing could be. While dozens of decent labor union movies have been made since, "Salt of the Earth" is still worth studying, especially when we are studying McCarthyism in our own union, because it is a historical document. There is also a very very good book tracing the history of the movie and the way in which the blacklist against both the movie and its makers was implemented.

One of the nastier sideshows of McCarthyism, which may be brewing in the current UPC campaign to hold on to power in the Chicago Teachers Union, is anti-Semitism. My family and I had firsthand experience with this, as a part of McCarthyism, in New Jersey when I was growing up during the 1950s. We were German-Irish Catholics (third generation) and supposed to be part of the army of anti-Semites and anti-reds that was being organized in working class communities across the USA.

A center of McCarthyism was the "Blue Army of Mary" of the Catholic Church. In the early 1950s, it was virulent in the Newark, New Jersey area. While the Church was unable, as has since been shown, to locate and rid itself of pedophiles and male supremacists, the anti-Communism of many of its members degenerated into raw racism, anti semitism, and union busting throughout the decade know as the 'Fifties' when I was being raised in Elizabeth and Linden, New Jersey. One significant result of the problem was that many young people spent years trying to rid themselves of the propaganda they had been taught as children, including the vicious anti-Semitism that usually accompanied the red scares. A big loser in all this were the working people and their unions. One of the strongest unions in the USA after World War II, the United Electrical Workers (UE) faced vicious red baiting, including sustained attacks in New Jersey when I was growing up (and unaware of much of what was at stake). By the 1950s, the UE had been purged from many of the large electrical plants in Northern New Jersey, with the help of the anti-semites and red baiters, and the working people of Hudson, Essex, and Union counties, some of the most working class parts of the Northeast, were the worse for it for decades.

The current edition of the 1956 classic history "Labor's Untold Story" (cover depicted above) is now being sold by the United Electrical Workers (UE), one of the earliest unions to fall victim to McCarthyism. Now widely available for classroom use, the book would provide a counter to the United Progressive Caucus's attempt to bring red scare tactics into the current CTU election campaign.The long term problem for the Chicago Teachers Union now that Marilyn Stewart has ordered her UPC minions to win by any means necessary, is that the divisiveness within the union won't go away after Stewart loses her power in the union by June 12, 2010. When Stewart hired a scab (1987 strike) to be the CTU's legislative liaison it was a bad enough insult to veteran union members. Unleashing the mad dogs of red baiting and anti-Semitism in a desperate attempt to hold on to power in 2010 will face the new union leadership with challenges that didn't have to be a burden given the stakes, but will. It's impossible to forget — or forgive — the people who take the lowest of the low roads in order to retain power, whether those people include drunken Senator from Wisconsin (who lies about his World War II "combat" record; sound familiar?) or a bunch of teachers who think they can use any tactic to hold on to power. 


June 8, 2010 at 12:11 AM

By: Michael E. Brunson

Bigger Fish to Fry!!!

Friends and Neighbors ... Brothers and Sisters,

Soon comes Friday June 11, 2010. This will be an historic day for the CTU. The choice teacher's make may very well determine whether or not we have a Union left worth mention in the next few years.

CORE has been at the forefront in opposition to union busting, turnarounds, shutdowns, budget chicanery, and the gutting of our public education system. A vote for CORE is not only a vote for the future of our Union, it is a vote for the future of public education.

On June 12 the healing begins. It marks the beginning of reconciliation, renewal, and rebuilding.There has been a great deal of discord and bitterness in the course of this election and I for one am eager for it to end.

We are in truth brothers and sisters that must unite in solidarity against a common opponent and for a common cause. This internecine conflict must end. We have bigger fish to fry!

Michael E. Brunson

CORE 2010 Slate Candidate for Recording Secretary

June 11, 2010 at 8:34 PM

By: Jim Vail

Elia Kazan

I must comment on the film director Elia Kazan who directed On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, one of the all-time Hollywood classics. Kazan, while being red-baited, then gave names to keep working. His name is considered dirt by many around him who fought the good fight and didn't make deals to sell others down the river in order to protect themselves. His name needs a big asterick next to it in this article.

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