House Un-American Activities Committee
The House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC (or, rarely, HUAAC) (1945-1975) was an investigating committee of the United States House of Representatives. In 1969, the House changed the committee's name to the Committee on Internal Security. The House abolished the committee in 1975 and its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Dies Committee (1938-1944)
The House Committee on Un-American Activities grew from a special investigating committee established in May of 1938 chaired by Martin Dies and co-chaired by Samuel Dickstein, himself named in the Venona project as a Soviet agent. In pre-war years and during World War II it was known as the Dies Committee. Its work was supposed to be aimed mostly at German-American involvement in Nazi and KKK activity. As to investigations into the activities of the "Klan," the Committee actually did little. When HUAC's chief counsel Ernest Adamson announced that: "The committee has decided that it lacks sufficient data on which to base a probe," committee member John E. Rankin added: "After all, the KKK is an old American institution." Instead of the Klan, HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated the Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Theatre Project. Dies was a critic of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), having found 280 salaried CIO organizers within its ranks funded by the Soviet backed CPUSA.
In 1938 Hallie Flanagan, the head of the Federal Theatre Project was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge that the project was overrun with communists. Flanagan was called to testify for only a part of one day, while a clerk from the project was called in for two entire days. This may have had something to do with the fact that one of the members of the committee embarrassed himself by asking whether the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe was a member of the Communist Party.
Post War subversion investigations
HUAC became a standing (permanent) committee in 1946. Under the mandate of Public Law 601, passed by the 79th Congress, the committee of nine representatives investigated suspected threats of subversion or propaganda that "attacks the form of government guaranteed by our Constitution."
The committee came into its own when it acted on suspicions that some people with Communist sympathies and affiliations worked within the United States government. The background to this was the fact that radicals in the 1930s had often been attracted to Marxism, particularly to the "Popular Front" . Several of these people had reached positions of power during World War II and the late 1940s.
In 1947 HUAC investigated Wartime shipment of uranium to the Soviet Union. The Committee found that in 1943, with high-level protection inside the government, the United States government issued export licenses for delivery of millions of pounds of atomic bomb-making materials. Restrictive orders of the Manhattan Project were by-passed by an American firm called the Canadian Radium and Uranium Corporation. Security concerns at the National Laboratories also came under review.
There were also fears agents were still actively working to subvert American foreign policy, and needed to be removed from positions of influence. In particular, the committee, with the leadership of Congressmen such as Richard Nixon, brought about the trial and conviction of State Department employee Alger Hiss.
The committee investigated so-called "Communist front" organizations, or Comintern affiliates, to determine if the group was effectively under the control of the Communist Party or party members. Individuals such as W. E. B. DuBois and I. F. Stone were found to have been affiliated with literally dozens of Comintern sponsored groups, although, in reality, many of the groups were nothing more than glorified petition drives, and disappeared after a single publicity campaign on behalf of a particular cause. The Committee determined that some of the groups were petition drives involved in election fraud. A "front" organization" acts like a "cutout", often by their sheer number, it helps to consume the limited resources of investigators and slowdown counterintelligence operations. In the late 1940s the committee held nine days of hearings into Communist inspired propaganda by Hollywood. After being convicted of contempt of Congress charges several communists where "blacklisted" by motion picture industry producers.
A popular misconception is the Senator Joseph McCarthy chaired the HUAC. But McCarthy was in the US Senate, not the House of Representatives.
1968 Democratic Party National Convention
The Committee conducted a hearing, "Subversive Involvement in Disruption of 1968 Democratic Party National Convention," which featured Dr. Quentin Young, a friend and supporter of President Barack Obama, as a witness. Young served with a group calling itself the "Medical Committee for Human Rights" which provided treatment for protestors injured during the riots in Chicago in August 1968.
Young and was asked if he had paid $1000 of $1500 due for the rent of the National Mobilization Committee. This group was described by the committee staff counsel as "the principal organizer and coordinating agency for the disruptions which took place in Chicago during the Democratic Convention." Young admitted lent $1000 "to somebody which was promptly paid back in cash over a 2 day period." The "somebody" was identified as Rennie Davis of the National Mobilization Committee and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Asked directly if he were a member of the CPUSA, he refused to answer, saying it was "irrelevant." Later, the counsel for the committee declared, "Dr. Young, the committee had received information that you have been a member of the Communist Party, specifically, a member of the doctors' club of the party on the North Side of Chicago, a club that was called the Bethune Club." Again, Young refused to answer, saying only that he would exercise his "First Amendment" and "other protections." Staff Counsel Chester Smith went on to ask whether Young served as a member of the governing council of the Medical Committee for Human Rights "pursuant to a plan or directive of the Communist Party." Eventually, he replied, "No."
- US House of Representatives, 81st Congress, 2nd Session, Committee on Un-American Activities, Hearings Regarding Shipment of Atomic Material to the Soviet Union During World War II (DC, US Gov Printing Office [GPO], 1950)