1. The postwar years saw a wave of fear overtake the nation about communist takeover. This fear eventually took the form of the government investigation committees that persecuted thousands of American on basis of their political, social and sexual preferences, leading to the loss of their jobs and their reputations. Based on the readings, what were the fears that fueled such figures as Joseph McCarthy, the House of Un-American Activities, and the Hoey Committee? Do you think these fears were blown out of proportion in regards to communist influence or homosexuals being considered a security risk?2. In the 1950s the link between an consumerism and happiness, capitalism and democratic society was cemented and arguably reach a zenith with Nixon’s Moscow Exhibition speech. The rise in industry and corporations in the 1950s indubitably played an important role in American life and greatly affected the conception of male and female roles. What were some of the positive effects of this consumerism – employment, products, etc. – and what were some of the negatives – male and female social roles, feeling of unfulfillment, etc?
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The History of HUAC
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) became a permanent (or “standing”)
committee of the House in January 1945. It had existed on a temporary basis since 1938. HUAC
was supposed to investigate “un-American propaganda” in the United States. Although it also
investigated pro-fascist or pro-Nazi activity, HUAC is most widely known for its investigations
of suspected Communist influence in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Along with the
investigation of Alger Hiss, the investigation of Communist influence in the motion picture
industry is one of the defining episodes in the committee’s history. HUAC would continue to
exist into the 1960s, but these memorable hearings are its best-known legacy. The committee’s
name was changed in 1969, and it was abolished in 1975, when jurisdiction over investigation of
foreign influence was transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.2
HUAC and Hollywood
The first HUAC investigations of Communism in Hollywood occurred in 1940, when
Representative Martin Dies, a Texas Democrat, was chairman of the committee. Dies convened
meetings of the committee in Los Angeles and questioned several actors and writers, including
actor Humphrey Bogart and writer John Howard Lawson. All denied either being Communists or
knowing with certainty that any of their co-workers were Communists. These early hearings
ended with Dies finding no credible evidence of Communist activity in the movie industry. Once
the United States entered World War II in 1941, the Soviet Union was an ally, and Congress had
little interest in exposing any Communist activities in Hollywood.
The end of the war brought increased fear of Communism in the United States. In the 1946
elections, the Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives. As a result,
conservative Representative J. Parnell Thomas, a longtime member of HUAC, became its
chairman. Thomas initiated a new investigation into Communist influence in Hollywood.
In September 1947, HUAC subpoenaed 41 witnesses to testify at formal hearings. Of these, 19
were considered “unfriendly” witnesses because they said they would not cooperate with the
committee’s investigation. Eleven of the unfriendly witnesses eventually came to the hearings in
October 1947. The unfriendly witnesses included John Howard Lawson, who had previously
testified in 1940, plus fellow writers Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Ring Lardner Jr., Albert
Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, and Dalton Trumbo. Also called were writer/producer Adrian Scott,
writer/director Herbert Biberman, and director Edward Dmytryk. They refused to answer
questions, denounced the committee, and were held in contempt of Congress. The contempt led
to brief prison terms for all ten when the Supreme Court refused to reverse their convictions.
(The 11th unfriendly witness, German-born writer Bertolt Brecht, testified he wasn’t a
Communist. He then went back to Europe, where he lived in Communist-controlled East Berlin.)
The witnesses who denounced the committee became known as the “Hollywood Ten.” They
were blacklisted from the movie industry for many years afterward. The blacklist itself was not
developed by HUAC, but by a group of studio executives. The executives met shortly after the
hearings and adopted a resolution against employing Communists, including the Hollywood Ten.
With the exception of Dmytryk, who later cooperated with the committee, the Hollywood Ten
either did not work on American movies or used pseudonyms for most of the 1950s.
In contrast, the “friendly” witnesses all agreed to testify about Communist influence on
Hollywood movies. The friendly witnesses included studio heads Jack Warner and Louis B.
Mayer, and actors Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, Ronald Reagan, and Robert Taylor. The
friendly witnesses were called to testify first, followed by the unfriendly witnesses.
HUAC’s second round of investigations of Communists in Hollywood ended after the testimony
of the Hollywood Ten. The committee began a new series of investigations of Communist
influence on movies in the early 1950s and continued them for several years.
HUAC and Joseph McCarthy
HUAC is sometimes confused with the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which
included Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Senate committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations was particularly active in investigating suspected Communists in the 1950s,
especially after McCarthy became it’s chairman. The House and Senate committees were two
separate bodies. McCarthy was not involved in HUAC and never served in the House of
Representatives. Although he was a freshman senator in 1947, McCarthy had not yet begun his
well-known campaign against Communism, which he initiated in February 1950. The later
investigations of Hollywood that HUAC began in 1951 might be interpreted as a reaction to the
anti-Communist furor raised by McCarthy, but he had no influence on the 1947 hearings at
which Rand testified.
Both HUAC and McCarthy’s Senate committee were also different from the Senate Internal
Security Subcommittee, which was the Senate’s direct equivalent to HUAC.
Rand’s Role in the Hearings
Ayn Rand was one of the “friendly” witnesses who cooperated with the committee during the
1947 hearings. Rand’s testimony, like that of the other friendly witnesses, was given just before
the debacle of the “Hollywood Ten.” She did not testify during either the earlier (1940) or later
(1950s) investigations that HUAC conducted about Hollywood.
At the time she was called to testify, Rand was already well-known in Hollywood for her
opposition to Communism. She originally planned to testify about two movies — Song of Russia
and The Best Years of Our Lives. The former was made during World War II, with the obvious
purpose of making Americans feel more comfortable about being allies with the Soviets during
the war. The latter was a popular post-war film that had won several Academy Awards,
including for best picture. Rand was later asked to testify only about Song of Russia. Some
members of the committee thought it was too risky to criticize a popular film like The Best Years
of Our Lives.
Asked years later about the hearings, Rand said that they were a “dubious undertaking,” “futile,”
and “nothing but disappointments.” She did not think the government could not legitimately
investigate the ideological penetration of Communism into the movies. It could only show that
there were members of the Communist Party working in the industry. She did believe, however,
that it was acceptable for the committee to ask people whether they had joined the Communist
Party, because the Party supported the use of violence and other criminal activities to achieve its
political goals, and investigating possible criminal activities was an appropriate role of
government. “I certainly don’t think it’s any kind of interference with anybody’s rights or freedom
of speech,” she said.3
Transcript of Rand’s Testimony
Rep. J. Parnell Thomas1, Chairman of the Committee: Raise your right hand, please, Miss
Rand. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Ayn Rand: I do.
Chairman Thomas: Sit down.
Mr. Robert E. Stripling2, Chief Investigator: Miss Rand, will you state your name, please, for
Rand: Ayn Rand, or Mrs. Frank O’Connor3.
Stripling: That is A-y-n?
Rand: That is right.
Stripling: Is that your pen name?
Stripling: And what is your married name?
Rand: Mrs. Frank O’Connor.
Stripling: Where were you born, Miss Rand?
Rand: In St. Petersburg, Russia.4
Stripling: When did you leave Russia?
Rand: In 1926.
Stripling: How long have you been employed in Hollywood?
Rand: I have been in pictures on and off since late in 1926, but specifically as a writer this time I
have been in Hollywood since late 1943 and am now under contract as a writer.5
Stripling: Have you written various novels?
Rand: One second. May I have one moment to get this in order?
Rand: Yes, I have written two novels.6 My first one was called We the Living, which was a story
about Soviet Russia and was published in 1936. The second one was The Fountainhead,
published in 1943.
Stripling: Was that a best seller — The Fountainhead?
Rand: Yes; thanks to the American public.
Stripling: Do you know how many copies were sold?
Rand: The last I heard was 360,000 copies. I think there have been some more since.
Stripling: You have been employed as a writer in Hollywood?
Rand: Yes; I am under contract at present.7
Stripling: Could you name some of the stories or scripts you have written for Hollywood?
Rand: I have done the script of The Fountainhead, which has not been produced yet8, for
Warner Brothers, and two adaptations for Hal Wallis Productions, at Paramount, which were not
my stories but on which I did the screen plays, which were Love Letters9 and You Came Along.10
Stripling: Now, Miss Rand, you have heard the testimony of Mr. [Louis B.] Mayer? 11
Stripling: You have read the letter I read from Lowell Mellett?12
Stripling: Which says that the picture Song of Russia13 has no political implications?
Stripling: Did you at the request of Mr. Smith, the investigator for this committee, view the
picture Song of Russia?
Stripling: Within the past two weeks?
Rand: Yes; on October 13, to be exact.
Stripling: In Hollywood?
Stripling: Would you give the committee a break-down of your summary of the picture relating
to either propaganda or an untruthful account or distorted account of conditions in Russia?
First of all I would like to define what we mean by propaganda. We have all been talking about
it, but nobody -Stripling: Could you talk into the microphone?
Rand: Can you hear me now? Nobody has stated just what they mean by propaganda. Now, I
use the term to mean that Communist propaganda is anything which gives a good impression of
communism as a way of life. Anything that sells people the idea that life in Russia is good and
that people are free and happy would be Communist propaganda. Am I not correct? I mean,
would that be a fair statement to make — that that would be Communist propaganda?
Now, here is what the picture Song of Russia contains. It starts with an American conductor,
played by Robert Taylor,14 giving a concert in America for Russian war relief. He starts playing
the American national anthem and the national anthem dissolves into a Russian mob, with the
sickle and hammer on a red flag very prominent above their heads. I am sorry, but that made me
sick. That is something which I do not see how native Americans permit, and I am only a
naturalized American. That was a terrible touch of propaganda. As a writer, I can tell you just
exactly what it suggests to the people. It suggests literally and technically that it is quite all right
for the American national anthem to dissolve into the Soviet. The term here is more than just
technical. It really was symbolically intended, and it worked out that way. The anthem continues,
played by a Soviet band. That is the beginning of the picture.
Now we go to the pleasant love story. Mr. Taylor is an American who came there apparently
voluntarily to conduct concerts for the Soviets. He meets a little Russian girl15 from a village
who comes to him and begs him to go to her village to direct concerts there. There are no GPU16
agents and nobody stops her. She just comes to Moscow and meets him. He falls for her and
decides he will go, because he is falling in love. He asks her to show him Moscow. She says she
has never seen it. He says, “I will show it to YOU.” They see it together. The picture then goes
into a scene of Moscow, supposedly. I don’t know where the studio got its shots, but I have never
seen anything like it in Russia. First you see Moscow buildings — big, prosperous-looking, clean
buildings, with something like swans or sailboats in the foreground. Then you see a Moscow
restaurant that just never existed there. In my time, when I was in Russia, there was only one
such restaurant, which was nowhere as luxurious as that and no one could enter it except
commissars and profiteers. Certainly a girl from a village, who in the first place would never
have been allowed to come voluntarily, without permission, to Moscow, could not afford to enter
it, even if she worked ten years. However, there is a Russian restaurant with a menu such as
never existed in Russia at all and which I doubt even existed before the revolution. From this
restaurant they go on to this tour of Moscow. The streets are clean and prosperous-looking.
There are no food lines anywhere. You see shots of the marble subway — the famous Russian
subway out of which they make such propaganda capital. There is a marble statue of Stalin
thrown in. There is a park where you see happy little children in white blouses running around. I
don’t know whose children they are, but they are really happy kiddies. They are not homeless
children in rags, such as I have seen in Russia. Then you see an excursion boat, on which the
Russian people are smiling, sitting around very cheerfully, dressed in some sort of satin blouses
such as they only wear in Russian restaurants here. Then they attend a luxurious dance. I don’t
know where they got the idea of the clothes and the settings that they used at the ball and -Stripling: Is that a ballroom scene?
Rand: Yes; the ballroom — where they dance. It was an exaggeration even for this country. I
have never seen anybody wearing such clothes and dancing to such exotic music when I was
there. Of course, it didn’t say whose ballroom it is or how they get there. But there they are -free and dancing very happily.
Incidentally, I must say at this point that I understand from correspondents who have left Russia
and been there later than I was and from people who escaped from there later than I did that the
time I saw it, which was in 1926, was the best time since the Russian revolution. At that time
conditions were a little better than they have become since. In my time we were a bunch of
ragged, starved, dirty, miserable people who had only two thoughts in our mind. That was our
complete terror — afraid to look at one another, afraid to say anything for fear of who is listening
and would report us — and where to get the next meal. You have no idea what it means to live in
a country where nobody has any concern except food, where all the conversation is about food
because everybody is so hungry that that is all they can think about and that is all they can afford
to do. They have no idea of politics. They have no idea of any pleasant romances or love-nothing
but food and fear. That is what I saw up to 1926. That is not what the picture shows.
Now, after this tour of Moscow, the hero — the American conductor — goes to the Soviet village.
The Russian villages are something — so miserable and so filthy. They were even before the
revolution. They weren’t much even then. What they have become now I am afraid to think. You
have all read about the program for the collectivization of the farms in 1933, at which time the
Soviet Government admits that three million peasants died of starvation. Other people claim
there were seven and a half million, but three million is the figure admitted by the Soviet
Government as the figure of people who died of starvation, planned by the government in order
to drive people into collective farms. That is a recorded historical fact.17
Now, here is the life in the Soviet village as presented in Song of Russia. You see the happy
peasants. You see they are meeting the hero at the station with bands, with beautiful blouses and
shoes, such as they never wore anywhere. You see children with operetta costumes on them and
with a brass band which they could never afford. You see the manicured starlets driving tractors
and the happy women who come from work singing. You see a peasant at home with a close-up
of food for which anyone there would have been murdered. If anybody had such food in Russia
in that time he couldn’t remain alive, because he would have been torn apart by neighbors trying
to get food. But here is a close-up of it and a line where Robert Taylor comments on the food and
the peasant answers, “This is just a simple country table and the food we eat ourselves.”
Then the peasant proceeds to show Taylor how they live. He shows him his wonderful tractor. It
is parked somewhere in his private garage. He shows him the grain in his bin, and Taylor says,
“That is wonderful grain.” Now, it is never said that the peasant does not own this tractor or this
grain because it is a collective farm. He couldn’t have it. It is not his. But the impression he gives
to Americans, who wouldn’t know any differently, is that certainly it is this peasant’s private
property, and that is how he lives, he has his own tractor and his own grain. Then it shows miles
and miles of plowed fields.
Chairman Thomas: We will have more order, please.
Rand: Am I speaking too fast?
Chairman Thomas: Go ahead.
Rand: Then -Stripling: Miss Rand, may I bring up one point there?
Stripling: I saw the picture. At this peasant’s village or home, was there a priest or several priests
Rand: Oh, yes; I am coming to that, too. The priest was from the beginning in the village scenes,
having a position as sort of a constant companion and friend of the peasants, as if religion was a
natural accepted part of that life. Well, now, as a matter of fact, the situation about religion in
Russia in my time was, and I understand it still is, that for a Communist Party member to have
anything to do with religion means expulsion from the party. He is not allowed to enter a church
or take part in any religious ceremony. For a private citizen, that is a nonparty member, it was
permitted, but it was so frowned upon that people had to keep it secret, if they went to church. If
they wanted a church wedding they usually had it privately in their homes, with only a few
friends present, in order not to let it be known at their place of employment because, even though
it was not forbidden, the chances were that they would be thrown out of a job for being known as
practicing any kind of religion.18
Now, then, to continue with the story, Robert Taylor proposes to the heroine. She accepts him.
They have a wedding, which, of course, is a church wedding. It takes place with all the religious
pomp which they show. They have a banquet. They have dancers, in something like satin skirts
and performing ballets such as you never could possibly see in any village and certainly not in
Russia. Later they show a peasants’ meeting place, which is a kind of a marble palace with
crystal chandeliers. Where they got it or who built it for them I would like to be told. Then later
you see that the peasants all have radios. When the heroine plays as a soloist with Robert
Taylor’s orchestra, after she marries him, you see a scene where all the peasants are listening on
radios, and one of them says, “There are more than millions listening to the concert.”
I don’t know whether there are a hundred people in Russia, private individuals, who own radios.
And I remember reading in the newspaper at the beginning of the war that every radio was seized
by the government and people were not allowed to own them. Such an idea that every farmer, a
poor peasant, has a radio, is certainly preposterous. You also see that they have long-distance
telephones. Later in the picture Taylor has to call his wife in the village by long-distance
telephone. Where they got this long-distance phone, I don’t know.
Now, here comes the crucial point of the picture. In the midst of this concert, when the heroine is
playing, you see a scene on the border of the U.S.S.R. You have a very lovely modernistic sign
saying “U.S.S.R.” I would just like t …
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