“Why in heaven’s name are you a Republican?”
It’s a question asked by many of my faithful readers, who still can’t believe it. As a public service, today I am waiving my fifth amendment rights, violating the laws against the invasion of privacy, and in the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, as the 2016 campaign heats up, I have decided to tell all. It’s a long story, involving many parts. Here is the first part: The McCarthy Years.
Confessions of an Ex–Anti-Communist
Like many members of my generation, I became an anti-communist in college. I was immature and didn’t know what I was doing, falling under the spell of the anti-communists at my alma mater, City College of New York. Most outsiders knew that 20 percent of the student body and faculty at CCNY were communists. But what they didn’t know was that 80 percent were anti-communists. The college was riddled with anti-communists.
During my undergraduate years (1947-53) being an anti-communist was “in.” All my close friends were anti-communist in this hotbed of anti-communism. The best fraternities on campus were all undercover anti-communist cells. I was weak and I didn’t feel that I wanted to save the world as a member of an out-group.
It made so much sense to be an anti-communist in those days. There was a post-war economic boom on and I was told I never had it so good because of the anti-communists. On my way to school every morning I could see those long lines of employed men, walking to the subways and buses.
The anti-communists in the bull sessions in the City College cafeteria warned me that I would never get a job in the communications industry unless I was a known anti-communist. Personnel departments at newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and Hollywood studios were all under the control of anti-communists, and they were only hiring their own people. I wanted to be a rich, famous and powerful writer so much I didn’t care what I believed as long as I got a job.
On my way home from school every afternoon, I read the Journal–American and somebody always seemed to be turning anti-communist: respected people, like Harvey Matusow, Louis Budenz and Herbert Philbrick. A university couldn’t be taken academically seriously unless it had a well-paid, self- defrocked, now anti-communist. on its faculty. I felt I was joining the wave of the future.
Gradually, I drifted into the Party.
I should have realized I was being unwittingly manipulated by the inner circle of the Republican Party, and its propaganda tools, the Hearst press and its fellow travelers. At the time they were trying to inject new blood into the Party, hoping to win and election for a change. Four terms of FDR had led to desperation.
The Eastern industrialists and bankers who controlled the Party nominating process sought to seduce young minds of all ages by drafting a national hero to head the ticket. I fell for the Eisenhower pitch. While I didn’t love him, I certainly liked Ike.
The Party had other card-carrying members whose names I saw on letterheads and respected: Irving Berlin, Irene Dunne, and Jackie Robinson. I never did figure out why Joe McCarthy, the revered manager of the New York Yankees, was always in the papers, waving lists. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself attending meetings of anti-communist front organizations, hoping to meet people like them. The only people I met seemed to be girls.
To make myself more attractive as a man, I started reading obscure anti- communist journals like the Herald Tribune and quoting Walter Lippmann columns, unfathomable but worth quoting. I’m ashamed to admit it now but I was co-opted by the Republican press.
Whatever Sen. McCarthy said, the Republican Party was definitely hard on communism. I really believed the Russians were our enemies in those first cold war years. Keep in mind, as confusing as it might seem during the hot war the Russians were on our side.
I was such an innocent dupe that I even thought the Republicans were the party of the common stockholder— the widows and orphans, none of whom owned half of AT&T and GM. I didn’t question the party’s claim, either, that they pioneered in the fight for Negro civil rights. No party would be willing to lose the South for a hundred years unless it was sincere.
Still, in my defense, I didn’t actually join the Party. A friend sent me a gift membership. When a well-meaning relative gave me a free 30-day trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal, I was finished. I wound up on every anti-communist mailing list in the nation.
I realize now that not getting out of the party was an error in judgment, a youthful mistake. As pathetic as it may sound, in those days I was never an active member of the Party. Not wanting to be out of step with our candidates, I didn’t even take the Party’s platform seriously.
(To be continued)
July 27, 2015