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date: 07 December 2022

Cold War in the American Working Classfree

Cold War in the American Working Classfree

  • Rosemary FeurerRosemary FeurerNorthern Illinois University, Department of History


The US working class and the institutional labor movement was shaped by anticommunism. Anticommunism preceded the founding of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, and this early history affected the later experience. It reinforced conservative positions on union issues even in the period before the Cold War, and forged the alliances that influenced the labor movement’s direction, including the campaign to organize the South, the methods and structures of unions, and US labor’s foreign policy positions. While the Communist Party of the USA (CP) was a hierarchical organization straitjacketed by an allegiance to the Soviet Union, the unions it fostered cultivated radical democratic methods, while anticommunism often justified opposition to militancy and obstructed progressive policies. In the hottest moments of the postwar development of domestic anticommunism, unions and their members were vilified and purged from the labor movement, forced to take loyalty oaths, and fired for their association with the CP. The Cold War in the working class removed critical perspectives on capitalism, reinforced a moderate and conservative labor officialdom, and led to conformity with the state on foreign policy issues.


  • Late 19th-Century History
  • 20th Century: Pre-1945
  • 20th Century: Post-1945
  • Political History
  • Labor and Working Class History

The Long View of Labor Anticommunism, 1870–1920

Anticommunism as a response to workers’ movements developed long before the Bolshevik Revolution and founding of the Soviet Union or the post–World War II onset of the Cold War. This early history created significant methods of repression, political and industrial networks, as well as ideology and rhetoric that reverberated through the 20th century. Employers and their allies charged that labor radicals were agents of foreign ideologies, organizations, or governments, and that they used unions and strikes to undermine civilized society. They developed the countersubversive networks and surveillance police methods in response to labor unrest.

Treating labor activism as a form of devious conspiratorial behavior became standard in elite circles in the late 19th century. A rising rebellion in the Pennsylvania coalfields in the 1870s that included violence was not the work of angry coal miners fighting for life, limb, and justice, but the work of foreign ideas held by immigrant Irish terrorists (“Molly Maguires”) deployed through a secret society and alien culture. The 1877 railroad strike and the general strikes in cities such as St. Louis were fomented by Communists and tramp subversives who spread it from the 1871 Paris Commune. Pinkerton agency operatives and their allies wrote books on these themes, melding fact and fiction to portray labor events as a subterranean conspiracy. As a result, state militias became a new national police who were deployed to break strikes for the next fifty years.1

Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket affair was a defining moment in a long record of treating labor struggles, in this case eight-hour-day mass strikes, as un-American conspiracies. A bomb thrown at a protest against police violence served up a justification for disciplining the wider labor movement. The Haymarket conspiracy trial was based on targeting anarchists, on evidence of beliefs and associations, not specific criminal acts, and four anarchists were hanged. In the years after, the judiciary at all levels constrained labor through injunctions that linked mob threats, foreign ideas, and the “vampire” influence of radicals. Police “Red Squads” were instated in Chicago and in other cities to watch for and round up labor and radicals (see Figure 1).2

Figure 1. Michael Schaack was a policeman propagandist against the Haymarket anarchists; this was the first major countersubversive handbook for Red Squads. This cartoon depicts women anarchists as a conspiring force behind violent labor actions that led to Haymarket.

Credit: Schaack, Anarchy and Anarchists (Chicago, 1889).

The AFL and Antiradicalism

This repression nurtured a conservative reaction from leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the federation of (mostly) craft unions that treated radicals as an obstacle to success and drove alliances with employers and the state. Radicals challenged craft unionism, which relegated immigrants, women, and African Americans to the bottom of a labor hierarchy. Socialists sought to “bore from within” AFL unions and city central bodies of the AFL to influence their political positions, and argued for industrial unionism and a class response from labor bodies. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) set up a “dual union” to the AFL for this purpose in 1905 and launched militant alternative methods from sit-downs to free-speech fights in company-controlled towns. AFL President Samuel Gompers saw this as a mortal threat and colluded with the National Civil Foundation (NCF) in 1915 to secretly spy on radicals and send these reports to the new federal Bureau of Investigation (BI, later FBI). The Wilson administration funded a prowar organization in the AFL during World War I. Thus Gompers and other AFL officials saw domestic labor disagreements as part of a global conflict even before the Bolshevik Revolution. At the same time, a Catholic antisocialist network developed in AFL unions, one that would develop a cadre of labor priests following papal encyclicals for social justice, but with a mission to ward off socialism.3

Anticommunism took on new meaning in the United States when the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union seized power, pulled troops from the front, and proclaimed a Communist revolution. By 1919 President Woodrow Wilson was sending troops to a front of insurgents against the Bolsheviks where they remained until 1920. A frenzied domestic anti-Bolshevik campaign accompanied this, targeting strikes and radicals and other dissenters. It was facilitated by World War I’s expansion of the state’s administrative capacity for repression, and sanctioned by the Sedition Act and Espionage Act (see Figure 2). The BI worked with a patriotism network against domestic enemies in a public-private partnership, and used personnel and styles from the existing antilabor private agencies such as the Pinkertons during the war and postwar years. A postwar strike wave was labeled the work of Bolsheviks. J. Edgar Hoover led the antiradical division of the BI, which compiled over 200,000 cards and conducted mass arrests, jailings, and deportations. The Department of Justice worked closely with employers and countersubversive patriotic networks to target radicals.4

Overreach and scandals in the Department of Justice led to a formal bar against political surveillance in 1924, but the countersubversive network lived on at multiple levels of the state and local governments and in the private sector. The Bolshevik menace was used as justification for employers’ anti-union Open Shop drives—called an American Plan to suggest unions harbored un-American agendas—of the 1920s, which were designed to roll back unions. Employers helped to write criminal syndicalism or antisedition laws in thirty-five states that targeted radical activists. Twenty-one states passed teacher loyalty oaths between the early 1920s and 1936. More cities added Red Squads that worked with local corporations and added local ordinances that enhanced police power to take labor radicals off the streets. The business-funded American Legion grew to over a million members after World War I and often took on a militaristic position that the American Civil Liberties Union argued was more menacing than the Ku Klux Klan in respect to hunting the un-American, especially teachers. Countersubversives were instrumental in writing immigration restriction legislation that shaped the composition of the working class. Russian Jews and Italians, associated with Red allegiances, were some of their key targets for exclusion.5

Though AFL unions also bore the brunt of postwar repression, which tended to collapse all dissent, from women’s activism and labor organizing, into a sign of the Bolshevik menace, this did not move AFL officials to ally with radicals. Instead they continued to cooperate with the Justice Department to prove their bona fide Americanism, and blamed radicals for their predicament. AFL leaders William Green, Phillip Murray, Matthew Woll, and John L. Lewis took the mantle from Gompers to use authoritarian measures to ward off Communists and other radicals. The 1923 AFL convention refused to seat an elected delegate solely because he was a Communist, and denounced a labor newspaper alternative to the Associated Press as a base for subversion. Some union affiliates and state and local AFL bodies followed suit. For example, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) leaders expelled a significant percentage of its members (mostly women) who sought union democracy. The ILGWU collaborated with employers and gangsters, and built a wall against incursion by radicals into their union bylaws. But there was no other official who utilized those strategies as ruthlessly as John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers of America, who characterized his left-wing opponents as a monstrous Communist element. Even the 1922 Herrin Massacre, southern Illinois miners’ violent response to strikebreakers, was labeled the work of a secret Communist cell. Lewis resorted to purges and violence and worked with local and state police and patriotic organizations. The Bolshevik threat was used to justify undemocratic and sometimes violent means of eradicating radicals (even as they publicly suggested that workers would see the light on their own), to offer their organizations to employers as alternatives to radicalism, to disregard or rewrite union constitutions.6

Figure 2. Employers such as Wagner Electric in St. Louis labeled strikes as subversive instruments of a foreign power and connected loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the job.

Credit: Rosemary Feurer collection.

Communists, Anticommunists, and the CIO, 1920–1945

Despite their marginalized status in the 1920s, CP labor activists grew to a significant part of the labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s, and radicals of all stripes gained more influence than they ever had in the late 19th and early 20th century. In assessing how CP influence grew, traditional explanations focus on the zealotry and sacrifices that derived from organizers’ devotion to the Soviet model. Others have argued that the Popular Front moderated that zealotry and made CP labor activists into traditional trade unionists who cloaked their allegiances in order to fit in. But careful work and new archival sources have shown in detail the way the late 1920s and early 1930s prepared the groundwork for Communists to take leadership and organizing roles. They argue that Communists created a distinctive unionism that mattered to the labor movement’s direction. In addition, the AFL’s anticommunism reinforced allegiance to craft unionism and a tempered response to capitalist collapse, thereby providing openings for Communist activists in the wake of capitalist collapse.7

CP activists drew from older traditions that emphasized rank-and-file control, as well as from the CP’s mandates from Moscow. The CP worked hard to recruit Wobblies and socialists, and its immigrant base brought traditions of struggle from Europe. They worked with discontented miners who engaged in militant strikes. The Party’s break-out moment was a lengthy Passaic New Jersey textile strike in 1926, which brought this together in systematized strike committees with an emphasis on rank-and-file leadership and community support, mass picket lines, an unprecedented media and public-relations operation, a relief committee whose structure built worker-to-worker solidarity. The CP’s involvement was met with significant legal and police repression. The AFL’s United Textile union made removal of Communists from leadership a condition for support that the Party granted, after which the strike declined then failed. But the methods of the strike heralded the challenges workers presented to AFL’s failure to organize.8

In 1928, the Comintern (the Soviet-based international organization of Communist Parties) announced a “Third Period” based on Joseph Stalin’s prediction of a revolutionary crisis. Consequent CP sectarian attacks on reformists and socialists alienated many. But the mandate to build dual unions in a separate federation (Trade Union Unity League, or TUUL) where they didn’t have a base in the AFL unions allowed the mostly young radicals to develop their own concept of unionism, and it was highly democratic in comparison to the AFL.

With the urging of the Comintern, CP labor activists also sought to make their trade union practice reflect a serious challenge to racism and commitment to developing a leadership cadre. Across the next two decades, this reinforced countersubversive arguments that racial justice campaigns were a tool of Communist infiltration, the perspective rooted in the FBI since the World War I era. In the South and elsewhere, the Party’s commitment to developing leadership of African American workers brought forward elements of a Black radical tradition that connected labor rights and civil rights, unemployed and employed, while also giving rise to Klan and police repression. Interracial labor organizing was called the handiwork of “Red Russianism” as in the Gastonia, North Carolina Loray Mills strike in 1929 where it justified a massive show of force against a strike, a model repeated especially in the south in “Bloody” Harlan, Kentucky, and the west’s agribusiness companies. But fearless work in the south, especially Birmingham, brought the kind of momentum that wrested district autonomy in Alabama from John L. Lewis’s UMWA by 1935. In St. Louis, the 1933 nutpickers’ strike turned the AFL’s practices upside down, developing Black women’s leadership to a victory. After the 1933 passage of the New Deal’s National Industrial Recovery Act’s section 7a, which promised government protection for the right to organize, these dual unions had more success.9

Mass-based organizing among unemployed workers won significant support for the comprehensive social insurance bill sponsored by Minnesota US Senator Ernest Lundeen and written by the Party; this campaign brought a degree of unity between socialists, Communists, and progressive social workers, and notably won endorsements from 3,000 local unions, 5 international unions, 6 state AFL federations, and hundreds of clubs. Radicals provided the militant corps for a vibrant unemployed movement for the remainder of the Depression decade, though this activism also brought an upsurge of police work in urban Red Squads across the country.10


Some AFL leaders sought to “purge our membership of proven Red termites,” but in 1935 the UMWA’s John L. Lewis decided to ride the tide of worker uprisings by launching a campaign for industrial organization. This became the renegade Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) federation by 1938. Lewis’s anticommunist credentials ironically strengthened his bolt move to invite CP activists to organize the steel industry (end users of coal). This negotiation was facilitated by a 1935 Comintern shift toward the Popular Front, which put aside revolutionary ambitions, and directed activists to broader alliances against fascism. At least 200 CP labor organizers were brought into the new CIO as organizers, but many more leftists of all persuasions took part in the new federation. Lewis also brought in two CP members into top CIO positions as media relations and legal adviser. Amid sit-down strikes and mass picket lines, this new labor movement secured its place in history, with a reported 3.7 million members by 1937. Radicals sought to create a federation that would fight for class-wide goals in combating the power of capitalists, but the dominant perspective of CIO leadership was a corporatist moderate agenda directed toward finding social harmony, not one dedicated to radical social transformation, and the Popular Front encouraged alliances with the Democratic Party.11

CP labor activists were able to rise in unions that were independently organized from CIO leadership. These Left-led unions constituted from 20 to 30 percent of the CIO at various points across the 1930s and 1940s. Because later conspiracy portrayals distorted the meaning of “influence” and “control,” it is important to note that only 1 percent of the CIO’s membership were ever at any point members of the CP. Control referred instead to significant presence of CPers on the staff or in leadership positions and non-members on staff who willingly worked as allies, and who objected to charges that they were not independent thinkers. The United Electrical, Machine and Radio Workers (UE) was the most significant Left-led union, the third-largest CIO affiliate after World War II, with 600,000 members by 1948. The formerly independent International Union of Mine Mill and Smelter Workers (MM), which descended from the Western Federation of Miners and IWW, joined the CIO; the Fur and Leather Workers, which had survived violent and bitter attacks as an AFL affiliate where Communists were officers, found a safer harbor in the CIO. In the 1930s and early 1940s about half the membership of the United Auto Workers was represented by CP-influenced leadership. Though it started as an organizing committee under the CIO, the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) wrested full autonomy and was Left-led by the early 1940s. The International Longshoremen and Warehouse Workers (ILWU) was chartered as a result of the dramatic longshoremen’s strike in San Francisco, and challenged the old dynamics of rackets and iron-rule that had been the lot of dockworkers in the AFL-affiliate, the International Longshoremen’s Association. Other smaller CP-influenced unions organized as “catch-all,” farm equipment, office, federal and public workers, warehouse, newspaper reporters, and an array of other jurisdictions. Significantly, many of these had larger numbers of women and African Americans than did other CIO unions. Studies have confirmed that CP-influenced union constitutions were more democratic in spirit and practice than other CIO unions. They were much more likely to challenge managerial authority, and had more robust worker representation at the point of production through shop steward practices. They were more likely to address gender and race inequities, and more likely to engage in social justice in their communities. The UE developed a feminist caucus that led the union to a dialog on the intersection of race and gender issues, advancing issues without precedent in unions, such as the promotion of comparable wages for gender-segregated jobs by the 1950s. The Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Workers (FTA) created a major campaign to organize R. J. Reynolds Tobacco in North Carolina and connected labor rights and civil rights among Mexican American women nutpickers in Texas. In addition, these CP-influenced unions were part of a base of Black-white organizing around racial justice in the National Negro Congress, which sought to make the CIO part of a larger campaign against racial injustice.12

Employers and their allies worked hard to label the growth of the labor insurgency as foreign-inspired, especially after the mass strikes of 1934 that erupted in steel, longshore, textile, and auto. It was a charge that often backfired because it was lobbed too broadly, and did not gain government sanction in the midst of capitalist collapse. Across the 1930s, employers cultivated their private antiunion spies and surveillance, and much of their propaganda was centered on the red menace. A propaganda booklet cover distributed by the National Metal Trades Association (NMTA) depicted John L. Lewis with a picket sign proclaiming “Join the CIO and Help Build a Soviet America!” After the Supreme Court ruled the Wagner Act (which sanctioned the right to organize and bargain collectively) constitutional, employers conceded to AFL unions to avoid CIO unions, given that the legislation, which established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) barred company unions and investigated employers’ anti-union strategies. Some sought to suggest New Deal agencies were corrupted by Communists and the CIO.13

AFL rhetoric mimicked the hyperbole of employers. AFL Vice President Frank Duffy suggested that Communists were using the CIO and tactics like sit-down strikes to bring about a “Godless, soulless State machine.” One of the strongest voices after 1938 was that of ILGWU leader, social democrat David Dubinsky, who took his union back into the AFL due to the CIO’s tolerance of Communists. Dubinsky’s network would gradually build a source for anticommunist operatives who worked with the state department and CIA. The ILGWU was part of a factional politics that led former socialists and social democrats to become some of the most fervent anticommunists and advocates of authoritarian measures to rid the union movement of Communists.14

When asked how he could allow Communists in the CIO, Lewis famously quipped, “Who gets the bird? The hunter or the dog?” Indeed, top CIO officials structured the affiliates they established, such as the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), so that they held firm control. Though all CIO unions barred discrimination on the basis of political beliefs, from the beginning some CIO officials sought to set boundaries; others red-baited and banned. SWOC Chairman Phillip Murray fired most of the CP organizers by 1939 and had fully completed the purge by 1942 when it became the United Steelworkers of America. Sidney Hillman, in charge of the CIO’s Textile Workers Organizing Committee, purged Communist organizers by 1938. In less controlled affiliates, the top leadership intervened when they could. When a factional battle led to an opportunity for the newly organized United Auto Workers to elect Communist Wyndham Mortimer as President of the union, CIO officials made a deal with the CP officers who convinced Mortimer not to run. When the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) requested funds for organizing, the CIO imposed anticommunist Adolph Germer as director of organizing in exchange for loans. Germer blocked the Left and hired the Right, which prevailed. But this obsession with routing the Left meant that the union failed to begin organizing 300,000 Southern woodworkers, where half the workers in the industry were located and where in many areas the majority were African Americans who could have provided a base for CIO expansion. Germer behaved similarly in his position as West Coast director of the CIO, viewing rank-and-file militants a base point for Communist opportunity.15


Meanwhile a new federal legitimacy for Red-hunting got underway in the mid-1930s. J. Edgar Hoover gained secret authorization for political surveillance from President Roosevelt in 1936. That authority was expanded in 1939 to include targeting those who produced “class hatreds” propaganda, a goal of the countersubversive reactionaries since World War I. Hoover spread the charge that unions were uniquely positioned for subversion through strategic strikes or sabotage of vital industries. The CIO’s longshoremen, miners and Newspaper Guild were among the first unions he flagged for their ability to paralyze the nation. He began to consolidate the FBI role over the surveillance function of labor unions in this era, reigning in private vigilantism to guard his authority. Over the next ten years he secured liberals for his agenda. The FBI used wiretapping in violation of the law, and began to train police forces in its use. Though it was illegal to use in court cases, Hoover shared information with employers, Congress, and rival unions, though ultimately he deployed it more fully in the postwar era.16

In 1938 employers and the AFL welcomed the Special House Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities (HUAC) chaired by antilabor Texas Democrat, Congressman Martin Dies. HUAC held hearings on labor unions and suggested New Deal agencies including the NLRB were riddled with Communists. The AFL gave full cooperation; the source of much of its exaggerated or misleading information was from William Frey of the AFL Metal Trades Department. A new Congressional caucus targeted agencies that included liberals who flirted with Communists. The Dies committee contributed to passage in 1941 of the Alien Registration Act (Smith Act, after Howard W. Smith, a Democrat and leader of an emerging anti-labor caucus in Congress). It required noncitizens to register and be fingerprinted, and criminalized attempts to “advocate, abet, advise, or teach” violent overthrow of the United States. One specific target of the legislation was Harry Bridges, the head of the ILWU, targeted by employers since his leadership of the 1934 San Francisco general strike. The first prosecution under the Act was against the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Minneapolis’ AFL Teamsters local. The FBI placed agents in the local at least a year before the Smith Act passed; these agents were then active in building the conservative opposition which cooperated with the FBI. Using the conspiracy model familiar from Haymarket, the trial was based largely on possession of Marxist literature and the defendant’s rhetoric. There was no proof of any plan to overthrow the government, but SWP leaders were convicted and sent to prison. The HUAC hearings also spurred passage of the 1939 Hatch Act, intended to stymie political mobilization against conservatives by federal workers and their union. It initiated loyalty hearings using a secret Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations, which would come into open and fuller use after World War II.17

Most treatments of what some call this “little red scare” consider it a reactionary countermovement to the New Deal labor insurgency. A more complex view emerges when we also see it as a time when liberals and even socialists began to formulate frameworks to justify Red-baiting, even as other liberals adhered to the Popular Front. In no other sector was this more apparent than with teachers. By 1936 well-financed groups targeted teachers, and found that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a small AFL union at the time, would not defend their civil liberties. Liberals joined in to call for firing members of the Left-led faction of the New York teachers union. John Dewey, noted education philosopher and democracy theorist, argued beginning in 1932 that teachers could be fired for their affiliation because Communists uniquely practiced “bad faith.” Bad faith meant refusing to disclose their true intent, which was both to indoctrinate students and hijack the teachers union, implant a class perspective in their communities and become an instrument of the Party and Soviet Union. The only evidence needed for “bad faith” was membership in the CP. It did not matter if a teacher did not reveal membership because she feared being fired or if the precipitating evidence for suspecting CP membership was dissent from the union leadership. From 1940 to 1942, Dewey’s argument was used by New York’s Rapp-Courdert Committee, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, which held hearings that interrogated, threatened and fired teachers using methods associated with the worst of McCarthyism. Dewey’s argument was similar to the FBI concept of the CP’s Aesopian language during the Cold War era—the idea that like Aesop’s Fables all Communists used coded words to mask their true purpose, thus enabling Party membership rather than acts to show them to be conspirators, or to target them and their allies. By the late 1930s, countersubversives found another line of attack that persuaded some liberals and labor activists: they argued that fascism, Nazism, and communism were similar kinds of totalitarianisms. Unions passed resolutions barring “isms” from their unions. This was a pathway to strip ideological class perspectives as a legitimate way of interpreting American life. Ironically, it was sometimes socialists in labor who promoted this perspective in their factional backlash against Communists. Such was the way that countersubversive politics worked.18

The CP contributed to creating distrust among workers, erstwhile allies, or anticommunist activists. The fact that most CP trade unionists kept their membership secret seemed a strong case against them to many rank-and-file workers, though it should be noted that the Party sought to encourage CPers to go public. More important was the constant ignoring or excusing the crimes of Stalin, and conformity with the perspectives of the Soviet Union that became the grist through which criticisms gained traction and many abandoned the Party, and the yeast for the growth of anticommunist attacks. This became particularly acute when the Party shifted with the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in August 1939, and suddenly opposed war as imperialist. To list just one example, noted former socialist and head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Philip Randolph, resigned from the National Negro Congress for tolerating Communists in 1940 and thereafter excluded Communists from the March on Washington Movement.19

In 1941 the Soviet Union realigned with US foreign policy after Nazis invaded, and the CP shifted to a Win-the-War stance. It should be noted that most workers in CP-influenced unions did not see the effects of these shifts in their experience, and most studies have shown that the CP-influenced unions came out of the war era with a membership that held high allegiance. During the war, CPers rose to leadership roles in major city central bodies of the CIO. They contributed to the rise of a full employment campaign and other social democratic policies and shaped the goals of the CIO Political Action Committee (see Figure 3). At least on the surface it appeared they were a legitimate part of the CIO. But beneath the surface tension continued. Sidney Hillman, who appointed CIO labor representatives to key government boards, excluded the Left-led unions from influencing policy, thereby sacrificing some of his own creative initiatives for worker-led planning. The CIO announced loudly they wanted no advice or participation from the Left in their drive to organize the South. The CIO appointees to this campaign were often those who were right-wing, racist, or not even capable organizers, but passed the political bar.20

Figure 3. This message, that CIO politics was driven by Communists, was used in response to the strong 1944 CIO Political Action effort.

Labor and the Cold War, 1945–1965

As the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union gave way to hostility and the onset of a Cold War, labor became a prime target domestically. Truman’s Executive Order 9835 in March 1947, creating loyalty boards for government workers, including postal clerks and janitors, set the tone that connected the Truman Doctrine abroad to security threats at home. Workers had no right to face their accuser, or to even know what prompted investigations, which made membership, reading materials and associations the focus. Over 5 million workers were investigated from 1947 to 1956, some relentlessly, and while only a fraction were dismissed or resigned, the effect was significant. State, local, and private organizations used the executive order as models. When Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1951 accused Truman of clearing too many workers, Truman lowered the evidence needed to dismiss. Such was the way that the collapsing and Red-baiting spiral worked, even for those who proclaimed they were principled anticommunists. Employers in defense and shipping industries coordinated with the government agents designed to help right-wing unions prevail over the left.21

The FBI was at the center of prosecuting the case against labor in the postwar. In 1945 Hoover sent a memo to the White House arguing that the CIO was dominated by a Soviet spy ring. He soon charged that Communists caused the 1946 wave of postwar strikes and were central to efforts to prevent anti-labor legislation. In 1947 testimony to Congress he warned that Communists had “outmaneuvered” the CIO through devious methods. Hoover cultivated media contacts and worked with antilabor spies and 62,000 American Legion contacts. Nothing like the post–World War I dragnets occurred, however, and Hoover’s precision—to target mainly those in the CP orbit—ultimately gained liberals and socialists effective consent to the project. Hoover began meeting with some labor anticommunists to quietly assist providing and gathering intelligence. James Carey, deposed UE President and Secretary-Treasurer of CIO enlisted FBI assistance in his work with right-wing UE faction beginning in 1943.22

For the most part in this red scare the role of disciplining workers and the labor movement was undertaken by government in a public-private partnership, but one can see business’ hand clearly. The NAM and Chamber of Commerce (CC) began a costly mass propaganda campaign in 1945 to save “free enterprise” against the encroachments of socialism and communism, which they connected to the campaign by the CIO for full employment and price controls. The campaign remained in full force in the 1950s. Business called into question all class-based demands as undermining the American way. The CC also established a permanent committee on socialism and communism and published, for example, a guide to Community Anticommunist Action, which advised on how to create local filing systems for detection. The message was clear: the subversion of the labor movement could be detected through associations, policies, and strikes.23

Figure 4. Newspapers published these kinds of cartoons during Congressional hearings, to emphasize that strikes harbored dangerous foreign insinuations into domestic affairs.

Credit: Feurer collection.

Taft-Hartley and 9(h)

The Congressional elections of 1946 resulted in a conservative Republican majority, and this ramped up efforts to use anticommunism to justify the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which was designed to restrict unions legally, especially regarding mass strikes and other instruments of solidarity, and to make it more difficult to organize the South. The kick-off occurred when Allis-Chalmers management in Milwaukee refused to settle a 1946 strike, then worked in league with the FBI, House Education and Labor Committee (HELC) and HUAC to charge that Communist leadership fomented “political strikes”—conspiracies holding grave danger to national security. While a strike might seem to be about wages, beneath the surface Communists sought to use workers for their own ends. The local and national press took up the claim as did liberals such as Truman aide Clark Clifford. HUAC hearings were designed to goad leaders to deny CP membership, triggering prosecutions meant to showcase them as conspirators (see Figure 4). During these hearings management advocated a provision that became Section 9(h) of Taft-Hartley, the requirement for union officials to file affidavits swearing they were not Communists or under the influence of Communists in order to avail their union and union members of the protections of the NLRB. Those unions that did not comply fully (every officer signing) would not be on the ballot for a union election so workers would have to vote for “no union” to vote for a noncompliant union. But just as critical, they couldn’t file charges against companies engaging in illegal behavior against a union in organizing or negotiations.24

Taft-Hartley’s 9(h) set the course for targeting the Left leadership and taming the labor movement. The enticement of a new weapon in the hands of Red-baiters gradually led to the entire Act’s acceptance. While there were initial loud objections to complying with the affidavits from all corners, this quickly faded (see Figure 5). First, the AFL leadership seized the opportunity to organize in new sectors. Employers took advantage of non-compliant unions to engage in illegal behavior. UAW President Walter Reuther, seeing an opportunity to consolidate his power from dissenters in his union, used AFL potential to raid as an excuse to mandate signing and to fire organizers and expel locals officials who refused. This allowed him to consolidate his authority in the CIO as well, and from that time forward he was a leading voice for purging Communists. Given that his base was also filled with liberals and former socialists this brought wider consent to something liberals had initially found abhorrent. The UAW started to raid the CIO Farm Equipment (FE) steadily and then targeted the UE by early 1948.25

Figure 5. David Dubinsky speaks at a CIO rally against the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Anticommunism helped Dubinsky and much of the labor movement accommodate to the abridgement of workers’ rights incorporated into the bill in the mid-twentieth century.

Credit: Cornell University, Kheel center FLICKR.

The Purge

As the CIO moved right on foreign policy issues, goaded by their tightening relationship with the US state, the CP-influenced unions became more strident, goaded by apocalyptic visions of the Cold War and directives from the Comintern. The CIO from 1945 to 1947 had advocated for peaceful relations with the Soviet Union through the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which included Communist representatives. Meanwhile the AFL Dubinsky network helped to hobble that federation through secret meddling abroad, starting in Italy and France. The CP unions had objected to the Marshall Plan on the grounds that it was a plan for capitalist dominance and conquering socialist alternatives for planning. In order to gain CIO support for the Marshall Plan, Truman vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act even though he privately supported it, confident that Congress would override his veto. As the Left-led unions saw the CIO moving toward the administration they pushed support for Henry Wallace, Progressive Party candidate and strong opponent to the Truman Cold War policies. In the end, after barred from doing so by CIO resolutions, only five unions officially supported Wallace. CIO President Phillip Murray took to reading the Party’s Daily Worker, interpreting its articles as signaling a plan to take over the CIO. Only recently a large number of CIO leaders had favored a Labor Party; now it was a plot, as Reuther explained, to create chaos in order to bring a revolution. Murray strengthened his alliance with the small but zealous group, the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists. From 1948 to 1949 CIO leadership clandestinely funded the right-wing internal challengers to the UE through funds transmitted through ACTU, whose leader Father Charles O. Rice was Murray’s confessor. Just as with the earlier AFL, a tiny group of activist priests had created labor schools to teach how to disrupt Left-led union meetings to create anticommunist sentiments. But Murray was even excusing outright raiding that combined race-baiting and Red-baiting, with the worst example being the CIO steelworkers raid of CP-influenced Mine Mill–CIO union with Ku Klux Klan support in Birmingham, Alabama. Meanwhile, AFL work in Western Europe became linked to the newly operational Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). By late 1949 the CIO had joined the AFL in a new global federation that sought to isolate Communists, just as the CIO leadership set out to purge them domestically.

Finally, after Truman won the election, Murray moved decisively. In the run-up to the purge, two CIO leaders renounced the CP, creating a sense of momentum for the anticommunists. CIO leadership targeted eleven member unions who together had almost one million members, over 20 percent of the CIO. There was no attempt to prove the unions were a national security threat. They sought to show Soviet influence through resolutions and articles in the union newspapers. The outcome of the trials was preordained—the hearing officers and prosecutors were anticommunists. The UPWA evaded the charges by signing the affidavits and firing or expelling CP organizers and union officials. The Furniture Workers did the same after getting expelled and were consequently readmitted to the CIO.26

The CIO set up new competing unions and hoped workers would simply join these so that they would recoup the members. But that did not happen, and instead a harassment campaign dragged on, led by the government, a compliant press, and the court system. One scholar has suggested that the UE endured the “most sustained barrage against a labor organization since the Wilson administration’s attack on the IWW.” Similar coordinated campaigns were launched on the ILWU and MM, and the FE. HUAC and HELC held hearings, over 100 total from 1947 to 1960, that were launched when the unions went on strike, were in an organizing drive, or before their conventions. Companies began to fired anyone who refused to cooperate with government investigations, so government committees they sought to provoke union leaders into taking the Fifth Amendment to provoke their dismissal from their job. This caused unions to expend resources in long efforts gain reinstatement for fired workers and union officials. When persecuted Left-led union officials agreed to sign the NLRB affidavits, they faced long years of indictments for perjury when they did so, in an NLRB-Justice Department coordinated attack. By 1954 Congress passed the Communist Control Act which authorized the Subversive Activities Control Board to register labor unions as infiltrated; this excluded their use from the NLRB even if they signed the affidavits. The IRS harassed these union officials with tax audits. The government threatened to withhold military or nuclear energy contracts if workers did not switch. The ILWU was ousted from some ports through the US Port Security Program, designed to bar its members from security clearances in order to install a conservative union. Red Squads worked in league with local FBI offices to follow unionists to their jobs and then continue to pursue them after they were fired due to FBI alerts to employers. By 1960, the UE had been whittled to 90,000 members and the battles with the IUE had cost workers power to challenge both the large industrialists, GE and Westinghouse, and the small. The ILWU also survived, but most of the others merged or agreed to be absorbed into existing unions. Even so, the harassment continued even after all the CP members were removed from office.27

By the time the CIO merged with the AFL in 1955, the path toward their convergence was cleared by anticommunism. Strident anticommunists remained the dominant force for the AFL-CIO’s secret foreign policy, whose goal was to prevent uprisings that they saw as potentially friendly to the WFTU. AFL-CIO operatives carried out coups in collaboration with the State Department and the CIA. As with Gompers and the NCF earlier in the century, they collaborated with anti-union employers and investors assisting in organizing US style and US-friendly unions. They trained workers to launch strikes and other disruptions in order to bring down governments, for example in Guyana and Chile, and thus reinforced US foreign policy in undemocratic regimes. Anticommunism led AFL-CIO President George Meany to a hawkish position in the Vietnam War and an antagonistic position to the 1960s social movements critical of US foreign policy. Even Father Rice bemoaned his overzealous purge efforts, calling the AFL-CIO he had helped to bring about “a lackey of militarism.” It was not until the 1990s that worker opposition dismantled the strong relationship between the AFL-CIO and militarism.28

Anticommunism in these institutions stifled voices critical of capitalism. Former socialist Walter Reuther, for example, proclaimed his belief in “free enterprise” and regretted his association with socialism to advocate more defense spending. Countersubversives had always sought to make radical dissent into disloyalty, and this indeed was the end result even though so many liberals proclaimed the expulsions would allow progressive alternatives to flourish. Reuther found McCarthyism an easy way to stifle dissent to his leadership and policies. When HUAC investigated a local that had no Communist leadership, Reuther used the opportunity to remove his opponents. Only when the damage had succeeded did he begin to reverse his position on HUAC. This mindset, which associated dissent to union leadership with Communism (as had John Dewey), lasted well past the days of McCarthy, and structured the UAW’s reception to 1960s Black militancy.29

The purges gutted the efforts of the Left-led unions to connect unionism to campaigns against race and gender inequity. The expelled unions typically had far more advanced programs on race and gender inequity than those that remained. One such example can be seen in the pamphlet, UE Fights for Women Workers, written in 1952 by Betty Friedan. A distillation of the UE women’s caucus positions, the pamphlet presents the intersection of gender, race, and class discrimination through corporate power structures and advocates a campaign to address them. The UE’s expulsion led to Friedan being dismissed; she refused to acknowledge this part of her history after she became a leading feminist. The Distributive, Processing, and Office Workers “catch-all” union, composed of Black, white radicals at low paid work sought to set up a third federation because they felt that the CIO’s purges marked the end of attention to those at the bottom of the labor hierarchy.30

Discussion of the Literature

Early interpretations of labor anticommunism focused on the rise of CP influence on the CIO, and interpreted the CIO’s expulsions as a triumph of democracy over conspiracy. They tended to point to the shifts in the CP line as evidence that Communist trade unionists were nothing more than a front for Moscow’s influence in the CIO, and argued that the CP sacrificed workers interests to the Soviet agenda.31

Revisionists beginning in the 1970s challenged this assumption through a social history approach to these unions and the labor anticommunism issue. They were more critical of the purges. Still others eschewed a political perspective when they constructed their histories from the bottom-up. Some argued that the political perspectives of radicals had little meaning for trade union policies.32

Other historians have traced distinctive radical tradition in the Communist-influenced unions especially on race and gender issues and shop floor behavior. Robin Kelley’s Alabama Communists during the Great Depression found that the Party and its global allegiances elevated a Black radical tradition in unemployed and labor struggles of the early 1930s. Kelley argued that Black activists were using the Party as much as being used. Others asserted that these unions were more democratic than the other CIO unions. The key summary of these findings is in Judith Stepan-Norris and Maurice Zeitlin’s Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions (2002) but a raft of individual studies of unions offered more evidence that politics of the leadership mattered. More recently, Michael Goldfield has asserted that exclusion of Communists was the key to the CIO’s failure to organize the South. Most of these new works argued that CP labor activists were both blinded by their allegiance to the Soviet Union and inheritors of a radical tradition of labor struggle. They also presented a great deal of evidence to show when and how labor and unemployed movement activists ignored or modified CP’s commands on policy to suit their daily effort.33

Traditionalists objected to the methods and conclusions of this scholarship because they felt that it diverted attention from what they see as the core issue, that the CP-influenced unions were part of a treacherous global orbit around Stalin. This argument gained new adherents after the post–Cold War Venona decrypts revealed the Soviet role in funding of and recruiting spies through the CP. Jennifer Delton argued that the CIO made the correct choice to purge the CP unions because it safeguarded the CIO and the New Deal order.34

Focusing on the Red-hunters has offered new insights. Historians for example have debated whether anticommunism was a grassroots irrational hysteria or elite-driven phenomenon. Some others see political repression as more of a product of wartime “hysteria,” making Cold War labor anticommunism one of these “episodes.” Robert Justin Goldstein’s Political Repression in Modern America (1978) was among the first that connected Cold War labor repression to a longer countersubversive tradition, focusing on government’s role. Michael Rogin’s Ronald Reagan: The Movie (1987) added more theoretical perspective by situating American political demonology as the product of broader forces, public and private, tracing it from settler colonialism to labor upheavals of the late 19th century up through the Reagan era. Most importantly, he argued that it was not just a reactionary tradition, but was also part of a liberal reflex to purify the landscape of disorder and chaos. The countersubversive imagination “split the world in two, attributing magical, pervasive power to a conspiratorial center of evil,” interpreting “local initiatives as signs of alien power.” Ellen Schrecker’s study of McCarthyism showed that the power of Cold War era political repression had much to do with preexisting and diverse countersubversive networks, tracing them back a couple of decades. But she argued that the decisive factor in the mid-20th century was the FBI and government leadership. The exact role and relationship between the private and public sphere is still debated, and more subsequent studies have filled in a great deal of information about various organizations and their perspectives. Jennifer Luff’s Commonsense Anticommunism has sought to elevate the role of the AFL in the course of anticommunism, to show that it came from experience rather than the conspiracy-oriented version. In contrast, Nick Fischer’s Spider Web reinforces Rogin’s argument that these kind of nuances mattered little, and that the AFL was not the major player in producing the countersubversive agenda, but rather succumbed to the paranoid splitting that Rogin sees as essential to the tradition.35

Primary Sources

A starting point for the study of labor and the Communist Party USA is the 326 reels of microfilm records obtained from the Soviet Union after its demise, and now held at the Library of Congress. These are organized by geographical district and topic. They cover the period from 1920s to 1940s, but mostly from 1925 to 1935. They are available through interlibrary loan, with a finding aid to facilitate ordering. The International Computerization of the Comintern Archive project (Incomka) has been digitizing some of collections of the Comintern archive. The Tamiment Library and Wagner Labor Archives holds additional collections concerning communism and labor. The Communist Party’s newspaper is digitized and other related materials on the left and repression are available at the Marxist Internet Archive.

Virtually all archives of AFL and the CIO unions are valuable sources for understanding labor and anticommunism. The UE Archives are the most extensive and detailed of the Left-led union archives. Labor records that are available across the country are described at the Society of American Archivists list, which is regularly updated. Many collections have been microfilmed by Proquest and are available through interlibrary loan. Researchers need to start with the microfilm finding aid reel or booklet in order to request additional microfilm reels. These collections are also being transferred digitally as History Vault, such as the AFL papers, Samuel Gompers Papers, Adolph Germer Papers. Another valuable remote source is the Kheel Center which has a long list of microfilm material that can be accessed remotely. Additional materials are listed at

Government and microfilm records hold promise for research. Most business records have not been deposited into archives. The records of the Pinkerton Agency have recently been updated and are at the Library of Congress, but most of the labor content was cleaned. Extensive documentation of anti-labor private agencies in the 1930s and 1940s are in the National Archives, including the National Labor Relations Board Records and Records of the United States Senate, especially the Senate Civil Liberties committee records which for example contain materials about the activities of the National Metal Trades Council and NAM during the 1930s. FBI materials are available through FOIA request. Some digitized files, though not many labor union or Communist Party materials are available at the FBI’s history vault. Ernie Lazar’s collection of right wing and FBI materials is deposited on the Internet Archive. There are some FBI files in microfilm collections and in History Vault. HUAC materials that are now available through Internet Archive and Hathi Trust. The earlier Dies committee is also available.

Further Reading

  • Cherny, Robert, William Issel, and Kieran Walsh Taylor. American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.
  • Devinatz, Victor G. “A Reevaluation of the Trade Union Unity League, 1929–1934.” Science & Society 71, no. 1 (2007): 33–58.
  • Feffer, Andrew. Bad Faith: Teachers, Liberalism, and the Origins of McCarthyism. New York: Fordham University Press, 2019.
  • Feurer, Rosemary. Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900–1950. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
  • Filippelli, Ronald L., and Mark D. McColloch. Cold War in the Working Class: The Rise and Decline of the United Electrical Workers. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.
  • Fischer, Nick. Spider Web: The Birth of American Anticommunism. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2016.
  • Gilpin, Toni. The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020.
  • Goldfield, Michael. The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s. New York: Oxford, 2020.
  • Goldstein, Robert Justin, ed. Little Red Scares: Anticommunism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921–1946. Surrey: Ashgate, 2014.
  • Kelley, Robin D. G. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  • Korstad, Robert. Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for American Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Levenstein, Harvey. Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.
  • Meyer, Stephen. Stalin Over Wisconsin: The Rise and Fall of Militant Unionism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
  • Phillips, Lisa. A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  • Rosswurm, Steve, ed. The CIO’s Left-Led Unions. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
  • Stepan-Norris, Judith, and Maurice Zeitlin. Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Storch, Randi. Red Chicago: American Communism at Its Grassroots, 1928–1935. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
  • Stromquist, Shelton, ed. Labor’s Cold War: Local Politics in a Global Context. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
  • Zumoff, Jacob A. The Red Thread: The Passaic Textile Strike. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2021.


  • 1. Michael Mark Cohen, The Conspiracy of Capital: Law, Violence, and American Popular Radicalism in the Age of Monopoly (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2019); and Allan Pinkerton, Strikers, Communists, Tramps, and Detectives (New York: Carleton, 1878).

  • 2. James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (New York: Random House, 2006); and Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990).

  • 3. John Laslett, Labor and the Left: A Study of Socialist and Radical Influences in the American Labor Movement, 1881–1924 (New York: Basic Books, 1970); Julie Greene, Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881–1917 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Robin Archer, Why Is there No Labor Party in the United States? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007); Jennifer Luff, Commonsense Anticommunism: Labor and Civil Liberties Between the World Wars (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); and Marc Karson, American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900–1918 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958), 213.

  • 4. Charles McCormick, Seeing Reds: Federal Surveillance of Radicals in the Pittsburgh Mill District, 1917–1921 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003); and Nick Fischer, Spider Web: The Birth of American Anticommunism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

  • 5. Chad Pearson, “Fighting the “Red Danger:” Employers and Anti-Communism,” in Little “Red Scares”: Anti-Communism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921–1946, ed. Robert Justin Goldstein (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014); and Athan Theoharis essay in the same volume. The FBI continued to quietly monitor labor radicals through secret directives, which mattered greatly in its 1930s revival of anticommunism. Jennifer Uhlman, “The Communist Civil Rights Movement: Legal Activism in the United States, 1919–1946,” University of California Los Angeles PhD Dissertation, 2007, 21; and Fischer, Spider Web; Timothy Reese Cain, “Little Red Schoolhouses? Anti-Communists and Education in an ‘Age of Conflicts,’” Little Red Scares, 108.

  • 6. David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Markku Ruotsila, “Leftward Ramparts: Labor and Anticommunism between the World Wars,” in Little Red Scares; Victor G. Devinatz, “David Dubinsky, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Limits of Social Democratic Trade Unionism,” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 22 (2010): 67–78; Annelise Orleck, Common Sense and A Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States,1900–1965 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 183; and Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren Van Tine, John L. Lewis: A History (New York: Quadrangle Press, 1977).

  • 7. Rosemary Feurer, Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900–1950 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006), Introduction, chs. 1–2.

  • 8. Jacob Zumoff, The Red Thread: The Passaic Textile Strike (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2021).

  • 9. Glenda Gilmore, Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008); Randy Storch, Red Chicago: American History at the Grassroots, 1928–1935 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Rosemary Feurer, “The Nutpickers’ Union, 1933–1934: Crossing the Boundaries of Community and Workplace,” in We are All Leaders: the Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s, ed. Staughton Lynd (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996); Robin D. G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Victor G. Devinatz, “A Reevaluation of the Trade Union Unity League, 1929–1934,” Science & Society 71, no. 1 (2007): 33–58; and M. J. Heale, “Citizens versus Outsiders: Anti-Communism at State and Local Levels, 1921–1946,” in Little Red Scares, ch 3.

  • 10. Albert Prago, “The Organization of the Unemployed and the Role of the Radicals, 1929–1935” (Union Graduate School Unpublished Dissertation, 1976), 248; and James J. Lorence, The Unemployed People’s Movement: Leftists, Liberals and Labor in Georgia, 1929–1941 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009).

  • 11. Quote in Philip Taft, Labor Politics American Style (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 101; and Harvey Levenstein, Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981).

  • 12. Judith Stepan-Norris and Maurice Zeitlin, Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 52; Lisa Phillips, A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2012); and Robert Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for American Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

  • 13. Rosemary Feurer, “The Strange Career of A. A. Ahner,” in Against Labor: How Employers Organized to Defeat Labor, ed. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2017); and Robert H. Zieger, The CIO 1935–1955 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

  • 14. Ruotsila, “Leftward Ramparts,” in Little Red Scares; Levenstein, Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO.

  • 15. Zieger, The CIO, 254; Jerry Lembcke and William M. Tattam, One Union in Wood: A Political History of the International Woodworkers of America (Vancouver: Harbour Publishing Company, 1984); and Michael Goldfield, The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), ch. 5.

  • 16. Kenneth O’Reilly, Hoover and the Un-Americans: The FBI, HUAC, and the Red Menace (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983); and Harvey Levenstein, Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981).

  • 17. Landon R. Y. Storrs, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013); and Dolores Janiewski, “Through a Glass, Darkly: The NLRB, Employer Counteroffensives, Investigative Committees, and the CIO,” in Against Labor; Donna T. Haverty-Stacke, Trotskyists on Trial: Free Speech and Political Persecution Since the Age of FDR (New York: New York University Press, 2015).

  • 18. Andrew Feffer, Bad Faith: Teachers, Liberalism, and the Origins of McCarthyism (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019); and Alex Goodall, Loyalty and Liberty: American Countersubversion from World War I to the McCarthy Era (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2013). Sidney Hook’s use of Dewey’s argument for liberal vigilantism is “Heresy, Yes—Conspiracy, No,” New York Times Magazine, July 9, 1950.

  • 19. Feurer, Radical Unionism, ch. 4; Erik S. Gellman, Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); and Eric Arnesen, “No ‘Graver Danger’: Black Anticommunism, the Communist Party, and the Race Question,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 3, no. 4 (2006): 13–52.

  • 20. Rosemary Feurer, “Labor’s Community-Based Campaigns for Economic and Environmental Planning, and Cold War Politics,” in Labor’s Cold War: Local Politics in a Global Context, ed. Shelton Stromquist (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008); and Goldfield, The Southern Key, ch. 6.

  • 21. Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 209; and Storrs, Second Red Scare, 289–292.

  • 22. Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes, ch. 6; Ronald L. Filippelli and Mark D. McColloch, Cold War in the Working Class: The Rise and Decline of the United Electrical Workers (New York: SUNY Press, 1994).

  • 23. Howell John Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982); Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–1960 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995), ch.2; and David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman & Eisenhower (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 350.

  • 24. Stephen Meyer, “Stalin Over Wisconsin”: The Rise and Fall of Militant Unionism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992); and Schrecker, Many are the Crimes, ch. 8.

  • 25. Kevin Boyle, The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), ch. 1. Zieger, The CIO, ch. 8.

  • 26. Ronald L. Filipelli, American Labor and Postwar Italy, 1943–1953: A Study of Cold War Politics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989); Ronald L. Filippelli and Mark McColloch, Cold War in the Working Class, ch. 5; and Zieger, The CIO, ch. 9.

  • 27. Cochran, Labor and Communism, 292; and Shrecker, Many Are The Crimes, ch. 9.

  • 28. Ted Morgan, A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone—Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster (New York: Random House, 1999); Jeff Schuhrke, “‘Comradely Brainwashing’: International Development, Labor Education, and Industrial Relations in the Cold War,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History 16, no. 3 (2019): 39–67; and Charles McCollester, ed., Fighter with A Heart: Writings of Charles Owen Rice, Pittsburgh Labor Priest (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), 169.

  • 29. Boyle, The UAW, 80–81.

  • 30. Toni Gilpin, The Long Deep Grudge, Part III; Daniel Horowitz, Betty Friedan and the Making of “The Feminine Mystique”: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). The pamphlet is available digitally. Phillips, A Renegade Union, ch. 5.

  • 31. Max Kampelman, The Communist Party vs. The CIO (New York: Praeger, 1957); and Bert Cochran, Labor and Communism: The Conflict That Shaped American Unions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978).

  • 32. For example, Vicky Ruiz’s Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930–1950 (Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 1987) and Ronald Schatz, The Electrical Workers: A History of Labor at General Electric and Westinghouse, 1923–60 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983); and Filipelli and McCulloch, Cold War in the Working Class; Levenstein, Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO.

  • 33. Judith Stepan-Norris and Maurice Zeitlin, Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Goldfield, The Southern Key; see Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015) for an alternative view. There is evidence from Feurer, Radical Unionism; Phillips, Renegade Union; and Gilpin, Long Deep Grudge that an entirely different style of organizing the South was available to the CIO. This was roundly rejected in Operation Dixie.

  • 34. Robert Zieger, The CIO; Jennifer A. Delton, Rethinking the 1950s: How Anticommunism and the Cold War Made America Liberal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

  • 35. Robert Justin Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America: From 1870 to the Present (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1978); Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie, and Other Episodes of Political Demonology (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987); Schrecker, Many are the Crimes, chs. 8 and 9; Fischer, Spider Web; and Luff, Commonsense Anticommunism.