INTERVIEW WITH ARTHUR KINOY
INTERVIEWER: Roll 10113, twelfth of February, interview with Arthur Kinoy. Now can you tell me how far do you think the whole 'red scare' was the result of politicians making capital out of fear?
ARTHUR KINOY: That's something that... the fact that the 'red scare' was used to achieve the objectives of not only the politicians, but of the major corporate owners. And what happened - and I was living through it just at that time, I'd just gotten out of World War Two as a soldier and I was going into law school - and what was happening all over the country was that the folks who had gotten out of the army and gone back to work in the factories and having gone through what three years, four years of fighting against Fascism, they had decided that the moment had come when they were entitled to higher wages. So they organised into unions and started to demand higher wages. And the industrial owners of the big companies were furious. And they decided, they'd gotten together with the politicians that they were very close to - close is a bad word - to the politicians whom they owned by giving them large amounts of money, and decided that what they were going to do was use - this was right after the War was over - to use this whole question of the fear of Russia and the Communists as the excuse for smashing down on our own trade unions. And what they said - and I'll never forget it, because one of the first things that I was doing as a young lawyer, I was working for the United Electrical Workers and James Matless, who was one of the top organisers of the UE came into us one day when we were working on getting some material together for a fight against corporations who were attacking our people, and he said, look you must never forget one thing, I've just heard, he said, the President of General Electric - General Electric was one of the biggest of the corporations in the country - the President of General Electric, Wilson, had just said to his Board of Governors that what we must understand now is that we have two enemies, the enemy abroad is Russia and the enemy at home is labour. And from that, they developed the whole conscious use of the 'red scare', of saying that the trade unions and most of the trade unions then were very progressive unions and were really fighting for the rights of their people, that they were really what - and it just blew our minds when they started to say this - they were Soviet agents and that therefore, they had to be smashed.
INT: Now what sort of group... what... Can we stop.
INT: OK, so you described to me the attacks on labour, yeah, by the capitalists. Who would you describe as the lobbyists, the political lobbyists who were forming a sort of coalition to attack the left in America?
AK: Well, there were a number of people whom the industrial power structure had paid to work for them and some of them were working in the newspapers, some of them were working in the radio, to begin to develop this whole approach, which said that - oh it was very simple - everyone who was taking a position against any of the policies of the then Truman administration and the policies of the industrialists were Russian agents. And then after a while, they didn't have to have a long discussion about this with people, there was a little word they used, Commie. And if they put the word Commie on someone, that meant that that person was an agent of the Soviets, that meant that that person was dangerous and had to be done away with. And they started using this with our trade union organisers and regular folks who lived down in the villages and in the towns and worked in the plants and if they were very active in starting to organise a local union in their plant, then I as a young lawyer, I would get a call at night, two in the morning, and what was it? The representative of the McCarthy Committee or the representatives of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, had knocked on their door with what? A subpoena, that they were to appear in two days before the Committee to answer why they were acting as Commies, why they were subversives. And, of course, the folks were frightened to death at that, because if they were labelled as Commies or subversives, that meant the next morning they would be thrown out of the plant, they'd be out of work. But then it began to spread far beyond our folks in the unions. It spread to teachers, to people who were talking, working with young people in the schools and, well, a very interesting thing happened for the first time, encouraged by the experience of the trade unionists, teachers had got together and decided they had a right to organise into unions and that was the moment they were hit, very hard. And if you were a teacher and you were subpoenaed o appear before one of the Committees, then you lost your job, right away. Then it moved over to... I'll never forget, we were just functioning as very young lawyers in those days and we were representing a number of writers and actors and actresses and negotiating their contracts. It was wonderful for us, 'cos we always got ten per cent of their, you know, contracts and then, one day, I'll never forget this, one of the leading union writers, whose name goes down in our history today, he is still around as one of the most powerful, brilliant playwrights, Arthur Miller, well he was very young then, I'll never forget, he called me up, he said, Arthur, you don't know what's happening. We are facing what's called the 'Black List'.' And I said, what do you mean by that? And he said, the most conservative reactionary people have gotten together and made a list of all of the writers, actors, film producers who they say are Commies. And then Arthur said, but none of us are Commies. But we are following what we thought was the main constitutional protection in this country, the right to express your ideas and your opinions. And we're being thrown out of work and he said to me, Arthur, I just got a call from one the big companies in Hollywood and they cancelled my contract, because I was on the list. So this was going on, spread all over the country.
INT: Did you try to defend Arthur Miller?
INT: Can you describe that little bit?
AK: Well, yes. , he was called before the Committee, the Un-American Activities Committee and what we then experienced was he... our people who we were defending had the right to use the Constitution of the United States to refuse to testify and that's the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which said you didn't have to incriminate yourself in any way whatsoever and that's something that we had learned... one of the many great heritages we had from a very foreign country known as England. And this was part of the common law approach which had developed over many, many years. And our folks who wrote the Bill of Rights, were taking advantage of all those rights and writing 'em into the Constitution and one of them was, you didn't have to answer any question that you didn't want to answer that you thought might in any way involve you in difficult circumstances. So, we would go before the Committee and take that and our clients would take that position and what then developed - and the person who started this was, the person who we just had the most terrible experiences with, Senator McCarthy and McCarthy said that if anybody uses the Fifth Amendment, then that person is a Fifth Amendment Commie. And the mere fact you used your constitutional privilege meant you were a Commie and then all hell would break loose. And if you were like Arthur Miller or if you were like a writer, if you were an actor, actress or if you were a school teacher, if you worked in a plant, you were dead, you were finished. And then, of course, they decided on the next huge step in creating this atmosphere of fear, 'cos that's what they wanted to do. If you create an atmosphere of fear all throughout the country, then people would just not take part in any activity whatsoever in opposition to the policies, foreign policies, domestic policies, of the pstructure or take part in unions, take part in any kind of organising work dbelow. So they would develop this huge atmosphere of fear all over the country and that's what we were living with.
INT: But you were in the middle of a Cold War, didn't the government perhaps have a right to attack people who were acting against their better interests?
AK: Well, we had experienced something known as the American Revolution and in the American Revolution, the Constitution of the United States emerged as the cornerstone of our country and the Constitution provided that we had only three branches of government and we had... the legislator, the judiciary and the executive, the President or the governors, and they were bound by the written Constitution and the written Constitution was the highest law in the land and said every person in this country had the right to freedom of speech, every person had the right to freedom of association, to organise, to activate, to make demands and that was the heart of our country. Therefore, from the earliest...