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The Blacklist
And Its Victims

Blacklist ...

Hollywood support ...

Veterans who had recently escaped the deadly fire of foreign enemies were among the scores of strikers beaten, clubbed and gassed by Los Angeles police on Jan. 17, 1946 outside the U.S. Motors plant in Los Angeles. Police directed their full brutal power against a UE picket line. The next day, hundreds of UE members and supporters from other unions protested the police attack outside City Hall. The strikers also had the support of Hollywood personalities; within a few years, the blacklist and Cold War hysteria would discourage support for progressive labor.

The decision of the Academy of  Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to present a lifetime achievement award on March 21 to director Elia Kazan drew many protests. Kazan testified before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the early 1950s. He informed on friends and co-workers, told congressional inquisitors about individuals’ political views and activities, named names. As a result, those former friends and co-workers lost their jobs — and their careers. They were among the writers, actors and directors victimized by the Cold War blacklist operating in Hollywood.

For perspective on those events, we turned to the writing of Charles Kerns, whose column on television and film occupied this space in the UE NEWS for many years. Kerns’ involvement in labor political action cost him his Pittsburgh radio job but led to a long career as UE’s publicity and education director. He died in 1994.

The following is taken from columns written by Charlie Kerns in 1977:

"[A] detailed examination of the ugly period of the late Forties through the Fifties should be repeated at least annually. Labor and our entire social structure still bear the scars of those unhappy times, and the scars are not completely healed.

"The witchhunts that thrived during the Cold War succeeded in stopping the movement of industrial unionism and the general drive of social progress. Neither have ever recovered.

"‘The Hollywood Ten’ [actors, directors and writers persecuted in the late 1940s], if not the first, [were] certainly the most famous victims of the marauding congressional committees...

"While Congress was industriously preparing the Taft-Hartley bill, the UnAmerican Committee... was using Hollywood as a dramatic setting to create the hysteria necessary to push through a plethora of repressive measures... The background for the hearings was a strike at the major studios...

"There were all shades of opinion and morality expressed by those who went to jail in what they were convinced was defense of the right for freedom of speech and freedom of political choice, and by those who cooperated with the committee and helped to send them to jail."

"[In the 1950s people in the entertainment industry] were the ones who made headlines for the politicians who found red-hunting to be a quick way to higher and higher office. They were the unfortunate stepping stones for the opportunists..."

UE News - 04/99

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