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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990. Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Communist Scare was a farce meant to entrap those criticizing racism

Fleming saw fears of Communism in the late 1930s as a dishonest process meant to entrap those who protested racism. It was so farfetched that he doubts many of those perpetuating the system actually believed it was right.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990. Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you about one other angle of this that I've begun to think about a lot. I have started reading a good bit about the whole anti-communist hysteria. In going back to the early House Committee [on Un-American Activities] days of Martin Dies and John Rankin and one or two other southerners who were central to that activity, the thought occurs to me that as the racial thing heated up the whole fraternity of southern Washington politicians came to see in the anti-communist movement and the national fear on this issue a club to hang over the heads of southerners who were pushing for social change along racial lines.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Where are you dating this from? All the way back to Martin Dies?
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, yes, but . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
They were using it long before McCarthy.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, definitely before McCarthy. And Dies, that goes back to '38, that's when he started that Committee.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I well remember it.
JOHN EGERTON:
He and John Rankin were the godfathers of that thing through those early years. By the time they got into the mid 40s the War was over and all these new people were popping up. They were saying, people like Sid McMath in Arkansas or Jim Folsom, or Claude Pepper, and Frank Graham, I think they really thought about it. I don't think this is just some happenstance. I think there was a certain Machiavellian quality to some of this. Is this possible?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Sure. So much of that stuff hoked up. I mean, they made McCarthy look like a testament of truth compared to these guys. Have you read any of that HUAC stuff?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, I have been reading a lot of it.
HAROLD FLEMING:
It's incredible. I mean, if you know anything it's incredible, the system. The very fabric of lies and these sleeze balls they hired to testify would testify to anything. I'm convinced that they wrote the testimony-the staffers of Dies and Rankin and so on. These guys would just parrot it for a price. There is no question that it was flagrantly used. The only question in my mind is I don't know to what extent they convinced themselves on this. I think that they really did feel that race mixing was a communist plot, part of the communist strategy. There were some who were smart enough to know better but very damn few.
JOHN EGERTON:
More than that I think they thought that anybody, any white person, who would advocate something like that had to be a communist. What else could he be? He sure as hell couldn't be a red-bloodied American and do that.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I think that what I'm saying is that it was cynical and they used it cynically, but I'm not sure they didn't believe it themselves.