1941 January 27

California Creates Un-American Activities Committee


The California legislature on this day authorized the Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in Committee, with Senator Jack B. Tenney as Chair. The lower-house California Assembly withdrew from participation in 1947, but the committee continued as the Senate Fact-Finding Committee. It is often referred to as the Tenney Committee, and its activities were similar to those of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), investigating people and organizations for their alleged left-wing political associations and using the tactic of guilt-by-association. HUAC was established on May 26, 1938.

The California Tenney Committee labeled the ACLU a “Communist-front” organization in its 1943 and 1949 annual reports. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) never took this step. The 1943 Tenney Committee annual report, for example, state that “The American Civil Liberties Liberties Union may be definitely classified as a Communist-front or ‘transmission belt’ organization.” [In the Cold War,”Transmission belt” was a term for organizations alleged to be the vehicles for spreading Communist ideology, even if they were not themselves Communist.]

It is widely believed that the anti-communist Cold War began in the late 1940s, following World War II. In fact, however, the anti-communist movement was very strong in the pre-war years, from about 1935 to 1941. It was interrupted by World War II because the Soviet Union was an essential ally in the war against Hitler.

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

Read Jack Tenney’s book: Jack B. Tenney, Red Fascism (1947, reissued 1977)

Learn more about HUAChttp://www.history.com/topics/house-un-american-activities-committee

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