1930 December 15

Fish Committee Hearings on Communist Propaganda in the U.S.; Targets ACLU


Rep. Hamilton Fish, III (R–New York), descendant of two former members of Congress with the same name, and one of the most strident anti-Communists in Congress during this period, persuaded the House of Representatives on this day to create a special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities. One of the targets of the committee’s investigation was the American Civil Liberties Union, because of its defense of freedom of speech for Communists and other radicals. See the Fish Committee hearings in Washington state on October 3, 1930, Fish’s attack on the ACLU on March 16, 1931, and his argument that alien radicals had no right of free speech.

The Fish committee was a temporary body, but it set a precedent for the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was created on May 26, 1938. HUAC attacked investigated people because of their political beliefs and associations, focusing almost entirely on alleged Communists, leftists, and liberals. The basic tactics was guilt-by-association, in which someone was tarred as a communist sympathizer if he or she had friends, or had once belonged to an organization, that were associated with communism. HUAC was finally abolished on January 14, 1975. Fish served in Congress from 1920 to 1945.

Read: Hamilton Fish, Hamilton Fish: Memoir of an American Patriot (1991)

Learn about the Fish Committee hearings in Washington State: https://depts.washington.edu/depress/fish_committee.shtml

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