With the War in Europe only months old, pressure was mounting to involve the U.S. – there was also fear that, because so many outside groups were involved in American politics, not to mention political/idealogical organizations, America would be ripe for some form of overthrow by subversive groups in the not-too-distant future. But also at issue was protecting the neutrality of the U.S. and that brought into question the Bill of Rights – was our First Amendment (Free Speech and Press) in jeopardy? Based on responses, there was a general fear of subversive activity by way of Foreign influences and Foreign propaganda. But the fact of the matter was, those groups; The Communist party, The German-American Bund, the other forces representing potential subversives represented only a tiny fraction of the American population. What was at issue was the division being sown within the framework of America; an economic crisis that hadn’t been completely solved, political divisions between classes and the political fallout from the Congressional group known as the Dies Committee, headed up by Congressman Martin Dies. The Dies Committee (precursor to The House un-American Activities Committee and later, Joseph McCarthy) was in the process of uncovering subversive groups intent on sewing discontent. According to Roger Baldwin, executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, it was the Dies Committee who were more intent on labeling Progressive and Liberal organizations as subversive than actually investigating groups actively engaged in subversive activity.
This interview, conducted at WJR Radio in Detroit and featuring Baldwin, was done on February 10, 1940 – during a period of great anxiety on America’s part. He was in Detroit to address a session of the Conference of Civil Rights Federation of Michigan.
Roger Nash Baldwin (January 21, 1884 – August 26, 1981) was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He served as executive director of the ACLU until 1950.
Here is the interview.