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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Internecine battles between progressive thinkers

West describes how some progressives, victims of so-called Red-baiting themselves, in turn Red-baited those farther left in hopes that pointing the finger would deflect criticism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. 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

This kind of blending of Christian socialism and so on, was that true of people like Claude Williams as well?
Yes, oh yes. Claude is working on something now. He's trying to vindicate his belief that there was an underground revolutionary movement. That the early Christian movement was an underground revolutionary thing of the poor people. He sent me a paper the other day in which he's writing about that kind of thing. Now Claude was later president of Commonwealth College. It was at Mena, Arkansas, and it was a labor school. It tried to educate sharecroppers leaders and union leaders. Commonwealth College, yeah. My wife taught there. She taught labor history there one time. I believe Claude was director when she was there. Claude told me once that Highlander made a request that Commonwealth and Highlander join together in their appeal for funds. And Claude, while he directed Commonwealth, he went ahead and did that. And Claude told me that when Highlander got the mailing list, there were certain ones picked out and mailed special letters, red-baiting Commonwealth. Claude Williams is no liar. This is just one of the ugly things that's in history. I don't like to talk about it. I wouldn't talk about it publicly.
But the strange thing about it is that people on the left who are red-baiting other people on the left were being red-baited themselves. It's very selfdefeating.
That's true, but I think…. Well, take for example in Atlanta, Georgia. You remember that great, progressive editor Ralph McGill? The Constitution. Somewhere in my files I did have, oh my goodness, more than a couple dozen columns by Ralph McGill attacking me personally. Calling me a red. Red-baiting me. He had been red-baited because he was a little bit progressive. And I think he thought, perhaps, now if I red-bait somebody else that will clean my skirts, you know. It's an erroneous thing, as far as I'm concerned, and it never works, but maybe that's the way they think. That we'll clear ourselves by pointing the finger at somebody else.