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
- RAY FAHERTY:
This kind of blending of Christian socialism and so on, was that true of
people like Claude Williams as well?
- DON WEST:
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
- JACQUELYN HALL:
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.
- DON WEST:
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.