Saturday, March 19, 2011

"My Mother's Discussing Communism..."

“I’m having difficulty paying attention to my writing right now.  My mother’s standing here discussing communism.  We were talking about it at Partida’s, too.”
                                                             Arthur Price
                                                             Letter to June Anderson, March 16, 1950

Art’s family was solidly Republican; Art’s mother even sent birthday cards to Herbert Hoover for many years after his term as president.  The family was politically skeptical of the New Deal.  If Art’s mother was discussing communism, it would have been as a staunch anti-communist.

Although the United States was an ally of the communist Soviet Union through World War II, relations between east and west deteriorated quickly in the immediate post-war period.  The war ended in August 1945 and Churchill made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in March 1946.

Mao-Tse Tung on the cover of
TIME magazine, Feb. 7, 1949.
By 1949, numerous factors were increasing world tension.  With the ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 1949, the lines of the Cold War were drawn.

As June and Art were concluding their first summer together in late August 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, shocking the world into a recognition of the possibility of nuclear war.  Then in October, as June settled into her second year at Traphagen School of Fashion, China fell to the communists with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The early months of 1950 were packed with news relating to communism, both at home and abroad.  The Alger Hiss trial made national news in January as he was convicted of perjury in charges that asserted Hiss was spying for the Soviets during his high-ranking State Department work for the Truman administration.  In February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy publicly stated that the State Department was “infested with communists” and that he had their names.  This announcement caused a political furor and was widely covered in the press.  Immediately following this, the Soviet Union and China announced a mutual defense treaty and even France looked like it might swing communist as pro-communist riots erupted in mid-February.

News of communism was in all the newspapers, it was the subject of discussion at Art’s classes at Partida’s School of Art, and even his mother was talking about communism as Art wrote his letter to June on the evening of March 16, 1950.  It was an unavoidable topic.

(For Monday – back at school and down in the dumps.)
© 2011 Lee Price

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