Why was the HUAC formed

The HUAC or the House Un-American Activities Committee came into force in May, 1938 after it was decided that the Fish Committee and the McCormack-Dickstein Committee needed reorganization in order to seek out and investigate the communist threat more urgently. The main function of the newly formed Special Investigation Committee was to detect and investigate treacherous and disloyal activities from private citizens and public employees alike. It was also to keep an eye on organizations that were suspected of having links with communists. From 1938 to 1944, the chair-person of the committee was Martin Dies Jr. which is the reason why it was also popular as the Dies Committee during the six year span.

It was not until the year 1945 however, that the Committee became a Standing Committee consisting of nine members and headed by chairman Edward J. Hart. The Committee had now gained greater power and its job was now more definitive as it sought to investigate any suspicions that threatened “the form of government guaranteed by our Constitution.”. In 1948, the HUAC made a major impact as Alger Hiss was charged with espionage by the committee and was later proven to be guilty of deception, thus assuring the public and the authorities of their efficiency and necessity in counteracting the communist threat.

In 1947, the HUAC decided to investigate the influence and role of Hollywood motion films in spreading communist ideas and propagandas. After the nine days of hearing were over, the HUAC blacklisted the “Hollywood Ten” and thus more than three hundred citizens working in the industry became unemployed and a very small percentage of the blacklisted ever managed to get back on their feet again.

It is believed that the Committee lost its position of prestige following the downfall of Senator McCarthy and especially when in 1959 it was stated as the “most un-American thing in the country today.” by Truman. The position of the HUAC worsened as protesting students were tackled violently by the police on May 13th, 1960. As the years progressed in the sixties, the combined anger of powerful figures like Hoffman and Rubin of the Yippies, who were subpoenaed, along with the ruthless criticism of renowned political critics ultimately brought down the HUAC in 1975, when it was dissolved completely.