Detroit's Cold War

Detroit's Cold War: The Origins of Postwar Conservatism

COLLEEN DOODY
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt2ttb04
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  • Book Info
    Detroit's Cold War
    Book Description:

    Detroit's Cold War: The Origins of Postwar Conservatism locates the roots of American conservatism in a city that was a nexus of labor and industry in postwar America. Drawing on meticulous archival research focusing on Detroit, Colleen Doody shows how conflict over business values and opposition to labor, anticommunism, racial animosity, and religion led to the development of a conservative ethos in the aftermath of World War II. _x000B__x000B_Using Detroit--with its large population of African American and Catholic workers, strong union presence, and starkly segregated urban landscape--as a case study, Doody articulates a nuanced understanding of anticommunism during the Red Scare. Looking beyond national politics, she focuses on key debates occurring at the local level among a wide variety of common citizens. In examining this city's social and political fabric, Doody illustrates that domestic anticommunism was a cohesive, multifaceted ideology that arose less from Soviet ideological incursion than from tensions within the American public. _x000B__x000B_By focusing on labor, race, religion, and the business community in one important American city, Detroit's Cold War shows American anticommunism to be not a radical departure from the past but an expression of ongoing antimodernist and antistatist tensions with American politics and society. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09444-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    One evening during the late 1940s, a Catholic housewife on the east side of Detroit knocked on the doors of the eighteen families on her block. This woman had decided that she could no longer stand idly by while Communism threatened the United States and the Catholic world. Vowing to fight godless Marxism with prayer, she asked all the families on her block to gather together once a week to pray the Rosary for the conversion of Russia. Her neighbors responded enthusiastically: sixteen of the families participated. Kneeling in one family’s living room, clutching their Rosary beads, they implored the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE New Deal Detroit, Communism, and Anti-Communism
    (pp. 9-18)

    Anti-Communism, which became a key part of modern conservative ideology, was a central component in postwar political culture. In order to understand Cold War anti-Communism in Detroit, it is important to provide some context on the city of Detroit, New Deal labor, and the Communist Party. As late as 1900, fewer than three hundred thousand people lived in Detroit. However, mass production of the automobile remade the city. By 1920, as a result of the huge demand for labor in the auto plants, Detroit’s population surged to 993,675, and the city became the fourth largest in the nation. This expansion...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Labor and the Birth of the Postwar Red Scare, 1945–1950
    (pp. 19-45)

    On October 7, 1945, Detroit News reader Dorothy A. Riis wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the “general strike trend in this nation.” She argued that the 30 percent wage increase that the strikers wanted was part of a larger Communist campaign to convince the public to support “complete control by our Government over all private enterprise.” The Communist Party, in conjunction with the “New Deal mob,” had planned on “bring[ing] on these strikes as soon as the war ended to try to convince the unsuspecting American people that the Communistic way of having the Government control every...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Race and Anti-Communism, 1945–1952
    (pp. 46-75)

    In February 1952, Coleman Young, the executive secretary of the left-led National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), defiantly testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) when it came to Detroit to investigate Communism in defense industries. While many witnesses shrank before HUAC’s harsh light, Young attacked the committee for targeting local black leaders and for being led by a segregationist. He castigated HUAC Chairman John Wood, who was from Georgia, for his bigoted pronunciation of the word “Negro” and forced Wood to apologize. He denounced segregation and pointed out that “in Georgia, Negro people are prevented from voting by...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Anti-Communism and Catholicism in Cold-War Detroit
    (pp. 76-92)

    On May 1, 1947, more than five thousand men met on a sidewalk in front of a church in downtown Detroit just as office workers were leaving for the day. At 5:00 p.m., the men knelt, despite the driving rain, and began to pray the rosary. These members of the Detroit Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men complained that “Socialists, atheistic Communists . . . [and] votaries of the Red Antichrist” had made so much “noise and clamor” on May Day that it had come to be a Communist holiday. May 1, they protested, had become the day when radicals “roared...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Business, Anti-Communism, and the Welfare State, 1945–1958
    (pp. 93-118)

    In January 1943 a group of top General Motors executives gathered together to discuss the corporation’s plans for the postwar period. Flush with their wartime profits and power, these businessmen might have been expected to gloat in victory. Big business, after all, flourished during the war, averaging a net income during the three years of war production of $22 billion before taxes. As a result of the conflict, General Motors was in “wonderful financial shape.”¹ The public’s opinion of business, which had been battered during the depression, was rising at the same time as the American “miracle of production” was...

  10. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 119-124)

    During the 1940s, no organized conservative movement existed. Conservatives, as one scholar in the field has said, were “scattered, few in number, almost as philosophically divided as the predecessors from whom they drew inspiration.”¹ Yet, as this work has shown, conservative ideas were gaining prominence in the United States. While national politics largely hewed to the principles of the New Deal during the 1940s and 1950s, local politics in Detroit was full of conservatives. There was no liberal consensus locally, particularly on issues of labor and race.

    Conservatism has been the dominant political philosophy in American government for the last...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 125-160)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 161-168)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 169-175)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 176-183)