WITCH-HUNTING, RED-SCARES, "GOONS, GINKS, AND COMPANY FINKS:" THE MINE-MILL UNION IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST AT MID-CENTURY -- AND OUR BIZARRE IDAHO EXPERIENCES [1997-2002]
Up-dated with some new material Summer 2003
[The historic, 1952 Mine-Mill leaflet, "Speak Up, America !" is reproduced at the lower portion of this page -- as published in the Salt Lake City Tribune on October 6, '52.]
Special Note -- Summer
2003: We've had a
number of friendly visitors this past while or so. Among them was
a very old friend, Stephen Zunes, noted peace activist and scholar from
University of San Francisco, who was here in late February, 2003. Joan
[Trumpauer] Mulholland of our famous Jackson Woolworth civil rights sit-in of May 28,
1963, has been here twice, with her son, Loki, also an old
friend who lives down the road in Utah. Willa
Cofield, veteran colleague from the North Carolina Black-Belt struggles, made it this way awhile back . Another visitor was Joseph [Buddy] Tieger, long-time civil rights colleague in the early and mid-60s, lawyer, activist. Joan and Willa, with regard to the years of harassment we've had here at Pocatello, said what "Buddy" also articulated in this fashion: "I don't know of anyone in the world," he said to me, "who could even come close to you in immediately recognizing this poisonous stuff, fighting it effectively, exposing it -- and stubbornly refusing to move an inch!"]
Nat and Helen Gross of western Washington -- he a sociologist and retired USMC colonel who was my best man when Eldri and I tied it together at Superior, Wisconsin almost 42 years ago -- and Helen, a well known psychologist -- have camped here. Mike O'Brien, a Catholic activist and writer on Movement topics, flew in bringing greetings from then Congresswoman Eva Clayton of North Carolina. Lisa Carney, former UND student, Teamster steward, and CCDS contact for North Dakota, spent an interesting week here -- making it 'way up into the high country with us.
And there've been others -- old friends and new -- including various Native and non-Native film and media people.
BULLETIN OF SORTS -- OCTOBER 1 2002: For the third time since we've come to Pocatello, Idaho, a fruitless effort has been made by socially-conscious civilian folk on the Pocatello police/community relations committee to make me a member of the group. It has no Native representation. [Details further down on this page indicate the earlier efforts.] This latest began a month ago and has once again flatly died. No great surprise. In conjunction with this latest "police committee" episode, there have been some very strange [even for here] lawmen surveillance and related reactions! More on all of this later.
Our "Idaho experiences" are constantly being updated. Scroll 'way down for all of the stuff.
We keep at it on all fronts. Here's a pleasant and encouraging report:
Things went well at our 2002 King Day gathering in this small and very conservative Idaho city.
I was the primary speaker January 20, 2002 at the MLK Day meeting of Pocatello Interfaith Fellowship: mainline Protestant denominations, Catholic, LDS. Despite very cold weather and snow and very little media publicity, we drew about 100 folks: 70 adults, 30 children. About half were minority, half Anglo. Social class-wise, it was primarily working people and academic and clergy but with many from other categories [including a very, very few
politicians.] The affair was quite well organized with the religious dimensions relating directly to Martin King. I had prepared a number of handouts which were handled by my oldest grandson, Thomas [turning 20] and his aunt [!] -- my youngest daughter, Josie, 22.
[Medgar Evers always gave a very full, hearty, and vital speech to his "mass
meeting" audience -- whether the group was half a dozen or vastly more. And
I've always remembered that.]
A vigorously encouraging dimension, with respect to life and optimism, was
the small Black children's choir from a Baptist church.
In my substantial talk, I initially focused on racism -- and on the
Southern Movement, discussing as individuals Medgar Evers, Doris Allison, Ella Baker, and Martin King. I mentioned the several instances in which Dr King and I had some direct and extensive Movement association.
But on this occasion, here at Pocatello, I spent
the last half of my talk on three
very contemporary issues: against the death penalty, against the "War," and
against the current assault on civil rights and civil liberties by the
On all of this, saying what I always say -- an end to
the death penalty; an
end to all bombing and for peace with justice/justice with peace; an end to
repression within the United States and elsewhere and for a deep renewal of
full civil rights and civil liberties for all -- I picked up widespread
agreement from people in the audience. Admittedly, this was a select
group -- but media handling of all of these issues in this region has either
been marked by conspicuous sins-of-omission or outright support for capital
punishment and the "War" and the draconian curbs on civil rights and civil
liberty. Afterward, many people stayed around to discuss all of these
things -- often at considerable length. We were extremely encouraged by
So we got home late -- and very well satisfied. Hunterbear
[For a more extensive discussion of our King Day meeting -- and old Southern Movement memories and reflections -- see this page on this website AN IDAHO MLK DAY GATHERING -- AND MISSISSIPPI MEMORIES AND REFLECTIONS http://www.hunterbear.org/an_idaho_mlk_day_gathering.htm ]
As the Red Scare mounted in the U.S. of the latter 1940s, reactionaries and their Congressional allies moved to enact blatantly repressive legislation. An early example was the viciously anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Witch-hunting Federal and state anti-radical "hearings" mushroomed. The Attorney General's "Subversive List" -- summarily and arbitrarily outlawing hundreds of organizations -- was quickly initiated. Criminal prosecution for simple beliefs multiplied rapidly.
In 1950, the Internal Security Act -- named the McCarran Act after Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada [who was also known as the "Senator from Spain" for his undying admiration of the Fascist Franco] -- was enacted with much flag-waving and drum-beating. Among its many provisions was the infamous Subversive Activities Control Board -- and another provision provided for the concentration camp incarceration of radicals or suspected radicals during any one of several President-decreed states of "national emergency." Old concentration camps -- i.e., those used to hold Japanese-Americans during World War II -- were reactivated; new camps were built. Full rosters of camp personnel were hired.
The FBI quickly began to feather out its existent radical lists -- and to develop a variety of new ones. Many, many thousands of Americans were placed on these lists.
All of these -- and other poisonous fruits of this hideous epoch -- constituted blatant and massive violations of the U.S. Bill of Rights at every point.
Under U.S. pressure, the Canadian government moved in a similar witch-hunting direction.
In early October, 1952, the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee which worked very closely with J. Edgar Hoover et al. -- and which included Pat McCarran and racist U.S. Senator Jim Eastland of Mississippi and others of that ilk -- came to Salt Lake City to conduct "hearings" designed to attack the radical, militant, democratic, equalitarian International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [formerly the Western Federation of Miners] and its leadership.
The Union, fighting hard as always, courageously put, among other places, the following advertisement in the Salt Lake City Tribune of October 6, 1952 [reproduced at the bottom of this page] -- Hard To Believe But . . .There Are Concentration Camps In America: SPEAK UP, AMERICA!
The Internal Security Act was finally repealed in 1971.
But, bluntly, there isn't any reason today (this was written in early 2001 -- a bit prophetically!) to believe that the FBI itself, which has pursued political repression as a primary priority since its origins early in the 20th Century, has in any way stopped its pursuit of radical dissidents -- especially those of the Left.
And there is much to indicate that the FBI, and some other agencies, however covertly, are doing just that. And this is certainly becoming more and more apparent all over the United States.
And, since these words were initially written, we now have in Free America -- in addition to the civil liberties-mangling so-called "Anti-Terrorist Act of 1996" -- the even much, much more poisonously repressive, self-styled "Patriot Act of 2001 " -- and then even more poison. All of this has been given to us -- in an atmosphere of spontaneous and manufactured and cunningly manipulated fear and hysteria -- by the Bush/Ashcroft administration, its FBI advisors, and a cowardly Congress. This is now -- from Fall 2001 into this Summer 2003 -- the most repressive period the country has been in since the late '40s and '50s. And FBI was given even more repressive/surveillance powers at various points throughout 2002. And now, in 2003, it's calling for even more additional and sweeping police state powers.
But the rising tide of constructive fight back/forward thrust across the Nation is enormously encouraging.
We've now lived in Pocatello, Idaho for six years. [Summer 2003.] A few examples of our very strange experiences here:
As soon as we moved into our new home, we found ourselves the recipients of unusual and on-going official (and otherwise) scrutiny: obvious surveillance. This is continuing.
A man was suddenly across the street one day -- taking photos of our house. He left very quickly when I emerged.
An ostensible cable t-v repairman appeared in our back yard one afternoon. Minutes thereafter, our cable went out. The cable company -- this was stated by two company officials to us -- knew absolutely nothing of the man and had no workmen scheduled anywhere in the vicinity of this neighborhood.
A very odd person -- a woman or a man dressed "cleverly" as a woman -- appeared at our doorstep at 2 a.m. The person, who we invited in, was extremely curious about the insides of our home and gave us a story about being kicked out of an unspecified nearby house, and thus needing a cab. [This is a 'way up high, relatively isolated, on-the-edge setting and none of this fit.] The next day, I thoroughly investigated "her" story -- and nothing checked out anywhere.
Our garbage has been dumped and searched with obvious intricacy.
A Protestant clergyman suggested that, with my extensive background in race relations, I join a Pocatello citizens' police advisory committee of which he was a member. Having chaired for years the Mayor's Committee on Police Policy at Grand Forks, N.D. [ scroll down Index, or click, for the section entitled, But Some Very Good Words -- UND, Mississippi, Grand Forks N.D.], I was quite agreeable. I immediately sent him some relevant material on my background and work. And then there was silence. I never heard from him again. A year and a half later, while giving a talk, I mentioned this to a person active in the local NAACP -- and did so in the context of our very strange Pocatello experiences. "We'll certainly get you on that committee," she said. And, not surprisingly, I never heard another word on that from anyone.
I am, after all, a sociologist and full Professor with a vast amount of teaching and related activity under my belt -- to say nothing of rich and extraordinary field experiences in Native rights, labor, civil rights, and race relations. Efforts to develop any interest of any kind in me at Idaho State University (here at Pocatello) -- by myself or by others -- have consistently failed to strike even a single note of official resonance. With one peripheral off-campus exception, I have not been invited by any ISU faculty or staff or administration person to give one single talk on Native American issues, human rights, or social justice in general. One faculty member, learning of my background via one of my children, became very interested in my giving talks at ISU and possibly teaching a class. He came congenially to our home twice. Suddenly he became visibly afraid, practiced overt avoidance many times, and I never heard from him again. It's very obvious there is a black-list at Idaho State University.
But ISU students are increasingly interested in what I have to offer. And that is building up rapidly.
There is more.
Much more indeed.
For most of the entire period we've lived in Pocatello, our mail -- United States Postal Service -- has taken inordinate periods of time to reach us. Many things come to us by Priority Mail which should normally take only two to three days -- but which, in our case, has almost always been very late and has sometimes taken up to eight or nine days! Many of these items have had holes poked in them. Gifts and merchandise have been ruined. On one occasion, labor union pins from the Labor Heritage Foundation were lost when the sturdy envelope containing them was substantially ripped open. [I received the torn envelope.]
On January 13, 1999, I sent a long, detailed complaint to the Postal Inspection Service at Seattle and attached dozens of envelopes and package wrappings. I never received any response from the Inspection Service -- eventually getting only what proved to be an in-the-dark and quite non-helpful phone call from the local postmaster. Our situation improved briefly and then once against worsened. I wrote again to the Postal Inspection Service at Seattle on January 26, 2000. This letter went specifically to one of its top people, Inspector Jim Bordenet. Receiving no response, I once again wrote Inspector Bordenet -- March 13, 2000:
"On January 26 2000, I wrote you . . .with respect to bizarre mail delays that we have been experiencing here. A year earlier, I had also written to Postal Inspection Service, Seattle, on the same matter. Now, as then, I've received no response of any sort from the Inspection Service. Improvements in our mail service as a result of these communications are, at best, unpredictable and speculative -- and the basic questions as to who, why, and what's being done remain completely unanswered from our perspective.
The crudity of the whole thing does raise the possibility of some sort of local and/or state law enforcement approach -- functioning "under color of law" [to use a phrase we used a great deal when I was a civil rights organizer in Mississippi and other parts of the Deep South from 1961-1967] -- but very possibly without any bona fide legal basis. The absence of any response from the Postal Inspection Service certainly lends toward this explanation.
In any event, I concluded my letter of January 26 2000 to you with the statement, "With respect to my original letter of January 13 1999 [ copy enclosed -- along with a contemporary civil rights clipping involving interviews with me by the regional newspaper], what action has Postal Inspection Service taken and what can we expect from it in this current continuation of the situation?"
I reiterate that, and hope to hear from Postal Inspection Service quite soon indeed."
This secured no response whatsoever -- simply silence.
On March 18, 2000, five days after my [never-to-be-answered] letter of March 13 to Postal Inspection Service, I sent important manuscript and related documentary and photographic materials to Professor Roy Wortman, Department of History, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. This was a Saturday, Professor Wortman needed the materials very quickly, and the only mail service at that time on Saturday was the U.S. Postal Service. I therefore sent him the materials on an Overnight Express Mail basis [with the understanding that he would receive the package early on Monday] -- and I did so at a Pocatello Post Office where I am known. Professor Wortman did not receive the materials until Tuesday. And, when he opened up the package, he found the contents water-soaked and ruined. He telephoned me immediately. Forthwith, I sent backup materials to him by Overnight UPS -- under some Teamster control! Roy received the package in Ohio quickly and safely -- first thing the next morning. These materials were a critical component of his subsequently full and detailed and excellent study, I Consider Myself A Real Red: The Social Thought Of American Civil Rights Organizer John R. [Salter] Hunter Gray -- subsequently published Winter 2001 by the Journal Of Indigenous Thought. This major essay is readily accessible on this Website.
And, as I've said, maintaining its bizarre consistency, the United States Postal Inspection Service never answered or acknowledged my letter of March 13, 2000.
NOTE -- Summer 2003: Our problematic mail situation is very much continuing. Examples:
Last Fall 2001, a year ago, there was more water damaged Priority Mail material -- a very well packaged Native American gift book. Much first class mail is very significantly late: e.g., ten pages of historical material (photo copies of photographs of Jackson Boycott committee meetings at our Tougaloo home early in 1963) from my collected papers at State Historical Society of Wisconsin -- mailed first-class in a manila envelope from Madison on September 17, 2001 finally came on September 25. On October 18, we finally received the moderately sized, clearly addressed, first-class mail packet of children's school photos [clearly labeled as such] -- mailed on October 9 by one of our sons from Minnesota.
Other very odd delays and tampering -- some quite recent -- have occurred so frequently that, after these several years, we simply now don't record everything. We also hear of material sent to us that we've never received. It is understatement to say, this Spring 2003, that we consider our United States mail to be very undependable!
Tampering with the mail, as I have always understood it, absent any ostensibly "legal" basis, constitutes a felony crime. A direct Federal connection in this situation is quite obvious.
We have had almost continually weird telephone experiences. NOTE -- Summer 2003: Our problematic telephone situation is very much continuing. In fact, it's getting much worse.
A telephone bill -- U.S. West -- in February 2000 indicated a string of calls billed to our phone from a person and phone number completely unknown and unrelated to us. These were made over a period of several days. In addition, an AT&T bill received concurrently, indicated something comparable. Together the calls totalled almost $90.00. A telephone company person, when we called all of this in, used the term "tap" as a possibility. Telephone people subsequently checked and said no tap was found [at the time of the subsequent checks.
Other very strange things have been happening to us. Note -- Summer 2003: They are certainly continuing. My late Mother's ashes, mailed to me in October, 2000 by my brother in New Mexico -- in a sturdy but plain package, and by USPO registered mail, experienced bizarre "delivery" problems. Not too long ago, a dark-skinned visitor was surreptitiously given a middle-of-the-night parking ticket in front of our home [one wheel of his vehicle very slightly up on a piece of sidewalk] -- in this relatively isolated area where such ticketing never conventionally occurs. Our computer difficulties have been massive, mysterious, continuing -- and even the most skilled technical assistance folk have often been completely baffled. Continuing problems with our website ended just as soon as we shifted its hosting from a company based at Boise to one at Atlanta.
In the late Spring, 2002, there was a sharp increase in strange cars going slowly past our home -- and a very marked upsurge in the always strange and anoymous telephone calls. All of this is a much continuing thing this Summer 2003.
In April 2002, a series of especially weird computer problems -- including bizarre server connection difficulties -- began and proliferated. Our server spent an unusual amount of time checking things carefully through. Finally, the technician said -- and very candidly -- that our telephone line was being monitored. We reported this to the telephone company. A man came. We heard nothing more -- but the situation [in the outward sense] improved significantly, though there are still weird flareups.
Strange people continue to circulate around our home at night. Rocks and firecrackers have been thrown at our home in the darkness. Quite some time ago, we installed flood lights at various points.
Then there was the very strange situation involving my Idaho driver's
license renewal. In Idaho, assuming a reasonably good driving record, it's
possible to renew your license by mail every other time. Mine was up for
renewal on or by my birthday on February 14, 2001. Conventional procedure
mandated that I receive a renew-by-mail application from the State
Transportation Department at Boise at least 60 days before that date in the
event I wished to exercise that option. This was exactly the sort of
official thing I've learned to keep a very close eye on -- and, somehow, I
wasn't really surprised when the 60 day margin came and went with no
renew-by-mail application for me. I called Boise. A person pulled up my
driver's license record -- perfect score on the written test when I
initially got my Idaho license and an excellent driving record. The person
could see no reason why I'd received no application and explained that the
computer-generated system was quite dependable. I was forwarded to another
person who, once again went over my record, and expressed surprise that no
application had been sent to me. She told me that all of the renew-by-mail
applications for February had been sent out in early December -- two weeks
or so before. "Could you send one to me right away?" I asked. She said she
would. Two days passed and the application did not come. I called Boise
again and was told someone would call me right back. An hour passed with no
call. I now called once again and, this time, reached a person who -- with
a faint implication of authority -- indicated he just happened to be in that
office but would try to help. Checking my record once again, he saw
absolutely nothing that could explain the failure to send a renewal
application. He put me on hold and, some time later returned -- indicating
he'd spoken with a couple of people and I would have the application
forthwith. Later that day, another person called and assured me it was
coming. It did, just before Christmas, and I successfully renewed my Idaho
driver's license for four years by mail. If I had not been able to renew by
mail, I would have had to do so in person at the county driver's license
This was sent, April 26 2001, to a very large number of people in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere:
This situational communication, involving radical mail sent to us and
obviously sabotaged, is going to a wide variety of individuals [almost all
kindred spirits.] Very much committed to the words Paul Robeson sang so
well at Peace Arch and at so many other settings, "But I keep planting
instead of crying/I must keep fighting until I'm dying...", I can certainly
assure everyone that this is very much a Keep Fighting missive [and we are
posting this on our website, which is now getting about 100 visitors per
day.] But, just as we have done in all sorts of other reactionary locales,
we do believe we should keep people posted. This specific issue is far from
a life or death matter but it should certainly be noted.
Our general Pocatello experiential context is indicated in our website:
We received, today, a periodic -- regular -- bulk mailing of socialist
publications from New York City. Sent on April 19, by Priority Mail, it
should have reached us long before today. It was mailed very securely in a
tough, resilient, obviously water resistant Priority package. But the 20
magazine-type publications therein have been substantially water-soaked: at
least one-third of each was quite wet -- and the now dry outside mailing
address label was obviously water-stained. It's quite clear that the
package had been dunked in water which had then entered the almost -- but
not quite completely -- sealed mouth flap of this large tough plastic
Priority mailing envelope.
No rain or snow here for the past good while.
This is simply the latest example of Postal -- and other harassment -- which
we have encountered since we came to Pocatello. The Postal piece of it has
involved substantial delays, holes poked in packages, and more. And we
have, of course, experienced all of these things -- and even worse -- in
some other settings over the many years of our Red Romany Trail!
Complaints to Postal authorities regarding our Pocatello mail situation --
including three very detailed and specific complaints to Regional Postal
Inspectors at Seattle -- have never even been acknowledged; and there has
been no real cessation of any of this. [One of the most bizarre examples
involved some odd things around my late Mother's ashes -- sent to me by a
brother of mine in New Mexico last October in a secure plain package but by
The soaking/saturation stuff has happened to us here at least twice before.
Three years ago, civil liberties material sent from the Washington, DC area
reached us completely watersoaked and totally damaged. About a year ago, on
March 18, 2000, I sent manuscript and related material to Professor Roy
Wortman, Department of History, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. I mailed
this on an Overnight Mail basis from a Pocatello post office at which I am
known. In addition to a delay in receiving the mail, Professor Wortman,
upon opening it, found that it had been watersoaked and ruined. He called
me immediately and I, forthwith, sent backup material by Overnight UPS --
under some Teamster control! -- and Roy got it quickly and safely. [We are
using UPS increasingly.]
I've reported this to the socialist organization based at New York City.
The saturated publications are right now drying on our back porch deck --
under the hot Idaho sun.
And, should something far more extreme ever be levied, I am -- as I always
have been -- a big, healthy thug, very well-versed indeed in all facets of
In Solidarity - Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Note by HG: The material was sent by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism [CCDS]: 10 copies of its very nice done Corresponder and 10 copies of its excellent Dialogue & Initiative. Thanks to my wife, Eldri, and the hot Idaho sun, the copies dried and, although badly crinkled, are quite readable.
CCDS immediately sent letters of protest and inquiry to top U.S. postal officials. There has been no response. [And, as of this time period, Winter/Spring 2003, neither CCDS nor I have received any answer of any kind from the U.S. Postal Service. However, the next packet of Dialogue and Initiative, mailed to me by CCDS via Priority Mail on January 25, 2002, reached me in OK shape on January 29, 2002.]
BUT -- July, 2002: We have learned that a shipment of the CCDS CORRESPONDER was sent to us via Priority Mail some time ago -- and never got here at all. A recent shipment of the CCDS DIALOGUE AND INITATIVE [containing a substantial article of mine] did make it through -- though the package had obviously been opened. An individual copy of that issue, addressed to me, has not arrived.
More ( Fall 2001 into Summer 2003): Much more direct evidence of strange interest in us by local lawmen; many very weird telephone calls; and very high alert Pocatello-based hacking attempts on our computers and this Website. We have, of course, top-of-the-line anti-virus and firewall protection at all times.
Our computers have exhibited -- from Fall 2001 into Summer 2003 -- unprecedented indications of attempted intrusion. Obviously, the motives are malicious. But despite some rocky water, we continue to move deliberately and effectively forward at full functional capacity.
And there is, of course, much more contemporary stuff -- in a very long historical context indeed!
My experiences as a primary target of witch-hunters go back into at least the mid-1950s. It's worth noting that, in the 1980s, I secured 3,000 or so pages from my FBI files -- some of them as then recent as 1979 -- and, in addition, there are several hundred other pages that FBI refuses to give me on grounds of "national security," etc. And I was certainly given "high priority" agitator status: Section A of Reserve Index/Security Index and Rabble Rouser Index.
This is my best, reflective analysis of the current state of Federally-based repressive methodology at this point in the Nation's history. I gave it first publicly on this website on July 11, 2000 -- and I give it once again, now, in this Summer 2003:
It seems very likely indeed that the FBI and related Federal law enforcement agencies are presently using, in formal and semi-formal frameworks, selected and ostensibly "trained" local and state lawmen in their covert activities against the activist Left. Among other things, this approach would quietly broaden the contact/support base of these particular Federal agencies but, much much more to the point, would -- cunningly -- officially maintain revelatory distance between themselves and their "grassroots" anti social-justice and anti Native-rights and anti civil-libertarian and anti environmentalist (and frequently downright illegal) projects. And, certainly, this would greatly minimize potentially embarassing FOIA and other disclosures.
I remember the words of an old friend of mine, courageous Professor Jim Silver, History, University of Missississippi (Oxford) -- author of Mississippi: The Closed Society (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1964) -- right after the violent and tragic upheaval organized and led by Mississippi authorities in their unsuccessful effort to prevent the admission of the first Black student, Mr. James Meredith. Jim Silver, one of the very few faculty at Ole Miss to befriend Meredith, was subjected -- as he had been off and on for years -- to all sorts of harassment. A reporter from the North asked him, "Why do you stay here?"
"Hell, I like it here," Jim told him.
As always, we keep right on fighting.
"Speak Up, America!" is as relevant a cry today as it was a half century ago.