What Reagan and Brewer did was to build a coalition across partisan party lines — uniting Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to work together against those in Hollywood who pledged their loyalty to Joe Stalin. They managed to interrupt the efforts of secret Communists like actor Sterling Hayden, who urged the Screen Actors Guild to support the Communist-led strike.
As for the famous HUAC hearings in Hollywood and DC that began in 1947 and went on for a few years more, Meroney’s work backs up those of us who have long argued that the true heroes were not those who refused to testify ostensibly on grounds of protection of their civil liberties, but those who openly bucked the tight-fisted leftist centers in Hollywood and decided to testify about how Communism was a real danger. Most significant is Meroney’s finding of the recollections of John Huston, who originally opposed HUAC with other liberals as an infringement on one’s political rights but who later came to see, as Huston put it, that the unfriendly witnesses were not trying to protect freedom, but were “really looking after their own skins.” They gave false testimony to imply that they were only liberals and not Communists and had he known the truth, “I would have washed my hands of them on the spot.”
Brewer and Reagan worked together to keep democracy working, by telling the truth about the Communist agenda, and at the same time trying to protect real civil liberties from infringement. They worked to keep the unions they led — like the Screen Actors Guild on the part of Reagan — a group run by its majority and not a well-oiled minority of Red militants.
When John Meroney’s book appears late this year or early next, the full story will be told. Until then, leftists in the film colony will have to do with being upset by this Sunday’s morning paper.