Just as it invaded Hollywood and Washington, D.C., McCarthyism and the paranoia associated with it made an impact on campus culture at southeast Michigan universities in the 1940s and 1950s.
An article in The Michigan Daily article headlined, “Campus Groups Branded ‘Red,’ ” printed May 10, 1950, cites concern over two student organizations on the Wayne State University campus that had been labeled communist fronts by a prominent student and former communist, Glen Irving.
The Young Progressives of America and the Labor Youth League were not officially communist organizations but were labeled such, due to their leftist platforms and accusations of active “infiltration” of other organizations with communist ideals.
In the article, Irving claims that while participating in these organizations he was assigned to “infiltrate” Wayne’s Newman Club — a Roman Catholic organization — and win “support for the communist program” from organization leaders.
Neither of the groups’ leaders were surprised by Irving’s statements, the Daily reported, but both took issue with it.
The president of the Young Progressives of America, Gordon MacDougall, responded, stating, “The group is not being run for the benefit of the Communist Party platform rather than for that established by the National YP.”
He would not, however, “desire to yield to current pressures by denying forthright that the YP’s were a front!”
MacDougall told the Daily that Irving was “a product of the present Communist hysteria brought about by the world crisis.”
Labor Youth League Chairman Hy Bershard said that while his group was not a front organization, many of its members were Communists and the chapter kept “the closest fraternal relations” with the Communist Party.
The Daily article did not address the leaders’ positions on whether Irving’s accusation of being asked to “infiltrate” the Newman Club was true.