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Changes and paradoxes in the American society

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Women.
  3. The black experience and Truman.
  4. The labour experience.
  5. The politics of anti-communism.
  6. McCarthy.
  7. Conclusion.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had launched as early as 1944 a new pledge to implement a new economic Bill of Rights ("New Deal") for all Americans. Another new trend appeared under Truman with the fate of the "Full Employment Act". The new president delayed submitting his own version of the Bill. It eventually represented a vague statement of principles rather than a plan of action. Liberals felt betrayed by the president. A journalist, Howard Smith, wrote "the effective locus of government seems to have shifted from Washington to some place equidistant between Wall Street and West Point". In the autumn of 1946, the Republicans won control of the representatives and senators (Nixon, McCarthy). Women had participated in the WWII in the WACs (Women Army Corps) and VES (Voluntary Emergency Service) in the Navy, and in ammunition plants, and this had strengthened the image of self reliant women. The Women Advisory Committee urged the establishment of the Family Assistant Program and Child Care Facilities to help women workers.

[...] By the end of the WWII, price increases outpaced wages and the workers frustration boiled over in a wave of strikes that swept over the country. On 20 November automobile workers in General Motors plants went on strike, then the electrical and steel workers followed them. At no time in the past (except in 1919) had the US economy been so much rocked by labour militancy. However, corporate executives retained their grip over all functions of management, labour assuming the role of junior partner in the collective bargaining contracts. [...]

[...] It started investigating the presence of communist's sympathizers in American educational, religious and entertainment activities. The methods of the Committee included asking witnesses to give names. If the witness refused to refuse to answer, they were charged to contempt of Congress charges and to federal prosecutions. Many witnesses evoked the 5th amendment of the Constitution refusing to answer any questions on the ground that this would mean to incriminate others. Taking the 5th could protect their friends and associates, and it could avoid the tactics of guilt by association, but it quickly became synonymous with confessing complicity in subversive activities. [...]

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