It could never, praise be to Allah, happen here. The communist witch-hunt instigated by Senator McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee was a particularly American episode in many ways, blurring distinctions between patriotism and jingoism, private conscience and public responsibility, dissent and treason. In the United States of the 1950s, an Anthony Blunt need not have passed information to the Russians to have been denounced as a traitor; to have sympathised with communism in the 1930s (if only as the best available antidote to fascism) was more than enough.
It is not in the English character, moreover, however ugly the situation, to expect each other to denounce friends and colleagues, let alone in public. ‘I would prefer not to mention other people’s names,’ said HUAC’s first witness, the actor Larry Parks, ‘... This is not the American way.’ Parks was soon to be the first of many to prove himself wrong. As for the English way, the most eloquent witness remains, of course, E M Forster: ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’.
On Capitol Hill, that ain’t (and weren’t) necessarily so. The committee chose to home in on Hollywood partly because the US Communist Party had indeed deliberately singled it out as a highly influential area to infiltrate, but also because the reflected glory would guarantee heavy duty publicity. That (at the