“Is it not more realistic, more practical to use the gifts of nature, as discovered by science, for the good of all the people of the world, considering them as brothers, than for death and destruction? I believe that the discovery of atomic power will be recognized as necessitating world unity, and that the goal of a continually peaceful and happy world, which a few years ago was hardly visible in the greatly distant future, will be achieved within our generation.”
-Linus Pauling, “Atomic Energy and World Government,” speech delivered before the Hollywood chapter of ICCASP, November, 30, 1945.
As we’ve well-documented by now, following the end of the Second World War, Linus Pauling began to involve himself with several organizations devoted to peace. The Independent Citizen’s Committee for the Arts, Sciences, and Professions (ICCASP) was one of the first peace-oriented organizations to extend Pauling an invitation. At its heart, the ICCASP was a liberal-leaning lobbying group comprised of artists and intellectuals. The group was started after the end of the war in 1945, and included among its membership a host of well-known names including Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles. Even Ronald Reagan temporarily filled a vacancy on the board of directors, though he promptly resigned when allegations of communist infiltration within the group began to arise.
In November 1945, Pauling was invited to speak before the ICCASP about atomic weapons. Pauling discussed the science behind the bomb, emphasizing the destructive force of atomic detonation in terms of more conventional explosives. He also shared his cost estimates for creating nuclear weapons, which were surprisingly low when compared to other types of explosives such as TNT, at least in terms of their destructive potential.
Beyond the science of the bomb, the political implications of atomic development were also stressed, with Pauling vehemently advocating the creation of a single world government to regulate atomic technology and to promote peace among nations. The speech went well except for a small controversy that arose during the question and answer section of the engagement, during which Pauling provided an estimate of the number of atomic weapons which were likely then in existence – an action that was frowned upon in press coverage of the evening.
Shortly after his November talk, Linus Pauling and his wife Ava Helen were invited to join the ICCASP. Following their introduction to the new social network, the Paulings found themselves chatting with famous actors, hobnobbing at exclusive cocktail parties, and enjoying several behind-the-scenes privileges typically reserved exclusively for the Hollywood elite. Pauling took his role in the organization seriously, but he soon grew weary of the busy social calendar prompted by membership in ICCASP. He was a scientist, and his interests found little expression outside of the group’s formal meetings. Nonetheless, Pauling was highly regarded by the group; his expertise and enthusiasm for the issues of the day were valued by the organization, and he was eventually named regional chairman of the Science and Education division.
Despite his lack of interest in Hollywood glamor, Pauling continued his involvement with the committee for several years. Among other opportunities, the organization provided him with a place to share ideas and to engage in the dialogue helping to shape the public’s understanding of important social issues. The minutes of a meeting from January 21, 1946, which addressed the steady demise of academic freedom, provide an example of this type of engagement. Reading through the document, one notes Pauling’s disdain for the censorship and intimidation that were threatening objective inquiry in academic society. The tone of the following text is typical of Pauling’s perspective.
There is, of course, always a threat to academic freedom – as there is to the other aspects of the freedom and rights of the individual, in the continued attacks which are made on this freedom, these rights, by the selfish, the overly ambitious, the misguided, the unscrupulous, who seek to oppress the great body of mankind in order that they themselves may profit – and we must always be on the alert against this threat, and must fight it with vigor when it becomes dangerous.
Like many of the groups advocating for peace at the time, the ICCASP was generally supportive of cooperation with the Soviet Union. As the Soviet government assumed a more aggressive posture following the war however, a growing tide of anti-communist sentiment in America made it difficult for groups to continue such open support. Soon many of these organizations, including the ICCASP, came under suspicion of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the volatile environment that was emerging, loyalty oaths and examinations were becoming more and more common. Many of those who would not submit to such measures were systematically harassed and blacklisted from various organizations and even occupations.
The ICCASP had been involved with the defeat of the May-Johnson bill, but as opposing forces gained in stature, the influence of the organization began to diminish. Of greater concern was the fact that involvement in the organization was eventually used by investigators as proof of cooperation with communist conspiracy – a tactic used effectively by the House Un-American Activities Committee in its 1947 grilling of the “Hollywood Ten“.
Similarly, Senator Joseph McCarthy himself accused Linus Pauling of involvement with the Communist party in 1950. During subsequent investigations by the FBI, HUAC and an internal investigation at Caltech, Pauling’s association with the ICCASP was consistently held against him. Pauling, at great personal cost, withstood the attacks of his accusers, and was eventually cleared of any wrong doing. Though it caused him much grief, Pauling refused to renounce his affiliation with the ICCASP – nor, for that matter, did he cut ties with any other organization whose membership had put him under suspicion.