The acid attack on Victor Riesel and fears of labor racketeering in Cold War America

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When a hired thug hurled acid in the face of the prominent newspaper columnist, Victor Riesel, in 1956, the attack left him permanently blind. The incident appeared to dramatically vindicate Riesel's repeated warnings about the dangerous power of labor racketeers and it helped spur the creation of the largest ever congressional investigation into union corruption, the McClellan Committee hearings (1957-1959). This article raises important questions about the accepted version of why this attack occurred and what it meant. It uses recently released documents from the FBI as well as records from the McClellan Committee's staff. The article also suggests that several governmental bodies, including the FBI and the US Attorney's Office, played a role in furthering the public's misunderstanding of this episode. In so doing it offers a new understanding about how the issue of union corruption came to assume an important place on the nation's political agenda in this era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-247
Number of pages20
JournalLabor History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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