Red Scare

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A "Red Scare" is the promotion of a widespread fear of a potential rise of communism or anarchism by a society or state. The term is most often used to refer to two periods in the history of the United States which are referred to by this name. The First Red Scare, which occurred immediately after World War I, revolved around a perceived threat from the American labor movement, anarchist revolution and political radicalism. The Second Red Scare, which occurred immediately after World War II, was preoccupied with the perception that national or foreign communists were infiltrating or subverting U.S. society and the federal government.

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that rejects hierarchies deemed unjust and advocates their replacement with self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism's central disagreement with other ideologies is that it holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.

First Red Scare Early 20th-century American historical event

The First Red Scare was a period during the early 20th-century history of the United States marked by a widespread fear of Bolshevism and anarchism, due to real and imagined events; real events included the Russian Revolution and anarchist bombings. At its height in 1919–1920, concerns over the effects of radical political agitation in American society and the alleged spread of communism and anarchism in the American labor movement fueled a general sense of concern.

Contents

First Red Scare (1917–1920)

Political cartoon from 1919 depicting the Russian revolution's impact on the Paris peace talks 1919 Political Cartoon (14759129762) (cropped).jpg
Political cartoon from 1919 depicting the Russian revolution's impact on the Paris peace talks

The first Red Scare began following the Bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917 and the intensely patriotic years of World War I as anarchist and left-wing social agitation aggravated national, social, and political tensions. Political scientist, and former member of the Communist Party Murray B. Levin wrote that the Red Scare was "a nationwide anti-radical hysteria provoked by a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent—a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life". [1] Newspapers exacerbated those political fears into anti-foreign sentiment because varieties of radical anarchism were becoming popular as possible solutions to poverty, often by recent European immigrants (cf. hyphenated-Americans). When the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) backed several labor strikes in 1916 and 1917, the press portrayed them as "radical threats to American society" inspired by "left-wing, foreign agents provocateurs". Those on the side of the IWW claim that the press "misrepresented legitimate labor strikes" as "crimes against society", "conspiracies against the government", and "plots to establish communism". [2] Opponents, on the other hand, saw these as an extension of the radical, anarchist foundations of the IWW, which contends that all workers should be united as a social class and that capitalism and the wage system should be abolished. [3]

Murray Burton Levin (1927–1999) was a political science professor at Boston University from 1955 through his retirement in 1989. A progressive who once had been a member of the Communist Party USA, Levin was an unreconstructed radical throughout his academic career. In addition to teaching a popular core course on political science, Levin specialized in teaching Marxist political theory to both undergraduate and graduate students. Long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Levin eventually came to the conclusion that Marxist theory was not a science, let alone a viable system of economics, but was a powerful propaganda tool to mobilize the masses against capital. Class consciousness would be obtained ultimately when the masses finally revolted against the oligarchy.

Industrial Workers of the World International labor union

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international labor union that was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. The union combines general unionism with industrial unionism, as it is a general union whose members are further organized within the industry of their employment. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism", with ties to both socialist and anarchist labor movements.

Strike action Work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work

Strike action, also called labor strike, labour strike, or simply strike, is a work stoppage, caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike actions were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more power than workers. Most Western countries partially legalized striking in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

A "European Anarchist" attempts to destroy the Statue of Liberty in this 1919 political cartoon. Come unto me, ye opprest.jpg
A "European Anarchist" attempts to destroy the Statue of Liberty in this 1919 political cartoon.
A bomb blast badly damaged the residence of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer in the spring of 1919. Palmer Bombing.jpg
A bomb blast badly damaged the residence of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer in the spring of 1919.

In April 1919, authorities discovered a plot for mailing 36 bombs to prominent members of the U.S. political and economic establishment: J. P. Morgan Jr., John D. Rockefeller, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, and immigration officials. On June 2, 1919, in eight cities, eight bombs simultaneously exploded. One target was the Washington, D.C., house of U.S. Attorney General Palmer, where the explosion killed the bomber, who evidence indicated was an Italian-American radical from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, Palmer ordered the U.S. Justice Department to launch the Palmer Raids (1919–21). [4]

The Establishment Visible dominant group that holds power or authority in a nation or organization

The Establishment is a dominant group or élite that holds power or authority in a nation or in an organisation. It may comprise a closed social group which selects its own members, or specific entrenched élite structures, either in government or in specific institutions.

J. P. Morgan Jr. American banker

John Pierpont "Jack" Morgan Jr. was an American banker, finance executive, and philanthropist. Jack Morgan inherited the family fortune and took over the business interests including J.P. Morgan & Co. after his father J. P. Morgan died in 1913.

John D. Rockefeller American business magnate and philanthropist

John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history.

Yet, in 1918, before the bombings, President Woodrow Wilson had pressured the Congress to legislate the anti-anarchist Sedition Act of 1918 to protect wartime morale by deporting putatively undesirable political people. Law professor David D. Cole reports that President Wilson's "federal government consistently targeted alien radicals, deporting them ... for their speech or associations, making little effort to distinguish terrorists from ideological dissidents." [4]

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Woodrow Wilson 28th president of the United States

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an American statesman, lawyer, and academic who served as the 28th president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilson served as the president of Princeton University and as the 34th governor of New Jersey before winning the 1912 presidential election. As president, he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies unparalleled until the New Deal in 1933. He also led the United States into World War I in 1917, establishing an activist foreign policy known as "Wilsonianism."

Sedition Act of 1918 Act of United States Congress

The Sedition Act of 1918 was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds.

Initially, the press praised the raids; The Washington Post said, "There is no time to waste on hairsplitting over [the] infringement of liberty", and The New York Times said the injuries inflicted upon the arrested were "souvenirs of the new attitude of aggressiveness which had been assumed by the Federal agents against Reds and suspected-Reds". [5] In the event, the Palmer Raids were criticized as unconstitutional by twelve publicly prominent lawyers, including (future Supreme Court Justice) Felix Frankfurter, who published A Report on the Illegal Practices of The United States Department of Justice, documenting systematic violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution via Palmer-authorized "illegal acts" and "wanton violence". Defensively, Palmer then warned that a government-deposing left-wing revolution would begin on 1 May 1920 — May Day, the International Workers' Day. When it failed to happen, he was ridiculed and lost much credibility. Strengthening the legal criticism of Palmer was that fewer than 600 deportations were substantiated with evidence, out of the thousands of resident aliens arrested and deported. In July 1920, Palmer's once-promising Democratic Party bid for the U.S. presidency failed. [6] Wall Street was bombed on September 2, 1920, near Federal Hall National Memorial and the JP Morgan Bank. Although both anarchists and communists were suspected as being responsible for the bombing, ultimately no individuals were indicted for the bombing in which 38 died and 141 were injured. [7]

<i>The Washington Post</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S..

Felix Frankfurter American judge

Felix Frankfurter was an Austrian-American lawyer, professor, and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Frankfurter served on the Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962 and was a noted advocate of judicial restraint in the judgments of the Court.

In 1919–20, several states enacted "criminal syndicalism" laws outlawing advocacy of violence in effecting and securing social change. The restrictions included free speech limitations. [8] Passage of these laws, in turn, provoked aggressive police investigation of the accused persons, their jailing, and deportation for being suspected of being either communist or left-wing. Regardless of ideological gradation, the Red Scare did not distinguish between communism, anarchism, socialism, or social democracy. [9]

Criminal syndicalism has been defined as a doctrine of criminal acts for political, industrial, and social change. These criminal acts include advocation of crime, sabotage, violence, and other unlawful methods of terrorism. Criminal syndicalism laws were enacted to oppose economic radicalism.

Social change Role of social change in society

Social change involves alteration of the social order of a society. It may include changes in social institutions, social behaviours or social relations.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Second Red Scare (1947–60)

Senator Joseph McCarthy, namesake of McCarthyism Joseph McCarthy.jpg
Senator Joseph McCarthy, namesake of McCarthyism

The second Red Scare occurred after World War II (1939–45), and it was popularly known as "McCarthyism" after its most famous supporter, Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthyism coincided with an increased and popular fear of communist espionage that was consequent to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, the Berlin Blockade (1948–49), the end of the Chinese Civil War, the confessions of spying for the Soviet Union that were made by several high-ranking U.S. government officials, and the outbreak of the Korean War.

Internal causes of the anti-communist fear

The events of the late 1940s, the early 1950s - the trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1953), the trial of Alger Hiss, the Iron Curtain (1945–1991) around Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapon test in 1949 (RDS-1) - surprised the American public, influencing popular opinion about U.S. National Security, which, in turn, was connected to the fear that the Soviet Union would hydrogen-bomb the United States, and fear of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA).

In Canada, the 1946 Kellock–Taschereau Commission investigated espionage after top secret documents concerning RDX, radar and other weapons were handed over to the Soviets by a domestic spy-ring. [10]

At the House Un-American Activities Committee, former CPUSA members and NKVD spies, Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers, testified that Soviet spies and communist sympathizers had penetrated the U.S. government before, during and after World War II. Other U.S. citizen spies confessed to their acts of espionage in situations where the statute of limitations on prosecuting them had run out. In 1949, anti–communist fear, and fear of American traitors, was aggravated by the Chinese Communists winning the Chinese Civil War against the Western-sponsored Kuomintang, their founding of the People's Republic of China, and later Chinese intervention in the Korean War (1950–53) against U.S. ally South Korea.

A few of the events during the Red Scare were also due to a power struggle between director of FBI J. Edgar Hoover and the Central Intelligence Agency. Hoover had instigated and aided some of the investigations of members of the CIA with "leftist" history, like Cord Meyer. [11] This conflict could also be traced back to the conflict between Hoover and William J. Donovan, going back to the first Red Scare, but especially during World War II. Donovan ran the OSS (CIA's predecessor). They had differing opinions on the nature of the alliance with the Soviet Union, conflicts over jurisdiction, conflicts of personality, the OSS hiring of communists and criminals as agents, etc. [12]

History

By the 1930s, communism had become an attractive economic ideology, particularly among labor leaders and intellectual elites. By 1939, the CPUSA had about 50,000 members. [13] In 1940, soon after World War II began in Europe, the U.S. Congress legislated the Alien Registration Act (aka the Smith Act, 18 USC § 2385) making it a crime to "knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the duty, necessity, desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association"—and required Federal registration of all foreign nationals. Although principally deployed against communists, the Smith Act was also used against right-wing political threats such as the German-American Bund, and the perceived racial disloyalty of the Japanese-American population, (cf. hyphenated-Americans).

In 1941, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the CPUSA's official position became pro-war, opposing labor strikes in the weapons industry and supporting the U.S. war effort against the Axis Powers. With the slogan "Communism is Twentieth-Century Americanism", the chairman, Earl Browder, advertised the CPUSA's integration to the political mainstream. [14] In contrast, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party opposed U.S. participation in the war and supported labor strikes, even in the war-effort industry. For this reason, James P. Cannon and other SWP leaders were convicted per the Smith Act.

In March 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835, creating the "Federal Employees Loyalty Program" establishing political-loyalty review boards who determined the "Americanism" of Federal Government employees, and recommended termination of those who had confessed to spying for the Soviet Union, as well as some suspected of being "Un-American". It also was the template for several state legislatures' loyalty acts, such as California's Levering Act. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the committees of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R., Wisc.) conducted character investigations of "American communists" (actual and alleged), and their roles in (real and imaginary) espionage, propaganda, and subversion favoring the Soviet Union—in the process revealing the extraordinary breadth of the Soviet spy network in infiltrating the federal government; the process also launched the successful political career of Richard Nixon, and Robert F. Kennedy, [15] as well as that of Joseph McCarthy.

Senator McCarran introduced the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 that was passed by the U.S. Congress and which modified a great deal of law to restrict civil liberties in the name of security. President Truman declared the act a "mockery of the Bill of Rights" and a "long step toward totalitarianism" because it represented a government restriction on the freedom of opinion. He vetoed the act but his veto was overridden by Congress. [16] Much of the bill eventually was repealed.

The Second Red Scare profoundly altered the temper of American society. Its later characterizations may be seen as contributory to works of feared communist espionage, such as the film My Son John (1952), about parent's suspicions their son is a spy. Abundant accounts in narrative forms contained themes of the infiltration, subversion, invasion, and destruction of American society by un–American thought. Even a baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, temporarily renamed themselves the "Cincinnati Redlegs" to avoid the money-losing and career-ruining connotations inherent in being ball-playing "Reds" (communists).

In 1995, the American government revealed details of the Venona Project, which when combined with the opening of the USSR ComIntern archives, provided substantial validation of intelligence gathering, outright spying, and policy influencing, by Americans on behalf of the Soviet Union, from 1940 through 1980. [17] [18]

See also

Footnotes

  1. Levin, Murray B. (1971). Political Hysteria in America: The Democratic Capacity for Repression. Basic Books. p. 29. ISBN   0-465-05898-1. OCLC   257349.
  2. Political Hysteria in America: The Democratic Capacity for Repression (1971), p. 31
  3. "Preamble to the IWW Constitution". Industrial Workers of the World. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  4. 1 2 Cole, David D. (2003). "Enemy Aliens" (PDF). Stanford Law Review. Stanford Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 5. 54 (5): 953–1004. doi:10.2307/1229690. ISSN   0038-9765. JSTOR   1229690. OCLC   95029839. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 15, 2011.
  5. Farquhar, Michael (2003). A Treasury of Great American Scandals. Penguin Books. p. 199. ISBN   0-14-200192-9. OCLC   51810711.
  6. Hakim, Joy (1995). War, Peace, and All That Jazz. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 34–36. ISBN   0-19-509514-6.
  7. Gage, Beverly (2009). The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 160–161. ISBN   978-0-19-514824-4. OCLC   149137353.
  8. Kennedy, David M.; Lizabeth Cohen; Thomas A. Bailey (2001). The American Pageant. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN   978-0-669-39728-4. OCLC   48675667.
  9. O. Dickerson, Mark (2006). An Introduction to Government and Politics, Seventh Edition. Toronto: Nelson. ISBN   0-17-641676-5.
  10. Canada. The report of the Royal Commission appointed under Order in Council P. C. 411 of February 5, 1946 to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding the communication, by public officials and other persons in positions of trust, of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power, June 27, 1946. Ottawa: E. Cloutier, Printer to the King, 1946.[ verification needed ]
  11. Mocking Bird Archived 2006-06-19 at the Wayback Machine , John Simkin, Spartacus Schoolnet
  12. See for example Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA , by Mark Riebling
  13. Johnpoll, Bernard K. (1994). A Documentary History of the Communist Party of the United States: Volume III Unite and Fight, 1934–1935. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. xv. ISBN   978-0-313-28506-6. OCLC   27976811.
  14. Countryman, Edward (2010). "Communism". In Kazin, Michael; Edwards, Rebecca; Rothman, Adam (eds.). The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 175. ISBN   0-691-12971-1. OCLC   320801248 . Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  15. "The Hiss Case in History". The Hiss Case in Story. Harvard, NYU. 2009. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  16. Lane, Frederick S. (2009). American Privacy: The 400-year History of Our Most Contested Right. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 130. ISBN   0-8070-4441-5 . Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  17. "Venona and the Russian Files". The Hiss Case in Story. Harvard, NYU. 2010. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  18. Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. "A Brief Account of the American Experience" (PDF). Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. VI; Appendix A. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. A–7. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 14, 2011. Retrieved 2006-06-26.

References and further reading

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