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==1st Red Scare (1917 - 1920)==
==1st Red Scare (1917 - 1920)==
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Revision as of 15:51, 2 December 2008

Red Menace redirects here. For the 2007 Wildstorm Productions comic book series see Red Menace (comics).
Political cartoon of 1919 depicting a "European anarchist" attempting to destroy the Statue of Liberty.

The term Red Scare has been retroactively applied to two distinct periods of strong anti-Communism in United States history: first from 1917 to 1920, and second from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. These periods were characterized by heightened suspicion of Communists and radicals, and the fear of widespread infiltration of Communists in U.S. government.

1st Red Scare (1917 - 1920)

just kidding

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2nd Red Scare (1947–1957)

Senator Joseph McCarthy, from whose name "McCarthyism" is taken.

The Second Red Scare took place in the United States after World War II. It coincided with increased fears of espionage by Communists and heightened tension from Soviet oppression in Eastern Europe (beginning in 1946), the Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), Chinese Civil War (1949), and the Korean War (1950–1953). These fears spurred aggressive investigations and the red-baiting, blacklisting, jailing and deportation of people suspected of following communist or other left-wing ideology.


During the late 1940s several news events caught the public's attention, including the trial, conviction and subsequent execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for espionage (specifically passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union), the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, and the acquisition of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union. These events influenced the opinions of many Americans regarding their own security, and connected the fear of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union with a fear of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). In testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, former CPUSA party members Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers testified that Soviet spies and Communist sympathizers had been successful in penetrating several U.S. government agencies during and after World War II.

The testimony of Bentley and Chambers was cited as evidence of active Soviet and Communist infiltration of the United States government. Anti-communists also criticized the history of the Soviet Union and China as evidence of Communism's destructiveness, asserting that Stalin's purges, the creation of the gulag system and other examples of oppression were a function of the Communist ideology.


Due in part to the privation of the Great Depression, communism was an attractive ideology to many in the U.S., especially among intellectual and labor circles. At the height of American communism's popularity in 1939, the party had 50,000 U.S. members.[1] After the beginning of the war in Europe, Congress passed the Smith Act in 1940, which made membership in any organization advocating the violent overthrow of the government of the United States illegal and required all foreign nationals to register with the federal government. The Act was aimed not only at Communists, but also at members of the German-American Bund and the general Japanese-American population. After Germany invaded the USSR, the CPUSA shifted from an anti- to a pro-war position. During the war, while the USSR and America were allies, the Communist Party opposed labor strikes as detrimental to the war effort and supported an aggressive U.S. military policy. Under the slogan "Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism", CPUSA Chairman Earl Browder advertised that the party had been integrated into the mainstream of US politics.[citation needed] In contrast, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party opposed World War II and supported strikes even in war industries.[citation needed] SWP leaders including James P. Cannon were convicted under the Smith Act, with the approval of the CPUSA, whose members were not prosecuted.

In 1947, Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9835, creating the Federal Employees Loyalty Program. The program created review boards to investigate federal employees and terminate them if there were doubts as to their loyalty. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the committees of Senator Joseph McCarthy began investigations of actual or alleged American Communists and their role in espionage, propaganda, and subversive activities, real and imagined.

There were also effects on America's way of life as a result of the Red Scare and the nuclear arms race, which contributed to the popularization of fallout shelters in home construction and regular duck and cover drills at schools. The Red Scare is also cited as one factor that contributed to the rise and popularity of science fiction films during the 1950s and beyond. Many thrillers and science fiction movies of the period used a theme of a sinister, inhuman enemy that was planning to infiltrate society and destroy the American way of life. Even a sports team was affected by the red scare; the Cincinnati Reds temporarily changed their team name to "Redlegs" to avoid the association of "Reds" and Communism.

Also See

References and notes


  1. ^ 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. p. xv. ISBN 978-0313285066. 

References and further reading

  • Fried, Albert (1997). McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509701-7. 
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). War, Peace, and All That Jazz. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 29–33. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  • Haynes, John Earl (2000). Red Scare or Red Menace?: American Communism and Anti Communism in the Cold War Era. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-091-6. 
  • Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey (2000). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08462-5. 
  • Levin, Murray B. (1971). Political Hysteria in America: The Democratic Capacity for Repression. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05898-1. 
  • Morgan, Ted (2004). Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America. Random House. ISBN 0-8129-7302-X. 
  • Murray, Robert K. (1964). Red Scare a Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0816658331. 
  • Powers, Richard Gid (1997). Not Without Honor: A History of American AntiCommunism. Free Press. ISBN 0-300-07470-0. 
  • Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.