Red Scare The Red Scare took place twice in American History. First in the period of 1919 to 1921 which was triggered by a Communist take over of Russia. The Red scare never really stopped since it’s first appearance, but occurred again in the 1950’s. It was a label given to the actions of legislation, race riots, and the hatred and persecution of revolutionary objectors during that period of time. After the war formally ended on November 18, 1918, there was an ideological war still going on in the US.

It was a war which prompted mass paranoia and caused what would be known as the Red Scare, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1921. First period of red scare began in June 1919, when the newly appointed US attorney general, A. Mitchel Palmer, was waken up by the explosion on his door steps. A bomber tripped over something, blowing himself up. It was later found that additional bombs had exploded on the doorsteps of other high-ranking government officials in at least 8 more cities.

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This was the start of the first Red Scare throughout the country. The next day’s New York Times newspaper reported that the attack was Bolshevik or W.W.I origin. After all the unfair legislation passed by the government, the scene was set for a disaster. Palmer used the laws set down in 1917 to deport members of the WWI. When the Palmer Raids began, its two main targets were the Communist Party, and the Communist Labor Party. In 1918, after the end of the war, all the groups which opposed the war came under fire.

They were seen as destructive to the peace and security of the American nation. The focus of the attacks was no longer on the conscientious objectors, since many of them had already been jailed during the war, and were still in jail at the time. It was now switched over to the Socialists; they were still a viable target. Another reason for the Red Scare was the strike held by mine workers. They were thought to be making threatening moves against the Capitalist system through subversive Socialist organizations. These strikes were part of a series of events taking place in 1919. This strike, which occurred in February, consisted of 60,000 coal mine workers.

In that September, steel workers were on strike. All of the available blame was put upon the American Communists, although many communists tried to oppose this strike. Nationalist Americans called for a halt to this “Bolshevik Revolution” which was taking place on American soil. As a result of this panic traveling through American society, a series of bombings occurred. The Socialists were immediately assumed to be responsible.

Newspapers had a field day publicizing these bombings. Attorney General Palmer took advantage of the widespread panic of the public and media and asked Congress for fund appropriations to help avoid further danger. Congress obliged, not only supplying funds, but going one step further. The message was then made clear: foreign radicals were to all be deported. The Red Scare finally came to an end after a series of actions by high government officials, especially in the Justice Department itself, which showed dissent from Palmer’s philosophy. Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis F. Post began to reject most of the cases brought before him concerning the immigrants.

Even the Secretary of Labor himself, William B. Wilson turned against Palmer. Out of 6,000 warrants issued during the raids, less than 1,000 deportations resulted. Even with all this opposition to his actions, Palmer still aspired to the office of the Presidency. He was never nominated. By 1920, the Red Scare was dying down, and by 1921 it was virtually dead.

It would have been much easier to overthrow the government or get a lot of support for Communist ideas during the first Red Scare rather then in the 1950’s. After WWI was over, many people were coming home and there was a tremendous rise in unemployment. Industries that were working for the war had to change their products to meet piece time demands, which costed a lot of money. On the other hand, in the 50’s, the economy started to improve and people finally gained some hope for a bright future. The Marshal plan, providing economical aid to any state which suffered from fascism, brought American goods into the world market. Big labor unions were also around, such as the Knights of Labor and the AFL, which wanted better working conditions, higher wages and a smaller work day. Also, no legislation regarding communism was passed by congress at that time, so workers in Unions were legally allowed to be Communists. The first restriction on people entering the Unions was passed in 1947 by Congress, called the Taft-Hartley Act.

One provision stated that a worker must swear that he is not, and was not a communist, before entering a Union.


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