As the historian Ellen Schrecker has observed, American Communists were neither devils nor saints. The party was a dynamic part of the broader Left that in the s and s advanced the causes of labor, minority rights, and feminism. Anticommunists were less unified than their adversary; diverse constituencies mobilized against communism at different moments. Employers often enlisted local law officers and private detectives in their efforts to quell labor militancy, which they cast as unpatriotic. The correlation between labor unrest and anticommunist zeal was enduring.
The first major Red Scare emerged during the postwar strike wave of and produced the initial infrastructure for waging war on domestic communism. Diverse strikes across the nation coincided with a series of mail bombings by anarchists. Mitchell Palmer charged that these events were evidence of a revolutionary conspiracy.http://jogosregionais.strongtecnologia.com.br/map34.php
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Palmer directed the young J. Edgar Hoover, head of the General Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Investigation later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI , to arrest radicals and their associates and to deport the foreign born among them. The ensuing raids and surveillance activities violated civil liberties, and in the bureau was reined in.
But Hoover became FBI director, a position he would hold until his death in Intensely anticommunist, and prone to associating any challenge to the economic or social status quo with communism, Hoover would be a key player in the second Red Scare. After the wartime federal sedition and espionage laws expired, and after the FBI was curbed, state and local officials took primary responsibility for fighting communism.
By thirty-five states had passed sedition or criminal syndicalism laws the latter directed chiefly at labor organizations and vaguely defined to prohibit sabotage or other crimes committed in the name of political reform. The limitations of the American Federation of Labor AFL in organizing mass-production industries led to the emergence of the Congress of Industrial Organizations CIO , which organized workers regardless of craft into industry-wide unions such as the United Automobile Workers. Encouraged by the National Labor Relations Act of , the CIO pioneered aggressive tactics such as the sit-down strike and further distinguished itself from the AFL with its organizing efforts among women and racial minorities.
Charges of communism were especially common in response to labor protests by African Americans in the South and by Mexican Americans in the West. Education was another anticommunist concern during the interwar period. By , twenty-one states required loyalty oaths for teachers. School boards and state legislatures investigated allegations of subversion among teachers and college professors.
Throughout this period, the federal role in fighting communism consisted mainly of using immigration law to keep foreign-born radicals out of the country, but the FBI continued to monitor the activities of Communists and their alleged sympathizers. The political and legal foundations of the second Red Scare thus were under construction well before the Cold War began. In Congress, a conservative coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats had crystallized by Congressional conservatives disliked many New Deal policies—from public works to consumer protection to, above all, labor rights—and they frequently charged that the administering agencies were influenced by Communists.
For his chief investigator, Dies hired J. Matthews forged a career path for ex-leftists whose perceived expertise was valuable to congressional committees, the FBI, and anti—New Deal media magnates such as William Randolph Hearst. In one early salvo against the Roosevelt administration, Dies Committee members called for the impeachment of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins because she refused to deport the Communist labor leader Harry Bridges; Perkins claimed correctly that she did not have the legal authority to deport him.
The Smith Act made it illegal to advocate overthrow of the government, effectively criminalizing membership in the Communist Party, and allowed deportation of aliens who ever had belonged to a seditious organization. To enforce the Hatch Act, the U.
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FBI agents interviewed government employees who admitted having or were alleged to have associations with any listed group. When most of those employees were retained, the Dies Committee charged that CSC examiners themselves had subversive tendencies. The Roosevelt administration and its supporters dismissed Dies and his ilk as fanatics, but in accusations that Communists had infiltrated government agencies began to get traction.
The second Red Scare derived its momentum from fears that Communist spies in powerful government positions were manipulating U. Millions of federal employees filled out loyalty forms swearing they did not belong to any subversive organization and explaining any association they might have with a designated group. Agency loyalty boards requested name checks and sometimes full field investigations by the FBI, which promptly hired 7, additional agents. Those numbers exclude job applicants who were rejected on loyalty grounds.
More importantly, those numbers exclude the tens of thousands of civil servants who eventually were cleared after one or more rounds of investigation, which could include replying to written interrogatories, hearings, appeals, and months of waiting, sometimes without pay, for a decision. Those grounds usually consisted of a list of individually minor associations that dated back to the s. Because loyalty standards became more restrictive over time, employees who did not change jobs too faced reinvestigation, even in the absence of new allegations against them. Loyalty standards tightened as the political terrain shifted.
During the summer of , the ex-Communists Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers testified before HUAC that in the s and early s they had managed Washington spy rings that included dozens of government officials, including the former State Department aide Alger Hiss. A Harvard Law School graduate who had been involved in the formation of the United Nations, Hiss vigorously denied the allegations, and Truman officials defended him.
Hiss was convicted of perjury in Meanwhile, the Soviets developed nuclear capability sooner than expected, Communists took control in China, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted, and North Korea invaded South Korea. Senator McCarthy claimed to explain those events by alleging that Communists had infiltrated the U. Congress then in effect broadened the loyalty program by passing Public Law , which empowered heads of sensitive agencies to dismiss an employee on security grounds. An employee deemed loyal could nonetheless be labeled a security risk because of personal circumstances alcoholism, homosexuality, a Communist relative that were perceived to create vulnerability to coercion.
A purge of homosexuals from the State Department and other agencies ensued. That same month the U. It was not unusual for a career civil servant to be investigated under the Hatch Act during World War II and then again after each executive order. Of the more than 9, employees who were cleared after full investigation under the standard, for example, at least 2, saw their cases reopened under the standard.
Employees who had been cleared never knew when their case might be reopened. Even after the loyalty program was curbed in the late s, the FBI continued to keep tabs on former loyalty defendants.
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Unlike dismissals, investigations occurred across the ranks, so all civil servants felt the pressure. Case files declassified in the early 21st century indicate that loyalty investigations truncated or redirected the careers of many high-ranking civil servants, who typically kept secret the fact that they had been investigated. Many of them were noncommunist but left-leaning New Dealers who advocated measures designed to expand democracy by regulating the economy and reducing social inequalities.
Their fields of expertise included labor and civil rights, consumer protection, welfare, national health insurance, public power, and public housing; their marginalization by charges of disloyalty impeded reform in these areas and narrowed the scope of political discourse more generally. Through the federal loyalty program, conservative anticommunists exploited public fears of espionage to block policy initiatives that impinged on private-sector prerogatives. The loyalty program for federal employees was accompanied by similar programs focused on port security and industrial security.
Private employees on government contracts also faced screening, and state and local governments soon imitated the federal programs. Public universities revived mandatory loyalty oaths. In , Americans employed by international organizations such as the United Nations became subject to Civil Service Commission loyalty screening, over protests that such screening violated the sovereignty of the international organizations. One researcher estimated in that approximately 20 percent of the U. Beyond the realms of government, industry, and transport, anticommunists trained their sights on those arenas where they deemed the potential for ideological subversion to be high, including education and the media.
The entertainment industry was an especially attractive target for congressional investigating committees seeking to generate sensational headlines. Eventually, after the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, the ten directors and screenwriters spent six months in prison. For more than a decade beyond that, they were blacklisted by Hollywood employers. As countersubversives issued a steady flow of accusations, the cloud of suspicion expanded. In , the authors of the anticommunist newsletter Counterattack , who included several former FBI agents, released a booklet called Red Channels: It listed writers, composers, producers, and performers and included a long list of allegedly subversive associations for each person.
The booklet was riddled with factual errors. Some of those listed were or had been Communists, but others had not. In any case, they and those on similar lists found it nearly impossible to get work in their fields; some could get hired only by working under another name. The fear of unemployment produced many ripple effects beyond those felt at the individual level.
Groups were added to the U. Very few of the roughly organizations on the official list engaged in illegal activity. Rather than take chances, many people stopped belonging to organizations. The second Red Scare also reshaped the American labor movement. Top CIO leaders tolerated Communists at first, valuing their dedication and hoping to avoid internal division and external attack.
Many trade union members, especially Catholics, were intensely anticommunist and stepped up their effort to oust Communists from their leadership. In the Communist Party made the position of its members in the labor movement more difficult by supporting the Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace rather than President Truman. The expulsions embittered many workers and labor allies, and they did not prevent right-wing groups from associating trade unionism with communism.
With a Republican in the White House as a result of the election, the partisan motivation for attacking the administration as soft on communism diminished. Opportunists such as Senator McCarthy made increasingly outrageous charges to remain in the spotlight, straining the patience of President Dwight Eisenhower and other Republican leaders such as Robert Taft of Ohio. Matthews, after he claimed that the Protestant clergy at large had Communist sympathies, increased public criticism of McCarthy. Newspaper and television journalists began featuring the cases of government employees unfairly dismissed as loyalty or security risks, and various foundations and congressional committees undertook studies that gave further impetus to demands for reforming the loyalty program.
McCarthy responded to his critics—from Edward Murrow of the See It Now television program to his fellow legislators—by accusing them of Communist sympathies. His conduct and that of his subordinate Roy Cohn in pressing unsubstantiated charges of disloyalty in the U. Army led to televised hearings beginning in April , which gave viewers an extended opportunity to see McCarthy in action. In December the Senate censured McCarthy. A few months later, the FBI informant Harvey Matusow recanted, claiming that McCarthy and others had encouraged him to give false information and that he knew other ex-Communist witnesses, such as Elizabeth Bentley and Louis Budenz, to have done the same.
Changes in the composition of the Supreme Court also dampened the fervor of the anticommunist crusade. Four justices were replaced between and , and under Chief Justice Earl Warren the court issued several rulings that limited the mechanisms designed to identify and punish Communists. In and , the court held that the federal loyalty program could apply only to employees in sensitive positions. One government personnel director opined in that 90 percent of the people who had been dismissed on loyalty grounds in the early s would have had no difficulty under the same circumstances a decade later.
Even so, the damage lasted a long time. The applicant pool for civil service jobs contracted sharply and did not soon recover. Former loyalty defendants, even those who had been cleared, lived the rest of their lives in fear that the old accusations would resurface.
The loyalty programs and blacklists wound down, but anticommunism remained a potent force through the s and beyond. Targets soon included participants in the civil rights, anti—Vietnam War, and feminist movements. Scholarship on the second Red Scare has emerged in waves, responding to the availability of new sources, changing historical methodologies, and shifting political contexts. Initial debates centered on assessing the causes of, or motivations behind, the anticommunist furor.
Some accounts emphasized the partisan pressures from Republicans and southern Democrats on the Truman administration. Some of these scholars wrote from a critical stance influenced by the Vietnam-era disillusionment of the New Left, while others applauded liberal anticommunism and focused on how McCarthy had discredited it. Edgar Hoover, who put citizens under illegal surveillance, leaked information to congressional conservatives, and stood by informants known to be unreliable.
That disjuncture was soon mitigated by an outpouring of studies of Communist activity at the grassroots, in diverse local contexts usually far removed from foreign affairs. The tenor of debate shifted again when the end of the Cold War made available new evidence from Soviet archives and U. That evidence indicated that scholars had underestimated the success of Soviet espionage in the United States as well as the extent of Soviet control over the American Communist Party.
Alger Hiss, contrary to what most liberals had believed, and contrary to what he maintained until his death in , was almost certainly guilty of espionage. The new evidence did not resolve scholarly differences, but it produced a more complicated, frequently less romantic view of the American Communist Party CPUSA.
The paradoxical lesson from several decades of scholarship is that the same organization that inspired democratic idealists in the pursuit of social justice also was secretive, authoritarian, and morally compromised by ties to the Stalin regime. The opening of government records also afforded a clearer view of the machinery of the second Red Scare, and that view has reinforced earlier judgements about its unjust and damaging aspects. Scholarship since the late 20th century has tried to transcend the old debates by turning to new approaches.
Comparative studies have been useful in exploring the interaction between popular and elite forces in generating and sustaining anticommunism. These and other local- and state-level studies demonstrate that the intensity of Red Scare politics was not a simple function of the strength of the Communist threat.
Rather, Red Scares caught fire where rapid change threatened old regimes. Varying mixtures of elite and grassroots forces mobilized to defend local hierarchies, whether of class, religion, race, or gender. Attention to gender as a category of historical analysis has added another dimension to our understanding of the second Red Scare. Domestic anticommunism was fueled by widespread anxiety about the perceived threats to American masculinity posed by totalitarianism, corporate hierarchy, and homosexuality.
Congressional conservatives used charges of homosexuality—chiefly male homosexuality—in government agencies to serve their own political purposes. High-ranking women in government too were especially frequent targets of loyalty charges, as conservative anticommunists tapped popular hostility to powerful women to rally support for hunting subversives and blocking liberal policies. A related trend in the literature situates McCarthyism within a longer anticommunist tradition. Aided by newly accessible materials such as FBI files and the unpublished records of congressional investigating committees, historians are documenting in concrete detail how the fear of communism, and the fear of punishment for association with communism, affected specific individuals, organizations, professions, social movements, public policies, and government agencies.
In a useful survey of archival sources on McCarthyism, Ellen Schrecker suggests looking for evidence created by various categories of players: FBI files on individuals and organizations are revealing both about the targets and the inquisitors; some frequently requested files are available online, and others can be obtained, with patience, through a Freedom of Information Act Request. Washington, DC—area branches of the National Archives hold records of surviving case files from the federal employee loyalty program Record Group The rich papers of anticommunist investigator J. Matthews are at Duke University.
The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University. Also at Princeton are the papers of Paul Tillett Jr. Because so many groups and individuals participated in the second Red Scare in one role or another, manuscript and oral-history collections in archives all over the country hold relevant material.
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Designated terrorist groups Charities accused of ties to terrorism. Counter-terrorism International conventions Anti-terrorism legislation Terrorism insurance. Class struggle Class consciousness Classless society Collective leadership Common ownership Commune Communist society Free association From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs Gift economy Proletarian internationalism Stateless society Workers' self-management World revolution.
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