Red Scare 1919

The Red Scare 1919-1920
Home Front USA - World War I:
Prelude to the Red Scare
During WWI, the Committee on Public Information was
established created to influence U.S. public opinion regarding
American participation in the war.
George Creel
Creel’s Two Themes:
1. Hatred of the enemy
2. Promote loyalty
*Creel tapped into the divisive issue of national
Identity, which caused many Americans to look
suspiciously at immigrants – especially Eastern
Europeans, Catholics, and Jews.
**The CPI encouraged loyal associations to monitor
suspicious people and report their activities - American
Protective League. The APL in many regions was
dominated by conservative bankers, business execs, and
factory managers & owners.
Home Front USA - World War I:
Prelude to the Red Scare
The “Creel Committee’s” Propaganda Campaign:
• Deployed Four Minute Men to deliver patriotic
speeches. (Junior FMM too.)
• Staged patriotic events for different ethnic
• Fed news stories to the
American Media.
• Produced patriotic movies.
• Produced patriotic posters.
Civil Liberties Denied as a
War Time Precaution
Espionage Act: Made illegal spying, interfering
with the draft, making false statements that
might impede military success.
Sedition Act: Made it a crime to make a spoken
or printed statement that cast contempt, scorn,
or disrepute on the form of government or
advocated interference with the war effort.
The Supreme Court Supports the War
Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
SCOTUS unanimously upheld the Espionage Act,
which declared that people who interfered with
the war effort were subject to imprisonment;
declared that the 1st Amendment right to
freedom of speech was not absolute; free
speech could be limited if its exercise presented
a “clear and present danger.”
Post War Labor Unrest
During the War:
 War Industries Board directed
the economy. (Large swaths
of the economy nationalized.)
 Labor benefited from scarcity
of labor.
 Wartime contracts very
 Labor – “no strike”
agreements during the war.
 Union membership increased.
End of War:
 War ends sooner than
anticipated. No transition
plan ready.
 Returning vets flooded labor
 Many wartime jobs were
 Wartime price controls ended
= inflation.
 Wages for remaining workers
were slashed.
 Many businesses used
transition to eliminate unions.
Seattle – Radical Hotbed
 Unions thrive in Seattle
during WWI.
 The radical International
Workers of the World
(I.W.W. or “Wobblies”) are
 Labor unrest turns into a
February 1919.
 Propaganda & tensions
create a volatile
atmosphere with the mayor
calling union leaders
Radicalization of Labor > Red Scare
Populist / Progressive ideology (1880s – 1917)
+ Russian Revolution (1917)
+ Communist International in 1919 to export Communism
+ the founding of the American Communist Party (1919)
+ post-war inflation & economic recession/unemployment
+ nationwide strikes in 1919 (3,600 strikes of 4 million workers)
+ General Strike in Seattle
+ Growing violence and bombing incidents
= Growing conviction among Americans that unions were no
different from socialists & communists, all are RADICAL.
Radicalization of Labor > Red Scare
Notable Strikes in 1919
Seattle General Strike
Boston Police Strike
U.S. Steel Strike
United Mine Workers
The Boston Police Strike
‘There is no right to strike against the
public safety by anyone, anywhere,
any time. ” – Gov. Coolidge
Racial Violence during the Red Summer
Migration to
the North
Black WWI
38 separate
race riots
A. Mitchell Palmer – Red Hunter
 Some politicians used public
anxiety for political gain.
 Attorney General Palmer had
presidential ambitions in 1920.
 Palmer given “green light from
Congress to go after radical
 A bomb, blamed on radicals, was
detonated outside his home and
on Wall Street, where 38 were
 Palmer authorized raids by the
newly formed General
Intelligence Division, led by J.
Edgar Hoover. Thousands of
suspected radicals were arrested.
 500 radical aliens were deported.
A. Mitchell
J. Edgar
Legacy of the Red Scare
• Increased suspicion of
• Distrust of labor unions.
• Hostility to reformers.
• Growing insistence on
• Isolationist foreign
Why were the excesses of the Red
Scare condoned by many Americans?
 Stifled dissent.
 Dealt Labor a major set
 Attacked radicalism.
 Addressed growing
concerns about
 Reestablished WASP
Why do Americans turn against
Progressivism after World War I?
 The war ends abruptly with no sense of
satisfaction – especially after Versailles.
 After 1920, economic prosperity from post-war
economic spending & Euro recovery.
 Blowback from Labor strife and association with
 Desire to roll back war time regulatory powers.
 Many Progressives had not supported the war.
 General reform fatigue.
 Growing sentiment that American liberalism was
on the same side of the political spectrum as
radical Bolshevism.