Red Scare 2015

THE RED SCARE (1919-1920)
The Red Scare
Communism: a system of government aimed at a
classless society, based upon common (rather than
private) ownership of the means of production
– Goal: end to “capitalist system that caused the exploitation
of the working class…”
– Advocates worker’s revolution v. bourgeoisie (owner class)
Anarchy: society without a publicly enforced
government; advocates stateless societies based on
voluntary associations
Red Scare: Period of anticommunist hysteria in the
U.S. from 1919-1920; culminating in the Palmer
– Fear widespread infiltration of communists in the
government…was largely unfounded
Civil Liberties Trampled
Crackdown on Socialism/Communism, dissent,
civil liberties during WWI.
– Espionage/Sedition Acts
– Connecticut clothing salesmen was sentenced to sixth months in
jail simply for saying Lenin was smart
Repression at the State Level
– Suspects of disloyalty must kiss flag
– No red or black flags
– Change curriculum; teachers must sign loyalty oaths
American Protective League—spy on neighbors,
men must show draft cards
Anti-Communist/Socialist sentiment reaches a
climax in 1919…WHY?
Causes of Red Scare
Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution in Russia;
Communist, Vladimir Lenin calls for world workers
to rise up in general strikes (1917)
– Fear of communism spreads: seen as threat
1919: 4 million go on general strike across U.S.—met
by government, employers, patriotic org.
– Seattle Shipyard Strike: crushed by US troops
– Boston Police Strike: entire force fired
– Great Steel Strike: put down through propaganda and fear
Series of Anarchist bombings in 1919
Rising Nativism: Perceive immigrants to U.S. (esp.
S. & E. Europeans) as radicals
The Red Menace
“Employees lose respect for
a company that fails to
provide decent facilities for
their comfort.”
Why were labor unions often vilified during
the Red Scare?
“The Case against the Reds”
– “…It has been impossible in so short a space to review the entire
menace of the internal revolution in this country as I know it, but
this may serve to arouse the American citizen to its reality, its
danger, and the great need of united effort to stamp it out, under
our feet, if needs be. It is being done. The Department of Justice
will pursue the attack of these "Reds" upon the Government of the
United States with vigilance, and no alien, advocating the
overthrow of existing law and order in this country, shall escape
arrest and prompt deportation.
– It is my belief that while they have stirred discontent in our midst,
while they have caused irritating strikes, and while they have
infected our social ideas with the disease of their own minds and
their unclean morals we can get rid of them! and not until we have
done so shall we have removed the menace of Bolshevism for
» Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer
» Forum, issue 63 (1920)
Palmer Raids
Attorney General: A. Mitchell Palmer
– Believes steel strike part of worldwide communist
– Wants shot at presidency: uses fears of communism and
immigrants to his advantage
U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, got
$500k from Congress
 Goal: The Palmer raids were a series of raids
conducted nationwide by the Department of Justice
in an attempt to arrest and deport certain left
(communist) leaning radical elements.
Palmer Raids
Appointed J. Edgar Hoover to lead investigations
Dispatches fed. Agents to raid radical (Communist,
Socialist, Anarchist) and labor organizations to “root out
conspiracies to overthrow US government
– Over 6,000 arrested or deported w/o trial
– Civil Liberties Crushed
» Often lack search warrants, people denied attorneys, unlawful detained
Compile files on hundreds of thousands Americans
IWW destroyed/Socialist Party crushed
Colbert Report: NSA Prism Surveillance Program
– Palmer Raids: Mini Lesson
Which rights were most affected by the
Palmer Raids?
Rising Nativism
By 1911, over 45 million
– S. and E. European origins; also
Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic
– Strong anti-immigrant
Nativists believe immigrants
were diluting Amer. culture
Also, economic backlash
– Leads to calls for restrictions
Immigration Restrictions
Emergency Quota Act (1921)/Immigration Act of
– Made immigration restriction a permanent policy
– Set quotas at 2% of each national group rep. in the
1890 census…WHY 1890?
» Goal: Drastically cut immigration from Southern/Eastern
– Literacy requirements
Creates an “America for Americans Only”
attitude…which along with the fear of
communism triggers mass discrimination
Sacco and Vanzetti
Sacco-Vanzetti Trial
– Italian immigrants-accused of robbery and murder
» Italian descent/anarchists both work against them
– Unfair trial-sentenced to execution
– Mass protests in Europe—executed in 1927
– Significance?
» Example of fear of irrational fear of “radicalism” as well as nativism
toward immigrants
Sacco and Vanzetti Trial
Sacco and Vanzetti Innocent?
“I wish to tell you I am innocent and never connected
with any crime... I wish to forgive some
people for what they are now doing to me.”
“I am suffering because I am a radical. Indeed
I am a radical. I have suffered because I
was Italian. Indeed, I am an Italian. I have
suffered more for my family and my
beloved than for myself. But I am so
convinced to be right that if you could
execute me two times, and if I could be
reborn two other times, I would live again
to do what I have done already. I have
finished. Thank you.”
-Bartolomeo Vanzetti
The Ku Klux Klan
Great increase
In power
Anti-women’s suffrage
The Ku Klux Klan
1923 4 million members
 Control 6 governorships including IN (not
just in South)
 D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation
– Explicitly racist landmark American film
– Still used as a recruitment piece for Klan