red-scare

US political propaganda poster post WW1. Depicts Uncle Sam (US) leaving the communist nations of Eastern Europe and Asia.

The Red Scare reflected the social and political influence of international affairs on the vulnerable, post WW1 American population. Ending at the start of the new decade, the Red Scare targeted the fear among American politicians and government officials of the spread of socialist ideology in the United States. When the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian government, a revolution led by Vladimir Lenin began to brew that was fueled by the desire for a communist regime. Communism is a Marxist (Karl Marx) political ideology that calls for an elimination of private property. Economic equality can be achieved by all property being public or government owned, and the working class (Proletariat) and the employers (Bourgeoisie) would become one unified population.

Communism stems from Marxism where the working class must overthrow the employers in order to eliminate distinct class structures. No private property, no classes, and no private business equals ultimate economic equality.

In a country such as the United States where capitalism encourages private enterprise and manufacturing, a rise in communist beliefs would pose as a threat to the political and economic environment of the nation. In fear of a similar revolution taking place, officials imprisoned workers who were suspected of expressing communist or socialist views. The Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal to freely discuss political views that went against the “status quo”, in other words, capitalism. Those in support of socialism or communism were labeled as “Anarchists”, or “Reds” due to red being the primary color of the Soviet Union flag.

To add to the Anti-Communist hysteria, President Woodrow Wilson‘s attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer made it his duty to prevent any sort of rebel group from prospering in the United States. Palmer’s controversial ideology of US security overruling civil liberties led to him taking drastic measures in order to protect the country. His actions included a series of raids on citizens who were considered to be an endangerment to the security of the US. The most notable case of Anarchists in the United States is the trial of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti, who were accused of killing two employees at a shoe warehouse on April 21, 1921. Although the two claimed to be innocent up until their death sentence, many believed they were targeted by officials due to the fact that they were known Anarchists, expressing their support for socialist beliefs.

American officials feared another political uprising after having been involved in a costly and tiresome war. While reconstruction was on the rise, the political revolution in Russia posed as a possible influence to the war weary population that was on the look out for economic opportunity.

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