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    An Overview of the Paranoia and Cruelty That Swept the U.S. After WW1, The Red Scare

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    After World War 1 paranoia and cruelty swept across the United States during a period known as the Red Scare. The year 1919 had a large number of social conflicts including strikes, prohibition, women suffrage, and the Chicago race riot (2, 27). Anarchists set off bombs, targeting political officials. Objectors and those who spoke against the government were subject to attack.

    During this period of chaos, the United States government tried to minimize radicalism as best to their ability (2, 29). Attorney General Mitchell Palmer proposed aggressive action on those who spoke and took action against the government (4, 104). A large number of radical immigrants were deported and raids on liberal organizations ensued. The Red Scare was the United State government s reaction to rising socialistic actions, but spread fear across America.

    The backbone of the Red Scare was the Conscription Law of May 1917, which was put into place during World War 1 to draft more Americans (1, 67). As a result, a large number of objectors to the war were drafted and enlisted. These objectors were thought to be cowards, pro-German socialists and were to be targeted in the Red Scare (1, 67). The objectors were to be blamed for any radical ideas that occurred after the war. The United States government decided to take action and smother radical uprising, and hence the Red Scare was created.

    The first period of the Red Scare began in June 1919, when the newly appointed US attorney general, Mitchel Palmer, was waken up only to find that a bomb had exploded on his front door steps. (6, 1). Mitchel Palmer wanted to create a special task force that would stop the terror which swept through America (6, 1). He went before the Congress and asked that they add fund to the Department of Justice to deal with the sudden crises (6, 2).

    However, Congress refused to grant any money. Then he gave a speech before the Senate convincing it that Communists are planing the overthrow the government and that the bombings were part of the well organized conspiracy (4, 73). He then received half a million dollars from the Senate, and he began a search for the conspirators (4, 75). After it emerged that the bombs have exploded on the doorsteps of other high-ranking government officials in at least 8 more cities, the Red Scare had begun throughout the country.

    Palmers newly formed Anti-Radical organization searched for communist radicals and other groups that would attempt to cause a revolt against the United States government. One night in January of 1920, ten thousand people were arrested throughout the country (5, 2). Many were arrested without a warrant and were not informed about their right to council (5, 2).

    Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union defended the rights of the objectors who they thought were wrongfully arrested and persecuted (3,48). The American Civil Liberties Union gained the reputation of helping people who were too poor to pay for their own representation in court (3, 48). These poor objectors and other minorities who were unlawfully arrested were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and were called Wobblies.

    These Wobblies and Socialists were thought as being rebellious individuals who were trying to overthrow the United States government. Wobblies, in particular, were persecuted against for speaking out against the capitalist system (3, 127). Although most of what they said was only to attract attention to their cause, their messages were taken seriously by the government and its officials (3, 127). From the very beginning of the Red Scare, the Wobblies were the subject of attack by the government, because they were a symbol of radicalism.

    The government put in place legislation, not only against the Wobblies, but also against Socialists and Communists, due to the fact that the government did not distinguish the different radicals from each other (3, 128). One such action taken by the government prevented Wobblies who were not yet citizens from naturalization, even if they quit their organization.

    In 1917, the US government made a law which gave the Secretary of Labor the power to arrest or deport any alien promoting or teaching destruction of property or the overthrow of government by force(6, 1). These laws allowed the government to use deportation as a cure for the anti-government views of its enemies. After all the unfair legislation passed by the government, disaster and more chaos were inevitable.

    Attorney General, Mitchell Palmer used biased laws to rage a war against the Wobblies and the Socialists. One way that these people were targeted was by use of the Espionage Act of 1918 (3, 42).

    This act penalized anyone who interfered with the operation of the armed forces, was insubordinate, or expressed disloyalty to the forces. Because of the law’s vague language, the Justice Department convicted more than 1000 people (3, 44). Among those convicted were a large number of Socialists and Wobblies. The Espionage Act was not the only form of legislation to discriminate against anti-war groups.

    In October 1918, Congress passed the Alien Act, which gave the Secretary of Labor the power to deport any alien who, at any time after entering the United States, is found to have been at the time of entry, or to have become thereafter a member of any anarchist organization” (3, 45). The extremely broad language used in this bill and the way it was interpreted gave Palmer the authority to conduct his raids and thousands of people were arrested and detained without actually having been charged.

    The Socialists and Wobblies anticipated what was to come and these organizations worked for the repealing of the legislation aimed against them. Many Socialists became figures due to their attempts to release their imprisoned comrades (2, 17). Another reason for the Red Scare was the strike held by mine workers (2, 21). They were thought to be making threatening moves against the Capitalist system through Socialist organizations.

    These strikes were part of a series of events, which took place in 1919 (2, 20). This strike, which occurred in February, consisted of 60,000 coal mine workers (2, 20). During September, steel workers also began to strike. All of the blame was put upon the American Communists, although many communists tried to oppose this strike. Nationalist Americans called for a halt to these strikes which were taking place (4, 89). As a result of this panic, a series of bombings occurred.

    The Socialists were immediately assumed to be responsible of the bombings. Newspapers became involved by publicizing stories about the bombings (1, 68). Attorney General Palmer took advantage of the widespread panic of the public and media and asked Congress for fund more money to help avoid further danger. Congress agreed to grant more money. Congress not only supplied funds, but declared that all foreign radicals must be deported.

    The government had put into effect a plan to rid the country of unwanted foreign radicals, but a problem remained as what to do with the radicals who were citizens of the United States (1, 70). In June of 1919, New York state officials raided the Rand School of Social Science in New York, and the headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialists (1, 70). These raids were a result of legislature action. The idea behind this committee was anit-radical, and the tactics of the committee spread nationwide very quickly.

    Even with the new legislations and laws in place, Attorney General Palmer complained that not enough was being done to deport aliens. Although Palmer was a target of the bombings it is possible that he held anti-liberal views because of presidential ambitions (5, 1). In the August of 1919, Palmer created an intelligence department to deal with problems with anarchists. He appointed J. Edgar Hoover to lead this newly founded agency (5, 1). Hoover created files on each subversive organization.

    One of the first assignments of this agency was to raid The Union of Russian Workers in New York (5, 2). Palmer was not the only extreme anti-radical. Senator Kenneth McKellen of Tennessee proposed sending all native-born radicals to a special penal colony on the island of Guam (5, 2). Liberal journalists held very caustic opinions of the actions of Palmer and his comrades. Palmer didn’t care what the journalists said. He went on with the raids.

    On December 27, 250 deportees sailed for Russia from New York. On Friday, January 2, 1920, agents of the Justice department raided a Communist headquarters and began to arrest thousands of people throughout America’s major cities (5, 1). In a period of two days, 5000 people were arrested and 1000 jailed. There was no due process of the law, and the treatment of the prisoners was unacceptable.

    The Red Scare began to slow down due to a series of actions by high government officials as the Justice Department was weary of Palmer s philosophies. Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis F. Post began to reject most of the cases brought before him concerning the immigrants (1, 83). The Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson turned against Palmer. Out of 6,000 warrants issued during the raids, less than 1,000 deportations resulted. Even though some strong opposition was held against Palmer, he still attempted to gain the office of the Presidency, but was never nominated (1, 87). By 1920 the Red Scare was dying down and in 1921 it was virtually dead.

    There is no question that the Red Scare was a result of World War 1 and the anti-liberalism that was present in America. As radical ideas began to surface, the American government had to take action to stop any revolts. Blame for liberal ideas was placed on the Wobblies, Socialists, and other Communist organizations.

    Attorney General Palmer did not cause the Red Scare but proposed that a solution would be to deport any immigrants that were participating in socialistic groups. A large number of raids on radical organizations caused more uprisings. Although the government s actions may have suppressed revolts, chaos and fear was spread across America. The Red Scare was a reaction by the American people to Congress attempts to halt radical uprising.

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