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Red Scare

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The documents presented here are designed to be used in classes about Pacific Northwest history or US history. Although the documents deal specifically with events in Washington state, they are still potentially useful for a course about US history as a whole. As historian Richard Fried has observed, "'McCarthyism' is so often characterized in abstract terms that its meaning remains fuzzy. To sense the emotional bite of the Communist issue and to understand both how it affected life for those who ran afoul of it and how it shaped the nation's political culture, it is useful to look at specific cases." These documents allow students to explore such specific cases.

Section II is a rather lengthy essay which tries to place the Cold War and Red Scare into historical perspective. It also analyzes the effect of the Cold War on Washington's economy and describes the major events of the Red Scare in Washington state. Much of this information is presented very briefly in a timeline in Section III. Teachers may wish to distribute photocopies of Section III to orient students to the main events of Cold War and Red Scare and to allow the students to place the documents in a chronological framework. Teachers may also with to distribute copies of the glossary in Section IV to familiarize students with Cold War terminology. The bibliography in Section V suggests books and videocassettes about the Cold War and Red Scare that teachers may find useful.

The documents in Section VII can be used in a vast number of ways. Section VI offers suggestions for in-class and homework assignments based on the documents. The concordance in Section VII not only lists the source of each document, but also offers some possible discussion questions about many of the documents.

II. The Cold War and Red Scare in Washington: Historical Context

The Cold War created many aspects of modern Washington. Military spending sustained Washington's rapid economic growth after WW II. Although federal hydropower projects and WW II had initially industrialized Washington state, the struggle against the Soviets ensured that federal money continued to pour into the state. The Cold War left a physical legacy across the state that can still be seen today. Military bases were created and expanded. The production of plutonium at Hanford created radioactive waste that will exist for thousands of years. Even Seattle's most famous iconÐ'--the Space NeedleÐ'--is a concrete monument to one aspect of the Cold War, the space race. In addition, the fear of communism fueled important political changes in Washington. The Red Scare, which was more intense in Washington than in most states, deprived communists of their First Amendment rights, permanently destroyed several radical political organizations, temporarily frightened many liberals into silence, and allowed conservatives to virtually dismantle Washington's state-level health care system for the poor.

A. Radicalism and Anti-radicalism in Washington Politics

The rise of the Communist Party in the 1930s and the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s were not unprecedented events in Washington history. Indeed, the ebb and flow of radical movements, and reactions against them, have profoundly shaped the political history of Washington state. In the 1880s, white laborers demanded higher wages and began to form Washington's first successful labor unions. White working-class mobs also forcibly evicted Chinese immigrants from Seattle, Tacoma, and other coastal towns in this same period. The Populist and Progressive movements were both very strong in Washington around the turn of the century, partially because of aid they received from Washington's relatively sizable Socialist Party.

Radical political activity reached a high-water point in the late 1910s, precipitating a forceful reaction against left-wing groups. Numerous radicals vehemently denounced US entry into the First World War, resisted the draft, and urged the US to recognize the Bolshevik government of Russia that came to power in 1917. Despite efforts to quash the "subversives" (including violent attempts such as the Everett Massacre), radicals remained very powerful in Washington until the failed Seattle General Strike of 1919. The Seattle walk-out, the nation's first general strike, convinced many conservatives that the US was on the verge of revolution and thus helped trigger the nation's first "Red Scare." A few months after the Seattle strike, US Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer ordered J. Edgar Hoover to round up "subversive aliens"Ð'--non-citizens who were Socialists, Communists, or Wobblies. Several prominent radicals in Washington state were captured in these "Palmer raids" and deported to the USSR. In addition, most Washington businessmen vowed to de-unionize the state's economy. The economic downturn immediately after WW I dramatically increased Washington's unemployment, allowing employers to fend off strikes and break unions in most industries. More conservative union leadersÐ'--led by Dave Beck of the TeamstersÐ'--used this opportunity to take control of the Washington labor movement in the early 1920s. These so-called "business unionists" loudly proclaimed their acceptance of capitalism and ejected communists from their ranks.

In many respects this first "Red Scare" was quite different from the one that would follow in the late 1940s and 1950s. The first Red Scare focused on immigrants; the second primarily targeted US citizens. The first Red Scare also included many violent vigilante actions, while the second worked primarily through state and national government agencies. Nonetheless, Washington's anti-radicals learned several lessons from the first Red Scare that they would apply again in the 1940s. Conservatives learned that branding ideas or policies as "Red" was politically successful. Labor leaders such as Dave Beck learned they could make their unions more acceptable to corporate leaders by fighting radicals.

By 1922 Washington radicals seemed thoroughly defeated. Washington's Communist Party dwindled to only a few dozen members, and the Wobblies and Socialists also virtually disappeared. Conservative Republicans controlled the governorship and 90% of the state legislature for the rest of the 1920s. However, the economic catastrophe of the 1930s set off a new wave of radicalism in Washington. The Great Depression hit Washington's two largest industriesÐ'--timber and agricultureÐ'--especially hard. The state's unemployment rate reached 30% in 1933. Discontent with capitalism was probably at all-time high

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