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Red Scare

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The war was over. The last cry of help had been heard and peace was supposedly coming to the United States. But everyone was wrong. An ideological war which prompted mass paranoia known as the Red Scare had spread through the US. It began in 1919 and ended in 1921. Red Scare was the label given to the actions of legislation, the race riots, and the hatred and persecution of "subversives" and conscientious objectors during that period of time.

At the heart of the Red Scare was the conscription law of May 18, 1917, which was put during World War I in order for the armed forces to be able to conscript more Americans. This caused many problems in the recollection of soldiers for the war. For one to claim that status, one had to be a member of a "well-recognized" religious organization which forbade their members to participation in war. As a result of such unyielding legislation, 20,000 conscientious objectors were inducted into the armed forces. Out of these 20,000, 16,000 changed their minds when they reached military camps, 1300 went to non-combat units, 1200 gained furloughs to do farm work, and 100 of these, 450 went to prison. However, these numbers are small in comparison with the 170,000 draft dodgers and 2,810,296 men who were inducted into the armed forces.

Objectors were targeted in the Red Scare after the war. They were condemned as cowards, pro-German socialists, also they were also accused of spreading propaganda throughout the United States. Many organizations stood up for the rights of the objectors. One was the National Civil Liberties Bureau, which would later be renamed the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU gained a reputation for helping people with liberal cases who were too poor to pay for their own representation in court.

After the real war ended in 1918, the ideological war, turned against conscientious objectors and other radical minorities such as Wobblies, who were members of the

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and also Socialists. It was thought that the Wobblies and the Socialists were trying to overthrow the United States government. Wobblies, were persecuted against for speaking out against the capitalist system. Most of what they said, was only to attract attention, but it was taken seriously by the government. From the very beginning of the Red Scare, the Wobblies attacked by the government, because they were a symbol of radicalism. The government placed legislation, not only against the Wobblies, but also against Socialists and Communists. In 1917, the US government made a law which gave the Secretary of Labor the power to arrest or deport any alien advocating or teaching destruction of property or the overthrow of government by force. the government used deportation as a cure for the antigovernment views of its enemies.

After all the unfair legislation passed by the government, everything was soon to become a disaster. All that everyone needed was for someone to take advantage of the anti-radical legislation, and that is what Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer did in the years 1919-1920. Palmer deported members of the IWW. His Palmer raids had two main targets, which were the Communist Party, and the Communist Labor Party. These two groups grew out of the IWW, and the largest of the three, the Socialist Party of America,

had split because of a dilemma over World War I. This split occurred when Europe entered the war. This break up hurt the Socialist party. Many who were not Socialists opposed the

draft, but the party was the point of opposition. These people became targets for attack by

American nationalists and the American government. Members were lynched and important Socialist documents were burned.

While all this was taking place, an American Communist Party was emerging from the remains of the Socialist Party. These Russian immigrants identified with the Bolshevik revolution in Mother Russia because of their similar lives of poverty and squalor. This was because of the exclusion of immigrants from unions and also not having a right to vote. These people held strong antigovernment and anti-capitalist views, and many advocated the

immediate overthrow of capitalism.

As dangerous as these people appeared to be, they were in fact only one-thousandth of one percent of the voting American public. Even the two parties who made up this percentage of voters were confused with corruption and dissent. After the war formally ended in 1918, all the groups which opposed the war hit the roof. They were destroying the peace and security of the American nation. The attacks were now focused on the Wobblies and the Socialists, not anymore on the objectors. They were targeted by the use of the Espionage Act of 1918. This act penalized anyone who obstructed the operation of the armed forces, or displayed disloyalty within the forces. The Justice Department convicted more than 1000 people. Surely among this number were a large number of Socialists and Wobblies.

The Espionage Act was not the only form of legislation to discriminate against antiwar 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. This gave Palmer the authority to conduct his raids, during which thousands of people were arrested and detained without actually having been charged. Many tries to repeal the legislation, many Socialists became prominent figures due to their

attempts to gain release for their imprisoned friends.

Another reason for the Red Scare was the strike held by mine

workers. They were thought to be making threats against the Capitalist system through subversive Socialist organizations. These strikes were part of a series of events which took place in 1919. This strike, which occurred in February, was of 60,000 coal

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