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How did the Red scare and McCarthyism become such a dominant force in the USA, in the late 40’s and early 50’s Assignment

After the Second World War, there developed a growing suspicion between USA and The Soviet union. The friendly faces were disappearing, after the development of the first nuclear weapon by USA, USSR, were sure it was to be used against them Meanwhile, the newly elected President of USA, Truman, was beginning to distrust Stalin, leader the USSR. This was the beginning of an era in American history. It affected many thousands of lives, and had a massive impact on American society. The Red scar, as it was also known, McCarthyism was about to begin.

This was the fear communism, and it taking over the American government. Being invaded in this way, is fear in any nation, but it was played upon by people such as McCarthy (hence McCarthyism), and increased to an unrealistic scale. Anyone could be suspected of being communist, with no evidence or proof, but would still have his or her life taken apart. The USA and USSR, had emerged as super powers, after WWI, and this was undoubtedly going to lead to some tension, so much tension that it would lead to the Cold war.

Stalin was becoming very suspicious of the USA, assuming that they were out to destroy the USSR, their ‘rivals’. This suspicion was massively increased after the USA announced that they had created an Atomic bomb, and even more so, in 1945, when they used it against the Japanese in Hiroshima. On the other hand, The USA feared the communist USSR, was planning on spreading their beliefs around the world, especially in America. They believed that they were out to destroy democracy. The clear contrast between both of the countries was another reason for this growing dislike.

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On one end the USA was a democratic government, whose government was chosen by the public. The USSR was a communist state, a one party dictatorship. Americans strongly believed in individualism, and being free, but the Soviets thought of the countries needs more than those on an individual, as more important. Many were also bitterly opposed to Capitalism, and as the USA was a Capitalist country, it did not go down too well. As a contrast many Americans were bitterly opposed to Communism. This caused a huge difference in opinion, as to the people of each country.

This proved to be a very important factor. Apart From this many actions taken by the Governments played extremely big roles as triggers of the Cold war. Firstly in 1947, The Truman doctrine was set up, saying that the USA would help any country which was being threatened by an aggressor, the aggressor being communism. The ESSR saw this as a threat from the USA, saying that any actions taken by them will be met with military force from the USA. Later that year in June, The Marshall aid plan was set up. Truman saw Europe as weak and ruined.

Many countries had ruined economies, shortaghes of electricity, rationed food, etc. He saw this as a perfect breeding ground for communism, and made it his mission to stop this fro =m happening and to rebuild these countries. Truman decided that he would help any country in need of rebuilding, and asked congress for a huge $17 billion towards it. The Soviets were suspicious of the USA’s involvement with European affairs, and decided it was so that they could dominate as many states as possible, and spread the dollar everywhere. The final trigger was the Berlin Blockade.

Stalin feared a rebuilt and strong Germany, and after watching the west pour Aid in for so long, he decided to put his foot down. He blocked off his part of Berlin from western aid, hoping the other countries would leave. Unfortunately for him, it did not work out so, and the USA, cleverly decided to fly in supplies to the Germans. These planes were not met by attacks, and so this continued for six months, after which Stalin decided that there was no point in carrying on with the blockade. These were all very important factors in causing the cold war, and in creating this fear of communist invasion in the USA.

America was very afraid of communism in its home, and this fear led to many drastic measures being taken. The ‘Federal Employee Loyalty Program’ was set up to investigate communist sympathisers working for the government. J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, and a strong anti-communist, set it up. Hoover’s FBI ‘loyalty boards’ were allowed to investigate government employees, to see if they had any links with the communist party. During three years, three million people were investigated, none were fund guilty of spying, but over 200 were thought to be communist sympathisers, and were forced out of their jobs.

Many of these cases probably had little solid evidence, and would not stand a chance in a court of law today. The US government also had HUAC set up; this was the House Un-American Activities Committee. It allowed the FBI, to investigate anyone who was seen to be taking part in Un-American, or communist activities. When it was first set up, it was not seen to be a big thing, but then in 1947, it became big news, as the FBI had announced that they had found evidence to say that ten #Hollywood producers, directors and writers were communist.

The public were shocked to find out that Communism had become so close to home. This gave rise to the public being even more on-edge about Communism, and fear spreading even further. These people then became known as the Hollywood ten. HUAC, called them before their committee to be questioned, but as they were not government employees and as they were living in a free country, it was not illegal to be communist, so they did not answer any questions. Instead they quoted the first amendment, of the US constitution, which stated that they had freedom to believe what they wanted.

Hollywood studios blacklisted them, and most of them never worked in Hollywood again. They were also given a year’s sentence for contempt of court, as they refused to answer any questions. Although none of these people were convicted of espionage, it added to the publics fear and paranoia of communism, as in their minds, there most successful and high profile industry had nearly been taken over by communists. Although none of these ten had been found guilty, out of the tree million that the FBI investigated, they did find some guilty. Among these was Alger Hiss.

Alger Hiss was a US diplomat, and civil servant; he was a former state department official. In 1948, a former soviet agent, Whittaker Chambers faced HUAC, and was found guilty, he then accused Hiss of being a member of his group, and passing information onto the USSR between 1936 and 1937. Hiss swore against the allegation, and accused Chambers of lying. Truman believed Hiss and dismissed the case, but Richard Nixon, a member of the HUAC, was suspicious of him, and decided to pursue the case. He eventually found debateable evidence against Hiss, but Hiss denied the charge.

Eventually Hiss was convicted for perjury and sentenced to jail for five years, Before now, the American public had never seen anything this close to espionage, and it had not only increased public paranoia, but helped McCarthy in persuading the public into believing his witch-hunts were right. In 1949, the USSR caught up with America and announced they had created a nuclear weapon, four years before the Americans had expected them to. The US government could not believe that the Soviets could have done it so fast on their own, and suspected spies of passing on Atomic secrets to the USSR.

In 1950, Klaus Fuchs, a German physician, living in Britain was convicted of this crime. This led to suspicions against Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, three years later. Husband and wife were accused of spying for the USSR, but they denied all charges against them. Unlike Alger Hiss, they were found guilty of espionage, and were executed in June 1953. The evidence that was said against the Rosenberg’s was not very strong, but it has now been discovered that they were guilty, as historians have found telegrams between them and Soviet agents.

The Rosenberg case was very important in helping the Red scare become such a dominant force in the USA, as it proved to the American public that such things were becoming a reality, and this increased the fear of Communism. Also it gave McCarthy a lot more ground as he now had real examples to scare the public with, and to whip up fear. These cases lead to the McCarran Internal security act being passed. It was against President Truman’s wishes, but congress passed it never-the -less. It made it illegal for any American to get involved in activities, which might lead to the establishment of a Communist government in the United States.

Its two main points were: 1. All communist organisations had to be registered with the US government 2. No communist could work in the defence industries or carry a US passport. Now the publics hate and fear of Communism, was being met by the Government, and the establishment of the McCarran act. By far the most important person in whipping up hysteria in the public was Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was a republican from Wisconsin who was very strongly anti-Communist. McCarthy was ruthleslessly aware of the vote winning potential that anti-communism had.

He claimed that he had the names of 205 Communists in the state department, and that they were findings from the FBI’s reports and loyalty board investigations. McCarthy claimed that he had these names in his suitcases, but he never actually revealed them, probably because they didn’t actually exist. This number quickly deteriorated, first to 81, then 57, and then to ‘a lot’. His comments aroused a lot of interest from the public and media, and before he knew it his allegations were being splashed all over the headlines.

Senator Millard Tydings challenged his wild allegations, but McCarthy simply denied any allegations and accused Tydings of being a Communist. This lead to Tydings losing his seat in the 1954 elections, to Republican. Politicians had realised the voting potential of McCarthy, and none dared challenge him, in fear of losing votes. After the elections, Republican, President Eisenhower, appointed McCarthy as head of a committee to investigate Communists in the government, and was also know chairman of the HUAC. McCarthy used his power to against the people of America, and no one was safe of this accusation.

He never produced any evidence to back his claims, but still ruined many lives. He attacked many people, of all different backgrounds and lives. E. g. Charlie Chaplin, who left USA, and moved to Switzerland, Lee. J. Cobb and Paul Robson. Many of the people he accused were blacklisted and never worked again. He used his power as a weapon, using bullying and false accusations as his methods to terrorise others for his own personal gain. Over 300 Hollywood personalities were accused of being Communist, and if they weren’t black listed, many studio bosses refused to hire them.

Producers such as Walt Disney, and Lois Mayer, supported the HUAC, and even, made films to represent Communist invasion in the US, whipping up a bit more public hysteria. Although very powerful, McCarthy’s legacy was bound to failure. His success was due to the fear that politicians had of him, and the false image the public had of him, as a hero. Both these factors could be easily toppled, which they eventually were. McCarthyism was bought to an end by a number of factors. In general, the public had begun to see the ‘real’ McCarthy, and politicians were getting tired of being afraid of him.

Public opinion polls show that only 50% of the public actually approved of McCarthy. This could be because they weren’t anti- Communist, or it could have been because the genuinely didn’t like his approach. Many Senators, such as Ralph Flanders, were beginning to speak up against McCarthy, and his actions. Other high profile people such as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars were also beginning to speak up against him. Throughout this ‘era’ Newspapers such as ‘The Washington post’, and ‘New York times’ had been giving fair and balanced reports, obviously not always in favour of McCarthy.

This damaged his credibility throughout the years. The public were also shown McCarthy’s real personality through a TV series produced by TV journalist: Ed Murrow, The ‘See it now series’. This showed McCarthy’s statements mainly, but it was quite enough for most people to see what McCarthy was really like. These were all factors, which lead to the decline McCarthy and McCarthyism. The final trigger was in 1954, when As McCarthy was running out of stories to spin that would make a big enough impact; he started firing accusations at the army. He accused 45 army officers of being Communist agents.

The Army vs. McCarthy hearings were televised and the public really saw McCarthy for what he was. McCarthy had become an alcoholic, and while being questioned was rude and abusive. The public saw what a bully he really was, and how much his character contrasted that of a decent and respectable gentleman. Joseph Welch, the army’s attorney, did this. He was constrained and polite, a complete contrast to McCarthy whose rude and abusive behaviour was a stark contrast. At one point during the trial, the jury burst into applause for Welch, when he accused McCarthy of having no decency.

This shows that public opinion had massively changed; now that hey saw McCarthy for whom he was. As a result of this, McCarthy was criticised by Congress, for improper conduct, and his popularity declined dramatically. McCarthy died three years later in 1957. The legacy of McCarthy shows is haw easy it was to whip up public opinion, and hysteria. McCarthy’s allegations had no evidence whatsoever, and wouldn’t stand a chance in a court of law today. But still, his accusations were what the people of America were afraid of, what they were expecting.

They did not question his word, showing how incredibly fearful the US was of communism. Although McCarthyism died out, Anti-Communism still existed in many people’s minds. Slogans such as; ‘Reds under the beds’, were still commonly used. McCarthy had had a lasting effect, as in 1954; Communist party was officially banned in the USA. Some companies and even some states still demanded pledges of loyalty from their employees, this carried don till the 1960’s. People, who had been blacklisted thanks to McCarthy, remained blacklisted for many years, even after McCarthy had died.

Although McCarthy had whipped up a lot of fear of Communism, it already existed in the US publics mind, and in some cases it stayed there for long after the McCarthy era. The USA, like every other nation had fears of being taken over, invaded by a foreign army. Their fear was massively whipped out of proportion, thanks to the media, and people such as McCarthy. It was played upon to such an extent that it ruined many peoples lives, and instead of being a worry at the back of each persons mind was splashed in front of their face day in, day out, to make it an every day reality.

In my opinion the reason why The Red scare became such dominant force was because the USA, public and government, were afraid to see any competition. Earlier, when US, and Soviet relations were good, the Soviets were seen as to be ‘remarkably similar to Americans’. They saw each other as the competition, the enemy, an enemy completely equal to them. The reason it became such a big thing was because it was publicised so greatly, and the fact that it was used to win votes, and publicity. It was a natural fear, played upon by man, and increased to a dangerous level.

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