The red scare of 1919-1920 marked the beginning of a recurring phenomenon in American history: labeling any potential enemy as being communist, or in league with the Soviets. During the original red scare, many Italian and Jewish immigrants as well as many non-Marxist labor and union leaders were carted off to prison or deported because one court or police force deemed them to be Communists. After the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Empire in 1917, much of the world feared the revolution would spread. In places like Germany and Italy this almost actually did occur, but failed for various reasons. In the US, however, 99.9% of historians will tell you that this was never even a remote possibility. The tradition of calling subversives communists lifted its ugly head during the 50’s when senator McCarthy lead the republican leadership to cleanse much of the government of democratic office holders and even some representatives because they were ‘in league with Moscow’. Today, we know that almost all those accused did not have real marxist sympathies. Even in our own time it has lifted its head. During the recent presidential campaign Obama was accused of being a communist by the counter-campaign and right wing media even though not him nor any of his staff besides Van Jones (who was fired quickly after Obama’s election) ever had any real marxist associates/conspirators. I think Foner does a good job of explaining the Red Scare in a short 2 paragraph piece and I am sure he will do equal justice to the McCarthyist era.
1. I wonder if FDR was attacked as a Communist in his first presidential election to the extent to which Obama was recently in his 208 bid?
2. Do you think the title ‘fundamentalist’ will ever gain as much power as a false accusatory device as communism was for many decades in the US?