Analysis of the Red Scare " The tumult and the shouting dies, The captains and the kings depart.' -Kipling, The Recessional Mr. Kipling was wrong. War does not always end with the last cry on the battlefield. World War I certainly did not.
After the war formally ended on November 18, 1918, there was an ideological war still going on in the US. An ideological war which prompted mass paranoia and caused, among many other things, what would be known as the Red Scare, which 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. It is this hysteria which would find itself repeated several decades later in history when Senator Joseph R. Mccarthy accused high government officials and high standing military officers of being communist. Undoubtedly the most important topic of an investigation into a historical occurrence is its inception.
What caused the Red Scare? At the heart of the Red Scare was the conscription law of May 18, 1917, which was put in place during World War I for the armed forces to be able to conscript more Americans. This law caused many problems for the conscientious objector to WWI, because 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. did Quaker relief work in Europe. 500 suffered court-martial, and out As a result of such 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. Nevertheless, the conscientious objectors were targeted in the Red Scare after the war. They were condemned as cowards, pro-German socialists, although that was not everything. They were also accused of spreading propaganda throughout the United States. Very few conscientious objectors stood up for themselves.
Roderick Siedenberg, who was a conscientious objector, wrote that 'to steal, rape, or murder' are standard peacetime causes for imprisonment, but in time of war 'too firm a belief in the words of Christ', and 'too ardent a faith in the brotherhood of man' are more acceptable. Some organizations such as the National Civil Liberties Bureau, which would later be renamed the American Civil Liberties Union, took up the task of standing up for the rights of conscientious objectors. Before the war, the NCLB-ACLU opposed American involvement, and afterward defended the rights of the objectors. Later, the ACLU would gain 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, which was gaining speed at home, turned against conscientious objectors and other radical minorities such as Wobblies, who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and Socialists as well. These Wobblies and Socialists were damned as being subversives who were trying to overthrow the United States government.
Wobblies, in particular, were persecuted against for speaking out against the capitalist system. Although most of what they said was only to attract attention to their cause, their rhetoric was taken seriously by the government and its officials. 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 one of its enemies from another.
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 'advocating or teaching' destruction of property or the 'overthrow of government by force.' Words such as 'advocating' and the vague language used in the law allowed the government to use deportation as a cure for the anti-government views of its enemies, namely the Wobblies, Communists, and Socialists. After all the unfair legislation passed by the government, the scene was set for a disaster. All that was left was for someone to take advantage of the anti-radical legislation, and the bomb would soon explode. This is basically what Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer did in the years 1919-1920.
Palmer used the laws set down in 1917 to deport members of the IWW. He did not only reserve his weapon for the Wobblies; the American Communists and many other radical groups were not to be left out. When the Palmer Raids began, which will be discussed in more detail later, there were two main targets: the Communist Party, and the Communist Labor Party. These groups grew out of the IWW, the Socialist Party of America, and the Socialist Labor Party. 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.
For the most part, American Socialists opposed the war, unlike their European brethren who were much more nationalistic and supported their countries armies. However, some of the more prominent American Socialists, each for his own reasons, strongly supported the war. This break in beliefs of the Socialist Party hurt it, but did by no means destroy it. Many who were not Socialists opposed the draft, but the Party itself was the true focal point of this opposition. Accordingly, these people became targets for attack by American nationalists and the American government. Heinous acts such as the burning of Socialist documents and the lynching of its members were commonplace.
While all this was taking place, an American Communist Party was emerging from the ashes of the former Socialist strongholds which were all along the eastern seaboard of the US. There, Russian immigrants identified with the Bolshevik revolution in Mother Russia because of their similar lives of poverty and squalor. These conditions of despair were in part due to the exclusion of immigrants from unions and their not being permitted to vote. These people held strong anti-government / anti -capitalist views, often advocating the immediate overthrow of capitalism. Indeed, they were asking for trouble. And they would get it.
As dangerous as these people appeared to be at the time, they were in fact only one-thousandth of one percent of the voting American public. Even the two parties who made up this minute percentage of voters were riddled with corruption and dissent. After the war formally ended in 1918, all the groups which opposed the war came under fire. They were seen as destructive to the peace and security of the American nation. The focus of the att.