Origins Of The Red Scare Essay Research

Origins Of The Red Scare Essay, Research Paper

In the first part of his book “American Anti-Communism”, M. J. Heale writes “the fraternal egalitarianism of the American republican heritage with its insistence that rights and opportunities were available to all, enabled collectivist doctrines to be repudiated as un-American.” What Heale means by this is that the American society was built upon the idea of equality of man, which at the time meant white male landowners. These wealthy landowners would become the middle and upper class of American society. They created their society on the basis of improving their own lives and did not really consider the ideas of those who could not vote, those that did not own land.

These upper and middle class members of America became the ones who would later become fearful of the possibility of a revolution. To them, a revolution would undermine their efforts to advance their own lives and stature in society. Since most immigrants were poor and therefore entered the lower working class, any idea, which would elevate these workers to the same level as their employers at the employers’ expense, was viewed as a threat. “In the nineteenth century there were men of Anglo-Saxon stock who came to regard the American mission as their particular inheritance and who feared the subversive effects of immigration and the alien political ideas that were thereby introduced.” (Heale, p. 127) In the minds of the middle and upper class, the idea of revolution was associated less with liberty and more with the selfish demands of labor.

No place was more evident of this than in Chicago in the mid-1800s. Chicago was the fastest growing major American city in the 1800s. This growth not only attracted immigrants, but also European radicals. In 1886, Chicago was the site of major labor tension over an eight-hour workday. On May 1st some 40,000 workers walked off the job and followed Albert P. Parsons through the center of the city. When police violence occurred three days later at the McCormick Harvester plant where hired Pinkerton guards and pickets had been clashing, local anarchists called a protest meeting at Haymarket Square. The police department arrived, a bomb was thrown at them and they opened fire on the crowd. At the end of the bloody fight, one policeman was dead and six more were wounded. Similar numbers of civilians suffered the same consequences as well as dozens more were injured.

“The number of deaths was not as great as the railway strike of 1877, but the deliberate throwing of a bomb at police officers seemed to presage an era of anarchy. Since the Paris Commune there had been fears about the insurrectionary potential for urban workers. The bomb vindicated the fearful prediction.”(Heale, p. 139) Juries composed of white-collar workers and businessmen, the same who were the product of the liberty fighters of nearly a century earlier, made a public belief of an anarchist conspiracy into a legal verdict. Seven of the accused were given death sentences, while the eighth was given a prison term. “The destruction of the anarchist leaders made possible by the Haymarket Affair reflected the apprehensions of the urban propertied classes, of the bankers, manufacturers, railroad barons, newspaper proprietors, of their allies in the legislature chambers, courts, universities and churches, and of their sympathizers among upright citizens of all ranks.” (Heale, p. 141)

Across the country there were fears that the dynamite that exploded in Haymarket Square would begin a series of similar uprisings in other cities. The fear of uprising led to police raids and vigilante attacks on radicals and labor groups. “Newspapers, clergymen, politicians, and labor leaders generally reacted to the bombing with horror and ascribed it to the vicious doctrines of communism and anarchism.”(Heale, p. 141)

After the Haymarket Square incident, many trade unionists decided that their cause would be better off by dissociating themselves from radicalism and violence. The Knights of Labor bitterly condemned the “red flag of anarchy.” In 1888 Congressman George E. Adams of Chicago introduced a bill “to provide for the removal of dangerous aliens from the territory of the United States.” (Heale, p. 142)

These actions show the growing fear Americans had of communism. Communism was viewed as a threat to who attained a high station in American society. The high society wanted to eliminate the radicals so they could maintain their class in life. At this time, the fear of communism in the late 1800s would lay the foundation for the fear and distrust of the Communists in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world nearly fifty years later.


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