McCarthyism and the Red Scare
The Impact of the Cold War
The fear of communism developed in the USA in the years after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia. Although the USA and the Soviet Union were allies during the Second World War, American distrust of communism continued. In the years after 1945, a Cold War developed between the USA and the Soviet Union. This led to an increase in fear and hatred of communism by most Americans. Communists, or those thought to have communist sympathies, faced great intolerance and the eventual loss of their political and other rights. 'Better dead than Red' became a popular slogan.
Revision: Can you explain why there was a fear of communism in the USA at this time?
The Development of the Red Scare
This hated of communism was further fuelled by events in the USA itself, most notably the cases of the Hollywood Ten, Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs. Organisations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated anyone thought to be associated with communism.
Revision: Why did events in the USA, 1945-1950, increase the fear of communism? What was the importance of the Hiss and Rosenberg cases?
The Impact of McCarthyism
In 1950, an ambitious and dishonest Republican senator, Joe McCarthy, claimed he had a list of 205 members of the Communist Party of the United States who worked for the State Department. This man, who was the nation's most ardent anti-communist, became the symbol of the 'Red-hating crusader' and gave his name to era - McCarthyism. Over the next few years McCarthyism became associated with a communist witch hunt, in which over 2,000 men and women were summoned to appear before the Senate's House Un-American Activities Committee. By the time he was exposed as a fraud and liar, he had created an atmosphere of fear and ruined the lives of many.
Revision: Why was McCarthy able to win support? Why did McCarthyism fade away? What were the effects of McCarthyism?