McCarthyism McCarthyism is the term that expresses acts and events linked with the era in the United States history commonly referred as the Second Red Scare. It last from the late of 1940s to the late of 1950s. It can be simply described as the paranoia and fear of Communism on the United States, its influence over institutions and personalities and intelligence activities of the Soviet agents. The term was created to criticize the anti-communist witch-hunting of U. S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
After the Second World War, hundreds of thousand of American citizens were victimized by McCarthyism through baseless accusations of being a Communist or communist supporter (Fried). Victims of McCarthyism were subjected trials without due process, loss of employment, obliteration of their career and worst, imprisonment (McAuliffe 10). Origin Even before Joseph McCarthy’s infamous anti-communist stance, McCarthyism traces its origin in during the First Red Scare period of the United States. This period last roughly from 1917 up to 1920, and was the formal recognition of US that Communism is a political and ideological force to reckon with.
The great increase of labor unions and members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) gave pressure to the government adding to the existing red scare. CPUSA opposed fascism in the United States reaching its peak of 75,000 members in 1941 (Griffith). Worldwide the communist and socialist forces are winning in their home country despite the financial support of the United States against their enemies. The Soviet Union started its Cold War against the United States. It even tested an atomic bomb in the year of 1949 adding great fear among US authorities.
On that same year, Mao Zedong’ People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of China became victorious against the U. S. backed Koumintang. Mao managed to occupy the mainland China and the Koumintangs retreated to Taiwan. A year after the victory of Chinese Communists, the Korean War erupted. U. S. supported the South Korean forces while the China supported the North Korea (Griffith). Back in the United States, even liberal reforms such as suffrage for women are maliciously tagged as communist or red plot by conservative politicians.
Even the New Deal policies introduced by President Franklin Roosevelt were referred by conservatives as socialist or communist policies. It was also criticized of being drafted by communist-influenced in the Roosevelt administration (Peters). Joseph McCarthy came into the picture when on a speech in 1950, he said that he has a list containing more than two hundred people working in the State Department that are members or influenced by the Communist Party of USA. This speech of McCarthy resulted to attention by press and making him as one of political figures in the history of American politics.
However, the term McCarthyism was first used in a political cartoon by Herbert Brock in the Washington Post (Fried). Victims The estimated number of victims of McCarthyism is unknown. However, there are thousands imprisoned during the height of it and caused lost of employment for more (McAuliffe 6). In most of the cases, a subpoena from the House Committee on Un-American Activities is enough for being fired. Many of those questioned were just suspected and have no direct influenced or contact with the Communist Party (Griffith).
Even homosexuals are subjected to harassment and denial of employment for ‘sexual perverts’ are presumed to be members or influenced by communists (Peters). In the film industry, hundreds of actors, writers, and directors were deprived of work by Hollywood companies because of McCarthyism. Even educators and legal professionals are victimized by the red scare (Fried). McCarthyism is undeniably a period of the history that is worth revisiting. Although it is already part of the history, it created political divisions existing until today.
Some of the anti-communist stance and security processes of the McCarthyism period still exist. Some critics compared the situations of Muslims today as those of the victims of McCarthyism before. The term is also used when a person is aggressively questioned for being a patriot and nationalist and when civil and political rights are violated in the name of nationalism and protection against subversion. The lessons of the past should be relived by the people today so that the untoward episode of our history will no longer happen again.
Fried, Albert. McCarthyism: The Great American Red Scare a Documentary History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Griffith, Robert. The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate. Amherst, MA: University of Masachusetts Press, 1987. McAuliffe, Mary Sperling. Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978. Peters, Charles. “McCarthyism: Myth and reality. ” Washington Monthly 38 (2006): 8
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