America: Land of the free, and the home of the brave. This famous expression has been used numerous times throughout history, even scoring a line in our country’s national anthem. But in our high-tech socety, many Americans can not even understand what our forefathers went through to achieve this American dream.
People do not even grasp the concept of what it has taken to keep the freedom of this country ringing. Place youself in the footsteps of the average American of the 1950’s, dealing with the Russian threat of communist rule and the fear of being taken over an opposite world power. Post World War II struggles make it hard for anyone to get by, and each coming day leads to another unpredictable twist for the country in which you reside.
The powerful threat of communisim, which came to be known as the “Red Scare,” is the basis of all of the nation’s problems. This “Red Scare” of the 1950’s was a powerful, radical, and controversial issue for nearly everyone in that time period, and what’s more is the propaganda that was used to sell communist leadership to the American people, who were deathly afraid of what the future might hold. This Red Scare lasted throughout the Fifties and beyond.
The Fabulous Fifties… well, were they really so fabulous, after all? First of all, for total understanding of the Red Scare of the fifties, one must become acquainted with the term communisim. Communisim can be defined as: a type of government in which a small group of leaders dictates a country or nation by distributing goods and money equally among the country’s citizens (Webster’s, 1994).
As of today, nations such as Russia and China are run by communist authority. Although this system of government works in theory, it requires the sacrifice of freedom of the people who are being ruled. Other aspects of communist rule include communist associations, which during the 1950’s had 10,000 members across the United States of America, dedicated to making communist rule in the United States a reality (Miller, 1954).
Incidents in which communisim was a serious matter in the 1950’s include the jailing of an American couple for reportedly “talking communisim.” A later report indicated that the couple was merely discussing American relations with Japan, but it was around the time that this event occured that people began to really began to fear communists and their beliefs (Miller, 1954).
Communists, or people suspected of being communists, were also blacklisted, making them unable to get jobs, insurance, and loans, among other things (Salem Press, Recruitment for memebers of the communist political party was, during the 1950’s, based solely on propaganda. This false advertising glorified the things that communist rule was supposed to offer, such as jobs, money, and food for everyone. This especially appealed to America’s lower-class society, with dreams of brighter futures and lifestyles for themselves and generations to come. Of course, communist activists never mentioned anything about the freedoms that our nation, under communist rule, would stand to lose.
On the contrary, though, anti-communists startled Americans by leveling their defense by making it seem like all members of communist parties were murderers and terrorists, which is where the term “Red Scare” was generated from (Associated Press, 1995). These defenses were used primarily to keep communist beliefs away from our American democracy, but frightened Americans into believing that all communists and people from countries such as Russia, which had communist leadership, were evil.
On the other hand, Douglass Miller notes in his book, The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, that “Most victims of anti-red mania were guilty of little more than holding unpopular opinions One man, Joe McCarthy, was an especially strong activist in this anti-communist movement. McCarthy apparently needed a focus in his campaign for Senator, so he chose a topic that would appeal to all people, communisim in the United States. This was a very good idea, as most people were not quite grasping the idea of communisim and what would happen if the United States was to fall under communist rule. He disagreed strongly with communist ideas, which was ironic because he was at one point a communist activist.
McCarthy dedicated his life to this anti-communist campaign. He made a number of accusations and accused opponents of his of being communists and Soviet spies. Among others, there was the imfamous Alger Hiss. McCarthy accused Hiss of being a communist spy, and these accusations were recepted by the American people (Miller, 1954).
Owen Lattimore was also a familiar name; he was also accused of being a communist spy after McCarthy found out the Lattimore was an expert on Far Eastern affairs (Miller, 1954). McCarthy died while still speaking against communisim and keeping American people from tolerating any form of communist government. The Cold War also had a lot to do with this threat of communisim in the U.S. (Borstien, 1992).
Different aspects of the Cold War included Russia’s attempt to control the atomic bomb. Russian communists demanded that the United States destroy our atomic weapons. This, added with other Russian conflicts, did not make the spread of communisim a worthy cause for Americans at all. Russia continued to spread its communist tyranny all over the world, causing a civil war in Greece, in which the British became involved (Borstien, 1992).
The British provided funds and defenses for the people of Greece, but soon, the British could no longer continue fighting for the Greek people. Congess then came up with a plan, named the Marshall Plan, which would provide funds for the Greek people against the spread of communisim. The Marshall Plan was put into effect and caused a riot from Soviets, who would have nothing to do with this plan (Borstien, 1992).
Finally, the Soviets began to settle back once another plan, called the European Recovery Program, was put into effect. This plan worked out very well, because instead of fighting a war against communisim, it went to the root of the problem and helped to rebuild parts of Europe that were in desperate need of help. This worked out very well in the end, because the plan increased trade with European countries, causing a booming economy for both the U.S. and Europe. The plan was intent on “containing” communisim, and that’s what it did (Borstien, 1992).
New technology also kept Americans from communisim. United States defenses made a threat to the Soviet government, claiming that they would do anything and everything to prevent Russia from spreading communisim to America. With new weapons, such as the atomic bomb, these threats were not hard at all for the United States to back up. By then, communisim had already spread to eastern Europe, an Americans were more than determined to not let this horrific form of government spread into the United States. Other precautionary measures included the jailing of citizens of the United States that were found guilty of being Communists.
The idea of this was to cut off communists from any Soviet links that they might have, so that they could not send or recieve any documents that had to do with communisim (Associated Press, 1995). So how was the American fear of communisim finally resolved? Well, in actuallity, it never really was.
People in the United States today still fear a communist government, only not as publicly because the United States as a country no longer feels threatened by the Soviet Union. But the fear is still there. Often, Americans must be reminded that America really is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and that democracy really.
In conclusion, the Red Scare of the 1950’s really was a radical and controversial issue for all types of reople who lived through that time period. It affected most everyone, and many of these people were confused and bewildered by the entire basis of communisim. But now, in the United States, people are able to experience the joys and pleasures of freedom because of this massive movement that took place during the 1950’s. It shall never be forgotten what Americans have had to go through for future generations to conserve peace and freedom. People have worked hard to be sure that an unfair kind of government will never take over the United States.
- Associated Press. (1995). Twentieth Century America: The Cold War at Home and Abroad 1945-1953. Los Angeles: Combined Books
- Borstien and Kelly. (1992). A History of the United States. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.
- Layman, Richard. (1994). American Decades: 1950-1959. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc.
- Miller, Douglass T. and Newak, Marion. (1954). The Fifties: The Way We Really Were. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.
- Rich, Candace. (2000). Fifties Web. [Online]. Availiable: http://www.fiftiesweb.com/fifties.htm [2000, Feb. 7]
- Salem Press. (1982). Great Events: The Twentieth Century. California: Salem Press, Inc.