Age of Mccarthyism Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1494 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Government

Age of McCarthyism

America began World War II on the side of the Soviet Union, yet after the war's closure the U.S. became the U.S.S.R.'s intractable enemy. The Cold War was fought, not simply on the frontlines of Europe, but also on the American home front. How anticommunism moved "to the ideological center of American politics" and how America lost its own central convictions of the importance of freedom, democracy, and civil liberties is the subject of Ellen Schrecker's the Age of McCarthyism (Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1994). According to Schrecker, the Cold War irrevocably transformed the American internal debate over the ethics and efficacy of domestic liberal reforms. Leftist ideology was no longer a matter of personal political conviction. Instead, even domestic political ideas that seemed potentially socialistic became issues of national security. Members of the Communist party were viewed as potential enemy agents of a hostile state, lurking at every corner of American life. Anti-communism was no longer simply being anti-Stalin, no longer confined to issues pertaining America's foreign policy agenda. Instead, all good Americans were suddenly promoted to the status of foot soldiers in a war against enemy spies who looked the same as ordinary Americans, but were secretly plotting to overthrow the government from within.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Fears of communist incursions had been hard-wired into the American psyche since the turn-of the century labor movement was tarred and feathered in the press as communistic. Businesses claimed that support for unions had been stimulated by outside foreign agitators, as opposed to true-blue American workers. But although there may have indeed been some communist or leftist sympathizers left within American institutions and government, the result of the distrust of the capitalist system that had flourished during the Great Depression, Schrecker says that ideology rather than reality defined the McCarthy era. The conception of who and what communists were as a kind of Red Menace, silent, subtle, and permeating America from within was a myth with "just enough plausibility to be convincing -- especially to the vast majority of Americans who had no direct contact with the party or its members. Above all, it legitimated the McCarthy era repression by dehumanizing American Communists and transforming them into ideological outlaws who deserved whatever they got" (Chapter 3, pp.16-20).

In fact, even card-carrying communists were hardly a political monolith, as many quit the party in protest of some of the American Communist Party's stances. Contrary to the image presented by McCarthy, the anti-Communist movement, such as it existed, was largely a loosely-organized coalition that "gradually attracted groups and individuals. Each element in the network appealed to a different constituency and used its own tactics," but this diffuse "mixture of offensives became far more potent than any single campaign would have been" in generating support for the anti-communist movement (Chapter 3, pp.16-20). The fact that some communist sympathizers had ties to labor organizations, or others had ties to the entertainment industry fueled the sense of the invisible Red Menace that was present in every sphere of American life.

The truth was always less important than the facts -- emotion rather than reason fueled McCarthyism. Communists were seen as the 'other' in the American midst: "Historians have noted the roots of American anticommunism in what they refer to as the nation's counter-subversive tradition: the irrational notion that outsiders (who could be political dissidents, foreigners, or members of racial and religious minorities) threatened the nation from within. Projecting their own fears and insecurities onto a demonized 'Other,' many Americans have found convenient scapegoats among the powerless minorities within their midst. Native Americans, blacks, Catholics, immigrants -- all, at one time or another, embodied the threat of internal subversion" (Chapter 2, pp.9-16). Communists, unlike many of these 'other' groups, however, could not be identified by their appearance, culture, or accent, even though they were seen as foreign. "By the twentieth century, the American 'Other' had become politicized and increasingly identified with communism, the party's Moscow connections tapping in conveniently with the traditional fear of foreigners" (Chapter 2, pp.9-16).

In short, the aftermath of Yalta alone cannot explain the vociferousness with which many Americans expressed their anticommunist views or adopted the anticommunist cause. McCarthy's anti-civil libertarian stance masquerading as American patriotism sadly did have very deep roots in American history and the American psyche.

The fact that a few American communists were apologists for Stalin during the 1940s, even after Yalta, did not help. Although Schrecker largely condemns red-baiters like J. Edgar Hoover, the young… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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