Red Scare (1920)

Red Scare (1920)
Red Scare (1920)

Red Scare was a term applied during the 1920s to a period of extreme anticommunism in the United States from 1917 until 1920. It started with the Russian Revolution in October 1917 which saw the Bolshevik Party taking power in Russia.

The result was that there was a fear in the United States that Communists might try to take power—initially through the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, who led strikes in 1916 and 1917, and then through the Communist Party of the United States of America, which was established in 1919. There was also a fear of the rise in anarchist groups.

In April 1919 a series of letter bombs were posted to a number of prominent Americans including Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Supreme Court justice. The man who tried to bomb the home of the attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, Carlo Valdinoci, was killed as he placed the device on the porch of Palmer's house.

It was a period of intense xenophobia, and the police started arresting people they thought were involved. During the arrests, there were strikes throughout the United States that led to some people fearing that there was a nationwide conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.

The terms of the Espionage Act of 1917 had been strengthened through the Sedition Act of 1918, as arrests continued, with some 10,000 people being arrested over the two-year period. The man appointed by Palmer to be in charge of organizing the arrests was J. Edgar Hoover, aged 24.

Many people alleged that they were beaten by the police during and after their arrests and also denied access to their attorneys, although the tough attitude had the support of many people and some newspapers. U.S. senator Kenneth

D. McKellar raised the idea of establishing a penal colony in Guam for subversives. However, a number of jurists, including Felix Frankfurter, later a judge in the Supreme Court, published their criticisms of the arrests.

In early 1920 Attorney General Palmer announced that he had received evidence that the Communists were planning to take over the United States on May 1, but Palmer's attempt to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency failed soon afterward.

In spite of the arrests, which also saw several hundred people being deported, bombings continued, with one device, which had 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of dynamite and 500 pounds (230 kilograms) of steel fragments, exploded in front of J. P. Morgan Company's office on Wall Street, killing 38 and injuring 400 others.

In the 1920 U.S. presidential election, Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party of America, who had stood in the U.S. presidential elections on four occasions, was arrested and fought his fifth election campaign from prison.

The hysteria reached its peak when two Italian anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were arrested for their role in the death of a paymaster and security guard on April 15, 1920, and were sentenced to death, being executed in 1927. The Red Scare of 1919–20 served to have a negative effect on progressive political parties and union membership in America, as both experienced severe declines in membership in the next decade.