Communism In America Essay

How The United States Contained Communism in the Cold War Essay

891 Words4 Pages

During the cold war, the United States engaged in many aggressive policies both at home and abroad, in which to fight communism and the spread of communist ideas. Faced with a new challenge and new global responsibilities the U.S. needed to retain what it had fought so strongly for in World War II. It needed to contain the communist ideas pouring from the Soviet Union while preventing communist influence at home, without triggering World War III. With the policies of containment, McCarthyism, and brinkmanship, the United States hoped to effectively stop the spread of communism and their newest threat, the Soviet Union.
After the war, the United States and the Soviet Union had very different ideas on how to rebuild. The United States, led…show more content…

Taking an even greater step to contain communism, Secretary of state, George Marshal proposed the marshal plan, which gave financial aid (a total of about $13 billion) to any European country threatened by communism. Although containment along with the Truman Doctrine and marshal plan where successful and effective in stopping communism in Europe, their policies failed to shield Asia from communist rule. By 1945, much of china had been overrun by communism under the command of Mao Zedong. With financial aid from the Soviet Union, and the support of the vast majority of Chinese peasants, Mao Zedong was able to overrule the Chinese Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-Shek. Overall, the policies of containment proved quite effective in Europe but failed to maintain democracy in parts of Asia.
In addition to fighting communism overseas, the United States battled communism within its own government. Pressured by the republicans, President Truman created a loyalty Review Board in which government employees where investigated for their loyalty. Of the 3 million who where testified, only 212 where dismissed as security risks. This method was often ineffective because individuals who had been accused of disloyalty where not allowed to see the evidence against them. Another program aimed at eliminating communist influence was HUAC, or the House Un-American Activity Committee. In 1947, HUAC questioned 43 Hollywood actors about their loyalty to the government.

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Describe the reasons for, the techniques used in, and the results of the Second Red Scare of the 1950s.

   As a result of the development of the "Cold War" in the late 1940s most Americans came to believe that communism threatened world peace and the liberties of free people everywhere, including the United States. Indeed the issue that aroused more American passion than any other in the late 1940s and early 1950s was the fanatical fear of communism which led to the Second Red Scare. Like the first Red Scare following World War I, the Red Scare of the 1950's was a product of hysterical overreaction to exaggerated charges of radical subversion.

   Indeed the fear of communism reflected in the Second Red Scare was not a single, temporary aberration, but very much in the tradition of American attitudes toward radicalism. That fear was intensified in 1949-1950 by charges that two Americans, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, had acted as Russian spies by stealing the secrets of the atomic bomb and turning them over to the Soviet Union. After a very sensationalist and controversial trial the Rosenbergs were found guilty and executed. This case gave rise to fears that disloyalty might be widespread and perhaps even be present among federal officials. Charges that the Truman administration was "soft on communism" demanded a response.

   President Truman did react to the allegations of disloyalty and espionage in the federal government by instituting a "loyalty program" involving security investigations of all government workers. This approach ran counter to the tradtional American legal supposition that one "is innocent until proven guilty." The security checks were opposed by some critics as a violation of the constitutional rights of federal employees. The investigation proceeded and resulted in the dismissal of several hundred employees, most of whom were fired not because they were found to be either communist or disloyal, but because they were homosexuals. The rationale was that as homosexuals they were subject to blackmail and were, therefore, "security risks."

   The most famous espionage case of the period involved charges against a State Department employee, Alger Hiss. He was accused of being part of a Washington, D.C. communist cell group. The major witness against Hiss was Whitaker Chambers who alleged that Hiss had hidden secret papers in pumpkins in his yard. Hiss denied the existence of the "pumpkin papers," but after an initial mistrial a second jury found Hiss guilty of perjury. The fact that Hiss had been a State Department employee played a role in the emergence of a self-professed "crusader against communism" who would use anti-communist hysteria to promote his own political power.

   Joseph McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin with no record of legislative accomplishments in his first term, was looking for an issue to use in his bid for reelection. Given the American peoples' fear of communism and the allegations of domestic disloyalty, McCarthy decided that "communism in government" was a winning issue. McCarthy launched his anti-communist "crusade" at a Republican Party Women's convention in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1950 with charges that he had a list of 205 known communists in the State Department. When reporters asked to see the list, McCarthy indicated it would do no good to publish the names because the State Department officials already knew who the communists were and would protect them.

   McCarthy never revealed the list, which one reporter said was actually a "laundry list," and changed the numbers of communists when questioned later. McCarthy began his crusade then by employing a technique which he was to use repeatedly during his four years of notoriety - the "Big Lie." This involved making false and undocumented charges against groups and individuals while providing no evidence to support the charges. When challenged to produce evidence, McCarthy simply made even more startling, unproven allegations. This technique of "multiple untruths." using new charges to draw attention away from the lack of proof of previous ones, was McCarthy's most effective technique in sensationalizing the Second Red Scare.

   The "multiple untruths" ranged from claiming that the most communist-leaning group in the nation was the Protestant clergy to his assertion that the head of the communist conspiracy in the country was Allen Dulles, head of the Central Intelligence Agency and brother of John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State. Guilt by accusation thus proved another headline-grabbing technique employed by McCarthy. And when a Senate committee reported that McCarthy's charges that a Johnn Hopkins University professor was the head of a Washington, D.C. communist cell group had no basis in fact, McCarthy used the technique of character assassination by asserting that the Senator who headed the committee was sympathetic to comunism.

   Still another method employed by McCarthy was that of guilt by association. If someone tried to stand by a person whom McCarthy had labeled communist, the Senator asserted that anyone who associated with a communist was obviously himself a communist too. And McCarthy suceeded in presenting himself as a lone champion and crusader against communism by his use of a steady stream of untruths and by his intimidation of his fellow senators. If a senator had the temerity to challenge McCarthy, he opened himself up to being labeled either a communist, or a communist sympathizer, or a communist dupe, all of which could cost him his political career.

   Finally in 1954 McCarthy made the tactical mistake of charging that the United States Army was riddled with communists. This angered many Americans who had been willing to overlook his previous sensationalist accusations and his lack of proof. Congress reponded by ordering a Congressional investigation into the senator's charges against the army, the Army-McCarthy hearings were televised live and became the focus of national attention. As McCarthy's techniques and his lack of any proof where subjected to the light of public scrutiny, the senator's popularity began to wane. Following McCarthy's failure to prove his case against the army the Senate launched its own investigation of McCarthy's charges.

   The result of the investigation was that McCarthy was censured by the Senate for having perpetrated a monstrous hoax on the American people. He was then stripped of his senatorial power, his crusade ground to a halt, and McCarthy died a broken man three years later. But McCarthy neither caused the Second Red Scare, nor did its resultant fear of radicalism die with him. For the tragic legacy of Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade was that freedom of expression remained inhibited, and that political and cultural conformity which supressed legitimate dissent were imposed on American society for the remainder of the 1950s and into the next decade.

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