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Summary Article: Red Scare from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Campaign against communists (called ‘reds’) in the USA during the 20th century, and associated atmosphere of suspicion and fear. The first major Red Scare took place in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and coincided with a period of US labour disorders, most notably by the Industrial Workers of the World. The second took place during the Cold War in the late 1940s and 1950s, and led to the political persecution known as McCarthyism. Thousands of people were arrested on suspicion, careers were ruined, and communists were banned from entry to the USA.

The first Red Scare in the USA developed when a wave of labour strikes in 1919 was seen as a prelude to revolution and violently suppressed. Some labour organizations, such as the Industrial Workers of the World, had advocated violence, and there were anarchist bombing incidents. Soon all socialists were perceived as threats to the state. J Edgar Hoover was enlisted to track subversives, and a nationwide roundup of suspects on 2 January 1920 led to 556 deportations. Many of the left-wing leaders were immigrants, and fear of foreigners played a large part in the Red Scare. It was after this that the system of immigration quotas was established.

Although anticommunist sentiment continued in the USA during the 1930s and 1940s, it increased as the USSR expanded its sphere of influence. After the US government adopted its policy of containment of communism in 1947, communist activity in the USA was seen as a threat to national security rather than just political ideology. Government loyalty programmes and investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee, particularly following Senator Joe McCarthy's accusations, added to the climate of hysteria. Sensational spy cases such as those against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Alger Hiss also contributed to the Red Scare.

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