McCarthyism was very popular among American citizens after the Second World War. Despite the fact that it was intended to be helped by the fears and suspicions of the American people, it only lasted for a short period of time. McCarthyism appealed to the citizens of the United States very easily due to the previous “red scare” and other communist fears. During the Second World War, their fears became even more severe because of the powers that the communist nations had demonstrated.
The appeal of McCarthyism was due not only to the power shown in previous wars by the communists, but also the members of government who attempted to scared the people even further, to gain support. After WWI, starting in 1919, a fear of Communism swept our nation. Many Americans looked to Communism with contempt and there also was an underlying fear that communism would affect the United States. The Communist party was present in the United States. Through the efforts of Communist International, the Communists held a favorable spot in America, aiding blacks and unions with their causes.
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However, once WWI came into place, it all ended. The Red Scare appeared in 1919, and in it people feared communism within the United States. With the recent bomb threats and radicalism of groups such as the IWW, strong in the United States, there came an urge in the public to the repeal of such radical tendencies. The Palmer raids, led by A. Mitchell Palmer, one of the victims of a bomb threat, worked to uncover thousands of communists on May Day. This led to nothing major.
After this incident, fears in America concerning slavery subsided. However, Communism fears were already instilled on Americans and it would be hard to get rid of these fears (McCarthyism). After the Second World War, these fears were raised once more by the actions of the Soviets. A containment doctrine was implemented to contain communism and to stop any further spread it might attempt. After the Second World War, the goal was to keep democracy alive and free from the grasp of communism.
The American government felt that all communist expansions had to be stopped or else a domino effect might occur, that is, if one country fell to communism, then all the surrounding ones would be weak enough to fall. Truman advocated his doctrine, which allowed for the United States aid to Turkey and Greece, if the help they needed was while they were fighting against communism. The majority of the Americans now felt that communism had to be stopped and democracy must be liberated.
These strong and intense views only opened American hearts to welcome McCarthyism, which would soon follow this (Nash 919). McCarthyism experienced its peak after the Second World War. The leader and instigator, McCarthy, would not have succeeded in absorbing the American people in such anticommunist passion if certain instances had not occurred (Nash 919). McCarthy advocated government inspection of government officials to get rid of any hidden communists. They complied, forcing hundreds of officials from their jobs.
The McCarran Act also limited communists in the country, forcing them to register with the government, not permitting them to work in defense factories, and prohibiting their leaving the country. McCarthy fueled the American opinion through the publicized trials he held, where he emotionally and passionately accused people of being connected to the communist party. At times, this reached the point of absurdity, for anyone even friends with a communist or anyone having even a slight connection to communism held fears of being jailed (McCarthyism). Such cases included the Rosenberg case.
The Rosenberg’s were a couple who were accused of giving the USSR information about the United States Manhattan Project. Through claiming their innocence, they were persecuted and executed (Nash 922). Another case revolved around Alger Hiss, who was accused by Whitaker Chambers of being a spy for the USSR. After the trial Hiss admitted to perjury and was prosecuted. These trials only confirmed American suspicions of communism threats in the United States and helped account for the appeal of McCarthyism in the United States (McCarthyism). After World War II, McCarthyism appealed to many U. S. itizens for several reasons–a traditional hostility to the Soviet Union, obvious frightening power of communists, and a feeling of tension and suspicion in America. The Alger Hiss trial, the HUAC investigations, the McCarran Security Act, and the loyalty investigations were events that precipitated the rise of McCarthyism and grew off fears in the United States. McCarthyism would not have been appealing if it weren’t for these conditions. Works Cited “McCarthyism -. ” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 19 Mar. 2009 . Nash, Gary B. American people creating a nation and a society. New York: HarperCollinsCollege, 1994.