After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States spread two different economic ideologies that were aimed at increasing their power across the globe. The United States was used to controlling the globe’s economy. The move by the Soviet Union to spread communism was seen as direct competition. The fear of communism had been spread during the Red Scare period, making American’s to fear the infiltration of the country by communists. During the 1950’s, Joseph McCarthy who was the then Wisconsin senator led a purge to expose those who were considered domestic communist and their sympathizers. The senator used wild allegations to show that there were communists inside the American government who were working from within to take it down. McCarthyism had wide effect on America, especially within the government. McCarthyism led to increased suspicions and fear within the government, abolition of the communist party and increased tension between America and communist allied nations.
The conflict between the United States and the USSR after the Second World War, where both countries had tension and suspicion with each other led to a great fear of communism among Americans. Because of the fear of communism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was formed to investigate allegation against disloyalty from suspected communist supporters and communist. In 1939, the Hatch Act made it illegal for the government to hire Communists (Scates, 2016). This act was also used to uncover communists who were using false identities and names.
The enduring fear of Communist threat was taken advantage of by Senator McCarthy as he found it as an ideal opportunity to base his re-election on a witch-hunt of those he perceived to be communists and communist sympathizers as he looked to use this tool to advance his political career. In 9th February 1950, McCarthy made a claim that he was in possession of a list of 205 individuals in the State Department who were members of the American Communist Party (Scates, 2016). For close to half a decade, McCarthy tried to expose left-wing and communist members in the American government.
The McCarthy era continues to cast a long shadow in America’s culture and politics. From the year 1953 to 1954, Senator McCarthy summoned numerous witnesses before a Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee with investigation that intended to uproot communist spies in the American government (Haynes, 2015). Other individuals were also called to testify before the House of Representatives regarding Un-American actions. The witnesses were diverse as they ranged from writers, movie producers and army officials. During this period, one witness committed suicide, while the rest lost their jobs. These witnesses were blacklisted from getting jobs in the country. This was despite the fact that the evidences against them were weak.
McCarthyism led to increased fears amongst American government officials. McCarthy had started a baseless witch-hunt against government officials especially those who were in the state department (Scates, 2016). Any mentions of being a communist or a communist sympathizer was both a political and a career suicide. This made members of the government to panic since one could not tell if they were going to be mentioned or not.
Three direct consequences resulted from the accusations that were being made by McCarthy. The first being interrogation of former state advisers and officer. The Congressional committees called former and current Department state advisers and officers for them to answer charges that were being made before them. They were made to testify charges about their loyalty (Scates, 2016). The American government had to redouble its effect in order to investigate its employees. Secondly, a Department official’s reluctant admission of being homosexual triggered a purge of homosexuals from the State Department. Thirdly, a United States subcommittee highly favored a report, which led to increased resources for overseas security.
Due to the increasing popularity of McCarthy, he quickly became a threat to all politicians especially those who had taken a liberal view. Senators were reluctant of speaking out against McCarthy since they feared that rebuking him would end in them being linked to communism. In 1952 during Eisenhower presidential campaigns, he was afraid of complimenting Secretary of State Marshall at a campaign in his home state, as he was afraid he would be linked to communism since the former secretary was known to be McCarthy’s foe (Scates, 2016). In addition to this, the senate largely supported the McCarran Act since they wanted McCarthy to side with them.
Although the communist party was abolished, the “American-left” was falling as well because of objection of ideas that were radical in a time of fear. The vanishing of the left wing, those who were moderate were more vulnerable to the strikes of the right wing (Scates, 2016). Their efforts grew ineffective during this time as the conservatives took complete control.
It is imperative to note that although McCarthy was not involved directly with the House Un-American, he had a great influence on their activities. Since McCarthy was convinced that there were Communists who were in the Hollywood, the HUAC investigated the Screen Actor Guild and came up with a blacklist (Schrecker, 1988). The majority of individuals who were blacklisted were Jewish. This period in American history has been rebuked for having some anti-semantic notions.