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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

11. 5 The McCarthy Period

Another feature of the post-war period in the American domestic scenario was the phobia of communism. This fear pervaded the government machinery in the U.S. Although there were only 20,000 communist party members in the country then, many Americans suspected that there was a communist conspiracy against the government. In 1946, a Canadian Royal commission found that 23 persons in official positions had turned over secrets to Russia. There were rumors that this network of secret agents had entered the U.S.

In November 1946, the President set up a temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty. This in turn led to the formation of a Loyalty Review Board, which screened federal employees. The President further asked the attorney general to draw a list of organizations suspected of being subversive.


Further, the Congress set up the House of Un-American Activities committee. Its primary work was to uncover spies within the government. Joseph McCarthy, a Senator from Wisconsin, used this opportunity and shot into national fame. In February 1950, he said: "In my opinion, the State Department, which is one of the most important government departments, is thoroughly infested with communists. I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy." But when a sub-committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked into these charges, they found not a single communist. The public swallowed all that was being said about the spread of communist agents in the U.S. government. There was an air of suspicion and fear.

McCarthy went on to attack those in government institutions he considered were "soft on communism." His list included the President, Secretary of State and several prominent members of the Senate. Anyone who dared to question his policies or methods was dubbed as a communist. This period of fear and encroachment on the natural rights of men in the name of communism is very well portrayed in Howard Fastís novel, Silas Timberman. Popular demands for anti-communist legislations led to the enactment of several laws in the states. These laws required the employees to take a loyalty oath to the U.S. government. In September 1950, the Congress approved the McCarren Internal Security Act, which made it necessary for all communist and communist-controlled organizations to register with the attorney general.

The Congress also set up a Subversive Activities Control Board to look into charges of treason. In a court case Dennis v/s United States, the court held that "the teaching or advocacy of a revolutionary doctrine created a clear and present danger to the country."

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Table of Contents

11.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
11.1 - Conditions at Home
11.2 - The Employment Act
11.3 - The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act
11.4 - The Truman's Civil Rights Program
11.5 - The McCarthy Period
11.6 - The Cold War Abroad
11.7 - The Korean War
11.8 - The Eisenhower Administration
11.9 - The Civil Rights movement and the question of Desegregation
11.10 - The Labor Reform act
11.11 - The Budget
11.12 - The Economy in the 60s
11.13 - The Communist Threat Abroad
11.14 - The Threat of Nuclear War
11.15 - The Exploration of Outer Space
11.16 - The Geneve Conference on Disarmament
11.17 - Our WorldToday





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