Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States, 1919-1943

Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States, 1919-1943

Regin Schmidt

Language: English

Pages: 391

ISBN: 8772895810

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The anticommunist crusade of the FBI and its legendary director J. Edgar Hoover during the McCarthy era and the Cold War has attracted much attention from historians, but little is known about the Bureau's political activities during its formative years. This book breaks new ground by tracing the roots of the FBI's political surveillance to the involvement of the Bureau's predecessor, the Bureau of Investigation (BI) in the nation's first period of communist-hunting, the "Red Scare" after World War I. The book is based on the first systematic and comprehensive use of the early BI files from 1908 to 1922, which have only survived on difficult-to-read microfilms deposited in the National Archives, as well as numerous collections of personal papers. The FBI's political surveillance was an integrated part of the attempt by the modern federal state, to regulate and control any organized opposition to the political, economic and social order, such as organized labor, radical movements and African-American protest. The detailed reconstruction of the BI's role in the Red Scare during 1919-1920 show that federal intelligence officials played a crucial role in initiating the anticommunist hysteria in the United States. Even though the staff was small, the BI was able to dramatically influence national events through various methods including using Congressional committees to spread its message.

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London, 1967). 15 Earl Latham, The Communist Controversy in Washington. From the New Deal to McCarthyism (Cambridge, Mass., 1966); Robert Griffith, The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate (Lexington, Ky., 1970); Robert Griffith and Athan Theoharis, eds., The Specter. Original Essays on the Cold War and the Origins of McCarthyism (New York, 1974); Athan Theoharis, Seeds of Repression: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of McCarthyism (Chicago, 1971); Fried, Nightmare in Red ; Heale,

Immigration Act of 1917, which had been prepared and debated since 1912 in response to the strikes and agitations carried out by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The law extended the anarchist provision of the 1903 act by making any alien, regardless of how long time he had resided in the US, deportable on the grounds of “advocating or teaching the unlawful destruction of property, or advocating or teaching anarchy or the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United

manipulations behind outbreaks of social unrest and views political leaders and intellectuals with suspicion. 58 The solution to the social unrest of 1919, the wave of strikes, the race riots and radical politics, followed naturally from the Bureau’s thinking: There was no need for fundamental and comprehensive social reforms such as “industrial democracy” or racial equality, but simply for the identification and neutralization of the radical agitators. With the troublemakers removed from the

the information from its surveillance of patriotic activities in its anti-radical campaign. For example, when the Bureau discovered that the Legion had taken legal action against a professor in Montana, Arthur Fisker, for having been a conscientious objector during the war, the Bureau promptly began an investigation of him.90 The reason for the Bureau’s interest in the activities of the patriotic organizations was that they could be of assistance to it, particularly as a way of collecting

assisted with the preparation of the committee’s final report. From the end of March to the middle of May, Special Agent Benham worked full-time together with the committee’s chief investigator, Major E. Lowry Humes, on preparing the draft of the report, and it was Benham who on May 19 delivered the initial draft to Senator Overman. 86 Benham’s central role in the preparation of the report is indicated by the fact that he took part in the committee’s internal deliberations on its findings and

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