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What Is Political Persecution, Communism and The Red Scare?

Political persecution is when someone is attacked for their political beliefs. A person will criticize someone for political feelings that are different from their own. Usually people persecute others because they don’t accept other’s view points on government. They will try to convict them of illegal acts for thinking this way. Usually, the accused person will not have a fair trail in court and will be punished for having their own thoughts that are different from others. In America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, during a time in U.S. history, when there was a fear of communism spreading, it seemed as though one could not have their own view point and would be attacked for it. However, it all began when communism was first developed.

Communism is a economic system in which everything is shared and equal. The idea was developed by a German philosopher in 1800's named Karl Marx (below). His feelings were that the only way to have a pleasant society was to put workers in control. This idea was established during the Industrial Revolution when many workers were treated unfairly in France, Germany, and England. Marx didn't want there to be a difference in economic classes. He wanted "class struggle" to be eliminate. His main goal was to abolish capitalism (an economic system ruled by private ownership). Marx didn't like capitalism because workers were not fairly paid and capitalism also puts all of the rich people in power. Therefore, he thought that if everything was shared and owned by everyone, then there would be a utopia. Marx later wrote his ideas on communism with Friedrich Engel (a German economists). Together they wrote a pamphlet called the "Communist Manifesto." This was published in 1848 and it expressed Marx's ideas on communism. However, later in was realized that communism didn't work out.


Communist was first really put into action by Vladimir Lenin during the Russian Revolution in 1917. Joseph Stalin then was put into power and established a communist government throughout the Soviet Union. This system didn't end up working because in a communist society, the government takes totally control. The government in a communist country is called "the party." The role of the party is to take total control over all government branches. Only party members pick other people that will run in the government and take control of the politics. The party cares more about about the country then the citizens that make it up. Therefore, ordinary citizens don’t have any power.

Although Marx thought that in a communist society, there would be no different economic classes, when communism was put into action, this idea was proven wrong. In a communist society, the bottom of the economic class are called "cells,” and they are the party organizations. The middle class is the regional organizations. The top of the economic class makes up the party. These people are the delegates and there job is to make the decisions regarding the country. There are also many parts of the communist party. The Central Committee does all the work of the party. The Secretariat manages most of the work of the party and had the most influence and is usually the person in the country that has the most power. There is also the Politburo which will set up politics in the government. Also, there is the police force who are people who try to search for capitalists and punishes people if they believe they are capitalists. The communist party is also a bureaucracy ( a system of officials who control government decisions). The only people who are in this are top party members. In addition, when there are elections there is usually only one candidate for the party. If there is other people in the election, you shouldn't vote for them or you will be punished in a communism society.

For all of these reasons, it was discovered that communism is an economic system that doesn't work. Citizens have no control over the government. Also, it isn’t fair to work twice as hard as another person, and get the same wage. In a communist society, this happens because everything is shared. During the Russian Revolution, people realized the terrible effects of communism and since the Soviet Union was a major superpower, there was a fear of it spreading to other countries. Which is eventually how the Red Scare started.

After the Russian Revolution, and especially during the Cold War, there was fear of communism spreading to the United States. To prevent this, a Red Scare was started. "Reds" was the name used to classify communists. People like Mitchell Palmer started saying communism was spreading to America, therefore, the name “Red Scare" was adopted. During the first Red Scare, Palmer and others started rounding up suspected communists for various reasons. Nothing really could prevent one for being accused of being a communist. It had to do with any number of reasons regarding jobs, writings, political believes and others. In the 1950's a second Red Scare started. This was also a result of the Cold War and led into the Korean War. Joseph McCarthy was the main starter of this second Red Scare. He was a senator from Wisconsin and would attack anybody that disagreed with him. McCarthy claimed he had a list of 205 names of people who were communist. That list was later narrowed down and none of the people on his list were proven guilty. Later, he persecuted people in court, and since he had many followers, he was allowed to do basically whatever he wanted. Therefore, he wouldn’t give people a fair trial and they were convicted based on an opinion instead of proof. McCarthy had many followers because everybody thought he was doing a good deed by keeping out communism. A few years later, McCarthy started accusing the U.S. Army of being communist. People then started realizing that McCarthy was out for his proportion and went way overboard and had no proof to back up his theories. After McCarthy, the Red Scare seemed to die down even before the Cold War ended in 1991. Now communism has subsided in most of the world except for the nations of Cuba, North Korea and China. There has not been a Red Scare since and hopefully there will never be anything like it in years to come.


• Urban, Joan. "Communism." World Book. CD-ROM. World Book. 2006
• "A(lexander) Mitchell Palmer." Encyclopedia. com. 1994-2007. Harrison MIddle School, Yarmouth, ME. May 8, 2007.
•"McCarthy Era." Profile in American History. 1995 edition.

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