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Old April 6th, 2012, 07:47 PM   #1
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Cold War Fears?


The Cold War stimulated a multitude of fears within the American people, mainly those of the spread of Communism abroad and the threat of nuclear weapons. However other than "McCarthyism", was there really all that much fear about Communism at home?

I also recall a trial for a couple, names are slipping my mind. Maybe it was Rosenberg? Ethel or something like that? And there was HUAC with Nixon, but was that before the Cold War?
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Old April 6th, 2012, 08:29 PM   #2

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HUAC was an investigative body set up to investigate anyone suspected of being a subversive or trying to undermine the government. Officially, HUAC was a product of the Cold War but existed in other incarnations even before the Second World War.

The McCarthy witch hunts were pretty much similar except they targeted just about anyone who had known or unknown communist or socialist associations or leanings. Hollywood was particularly scrutinised and led to quite a few writers, actors, producers, directors etc being blacklisted prevented from working in the US film industry. Some of the most famous were Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Miller. A comprehensive list can be found here: Hollywood blacklist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The name you are looking for is indeed the Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius. Julius is believed to have been a Soviet spy and was charged with having leaked palns and information for the atomic bomb to his Soviet handlers. He and his wife were executed by electric chair. As far as I know, Ethel had nothing to do with her husbands treason and was charged purely through her association with him. Her death was a particularly nasty one. The electrodes didn't fit properly to her and it took three attempts to execute her. Witnesses say smoke was coming out of her head.
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Old April 6th, 2012, 08:53 PM   #3

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In addition, thousands of people had their lives ruined by accusations that they were "communists". Some had merely expressed leftist views (presumably subject to freedom of speech), others had had minor or major involvement with political groups that were later accused of being part of the so-called communist conspiracy.

Like other paranoid purges (witch trials, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, etc), one who was accused could often dodge guilt by accusing others of similar "crimes". Often being accused was enough to ruin a person's reputation, make employment nearly impossible and turn them into social pariahs. All this was done under the cover of defending the US against its cold war enemies. Few real enemies were uncovered. It's worth noting that NOBODY accused by McCarthy was ever found guilty of ANYTHING.
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Old April 7th, 2012, 04:04 AM   #4
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Okay awesome guys, thanks. I had to argue this point but I was a little less familiar on the in home stuff than the abroad. Thanks a lot!
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Old April 7th, 2012, 07:48 AM   #5

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There was a very real attempt by Moscow to undermine western governments. Many of the communist agitators in Italy, France, and other European countries in the immediate post-war period were directly linked to Moscow. So yes, there was a very real fear of Stalinist communism.

But fear and hysteria are two entirely different things. In sacrificing our core values succumbing to the latter, we lost any high ground that we may have had.
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Old April 7th, 2012, 07:53 AM   #6

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What is up with this sudden spark in Cold War topics? It is very strange to me...!

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Old April 7th, 2012, 08:43 AM   #7

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There was a real domestic communistic threat. The only debate is how serious of a threat they were. Is having a pro-Soviet foreign policy stance dangerous? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably though.

Now, with Soviet documents being released to historians, we can show direct links.

There were also communist activity in labor unions as well.

A good historian on this issue is John Earl Haynes.
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Old April 7th, 2012, 08:46 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddyriddick View Post
But fear and hysteria are two entirely different things. In sacrificing our core values succumbing to the latter, we lost any high ground that we may have had.
You hit the nail there, excellent post.
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Old April 7th, 2012, 12:22 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddyriddick View Post
There was a very real attempt by Moscow to undermine western governments. Many of the communist agitators in Italy, France, and other European countries in the immediate post-war period were directly linked to Moscow. So yes, there was a very real fear of Stalinist communism.

But fear and hysteria are two entirely different things. In sacrificing our core values succumbing to the latter, we lost any high ground that we may have had.
Indeed there was some reality to the subversion thing, but generally the people that were accused in those witch hunts were all the wrong people. The real bad guys got away while the US persecuted people who had attended a couple "workers of the world" type meetings. There were a lot of those groups around, especially during the depression and generally they were not dangerous as much as inept.
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