U.S. History 1877-Present 10.12: The Real Reds
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Communist Party USA might sound like a killer way to spend a Friday evening, but it was probably something you wanted to steer clear of during the Cold War.
|U.S. History||U.S. History 1877-Present|
unpopular political beliefs.
The Communist Party USA was actually founded in 1919, but it stayed pretty low profile [Communist Party logo pictured]
for its first decade of existence.
The 20s were roaring, and it looked to everybody like capitalism was awesome. [20s celebrate capitalism]
Why be a gloomy old communist when capitalism was so obviously the best thing since sliced
Sliced bread, of course being yet another amazing product of free-market industrial
capitalism. [woman grips good old capitalist sliced bread]
When the Great Depression hit, some people began to think twice. [person rethinks capitalism]
Communist Party USA used this economic calamity to mobilize. [clever communist coughs up a cupcake]
On orders from Moscow, the American communists tried to put a happy face on communism. [happy communists]
They called this the Popular Front strategy.
Instead of talking so much about big, crazy revolutions, they spoke patriotically about [communist speaks]
America and reached out to more mainstream progressive organizations.
The communists became besties with the labor unions, made civil rights a big part of their [communist ties illustrated]
agenda, and supported big chunks of FDR's New Deal.
Of course, while it was busy mainstreaming, the Communist Party USA was also hitting the [communists underground]
And we don't mean they hit up secret dance clubs in random warehouses.
Nope, the American communists were actually helping the Soviet Union to create a huge
network of Soviet spies all through the U.S., which of course the American government wasn't [U.S. spy network mapped]
all too cool with.
Well, as World War II fizzled and the Cold War heated up, the Communist Party USA was
In 1947, Truman launched a purge of communists from the government. [Truman launches purge]
The attorney general got in on the action, too, publishing a list of organizations, including
the Communist Party, that he said were bad news. [attorney general has quite a list for Truman]
In 1948, the anti-communist title wave was on the rise.
11 Communist Party leaders were arrested. [arrest statistics]
See, there was this law called the Smith Act, which made it illegal to conspire to overthrow
the government. [Smith Act explained]
What a concept.
Well, since Marx, the granddaddy of communism, called for a revolution, all communists were
dubbed criminals. [Marx behind bars]
The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the American communist leaders, unleashing
a flood of Smith Act arrests.
This included Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of passing atomic secrets [Rosenbergs pictured]
on to the Soviets.
Though it was unclear exactly how much Ethel was involved, both ended up being executed,
becoming the only Americans to get the death penalty in the great communist purge. [Rosenberg deaths announced]
The rash of arrests didn't end until 1957, when the court decided that making it a crime
to simply advocate for an idea was actually against the First Amendment. [court rules]
So, these days, Americans are allowed to go around being communists if they feel like
it. [American communists]
They can also go to conferences where grown men dress in fuzzy animal costumes.
Yup, gotta love the free world. [convention pictured]