The Long Roots of Anticommunism in the U.S.

Actually, “anticommunism” had a long and nasty record in American history. The same spirit was expressed decades before the Russian Revolution under a variety of labels. Campaigns and vigilantism were undertaken against those who were called “anarchists,” “aliens,” “terrorists,” and, of course, “communists.” Invariably, these were individuals active in protesting one or another of the exploitative practices of the propertied and governing class. An editorial, for example, in Harper’s Weekly in 1874 could have been written anytime in the last forty-five years. It read:

 

[The] cartoon on our front page sets one phase of the labor question in a very clear light, and will serve to warn reflecting working-men against some of the dangers upon which misguiding leaders may precipitate them…..Communism is a foreign product, which can hardly be made to flourish on American soil. 

 

The Russian Revolution, however, and its Bolshevik denouement in particular, made anticommunism a permanent feature of the American landscape, a tactic to be resorted to whenever unusual stress or strain troubled the tranquility of the established social order. The Russian Revolution itself invoked an orgy of vituperation and fear in the country’s affluent strata, fed by the alarmist exaggerations and distortions of the American press.

by Herbert I. Schiller, The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression (1989)

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