A DIVIDED UNION? THE USA 1945-1970 (key issue 1)

  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 22-12-12 15:48

Why was there a fear of communism?

  • October 1917 - Bolshevik Revolution in Russia set up communist state.
  • Communist views despised by USA who followed a capitalist system.
  • 'Red Scare' - the fear of communism to the USA by immigrants from Eastern Europe. Built up by press and public officials.
  • WW2 - despite allies during war, lots of mistrust between USA and USSR.
  • Yalta Conference, February 1945 - USA and USSR were able to make some agreements about their approach to the post-war world.
  • Post WW2 - tension between USA/USSR escalated with development of atomic bomb and Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe.
  • March 1946, Churchill talked of an 'iron curtain' separating West and East Europe.
  • Truman doctrine - USA policy of containing Communism. Led to involvement in Korean war.
  • Marshall Plan - Introduced by the USA in 1947 to provide aid to countries that had been badly effected by the Second World War.
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Why did events in the USA increase the fear of Com

'The enemy within'.

  • Federal Employee Loyalty Programme (FELP) was designed to check the security risks of people working in government.
  • Checks did not uncover any cases of spying but 1952 more than 6.6 million federal workers had been examined. 3000 forced to resign, 200 were sacked.


  • J. Edgar Hoover - director of FBI - was a strong anti-communist and used the FELP to investigate government employees.

The Hollywood Ten

  • House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) looked into communist infiltration in the film industry.
  • Ten writers and directors were asked if they had ever been members of the Communist Party, they refused to answer. Were sacked and spent a year in prison.
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What was the importance of the Hiss and Rosenburg

  • Red scare gathered momentum due to the impact of two high-profile court cases.
  • Alger Hiss (1948)
    • Accused of being a spy by Whittaker Chambers, a former communist.
    • Interrogated but little evidence.
    • 'Pumpkin Papers' of government documents incriminated Hiss.
    • Sentenced to 5 years in prison (1950).
  • The Rosenburgs (1949)
    • Accused of giving atomic secrets to the USSR.
    • Sentenced to death (1953).
  • The McCarran Internal Security Act
    • Restricted freedom of Communist members.
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Why was McCarthy able to win support?

  • Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in 1950 created hysteria about communism.
    • 9th February 1950 - McCarthy claims he has names of 205 communists who work in the State Department.
    • Claims fluctuated but no proven cases of spying.
    • A senate committee was set up to investigate the claims and they were decided to be a 'fraud and a hoax'.
    • The committee chairman was branded a communist by McCarthy and later lost election against a McCarthy supporter.
    • Politicians afraid to speak out against him.
    • McCarthy was made Chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate.
      • Able to investigate state bodies.
      • Gained mass support across America.
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Why did McCarthyism fade away?

  • The role of President Eisenhower - McCarthy attacked his own party as he seemed to think he could attack anyone with impunity.
  • The role of the army - he began to accuse army in 1954 - aggressive questioning of witnesses and bullying tactics allowed public to see 'real man'.
  • The role of the media - in March 1954 a television programme was released condemning McCarthy. Journalists attacked him.
  • Lost chairmanship and ended power.
  • Died in 1957.
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What were the effects of McCarthyism?

  • Words 'red', 'pinko' and 'commie' became synonymous with unsound characters.
  • Created a climate of fear.
  • Spying on neighbours.
  • Hatred of communism never died away.
  • People who wanted to change the USA were seen as communists e.g. civil rights for black Americans.
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