The Second Red Scare Essay

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The Second Red Scare The McCarthy era, which generally spanned from 1947 to 1957, brought to the forefront of American politics the question of civil rights. At issue were controversies about both First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech and Fifth Amendment rights to due process and freedom from self-incrimination. Anti-Communist actions often involved restrictions on these rights, and heading the anti-Communist movement was the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). This committee, which consisted of government officials from Congress, was formed to investigate the threat of Communism in America. In doing so, the committee brought in witnesses, usually individuals thought to have, or to have had, Communist…show more content…
It violated, however, the civil rights necessary for democracy. While the ACLU proposed to protect civil rights no matter the cause, it refused at times to extend those civil rights to Communists or Communist sympathizers on the grounds that Communists sought to suppress civil rights. Thus, although the ACLU and HUAC are generally perceived as diametrically opposed groups, the ambivalence of both groups makes it difficult to paint the former as the archetypal protector of civil rights and the latter as the archetypal suppressor of civil rights. While HUAC’s actions were not laudable, it paradoxically had the best interests of the American public in mind, including protecting American civil rights. Insofar as Communism seemed to threaten the American way of life, HUAC’s attempts to root out Communists reflected a concern for American civil rights. The authoritarian nature of the Communist Party, as described by some, seems to support the idea of a Communist threat to American ideals. As a friendly witness before HUAC, for example, former Communist Party member Elia Kazan confessed that he left the party because “I had enough regimentation, enough of being told what to think and say and do, enough of their habitual violation of the daily practices of democracy to which I was accustomed” (406). In his testimony, Kazan portrays the Communist party as a suppressor of civil rights (“daily practices,” such as the right to “think”

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