The closer I come to finishing the first volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, the more I am struck by the constant fight against Communism. Not only was this an issue for Singapore in the fifties and sixties, but it was an issue for the United States throughout the century. So much so, in fact, that I would suggest that the Cold War started in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution and the withdrawal of Russia from the Great War.
While Communism had yet to lay hold of Russia and its eventual buffer states in Eastern Europe, it was the beginning of a new chapter in international relations. In the United States, four minute men swooped across the country giving speeches in theaters about the evils of the Hun and the great need to be vigilant against those who would conspire against the government, be they Communist, German, or some other offensive ilk. This translated into an almost immediate swing from anti-Germanism in early November 1918 to an anti-Red (be they Communist or Anarchist or som either -ist unlike by those in power) sentiment influencing the U.S. government.
In fact, there was a push by several members of society to mobilize the returning soldiers from fighting the Hun in the trenches to fighting the Communists in their homes. Perhaps 1919 was a crucial year for the anti-Red forces. They saw an election looming on the horizon with the threat of Communist politicians running for office. They feared Negro collusion. There was indeed some basis for fear in a sense as the piers of New Jersey and the windows of Manhattan well remembered the blasts of sabotaged ships during the war, an all too real reminder that the U.S. was not invulnerable to sedition and conspiracy.
The twenties found Prohibition and a new enemy to occupy the country. The concern more for the alcohol than for the crimes of Reds, or of anyone for that matter. The few exceptions being Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian Anarchists who were found guilty of killing a guard and robbing a factory. It was a show trial when all was said and done and, unfortunately for Sacco and Vanzetti, came on the tail end of the nineteen teens fears of Red invasion.
In the thirties, with FDR in the White House, and a progressive platform of leftist leaning policies designed to lift the miseries of the Great Depression, a new Red scare came into focus. This one was a Republican assault on FDR’s decidedly Socialist policies, policies like Social Security and the rest of the alphabet soup (as the plethora of new agencies was called). He wasn’t seen as democratizing the country and of redistributing wealth.
And while I will continue, I want to take a moment to talk about wealth redistribution. It is the one thing that Republicans fear more than abortion, gay rights, and black voters. As I’ve written previously, imvestopedia, possibly the most conservative -pedia on the internet, raised only one issue with Socialism, and that was wealth redistribution and the threat of lazy slouches leeching off the system. This has been a major theme throughout the history of this country and of the wealthy.
I just finished a book entitle day Gotham, a history of New York City through 1898. In this book there was a great deal of talk about the way the upper and middle classes in Manhattan treated the poor. They were intent not to encourage anyone, if at all possible, to living off the dole. They didn’t everything to prevent the government from providing for the poor and homeless, despite their numbering in the thousands. They developed workhouses and put the poor to work like prison labor, forcing them to work a hard day for a measly few cents, or a couple of meals and a berth to sleep in inside. It was a cruel city, New York, and looking at the behavior of its upper class, one can see the foundations of the modern Republican view fearing wealth redistribution in any form.
So there was the thirties, and then World War II came about. Even during the war FDR acted as if there were enemies in Russia under Stalin. While the was no criticism of Red policies in the U.S.S.R. per se, the allies were conscious of the dangers should Russia join the Pacific Theater in time to lay claim to geographical bases in Japan or nearby. This was a major factor in Truman’s decision to drop the atomically bomb. Not only was he wary of losing thousands of lives in a push into the heart of Japan, he was determined Tom prevent Red Russia from Anne in good anything in the Far East.
I will stop here and continue this diatribe later. I don’t want to have to consume too much in one sitting.