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The Roaring 20s and the Roots of American Fascism
Part 4: The Red Scare of 1919

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The war had been good for American corporations' bottom lines, many reaped fat profits. Prices had been frozen during the war, and businesses were eager to raise prices once controls were lifted. In effect, the leaders of corporate America saw themselves as victims of the political atmosphere of the previous 20 years.

First, prices had been frozen during the war. Second, many corporations had been seized because of their illegal, trade-restricting cartel agreements with I.G. Moreover, prior to the war, corporations had suffered under the great trustbuster, Teddy Roosevelt.

In fact, leaders of corporate America were spoiling for a fight. The liberal and progressive movements that had ushered in the new century were fueled largely by the muckrakers. The press had exposed the robber barons and their practices for all to see. The attack on organized capital and the rich elite (such as Rockefeller, Morgan and Mellon) was fully justified. Their policies were universally detested and resented by the public. Naturally, corporate America resented the attacks and sought to resume business as usual.

However, to the leaders of corporate America, business as usual meant recreating the huge trusts and reestablishing their monopolies. Inking new cartel agreements with I.G. Farben was merely reinstituting their perceived right to rule the world. The similarity of the cartel agreements to the behavior of the robber barons cannot be underestimated.

At the end of WWI the leaders of corporate America saw two threats to their dreams of grandeur looming on the horizon: organized labor and the Bolshevik Revolution. Out of these threats the most shameful period of political repression was launched, the infamous Red Scare of 1919. Having experienced firsthand the power of the press, corporate America employed the media in a full-scale assault to regain their stature. They used the three most successful propaganda elements ever devised: patriotism, religion and communism.

Fanning Red Scare flames required the employment of every possible asset to destroy unions and the threats of both communism and socialism. The groundwork for this assault had been laid before the end of the war. J.P Morgan, according to Congressman Oscar Callaway, had purchased control over the media. Callaway inserted the following into the Congressional Record:

"In March, 1915, the J.P. Morgan interests, the steel, shipbuilding, and powder interests, and their subsidiary organizations, got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world, and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press of the United States. These 12 men worked the problem out by selecting 179 newspapers, and then began, by an elimination process, to retain only those necessary for the purpose of controlling the general policy of the daily press throughout the country. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. The 25 papers were agreed upon; emissaries were sent to purchase the policy, national and international, of these papers; an agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information regarding the questions of preparedness, militarism, financial policies, and other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers... This policy also included the suppression of everything in opposition to the wishes of the interests served."73

The Morgan family, along with its allies, also bankrolled the formation of the American Legion in 1919 and crafted it into a union-busting organization of thugs. The initial operating officers of the Legion were bankers, stockbrokers and the like.

The Legion took on a fascist character almost from its birth, and would play a prominent role in the fascist plot against Roosevelt in the 1930s. In 1923, the Legion's Commander of Alvin Owsley, openly embraced Mussolini, and endorsed fascism as a viable policy for the United States. As quoted in the Journal of the National Education Association, Owsley equated the Legion in America with the Fascisti in Italy.

"...the American Legion stands ready to protect our country's institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy... The American Legion is fighting every element that threatens our democratic government - soviets, anarchists, I.W.W., revolutionary socialists and every other red... Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States."16


Additionally, the Legion took on a racist character through the 1920s and 1930s, and served as a recruiting base for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. In the south, many Legion posts ran and operated as Klan cells.

This should not be taken as a besmirching of those who have honorably served their country . In fact, the disgust of many disgruntled veterans, who resented being used as cannon fodder by the wealthy elite, led to the formation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It was the VFW that led the fight for early payment of veterans' bonuses after the 1929 stock market crash. The American Legion stood idly by, supporting the failed policies of Wall Street and the Hoover administration.

The importance of the antiunion aspects of the Legion is apparent in the events leading up to 1919 Red Scare. By the end of 1919, the purchasing power of the 1913 dollar had shrunk to 45 cents. Food costs had increased by 84 percent, clothing 114.5 percent and furniture 125 percent. By the end of 1919, the cost of living had risen 99 percent in the preceding five years. 46 Wages during this time had risen, at most, five to ten percent for salaried employees. In fact, workers such as salaried clerks, police and others in similar positions were worse off than at any time since the Civil War.

Organized labor made substantial gains during the earlier, more liberal times with such labor-friendly bills as the Clayton Act, Seamen's Law and the Adamson Act. Membership in the American Federation of Labor had increased from approximately 500,000 in 1900 to more than four million by 1919. Unions had maintained an effective truce with management during the war, but with the war's end, unions took the offensive. Many employers were willing to grant moderate wage increases, but absolutely refused to negotiate or even acknowledge workers' rights to join unions.

President Wilson had foreseen the coming struggle of unions as evidenced in his remark to Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels in 1917, just prior to the United States intervention in the war in Europe:

"Every reform we have won will be lost if we go into this war. We have been making a fight on special privilege. War means autocracy. The people we have unhorsed will inevitably come into control of the country for we shall be dependent upon steel, ore and financial magnates. They will ruin the nation."47

By late 1919, Wilson would be bedridden due to a stroke and remain ineffective for the last year of his term.

The industrialists and leaders of corporate America, however, wanted a return to "normalcy," meaning freedom from government regulation, freedom from unions and freedom from public responsibility. Thus, the stage was set for a full-scale assault against organized labor. Major strikes were frequent in 1919, with a total of 3,600 strikes involving more than four million workers. Strikers were only occasionally successful, with most ending with no concessions to labor or the unions.

Secondary to the plight of organized labor, but central to the 1919 Red Scare, were various espionage laws enacted during the war aimed at German agents and cartels. These laws would now be used against the leaders of the labor movement, and those on the left side of the political spectrum.

During the war, hysteria was whipped into a frenzy by independent agencies such as the National Security League, the American Defense Society and the government-sponsored American Protective League. These organizations converted otherwise sane Americans into raging superpatriots. More often than not, these superpatriots and their organizations were a blight on freedom, and were used by the right wing to gain and maintain power.


These superpatriot groups gathered their strength from the right wing, not the general public, their financial support coming directly from corporations and the rich elite. The National Civic Federation received most of its support from V. Everit Macy, August Belmont and Elbert Gary. Likewise, the National Protective League was supported by T. Coleman du Pont, Henry Frick, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller.50 While the National Civic Federation was under the direction of Matthew Woll as acting president, it collaborated closely with Nazi agents in this country.62 Another group from the 1920s that underwent the transformation from a nativist group to fascism was Harry Jung's American Vigilant Intelligence Federation.67

In effect, these superpatriot groups, along with the American Legion, were bridging the chasm between the rich elite and the general population. These groups were fashioned in such a way as to appeal to a large segment of the population by invoking a false sense of patriotism, while the directors and operating officers remained fully under the control of the elite. Secondary to the patriotism of these groups was a very conservative economic agenda. With the exception of the National Civic Federation, all of these groups were virulently antiunion. The National Civic Federation included a few trade unionists on its board of directors, but still maintained an aggressive open shop policy.

In the post-war period, the membership of these patriot groups was relatively small. However, they exerted an influence that far outstripped their numbers. Their propaganda efforts were well-funded and well-organized. The National Security League sent pamphlets to schoolteachers, clergy, businessmen and government workers. In every major city, they formed a flying squadron of speakers to whip up public sentiment against radicalism. At the time unionism was regarded by these groups as radicalism.

Central to the hysteria were three federal acts. The first was the 1917 Espionage Act. This act made it illegal to convey false reports with the intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military forces of the United States, to promote the success of its enemies or to attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty and mutiny. The second was the Sedition Act of 1918. Under the Sedition Act it was illegal to utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane or abusive language about the form of the U.S. government, the Constitution or the military. The third act, passed in October 1918, decreed that all aliens who were anarchists or advocated the assassination of public officials were to be excluded from admission to the United States.

While only a handful of pro-Nazis would ever face charges under these laws during WWII, thousands of individuals would be rounded up under these laws in 1919. These laws, and the plight of labor, would now play a central role in the events leading up to the mass hysteria of the Red scare of 1919 initiated by the Palmer Raids.

One of the first victims of the espionage laws was Victor Berger, one of the founders of the Socialist Party. The Socialists opposed the war, as did Berger. In 1918, Berger was arrested under the Espionage Act for his statements, some of which follows below:

"Personally, I was against the war before war was declared. But now since we are in the war, I want to win this war for democracy. Let us hope we will win the war quickly. The war of the United States against Germany cannot be justified. The blood of American boys is being coined into swollen profits for American plutocrats.48

Berger was arrested for the part of his statement that threatened the leaders of corporate America. While awaiting trial, Berger ran for his old seat in the House of Representatives, winning it back on a peace platform. In January 1919, Berger was found guilty of conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act and sentenced to 20 years at Leavenworth. His conviction was only the beginning of the destruction of the Socialist Party. Party Secretary Charles Schenck, who had ordered the printing of leaflets that discouraged enlistment, was convicted shortly after Berger of violating the Espionage Act.

Many other prominent members of the Socialist Party were arrested for violations of the Espionage Act. In June 1918, Eugene Debs delivered a scathing speech denouncing the arrests of such prominent Socialists as Charles Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, Kate Richards O'Hare and Rose Pastor Stokes. Shortly thereafter, Debs was arrested.

The arrests of prominent Socialists were systematic, and before the hysteria of the 1919 Red Scare was over the party would be destroyed, but the war profiteers would be protected.

Closely associated with the Socialist Party in the minds of the public were members of the International Workers of the World, or the Wobblies. Founded in 1905 as a protest over the conservative American Federation of Labor, the Wobblies were aggressive in both demands and actions. Like the Socialists, the Wobblies would be singled out during the Red Scare for destruction.

Before the war's end, corporate America enlisted the press in its defense using perhaps the most effective propaganda tool available, communism. The Bolsheviks were now attacked for the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, as well as their views on capitalism. Using the wild claims of the superpatriots groups, church magazines, business and financial journals, the general press struck out against Bolshevism. The term "Bolsheviks" soon became interchangeable with criminals, German agents, anarchists, Wobblies, Socialists and economic imbeciles. In the eyes of the press, there was no difference between a Wobblie and a Bolshevik. Both were tantamount to treason.

Claims made in the press about the Bolsheviks were ludicrous. One particular horror story made the staggering claim that in Petrograd the Bolshevik had an electric guillotine that could behead five hundred people an hour. Bolsheviks were portrayed as wild, bloodthirsty murderers, and analogous to Wobblies.

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the press' bloodletting of Bolsheviks was in supporting a U.S. intervention force in Russia. Many of the same right-wing forces within the United States that had opposed entry into a war with Germany now supported intervention in Russia. While the overwhelming majority of Americans were isolationists, right-wing pressure was strong enough that President Wilson sent a small contingent of forces into Russia with the limitation that they could not intervene in Russian domestic affairs.49 Tagging along with this contingent of U.S. troops as a missionary was William Dudley Pelly. Pelly would later found the Silver Shirts, a pro-Nazi group.

Combining propaganda from the nations' news media with the dismal plight of labor, the nation was primed for trouble. Three events¾ the Seattle general strike, the bombings and the Boston police strike triggered¾ the epidemic proportions of hysteria in late 1919.

The first of these events was the Seattle general strike. Pacific Northwest workers had been hit particularly hard by inflation. Seattle had been a hub of wartime shipbuilding, causing a severe dislocation of peacetime industries, housing shortages and extreme inflation. As a result, the Pacific Northwest was a hotbed of activity for the IWW. Even before the shipyard workers walked off the job, area newspapers were busy fielding articles asking whether strikes were for wages or Bolshevism. On January 21, 1919, 35,000 shipyard workers struck in violation of their contract, which had two months to run. The director of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, General Charles Piez, refused to discuss any matters relating to conditions of employment.

On February 3, the Seattle Central Labor Council announced that a general strike in support of the shipyard workers was to begin on February 6. Consequently, Seattle was gripped by mass hysteria. The public, fearful of shortages from the strike, went on a buying frenzy. Drug, department and grocery stores were swamped with customers stockpiling goods. Hardware stores had more orders for guns than they could fill. The Labor Council promptly ran an editorial to calm the hysteria, stating that the Strike Committee would run all industry necessary to the public health and welfare and that law and order would be preserved.

The remaining days until February 6 saw scores of articles in the local media comparing the strike to Bolshevism, further inflaming the public. On the morning of the 6th, 60,000 workmen went out on strike. The unions granted exemptions to garbage trucks, milk trucks and even laundry trucks. At no time during the strike was Seattle left without food, coal, water, heat or light. Even more remarkable was that no violence marred the strike.

Among Seattle's alarmists was its mayor, Ole Hanson. Hanson had been defeated in his Senate race in 1918 and then had ran for mayor. Originally a Republican, Hanson switched to the Progressive Party in 1916 and had supported Wilson. He harbored an intense hatred of the IWW, believing they were at the root of all labor unrest. Hanson's fear reached a fever pitch when the general strike was called. He had no doubt that it signaled the beginning of an attempted revolution which "wanted to take possession of our American government and try to duplicate the anarchy of Russia." Hanson also had no doubt that the man who end this anarchy would have a very promising political career.

At Hanson's request, federal troops from Fort Lewis were dispatched to Seattle on the morning of February 6. Ever the ambitious politician, Hanson personally led the troops into the city with a huge American flag draped over his car. The following day Hanson declared that unless the strike was ended, he would use the troops to crush the strike and operate all the essential enterprises. Hanson's words would frame the hysteria to come later in the year.

"The time has come for the people in Seattle to show their Americanism. The anarchists in this community shall not rule its affairs."51

Seattle's papers continued a barrage of condemnation against the strikers, and called for "no compromise now or ever."51 Facing a wrath of criticism conditioned by the fear of revolution, the strike ended on February 11th with Hanson proclaiming: "The rebellion is quelled, the test came and was met by Seattle unflinchingly."52

For a week, the nation had focused on the Seattle strike with the media inciting the hysteria that would soon erupt. Banner headlines and editorials across the nation labeled the strikers as Reds. The Chicago Tribune warned its readers that "it's only a middling step from Petrograd to Seattle."53

Hanson was not the only politician who saw a bright future in denouncing unionism and strikes as Bolshevism. Minnesota Senator Knute Nelson declared that the Seattle strike posed a greater danger than strikes during the war. Utah Senator William King stated that strike instigators were confirmed Bolsheviks. Washington Representative William King said: "From Russia they came, and to Russia they should be made to go."53

Within a few months of the strike, Ole Hanson resigned as mayor of Seattle and toured the country lecturing on the danger of domestic Bolshevism. The lecture circuit proved financially rewarding; in seven months Hanson netted $38,000, compared to his annual mayoral salary of $7,500.

The Seattle general strike was a fundamental cause of Red Scare hysteria, because it focused America's attention solely on what became to be called radicalism. The media successfully depicted the strikers as Reds. Any strike after Seattle would be framed the same, each with ever increasing hysteria. The most successful propaganda ploy of the righ-wing in America had been successfully launched .


Both foreign and domestic events kept the fear of Bolshevism alive for the remainder of February 1919. On February 20, it was reported that French Premier Clemenceau was wounded by a Bolshevik agent. Four days later, Secret Service agents arrested four Wobblies in New York City. The press immediately seized upon the arrests, alleging they were part of a worldwide plot to kill American and Allied officials.

The next month, the Chicago Tribune reported that a plan for planting bombs in Chicago had been uncovered. The following month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the uncovering of a conspiracy by anarchists in Pittsburgh to seize the arsenal and use the explosives to lay the city in ruins.

It wasn't until April 28 that proof of any bomb plots emerged. On that day Hanson's office in Seattle received a package. Hanson was in Colorado on a Victory Loan tour, and the package was left unopened on a table. The wrapping was torn in transit, and liquid leaked onto the table and caused severe damage. The liquid was an acid, and the package contained a homemade bomb.

The following day, Thomas Hardwick's maid lost both hands when she opened a similar package that exploded. Hardwick was a former senator from Georgia. An alert postal clerk who read of the bombings remembered setting aside 16 similar packages for insufficient postage just days earlier. He located the packages, and notified authorities. All 16 were the same type of bomb that injured Hardwick's maid. An additional 18 bombs were later found in transit. The packages were addressed to, among others, Attorney General Palmer, the Secretary of Labor, Chief Justice Holmes, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and several senators and immigration officials.

The timing of the mailings made it obvious that the bombs were targeted for May Day. The nation was now primed for May Day violence. In Boston, 116 Socialists were arrested when violence erupted during a May Day parade. Not a single non-Socialist was arrested. In New York, riot soldiers raided the Russian People's House and the offices of The Call, a liberal magazine. Other cities saw similar events. Cleveland erupted in an orgy of violence, with more than 40 socialists injured and another 106 arrested.

The commonly accepted trigger for the resulting mass hysteria was the June 2 bombing of Attorney General Palmer's home. A copy of the anarchist pamphlet, "Plain Words" was found near the doorsteps. Palmer himself was an ambitious politician with an eye on the 1920 presidential nomination. While President Wilson remained healthy, Palmer was held in check, but as the President's health deteriorated, Palmer began to assert more power. It wasn't until the president was bedridden that Palmer was able to unleash his assault on unions and Socialists. Meanwhile, the press was sensationalizing fears of a red scare with each strike.

Along with the bombing of Palmer's residence, the Winnipeg general strike in June further heightened tensions. Just like the Seattle strike, the Winnipeg strike was given the Bolshevik label. Newspapers ran exaggerated headlines to shock the public and harden the public opinion against unions. Further inflaming the public was labor's insistence on the Plumb Plan; a plan for government ownership of the railroads.  

By late summer, the public was nearly hysterical with fear of Bolsheviks and unions. As 1919 progressed, each event led to greater anxiety and fear and ratcheted the hysteria level up further. Finally, in late summer, the Boston Police went on strike. Police in other cities had already unionized, but police commissioner and former mayor Edwin Curtis was virulently antiunion. He stated that a police officer could not simultaneously belong to a union and perform his sworn duties. Massachusetts's governor Calvin Coolidge backed Curtis. Coolidge took a hard line towards the striking police officers. Soldiers and volunteers took to the street to police Boston and it was announced that none of the strikers would be rehired. Coolidge's harsh approach to unions immediately placed him in the national spotlight.

In September, coal miners went on strike. With President Wilson's health failing at an alarming rate, Attorney General Palmer argued for invoking an injunction under the Lever Act. Organized labor had supported the Lever Act and its use of injunctions to stop strikes in the event of a war. Wilson had given labor the express promise that the act would never be used during peace. Labor was outraged at the betrayal. Without the approval of the entire cabinet, Palmer invoked the act, and an injunction was issued on October 30 by federal judge Albert Anderson.

With this background the Massachusetts governor's race took on national significance. Coolidge's hard stance in the Boston police strike was fresh in everyone's mind, and Coolidge became the unanimous choice of the Republican Party for reelection. The Boston police strike became the focal point of the race, with the press loudly framing the election as a battle between Bolshevism and law and order. Coolidge won reelection handily with his antiunion message, and would be selected as the vice presidential candidate the following year.

Antiunionism was reaching hysterical levels in the fall of 1919. Newspapers proclaimed that anything other than the open shop was un-American. The antiunion campaign of big business was bearing fruit. Clergymen such as David Burrell of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City claimed that the Bible not only proved that the closed shop was unpatriotic, but also un-christian.54

Clergy and churches that supported the rights of labor soon fell victim to attacks by the super patriot groups. The National Welfare Council, the Federation for Social Service of the Methodist Church and the Commission on Church and Social Services were singled out for unusually harsh treatment by the superpatriots. Many clergymen supportive of labor came to be labeled "parlor pinks." This was the beginning of the radicalization of religion to the hard-right's viewpoint. Liberal and moderate church leaders were purged.

By the end of 1919, the Red Scare was reaching critical mass. Palmer, ever more confident of his future political achievements, believed the best solution was to deport radicals. Colluding with certain labor department and immigration officials, Palmer assured himself of ever greater success.

Palmer issued orders on December 27 for the FBI to arrange meetings of the groups they had infiltrated for the night of January 2, 1920. Field agents were to obtain all necessary documentation during the raids such as charters, meeting minutes, membership lists, and books. Additionally, no person arrested was to be allowed to communicate with any other person unless Palmer, William Flynn or J. Edgar Hoover granted permission. Palmer had appointed Flynn as the chief of the Bureau of Investigations, the forerunner of the FBI.

The results were spectacular. More than 4000 suspected radicals were arrested in thirty-three U.S. cities. Arrests were often made without warrants. Th e American citizens arrested were turned over to state authorities for prosecution under syndicalism laws. Prisoners were denied legal counsel and held under inhuman conditions. Brutality by arresting officers and jailers was widespread.

The mass hysteria even reached into the halls of congress where, at the urging of Palmer, seventy sedition bills were introduced. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and none of the peacetime sedition bills passed. Nevertheless, many states enacted sedition laws that facilitated the prosecution of the IWW. In New York State, five Socialist Party members of the state legislature were disbarred.


The full extent of the hysteria and the brutality prevalent can best be illustrated by the Centralia Massacre that followed the steel and coal strikes. In 1919, there were only two IWW halls open in the state of Washington; the others had been suppressed or closed by the police or local mobs. The Centralia IWW hall had just reopened after having been raided by a local mob during a Red Cross parade the year before.

On October 20, 1919, a group of local business leaders formed the Centralia Protective Association to safeguard the small town against undesirables. Rumors inside the IWW hall were rampant about the hall being a target for a raid on Armistice Day. On Armistice Day, the parade route led directly past the hall. The Wobblies, seeking to protect themselves from mob violence, stationed armed members inside the hall, across the street and on a hilltop overlooking the street. Parade marchers included the local post of the America Legion led by Warren Grimm, the leading figure in the Centralia Protective Association. At first, it appeared that violence would be averted as the marchers passed the IWW hall, but marchers turned back towards the hall. In the confusion, some Legion members moved towards the hall. In self-defense, the Wobblies opened fire and wounded several legionaries, including Grimm. Another was shot in the head as he burst through the door.

The Wobblies responsible for the shootings were quickly rounded up and placed in jail, with the exception of Wesley Everest, who escaped towards the Skookumchuck River. He was pursued by a posse that overtook him as he attempted to ford the river. Everest refused to surrender and soon emptied his revolver, killing another Legion member. With no ammunition Everest was soon overpowered, beaten and had his teeth knocked out with a rifle butt before being taken to jail.

That night the lights went out in Centralia. Under the cover of darkness, a mob broke into the jail and seized Everest. He was taken to the Chehalis River. En route, one of his captors castrated him. Upon reaching the river, he was dragged from the car pleading for the mob to shoot him. He was hung from the bridge. The rope, however, was too short and his captors hoisted him back up to hang him with a longer rope. Somehow, Everest remained alive through the two attempted hangings. He was hoisted back up a third time, only to be fitted with a still longer rope. The third time, after stomping on his fingers as he desperately clung to the bridge, Everest finally succumbed.

After making sure their work was done, the mob turned their headlights on the dangling body and riddled the corpse with bullets. After several days, Everest was cut down and brought back to town, only to be displayed in the jail as an example to other Wobblies. Since none of the town's undertakers would care for the body, four of Everest's fellow IWW members were forced to dig his grave in potter's field. No inquest was ever held for his death, which was ruled a suicide by the corner. In the end, eight Wobblies were found guilty of murder and imprisoned.

The Centralia Massacre followed a long string of attacks on strikers and unions dating back to at least the post Civil War era. By 1914, the attacks had become commonplace. On April 20, 1914, in an effort to break a strike against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, more than 40 striking miners and their families were murdered in Ludlow, Colorado by the Colorado National Guard and Rockefeller-hired thugs from the Baldwin-Felts detective agency.55 Another massacre of Wobblies occurred in Everett, Washington on November 5, 1916.56

Brutality such as the Centralia Massacre would reach epidemic proportions in 1919. The public had been whipped into a feverish frenzy by the media and super patriot groups like the American Legion. Superpatriot groups would spring up like mushrooms after a rain and would continue distributing literature through the 1920s.

No group with liberal tendencies would remain untouched. The Lusk Committee branded The Survey, a national liberal oriented magazine, as having the endorsement of revolutionary groups. Other liberal magazines such as The Nation, New Republic, Dial and Public were the subject of similar attacks. The ACLU was condemned as a Bolshevik front. The National League of Women Voters was labeled a tool of radicals. Liberal clergymen were branded as "parlor pinks", as were many teachers with liberal leanings.

The infamous Lusk Committee followed on the heels of the report from the United States Senate Overman Committee. The Overman Committee began hearings on February 11, the day the Seattle general strike ended. The final report spanned 1200 pages and showed little evidence of communist propaganda in the U.S. and even less of an affect on American labor. The immediate cause for the Lusk Committee sprang from a report leaked to the public by prominent New York lawyer Archibald Stevenson. Stevenson was serving in the Military Intelligence division at the time and supplied a list of 62 individuals to the Overman Committee that he had branded as traitors. Stevenson’s report on radicalism in New York City concluded that Bolshevism was rampant among New York workmen.

On March 26, the New York legislature appropriated $30,000 for the Lusk Committee and appointed Stevenson as assistant counsel. On June 12, the Justice Department raided the Russian Soviet Bureau. Two tons of propaganda material were hauled off to the Lusk Committee for review. Following the raid, New York State Senator Lusk declared that there were at least fifty radical publications in the city. At the same time New York State Attorney General Charles Newton claimed the Soviet Bureau was the clearing house for all radical activity in the United States.

On June 21, the Lusk Committee again struck again, this time raiding the Rand School and the local IWW office. All documents were seized, but despite vigorous denials from the committee little of value was found. There were no indications of a radical revolution. The committee claimed that documents from the Rand School showed that radicals were in control of at least 100 trade unions. Stevenson even claimed that the documents showed that the Rand School was propagandizing for Blacks.

With no substantiating evidence, Lusk charged that the Rand School was the actual headquarters for Bolshevik radicals and took immediate steps to close the school. The renewal of the school charter was delayed until July 30 when the Supreme Court Justice of New York threw out the case for lack of evidence.75