HIST-LIT 90DV: Red Scares





Instructor: Steve Biel and Lauren Kaminsky
Meeting time: Wednesday, 12:45-2:45 pm

Red ScaresThe specter that haunted Europe when the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 continues to shape American political discourse to this day. “From the very get-go,” wrote a Mississippi newspaper columnist as the pandemic entered its second year, “COVID was used by the leftists in this country to seize power, fundamentally change our nation and usher in totalitarian socialism.” This course reveals how charges of fealty to radical “foreign” ideologies have operated as rhetorical and political strategies for much of U.S. history. The so-called First Red Scare, precipitated by World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, followed on fears and persecution of anarchists, socialists, and other labor radicals in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. In the Second Red Scare after World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Senator Joseph McCarthy, the FBI, and others conducted widespread investigations of suspected communists and purged “subversives” from all levels of government, the entertainment industry, public and private schools, colleges and universities. Beginning with mid 19th-century fears that revolutionary uprisings could spread from Europe to the United States, “Red Scares” explores anxieties about subversion and perversion in American politics and culture. Readings will include texts by Karl Marx, Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Eugene V. Debs, Sacco and Vanzetti, John Dos Passos, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Lillian Hellman, as well as films such as On the Waterfront, My Son John, Salt of the Earth, and The Manchurian Candidate.