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Were labor unions a specific target of the American demonization of the “other” as were Native Americans, African Americans, Catholics and immigrants?
The roots of American anti-communism can be found in our nation’s counter-subversive tradition, or the irrational notion that outsiders (political dissidents, foreigners, minorities) threatened the nation from within. Projecting their own insecurities onto a demonized “other,” many Americans found convenient scapegoats in their midst. Native Americans, African Americans, Catholics, immigrants all embodied internal subversion.
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First of all, we must note that this question is asked in a biased form. It assumes that anti-communism comes out of an “irrational” fear that causes Americans to “demonize” certain groups of people. While it is possible that this is true, it is not objectively and undeniably true. It is equally possible to argue that anti-communism is a very rational reaction to an ideology that would deprive people of their liberties. That said, it is certainly true that labor unions have been the target of distrust among Americans who feared communism.
Labor unions were a target of fear for at least three reasons. First, many union members in the early 20th century were immigrants. Immigrants were viewed with suspicion at this time because many of them believed in radical political ideas such as communism or anarchism. Second, the main goals of unions can be seen as steps towards communism. Communists feel that company managers and owners oppress the workers. They want the workers to have more power and, eventually, to own the factories. Labor unions also want workers to have more power and better conditions. This can be seen as a move towards communism. Finally, there have been unions that genuinely were communist. The main one of these was the International Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the “Wobblies.”
For these reasons, many Americans have at times targeted unions as communistic organizations.
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