On December 9th 1953, General Electric, announced that all communist employees would be discharged from the company. The act is part of the period of US history known as the Second Red Scare, when US society and particularly the government was afraid of a Communist invasion of the US. The period is also widely known as the McCarthy Era, a name derived from one of the movement’s biggest spokespersons, US Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Despite the alliance between the USSR and the US during the Second World War, tensions between the two countries emerged toward the end of the war. The tensions centered around the opposing social ideologies which signified the countries; the US symbolised capitalism and democracy, whereas the USSR was a firmly communist society. The USSR’s influence on Eastern Europe became a specific issue of tension, best defined when Winston Churchill described the ideological border between East and West Europe as an “iron curtain.”
The possibility that communist sympathies could arise within the US worried the government. In an attempt to root out Communist and socialist ideology within the US, the government enforced counter-measures. These ranged from loyalty and security reviews within the government itself, along with senate communities, and blacklists of people and companies suspected of communist ideology.
What began as a government action quickly became a country-wide search for communists. During the fifties it was common practice for people to accuse each of being communists, with no real evidence. The social epidemic was even compared to the Salem witch trials, based upon the idea that once someone was accused of being a Communist, they had no real chance for exoneration from the claim. McCarthyism was widespread throughout the late forties and fifties, but slowly came to a close in the late fifties with changing public sentiments.