Patriot or Scoundrel, wretch or hero, Matt Cvetic was above all else a product of his time in history.
During the 1930's, Communism as an economic ideology became very popular with American Labor leaders, as well as the intelligentsia. Journalist Eugene Lyons would later describe this period of American history as "The Red Decade." The Great Depression had created an excellent opportunity for the Communist Party of the United States to expand its influence over the US Labor movement, while liberals, intellectuals, and journalists would praise the accomplishments of Stalin and the Bolsheviks. The Party would reach its zenith in 1939 with some 50,000 members.
The Great Depression
This pro-Soviet attitude would take a blow with the beginning of WWII in Europe and the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Many would see the Non-Aggression Pact as Stalin giving his blessing to Nazi aggression. Barely a week after the pact was signed, Hitler would invade Poland.
World War II
Official and unofficial US involvement in the war increased, anti-communist attitudes would become subdued by the need to support the Soviet Union as an ally in the War Effort. History shows that the alliance was not always a smooth one. The Soviets were convinced that the US and Great Britain delayed opening a second front in Western Europe, leaving the brunt of the fighting and dying to the Soviets so the West could join in at the last moment when victory was assured.
The Cold War
The Second World War would barely be over as the Cold War began. Tensions over the division of Germany and the Soviet Union's installation of puppet Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe would be intensified when the Soviets tested their own atomic bomb in 1949. At the same time Mao's Communist Army in China were enjoying success over the Nationalist Kuomintang, despite heavy American financial support of the latter. Klaus Fuchs would be convicted of committing espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union while working for the Manhattan Project, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested for passing atomic secrets to the Soviets.
One reaction to these would surface as McCarthyism. The Smith Act of 1940 (also known as the Alien Registration Act,) made it a criminal offense to "knowing or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the Government of the United States by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises, or encourages such an overthrow." (Although passage of the Smith Act would precede Senator McCarthy's investigations by more than a decade, many historians consider its impact to be part of McCarthyism.) In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held hearings on the alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood Motion Picture industry. These hearings would lead to the infamous Hollywood Blacklists.
PARRALLELS IN THE NEW MILLENEUM
Looked for or not, there are parallels to be drawn between the Red Scare of the 1940s and 50s and the ongoing War on Terrorism. Both situations deal with real and creditable threats to the security of the United States. The Communist Party of the USA was indeed a tool of the Soviet Union to influence and infiltrate American institutions and government. Today there are terrorists who use corrupted Islamic teachings to justify attacks on American citizens, both at home and abroad. In both instances there has been a real or threatened subversion of civil and Constitutional rights in the name of National Security, and there is as much demagoguery at the beginning of the present century as there was in the middle of the last.