Formation of American Communist Party

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OUR WORLD As World War I was raging in Europe, a political and social revolution defined by a struggle between the labor class and capitalists was taking place in Russia. This fear of communism became known as the Red Scare, and was very prominent in the early 1900s. The Russian Revolution of November 1917 made it clear that communism was no longer simply a theory, but now an important regime. Just as the Russian communists had appointed themselves the “champions of the workers,” the tiny U.
S. group of communists had also taken up the workers’ cause. The American Communist Party was formed in 1919. They were quick to align with the pressing union issues, especially labor strikes brought about by high post-war prices. This alignment unsettled an American public already annoyed with a wave of strikes. The first notable strike occurred in February 1919, when Seattle was brought to a virtual standstill.
Another round of strikes starting in September 1919, organized by the radical William Foster, resulted in approximately 340,000 steelworkers, factory workers, and dockworkers declaring a strike, which continued to heighten popular suspicion. These strikes are important because they marked a grave setback that crippled the union movement for over 10 years. In 1921, the Shepard Towner Maternity and Infancy Act, one of the first pieces of federal welfare legislation that provided funds for supporting the health of women and infants, was passed.

The Sheppard-Towner Act was important because it provided for federal matching funds for such programs as health clinics for women and children, visiting nurses to educate and care for pregnant and new mothers, midwife training, and distribution of nutrition and hygiene information. So, in some cases, the fear of communism is beneficial, but, in others, the fear results in loss of jobs.

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