Rethinking the Red Scare: The Lusk Committee and New York State's fight against radicalism, 1919--1923
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Philip J Funigiello
This study re-examines the Great Red Scare that followed the First World War in an effort to more accurately determine its origins, tactics, duration, and conclusion. Specifically, it analyzes the efforts of the Lusk Committee, New York State's joint legislative committee to combat radicalism, between 1919 and 1923.;Prior studies agree that the Red Scare was intense and brief in duration. Physical raids upon Socialist Party, Communist Party, and Industrial Workers of the World offices dominated the episode, culminating with Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's infamous national raids in January, 1920. His heavy-handed tactics, which failed to uncover any serious revolutionary threat, awoke many Americans to the ridiculous nature of the hysteria. Tired of years of reform, war, and government witch hunts, the public turned a deaf ear to Palmer's warnings and embarked upon the carefree Jazz Age of the 1920s.;Recent evidence suggests that the Red Scare did not truly end in January, 1920, though. The Lusk Committee in New York State continued to investigate and antagonize radicals until 1923, and in the process introduced new tactics and targets that established precedents for future waves of political repression in America. Following moderately successful raids upon the Soviet Bureau, the Rand School of Social Science, and communist and socialist meeting rooms and publishing facilities, the Lusk Committee adopted new tactics to combat the radical threat, specifically courtroom proceedings and subsequently legislation. The committee also shifted its focus entirely to education, urging and attaining the passage of laws requiring loyalty oaths from public school teachers and state licensing for private schools.;Eventually, as New Yorkers came to understand the threat that such laws posed to fundamental civil liberties such as free speech, the popularity of the Lusk Committee began to fade. When Governor Alfred Smith signed the repeal measures, the Red Scare truly came to a close. However, subsequent episodes of political repression standardized the new tactics and focus introduced by the Lusk Committee, indicating the importance of their endeavors.
© The Author
Pfannestiel, Todd J., "Rethinking the Red Scare: The Lusk Committee and New York State's fight against radicalism, 1919--1923" (2001). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1539623388.