And here’s a shocker for modern progressives and conservatives alike: The first pursuers of American communists were Democrats Woodrow Wilson and his attorney general, Alexander Mitchell Palmer. For all his faults, Wilson understood the dangers of Bolshevism. ~Paul Kengor
The Palmer Raids were among one of the more shameful episodes of hysterical, authoritarian overreach in modern American history. It is awful to see them implicitly praised as if they were admirable or desirable. Yes, they pursued American communists and anarchists, and they also baselessly harassed Russian immigrants who had done nothing criminal, just as the Wilson administration harassed and arrested critics of entry into WWI. The post-1917 Wilson administration is a disgraceful period, and the fact that Wilson happened to count communists among his domestic foes doesn’t make it any better. If popular anticommunism during the Cold War was overwrought and prone to excess, as Kennan believed and Lukacs has argued for decades, the Red Scare of the early ’20s and Wilson’s intervention in the Russian Civil War were simply lunatic. The dangers of Bolshevism in 1919-1920 were dangers to Russia and the peoples of the collapsing Russian Empire and its environs. In terms of international power, the early Bolsheviks were very weak and couldn’t have seriously threatened the interests of any of the major Western powers of that time, to say nothing of the United States. Never mind that Wilson’s commitment of the U.S. into WWI helped knock the Germans out of the war in the east and allowed the Bolsheviks to secure their position. For some reason, we’re supposed to give Wilson credit for deploying Americans to Vladivostok in a no-hope fight after the Bolsheviks had largely already won.