It is very easy to draw a line from the intense European immigration after 1848 which brought many refugees to the North from the failed Marxist revolutions and who supported Lincoln’s invasion of the South, to their many fellow-travelers who came to American shores by the end of the century. Many watched the Bolsheviks in Russia attain power, and wanted to emulate this in the United States.
This set the stage for communist-inspired political and labor unrest, and a very predictable response which included a new nativist Klan, blossoming after 1920. As the original Klan carried no flag, this new version marched proudly in many Northern cities under the Stars & Stripes and with no relation to the American Confederacy.
Those Were the Days Up North
“If the American people turned a deaf ear to Woodrow Wilson’s plea for a League of Nations during the early years of the Post-war decade, it was not simply because they were too weary of foreign entanglements and noble efforts to heed him. They were listening to something else.
They were listening to ugly rumors of a huge radical conspiracy against the government and institutions of the United States. They had their ears cocked for the detonation of bombs and the tramp of Bolshevist armies. They seriously thought – or at least millions of them did, millions of otherwise reasonable citizens – that a Red revolution might begin in the United States the next month or the next week, and they were less concerned with making the world safe for democracy than with making America safe for themselves.
Those were the days when column after column of the front pages of the newspapers shouted the news of strikes and anti-Bolshevist riots; when rioters shot down Armistice Day paraders in the streets of Centralia, Washington, and in revenge the patriotic citizens took out of the jail a member of the [International Iron Workers] – a white American, be it noted – and lynched him by tying a rope around his neck and throwing him off a bridge; when properly-elected members of the Assembly of New York State were expelled (and their constituents thereby disenfranchised) simply because they had been elected as members of the venerable Socialist Party; when a jury in Indiana took two minutes to acquit am man for shooting and killing an alien because he had shouted, “to hell with the United States.”; and when the Vice-President of the nation cited as a dangerous manifestation of radicalism in the women’s colleges the fact that the girl’s debaters of Radcliffe had upheld the affirmative in an intercollegiate debate on the subject: “Resolved, that the recognition of labor unions by employers is essential to successful collective bargaining.”
It was an era of lawless and disorderly defense of law and order, of unconstitutional defense of the Constitution, of suspicion and civil conflict – in a very literal sense – a reign of terror.
The Socialist party, watching the success of the Russian Revolution, was flirting with the idea of violent mass-action. And there was, too, a rag-tag and bobtail collection of communists and anarchists, many of them former Socialists, nearly all of them foreign-born, most of them Russian, who talked of still going further, who took their gospel direct from Moscow, and, presumably with the aid of Russian funds, preached it aggressively among the slum and factory-town population.”
(Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties, Frederick Lewis Allen, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1931, excerpts pp. 45-48)