1. Do you think that America’s fear of a communist takeover in the 1960s was valid?
The fear of communism appeared to take on an almost personified form in the 1960s. America and, indeed, the rest of the west, were terrified of a communist takeover, in much the same way that the fear of the H1N1 virus spread across the world a couple of years ago. It was as if the Americans believed that they could ‘catch’ communism like they could a cold. Their fears were not completely unfounded by their ignorance seems to suggest a lack of real understanding of what communism really is/was. Ultimately, the American public were whipped up into frenzy because of the Cold War, Russia’s success in World War Two, and the communist takeover of China in 1949 (Carlisle, 2008, p105). Much like the media are prone to, they further induced panic by personifying communism and making it seem as if it’s an un-avoidable condition, should you come into contact with it.
What grew out of this mass hysteria was the idea of the Domino Theory: this was as a result of South Vietnam falling to communist North Vietnam, which led to the belief that the rest of Southeast Asia would also ‘fall’ to communism (Carlisle, 2008, p105). Although there was no empirical evidence for this, and the fear for America grew out of a belief that if communism spread, it could result in their only being a strip of water separating America from their communist neighbours – not much of an obstacle for communism. However, whilst these fears may border on the ridiculous today, it is easy to see how American felt the fear of communism acutely whilst the threat of nuclear war hung over their heads during the Cold War at a time where the American economy was booming and the standard of living was high. (Bailey & Farber, 2001, p5) It is understandable why their fears would be so great; they had a lot to lose. However, the personification of communism intensified those fears to a state of paranoia and on that basis, the level of fear that was felt was not entirely valid.
Bailey, B.L. & Farber, D.R. (2001). The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s. New York: Columbia University Press.
Carlisle, R.P. (2008). America in Revolt During 1960s and 1970s. California: ABC-CLIO Inc.
2. In the 1960s change was occurring around the globe. Choose any two countries other than the United States and do research to find out what kinds of change were taking place there.
In the 1960s, Great Britain was under a degree of change which was as a result of the events of World War Two, as well as events on the global landscape too, such as the Cold War. Britain’s economy was suffering as they realised that the value of sterling (GBP) was very weak in the long-term. Socially, the country ‘re-discovered poverty’ as money was so tight following the war. There was a succession of social reforms which saw Britain becoming more liberal (Parsons, 2001) and this led to the term ‘the swinging sixties’ because of the increase in sex, popular culture, fashion and music. However, for all the economic issues, Britain’s homes generally all had a fridge and a cooker and virtually all homes, for the first time, had electricity too (Barrow, 2010). The sixties are remembered fondly in Britain as a time of, primarily, social change.
In South Africa, the 1960s saw a huge change in their political system. The sixties saw for secretive formation of APDUSA who worked towards the democratization of South Africa. Political events happening in 1959-60 (the Mponodland Revolt and the Sharpeville Massacre) saw a lot of social unrest which led to a feeling that South Africa was in a pre-revolutionary state (SADET, 2004, p321). The Non-European Unty Movement (NEUM) felt that there was a “qualitative change” which resulted in a strong social feeling of “The slaves of yesterday… presented themselves in front of magistrates like men who have sloughed off their chains.” (SADET, 2004, p 321) So, in 1960s South Africa, it was clear that a large degree of social change was required as men began to ask more of themselves and their country, eventually giving way to the rise of democracy in the country.
South African Democracy Education Trust. (2004). The Road to Democracy in South Africa 1960-1970. Cape Town: Zebra Press.
Parsons, M. (2001). The Sixties in Great Britain. Retrieved from http://web.univ-pau.fr/~parsons/sixties.html
Barrow, M. (2010). Britain in the 1960s. Retrieved from http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/homework/war/1960s.html