Beanery Online Literary Magazine

August 4, 2010

Post World War I Issues




     Many issues rose to the surface during the aftermath of World War I. This time span, from 1918 to 1929, was filled with chaos and conflict. Three of the most eminent problems, ranking from the worst to the least problematic, were the issues of labor, the “red scare”, and racial tensions. 

     The most problematic issue after World War I was the unrest of the labor force. Labor problems reflect the unstableness of the economy, which clearly points out the weakness during this era. At the end of World War I, government agencies withdrew their control from the American economy, which released the restricted demands. While people hurried to buy goods which were rationed during the war, businesses increased the prices of their products. The result of this difference was swift inflation, or price increases, on the economy.

     An epidemic of strikes swept across the nation as a result of workers discontent with companies. Workers wanted higher pay from companies so they could keep up with the inflation, but the companies deemed it necessary not to increase wages of its employees to keep up with the sky-rocketing operating fees. The Seattle General Strike, which combined many industries in the surrounding location, took root in demand of higher wages and shorter hours. In the long run, the companies won and the employees returned back to work without any gains, but this occurrence sparked the insubordination of many companies. Next, the Boston police went on strike, but their absence led to the chaos of riots and uncontrolled crime. The National Guard was sent in so the disorder could be put to rest, but it was not too long before the strikers wanted their jobs back.  The Governor at that time, Coolidge, refused them their jobs and replaced them with a new police force with his explanation that the there is never a good reason to strike against the safety of the public. One of the largest strikes in American history took place not too long after, this time taking place in the steel industry. About 350,000 steel workers, all across America, went on strike for higher pay, shorter hours, and the recognition of their unions. The steel company countered this, demanding that “loyal Americans” should return back to work, and rested the blame on the shoulders of alien radicals. African Americans and Mexicans filled the striker’s positions. The continued success of the industry without the workers on strike, eventually led to the strike’s overall collapse. Lessons were learned from all of these strikes, and labor unions of the future learned that organization would be the key for their future goals to be meant by employers. 

     The next step down on the ladder of problematic issues was the chaos caused by the “Red Scare”, also known as the “Red Terror.” This issue was the fear of Communism, or a world revolution of anarchy. This fear was fueled by the many strikes which took place in the labor force. People thought that Communists were using strikes as footholds into their revolution with the Unites States. The United States tied unpatriotic acts with Communism, and worked hard in its methods of prevention. The FBI was created in an effort to squash the chaos and deport suspected immigrants and residents of foreign descent. Around 600 suspects of radical organizations, whether innocent or guilty of reported bomb raids, were deported on the grounds of suspicions. Unfair treatment and unjust accusations were aimed at immigrants and foreign citizens, leading to limits on immigration. America broke its principles of equal justice and liberty for its citizens during this time period.

     The third problem which Americans had to deal with in the aftermath of World War I was the issue of racial tensions. While this issue is a very bad one, racial issues were present in American since the beginning of slavery in the nation, so it was an ongoing problem, not a new one springing up from nowhere. The Ku Klux Clan was a reoccurrence during this time period, focusing on its prejudices against foreigners and communists. More groups were targeted on the basis of unjust hate and prejudices. Also, immediately following the war’s conclusion, American soldiers returning home needed to find jobs. Soldiers were frustrated at the competition for housing and jobs between them and the increased number of African Americans who migrated north during the war. This led to an outbreak of violence and many unjustifiable deaths and injuries because of the ignorance of racism and prejudice.

     Labor and economic unrest, the “Red Scare”, and racial tensions emerged as the top three problems during post-World War I in America. While each of these problems was just as problematic as the rest, their ranking is based on the harms created on a daily basis by each individual issue. Labor problems affect almost every aspect of living, because the economy regulates so many things regarding day-to-day life. Spontaneous events, such as the “Red Scare”, affect the mind set of Americans and narrow their minds by allowing prejudices to take root. Racial unrest, unlike the other two issues, was already an ongoing issue with little action being taken to halt its inhumanities, so it wasn’t a surprise, just a horrible issue which needed to be resolved. 

     Post-War World I during 1918 through 1929 was a period of chaos and injustice.



Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)





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