Better dead than red is one of several anti-communism slogans from the Cold War era.
The phrase reflected on the patriotic thought of devotees that they’d rather die than see their country fall to the ideology of communism.
The first English-language case of the expression appeared in the magazine, The Nation, in the 1930’s.
It truly became popular in the United States following World War 2, and especially during the McCarthy era.
“Better dead than red” would be featured in many writings and posters during and after the Cold War.
A popular counter from people with left-leaning opinions is “better red than dead” reflecting on the thoughts of British philosopher Bertrand Russel, that the total annihilation of humanity would be worse than surrendering to communism.