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Many Are the Crimes [Paperback]

by Ellen Schrecker
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 9, 1999 0691048703 978-0691048703 Pbk. Ed

The McCarthy era was a bad time for freedom in America. Encompassing far more than the brief career of Senator Joseph McCarthy, it was the most widespread episode of political repression in the history of the United States. In the name of National Security, most Americans--liberal and conservative alike--supported the anti-Communist crusade that ruined so many careers, marriages, and even lives. Now Ellen Schrecker gives us the first complete post-Cold War account of McCarthyism. Many Are the Crimes is a frightening history of an era that still resonates with us today.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ellen Schrecker's history of the American anticommunist movement provides a much-needed objective perspective on one of the most troubling periods in twentieth-century politics. While she refuses to excuse the flaws of the American Communist party or its individual members and leaders, she is also bluntly honest about the systematic persecution they experienced at the hands of conservatives--and more than a few liberals.

Schrecker reaches back in history to examine the roots of McCarthyism in the activity of Communists in the 1930s, as well as the response to that activity; not nearly enough people today recall that the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the forerunner to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Army hearings, received its mandate back in 1938. She reveals the dishonest practices of McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and other professional anticommunists, and how the media often played--wittingly or unwittingly--right into their hands. One Washington-based journalist of the time would later say, "McCarthy was a dream story. I wasn't off page one for four years."

But Schrecker commands attention most when she writes of the effects of the anticommunist movement on men and women like union activist Clinton Jencks, one of the first men to be prosecuted under the Taft-Hartley Act, and of its stifling effect of leftist politics, particularly within the civil rights movement. The longterm consequences of McCarthyism, especially its proof of the ease with which a democratic government can adopt methods of political repression, are felt in America to this day. Many Are the Crimes is not only excellent history, but a powerful cautionary tale that should be required reading for any participant in modern politics. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Why did so many Americans collaborate with the domestic political repression of the late 1940s and 1950s, asks Schrecker (The Age of McCarthyism, St. Martin's, 1994), who argues that McCarthyism was far more than the antics of Wisconsin's Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-57). Schrecker exposes several McCarthyisms, identifying separate brands with separate agendas and ways of operating whose shared consensus on communism mediated their collaboration. Probing the many corners where McCarthyism prowled, she fingers a set of professional anti-Communists who deftly maneuvered federal officials under the guise of patriotism to adopt the indiscriminate crusade that treated dissent as disloyalty. Her focus is sharp and sweeping and her sources broad, ranging from the FBI, HUAC, NSA, and the KGB to the personal papers of various individuals. Schrecker's deft reconstruction of the longest wave of political repression in our history is recommended for all collections on U.S. history and politics.?Thomas Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Pbk. Ed edition (August 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691048703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691048703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellen Schrecker is a professor of history at Yeshiva University who has written extensively about the Cold War red scare. Among her books are No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities, The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, and Cold War Triumphalism: Exposing the Misuse of History After the Fall of Communism. Schrecker is the former editor of the American Association of University Professors' magazine, Academe. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Given the recent spate of controversial conservative tomes claiming Joe McCarthy had been widely vilified and misunderstood, the act of finding this terrific book by former Harvard professor Ellen Schrecker at the Toadstool Bookstore in nearby Peterborough was an incredible coincidence. I was looking for an authoritative source of objective and dispassionate history of the McCarthy era that would comprehensively review the evidence and aid me in determining the relative merit of the conservative claims that Tail Gunner Joe had been right about the "commie menace" all along. I was fortunate indeed, for Professor Schrecker's carefully researched and scrupulously documented work offers the interested reader with an absorbing plethora of substantiated and objective information regarding what has to be considered one of the most inflammatory and controversial periods in 20th century American history.
Schrecker takes great pains at fairly and carefully detailing the specifics of the events transpiring in the rise of McCarthyism and its effects in the society, which it literally turned upside down. And while the author meticulously avoids becoming an apologist for the American Communist Party, carefully describing the rather sordid and troubling aspects of their political activities, she also shows how unfairly they were treated at the hands of McCarthy and the congregated conservative and liberal cabal that rose in the midst of the great Red Scare. Details regarding the degree to which individual communists were systematically persecuted are carefully documented and are far from representing mere anecdotal reports.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical overview June 5, 2009
This historical overview of McCarthyism covers much more than the late Senator's actions. It includes an overview of Communist activities in the United States, including the use of front groups to help Communists hide from public scrutiny; the origins of the established anticommunist movement before and during the Roosevelt administration; the various ways in which Communism was portrayed from the 1920's through the 1960's and beyond; ways that the Communists in America contributed to their own unpopularity and demise; the ways that the instruments of "political repression" developed and operated, including some interesting material on the development of the FBI; and the social, economic, and political consequences of McCarthyism for various people. Indeed, only one chapter is devoted to McCarthy himself, although it is a good chapter.

Someone who wants a sensationalized account of Joe McCarthy, pro or con, will be disappointed. Indeed, my impression is that Prof. Schrecker is not very interested in Joe McCarthy. She is interested in McCarthyism, the movement. Some of the negative reviews seem not to be aware of this fact. Some appear to be politically-motivated smears. Some appear not to have read the book.

Schrecker's work is a serious historical overview of the antecedents, processes, and consequences of McCarthyism, or the early Cold War Red Scare, written from the point of view of a scholar whose research has convinced her the anti-Communist movement attacked a danger that was already past. She does not say the danger never existed; the threat was contained between 1945 and 1950.

Any author who writes about McCarthyism must be insane, because the extremist nuts falling off both edges of their flat Earths will attack with everything they have.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental May 13, 2012
Ellen Schrecker has authored the definitive work on America's "Iron Curtain Age" of the cold war, specifically its McCarthyite nadir. From labor to feminism to social work to journalism, academia, and Hollywood, this Stalinism-in-reverse dropped like a cold guillotine across American society and hacked apart far too many lives, needlessly and unjustly.

As to those who raise Venona files and other unearthed KGB documents as rehabilitating McCarthyism, finally justifying his crusade, one need only examine the single case of John Hopkins academic Owen Lattimore to see how vapid, inept, and morally deceitful was both McCarthy and his subsequent rehabilitators. One must ask that if Stalin's victims could have been "proven," through declassified German files, to have been in contact with the Third Reich, would that have justified the back-stabbing, sweeping purges, and mass terror inflicted on Soviet society?

For every single "enemy of the people" smashed by Yezhov/McCarthy were a thousand whose only crime was to think the opposite of those who ruled them. Fortunately, McCarthy and his supporters never got the chance for mass bloodletting - no doubt much to their regret - and their victims could be rehabilitated. But the lasting damage to social justice and democracy in America lingers yet, and is still a warning to our time. Even in the "New Age" of the "War on Terror" with its Patriot Act and Homeland Security, its protagonists must tiptoe around the excretia deposited across the American cultural and legal landscape by Joseph McCarthy and his fans.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice left-wing book.
I thought I had read the most politically left-wing books written by American authors. I've read, for example,Galbraith's The Affluent Society and Hofstadter's... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert V. Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars Assault on freedoms and due process (4.5*s)
This book is a wide-ranging look at perhaps the most politically repressive era in US history, commonly referred to as McCarthyism, extending for the better part of two full... Read more
Published on August 12, 2010 by J. Grattan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A must read for anyone wishing to get a fairly synthetic view of the McCarthy era. Other good books on the period exist, but this one is a very good place to start.
Published on August 4, 2007 by pr52David
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account - Troubling To Read
In one of the more elegantly written academic histories Ellen Schrecker kicks over all the stones in her thorough and balanced examination of one of the worst periods of political... Read more
Published on May 7, 2007 by David M. Sapadin
5.0 out of 5 stars The Enemy is our Protectors
Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America by Ellen Schrecker is truly a seminal work; in American history carefully researched she proves the use of power by the few and the... Read more
Published on January 17, 2006 by Michael Francisconi
1.0 out of 5 stars Facts about Soviet Spying disproves this book
Ellen Schrecker repeats the tired myths that have made "McCarthyism" a bogeyman term.
But she relies on a version of history that has been dramatically disproven by... Read more
Published on September 21, 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars I am overall dissatisfied with it
Schrecker's history of the anticommunist movement in America is an interesting study in to politics and personal liberty. Read more
Published on April 22, 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Account of an Imbalanced Era
Notwithstanding the harshness of the title, I found this book to be a generally-balanced, thoughtful account of the intense and extensive anti-Communist campaign in the United... Read more
Published on July 5, 2001 by Steven S. Berizzi
1.0 out of 5 stars Proof.
Whittaker Chambers wrote in his book WITNESS that liberals are/were incapable of ever effectively fighting Communism because they did not see anything in Communism that was... Read more
Published on October 13, 2000 by James J. J. Janis
5.0 out of 5 stars Many Are The Crimes - red scare/cold war!
The McCarthy Era was a bad time for freedom in America. It was the most widespread episode of political repression in US history, encompassing far more than the brief career of a... Read more
Published on May 21, 2000 by Rebecca Brown
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