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.
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
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