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Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism Paperback – April 20, 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

History professor Powers's interpretation of anticommunism in American politics proposes a fundamental distinction between the movement's democratic character-represented by Robert LaFollette, Sydney Hook, and Congress for Cultural Freedom-and the better-known "countersubversive" right, which included J. Edgar Hoover, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This work's appeal consists in recalling the forgotten integrity of the democratic elements, while its novelty lies in the author's argument that the "countersubversive" excesses of the 1950s justified the democrats' demise. As a result, the communists found a comfortable niche in the new left of the 1960s, leading to the "great irony" that liberals blundered into Vietnam without the "principles, values, and goals of [democratic] anticommunism." Fortunately, liberals' estrangement from anticommunists did not inhibit conservatives from expressing the movement's "culmination" through Ronald Reagan. The obvious controversy implied should not detract from Powers's painstakingly erudite detail and deep respect for his subject. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.
Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In the author's view, the Red scares lent cartoonish discredit to sober anticommunism, so Powers means to rehabilitate the ism during the years 1917 to 1989 by telling what Americans were anticommunist, why, and what publicity they generated. Powers' stage is wholly domestic politics, with context about international events tacked on, and on that stage, Powers discerns a quartet comprising the anticommunist cast: "countersubversives" such as the FBI, liberal internationalists, labor unions, and the Catholic Church. Opposing them were the real domestic communists, until they petered out after their 1930s heyday, succeeded by the "anti-anti-communists," personified in civil libertarians and exemplified in the Carterian ridicule of Americans' "inordinate fear of communism." That phrase may stand as the standard of complacency about communism, with McCarthy-type conspiracymongers exemplifying reds-under-our-beds hysteria. In this factual rendering of organizations and their leaders, Powers proceeds far toward separating the real anticommunists from the crackpot fringe, making this a capable addition to the oeuvre about communism. Students will be principal users, followed by the occasional browser. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 596 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074703
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,754,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Richard Gid Powers is Professor of history at City University of New York Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island, and is also the author of Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI, and G-Men: Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture. He begins the Prologue to this 1995 book by citing President Reagan's famous June 12, 1987 speech in Berlin, where he proclaimed, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Powers observed, "Reagan was reaffirming his solidarity with a long line of anticommunists... By the late 1980s the convictions that had brought Reagan to the Berlin Wall were known to few except the anticommunists themselves, their original force tarnished and obscured by bitter memories of Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and now Oliver North. To recover this anticommunist tradition we must peel away the accretions of time to encounter the first Americans drawn into that century-long struggle."

He states that the "smokescreen of lies" that was created by anticommunists about communism "made it hard for anyone to believe that the danger of communism was anything except a figment of the paranoid imagination." (Pg. 91) When Sidney Hook and John Dewey protested against the "show trials" of the Stalin era, liberals and "fellow travelers" such as Corliss Lamont signed an "Open Letter to American Liberals" defending the trials as valid, and attacking Hook and Dewey (Pg. 143).
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Format: Hardcover
A readable chronicle of the anticommunist movement in the United States during the 20th century. Now that communism is dead, the memory of its opponents lives on only as caricatures of paranoid witch hunters and persecutors of innocent social democrats. The book is a necessary counter that defends the honor of principled opponents of a malignant ideology.

Powers does lay into the anticommunists who were paranoid, witch hunters, and persecutors of the innocent. Who he places in that group apparently irks some reviewers. Also irksome to readers might be his dismissal of the excesses of the anticommunists as the outcome of a rambunctious but well-meaning political debate. Still, as his book relates and recent events continue to show, trying to place the ideas and principles of your political opponents outside the pale of polite society and proper civil discourse is a common tactic of the left and right.

While Powers criticizes the tactics of some anticommunists, he never analyzes their strategy or their motivation. He takes for granted that communism is obviously something that everyone--social democrats, Wilsonian progressives, Catholics, Jews, and libertarians--should naturally find abhorrent.

A more serious gap in the book that has widened over time is that the communists themselves mostly remain offstage. When Powers wrote the book the dust from the fall of the Berlin Wall was still settling. Even at that time communists were confused with social democrats and progressives. The book would have retained more of its value over time if Powers had shown the reader who the communists really were.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Gid Powers' book on the history of anticommunism offers valuable insights about the problems that plagued the movement. Because of the misdeeds of Herbert Hoover, anticommunism came across as a movement indifferent to civil liberties. Because of the misdeeds of the counter subversive wing of the movement, anticommunism came across as a bunch of crazy kooks who saw a spy wherever they looked, something out of the X-Files. Because the smear tactics of the Dies Committee and Joe McCarthy, anticommunism was viewed in negative terms. But the story doesn't end here. It includes the principled leadership of Scoop Jackson, the intellectual legwork offered by the folks at Commentary Magazine and yes, the anticommunists in the American labor movement. His treatment of Whittaker Chambers does not demonize FDR, but shows the pragmatic choices Roosevelt had to make during World War II.

Powers unearths a lot of material and tells the story in a straightforward manner. Really impressive.

Many of the insights he provides in this book are readily applicable to the movement opposed to Islamism in the United States and the West. Very valuable.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a history of American anti-communism from 1917 to 1991. It covers the good (Sidney Hook, Norman Podhoretz, William F. Buckley) and the bad (Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover). Mr. Powers conclusion is the bad does not stain the good and that American anti-communism was a positive force in the world, helping to free millions from the communist nightmare.
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