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.
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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
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