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Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316774703
ISBN-10: 0316774707
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 573 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316774707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316774703
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the subtitle tells us, this book is about McCarthyism, which, says Ellen Schrecker, "was the most widespread and longest lasting wave of political repression in American history" (x). The author makes it clear that her book does not set out to compete with "David Caute's encyclopedic 1978 survey, The Great Fear, a comprehensive work" (xv). When she clarifies what her book does set out to do, interestingly, Schrecker uses the language of psychotherapy: she hopes her book might achieve "some kind of closure" and a coming to terms "with the meaning of that troubling chapter of the not-so-recent past" (x).

Schrecker argues that McCarthyism is misunderstood. Often, the term appears to stand for nothing more than "the career of the Wisconsin senator who gave it a name" (x). In fact, says the author, it was so much more than that: "In order to eliminate the alleged threat of domestic Communism, a broad coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, and other anticommunist activists hounded an entire generation of radicals and their associates, destroying lives, careers, and all the institutions that offered a left-wing alternative to mainstream politics and culture. That anticommunist crusade--McCarthyism--dominated American politics during the late 1940s and 1950s. It used all the power of the state to turn dissent into disloyalty and, in the process, drastically narrowed the spectrum of acceptable political debate" (x).

So what did I think of this book? I'm glad I read it. I think it's a good resource for teaching this chapter in twentieth-century American history. That said, Many Are the Crimes strikes me as a bit of a paradox.
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