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Anticommunism / Communism
In Red Scare or Red Menace? John Earl Haynes seeks to rectify deficiencies in the historiography of American anticommunism. Prior examinations, he contends, have failed to accurately explain critical components of the opposition to communism in the years after World War II. In so doing, he indicates, these works have misunderstood and incorrectly characterized the nature of anticommunist activity.
Haynes identifies four principal shortcomings in earlier depictions. First, he asserts, many histories do not adequately establish the connection between the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and the espionage activities of the Soviet Union. Second, previous analyses have not described the significant links between pre-World War II antifascism and postwar anticommunism. Next, he charges, the accounts routinely fail to demonstrate the scope and diversity of sentiment against communism. Finally, prior works typically portray anticommunism as senseless and inscrutable. "To make American anticommunism in the 1940s and 1950s historically explicable," he writes, "is the purpose of this book" (vii).
Haynes argues that for all of its complexity, inconsistency, and excess, the anticommunism of the 1940s and 1950s was an "understandable and rational response to a real threat to American democracy" (200). By taking this position Haynes counters the four prevailing deficiencies he outlined in his introduction. He documents the Soviet Union's wide-ranging spy campaign and its connections to American communists. He establishes the direct relationship of prewar antifascism and postwar anticommunism. The author explores the diversity of opposition to communism, from Protestant evangelicals fearing a threat to Christianity to Americans of eastern European descent alarmed by the Soviet domination of their ancestral homelands, to illustrate the breadth of antagonism. His approach allows him to offer anticommunism not as a shadowy, disreputable blemish but as a continuation and persistence of established American concerns.
Haynes presents the material in a basic chronological order that also allows him to explore his thematic interests. He starts with the aftermath of World War I, the birth of the Soviet Union, and the coinciding development of American anticommunism. Haynes moves next to a discussion of antifascist sentiment in the 1930s that allows him to develop his argument of the connection between the prewar and postwar eras. Moving to the beginning of the Cold War, Haynes documents the extent of Soviet-sponsored communist spying during the 1940s. The following chapter of the House Committee on Un-American Activities allows the author to more firmly establish to similarities to earlier antifascist tactics. His analysis of the diverse opponents of communism demonstrates his argument of the broad consensus of anticommunism.
Concluding with the intensity of the early 1950s, he demonstrates how his four major arguments converged during the period of "anticommunism at high tide" (163). Haynes finally traces the legacy of anticommunism during the later 1950s and into the 1960s, mentioning the role it played, for example, in the evolution of the Vietnam War.
Haynes critiques communism early on from a moral standpoint. While he allows for the idealism of its followers, he condemns the destructive violence, numbing fear, and expansionist character of the totalitarian state. Thereby, Haynes positions anticommunism as a noble, if flawed, opposition to evil. To the author, anticommunism responded to a significant threat, a threat that went beyond politics to all of American society. His perspective is clear from his unfolding narrative.
Haynes begins with a delineation of the rise of communism in the future USSR, that nation's transformations under the rule of Stalin, and the Soviet Union's influence in the creation and evolution of the CPUSA. Haynes then traces the development of the Red Scare after World War I as well as the following popular neglect of the party during the 1920s. He then describes how the economic hardship of the Great Depression served to revitalize the party as it entered a peak period of distinction in the 1930s.
In a perceptive chapter, Haynes investigates the apparent threat of fascism in the United States and the variety of American antifascist responses during the years leading up to World War II. He reveals how the fear of domestic fifth column activity led to a combination of restrictive measures-such as the revival of an anti-subversive campaign by the FBI, the rise of private antifascist groups dedicated to ferreting out Nazis, and a 1940 congressional law banning the employment of members of the German-American Bund-that directly foreshadowed the postwar anticommunist period. Haynes also depicts how as antifascism increased in intensity, the avid CPUSA of the Popular Front era became curiously disengaged due to the policy shift from the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939.
Haynes then demonstrates how American war aims of liberation clashed with Stalin's postwar hegemony in Eastern Europe, leading many disillusioned Americans to adopt anticommunist perspectives. The author turns to the first exposures of communist espionage, including the staff members of the foreign-policy journal Amerasia and those who furnished atomic secrets to the Soviets, while underscoring the serious nature of the threat. The rise of the House Committee on Un-American Activities comes next in the narrative. Haynes explains the prewar, antifascist foundations of HUAC and how many of the committee's notorious tactics actually originated in the 1930s. HUAC's investigation of Hollywood is surpassed in drama, in the author's account, only by the twisting story of former CPUSA member Whittaker Chambers, diplomat (and spy) Alger Hiss, and rising congressman Richard Nixon.
Haynes then describes the varieties of anticommunism. He investigates the myriad of antagonistic responses to the presence of the CPUSA that ranged from the religious opposition of Catholics and evangelical Protestants to labor unions, Socialists, and Trotskyists. The author explores how anticommunist liberals captured control of the Democratic Party, using the career of Hubert Humphrey as an example. Haynes further documents the decline of the communist electoral influence by recounting Henry Wallace's failed Progressive Party campaign in 1948. The success of the CIO in expunging communist-dominated unions, according to Haynes, further demonstrated the establishment of liberal anticommunism.
Haynes examines the Democrats' attempts in the late 1940s to defuse any partisan debate over communism by adopting an aggressively anticommunist position. The careers of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, however, proved that the Republicans possessed the upper hand for the political advantages of the issue. Many Republicans, Haynes argues, believed that the anticommunist issue could provide revenge from years earlier when Democrats tied those holding isolationist positions to Nazism. The tactic worked well; Nixon's anticommunist credentials allowed him to become the nominee for vice president while Senator Joseph McCarthy became the most notorious anticommunist of the era.
McCarthy's rise and subsequent fall coincided with the high tide of anticommunist sentiment. Haynes depicts the period as fully employing the techniques of the antifascist 1930s and lasting for a much shorter length of time than many have later recalled. By the end of the Korean War intense concern had stabilized and subsided, according to the author. In effect, Haynes suggests, any remaining vibrancy within the CPUSA had long ago dissipated due to its elimination from the CIO and the failed Wallace campaign in 1948. Anticommunism was the irrefutable mainstream value; a value necessary, implies Haynes, to guard against a foe.
The sources employed in Red Scare or Red Menace? demonstrate both a noteworthy accomplishment and an uncertainty for the author's contentions. The book does not contain footnotes; instead the author presents a long list of secondary sources divided by topic at the end of the main text. These sources depict numerous historical works on a variety pertinent themes-such as domestic antifascism, the China issue, and communism and anticommunism in the labor movement-including many works by the author on related subjects.
The most provocative series of sources, however, is the primary documentation Haynes uncovered at the formerly confidential Soviet archives, newly opened after 1992. Haynes utilizes these sources to support much of his argument, especially the depiction of a close, consistent, and conclusively subservient relationship of the CPUSA to the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, his references are only to the existence of the archives as opposed to providing the citation of a specific document. His discussion of Whittaker Chambers provides a typical example when Haynes states that "after the collapse of the Soviet Union, documents found in Russian archives confirmed Chambers' testimony" about a communist underground in Washington D.C. (86-87). The author's arguments would have been even more persuasive had he included a more explicit citation to the actual document.
Haynes accomplishes his most fundamental purpose of illustrating the historical context of anticommunism. By depicting the breadth and diversity of the anti-Communists, he provides proficient evidence that anticommunism was not merely a reactionary posture taken by enemies of progress. Especially provocative and well done is his contextual comparison of prewar antifascism with the anticommunism of the following decade. Demonstrating the techniques and tactics of liberals and Democrats in combating fascism serves to remind the reader that the excesses of the postwar era were not without precedent. These connections also serve to add further complexity to earlier accounts of the era that too often tended to paint anticommunism and anti-Communists in much…[continue]
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