Belfrage is a prize-winning journalist, co-founder of the independent left wing paper The National Guardian, a British...

READ REVIEW

THE AMERICAN INQUISITION, 1945-1960

Belfrage is a prize-winning journalist, co-founder of the independent left wing paper The National Guardian, a British citizen who was deported by the Americans in 1955 and is still prohibited from entering the U.S. There have been many surveys of political repression in this country but this one is caustic, fresh and extensive enough to be recommended reading. Beginning with HUAC and its chief Martin Dies, Belfrage combines dramatic buildup of cases like Oppenheimer's with straight scrapbooking of who was doing and saying what when -- supporters and opponents of the ACLU's purge of Communists, Henry Wallace's I-was-a-dupe call to atom-bomb North Korea, Langston Hughes' recantation, and ""fever chart"" quotations from the press and the intellectuals who by the '50's were ""broadly satisfied that if an author would not deny being a Communist he must be one."" There is comic relief in the 1959 HUAC probe of Khrnshchev, the Denver lady who changed her name in 1954 from Allred to Allgood, and Herbert Philbrick's newspaper column: ""His simple but flawless method was to read the Worker and expose whatever it reported as the Party's latest secret activity."" But this is a serious and sometimes overwhelming business; Dies, as Belfrage says, was not a kook but a powerful organizer, and even before the end of World War II HUAC had begun an all-out attack on ""premature antifascists"" and ""extremists about civil liberties."" Many of these facts are now forgotten -- the official inform-or-get-fired policy in the New York City public schools, the Smith Act trials, the Hollywood witchhunts (see Kanfer's Journal of the Plague Years, below). Generally sympathetic toward the Communist Party, Belfrage derides some of its switches and policies, but undertakes no criticism of how members and sympathizers did or did not defend themselves. An impressive collage combining moral force with a memorable sense of irony.

Pub Date: May 1, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1973