THE GREAT FEAR: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower by David Caute
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THE GREAT FEAR: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower

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Most of the details about the ""McCarthy era"" are well known, and there are many specialized interpretive studies of its specific aspects. Caute, the British author of The Fellow Travellers (1973), has assimilated all that, widened his scope to include elements usually ignored, and put together the best available single narrative of a decade of national insanity. Caute details the extensive and persistent attacks by government at all levels upon the Communist Party itself, and the purging of suspected Communists from the civil service, armed forces, State Department, state and city jobs, unions, schools, scientific establishments, newspapers, and, of course, radio, television, and films. In this account, McCarthy takes a back seat, though Caute ascribes the curious ""positive role"" to him of being so bigoted, aggressive, and obnoxious that he helped to bring an end to the hysteria which he did not start, but opportunistically exploited. For Caute, the sources of the ""great fear"" are to be found in a lingering resentment among Some rightists and German-Americans over the war (especially important in McCarthy's Wisconsin), anti-communist Catholics outraged over Soviet advances in Eastern Europe, the effort by Congress to assert its strength against executive power, and less visibly, a profound social backlash by the newly-formed middle class (a product of the New Deal) in protection of its new status against racial minorities--in the US and emerging Third World nations--and the traditional working class. He is best at uncovering the techniques of bureaucratic repression beyond the legislative committee: the use of tax law, deprivation of the right to work, the crippling costs of litigation, the Supreme Court's abandonment of the First Amendment and of due process by the entire judicial system, and the sleazy world of professional informers. He does not deny that many of those involved were indeed Communists--he merely judges the nation and its citizens by their own professed standards of law and ethics. That's enough.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Simon & Schuster