It is no easy task bringing new life to an era already as dissected as the McCarthy era, yet this is what Schrecker (History/Yeshiva Univ.; No Ivory Tower, 1986, etc.) accomplishes in a magnificent study of how and why McCarthyism happened and how its shadow still darkens our lives. McCarthyism, for the author, was no historical anomaly, nor was it the latest version of American populist anti-intellectualism, as the liberal explanation at the time would have it. It was, rather, a right-wing conspiracy, and a particularly effective one: —the most widespread and longest lasting wave of political repression in American history.— This disparate group of persons and organizations included, among others, ambitious politicians (think Nixon), the American Legion, former Communists, anti-union business leaders, Catholic trade-union activists, and (connecting and coordinating it all) Hoover and the FBI. Together, they were able to create and propagate an image of American Communists as not merely dissenters but as a dangerous monolithic presence whose very existence threatened the safety and security of the US. Convinced of American Communism’s absolute evil—a stereotype based in part on the party’s very real proclivities for secrecy, prevarication, and fealty to Moscow—any repression could be seen as necessary. Most provocative is Schrecker’s analysis of the legacy of McCarthyism. Quite simply, she notes, “McCarthyism destroyed the left.” Organized labor was tamed, dissenting voices on foreign policy were silenced, scholarship was rendered obedient to the prevailing political winds, popular culture became vapid and monochromatic. But the deepest loss was of an American tradition in which activism and outrage were a vigorous part of the political culture. When a new left did emerge in the 1960s, it had no immediate predecessors to learn from, for a whole generation of activists had been lost. This is a marvelous and chilling work; it reminds us how easily democratic processes can be jettisoned in the name of national security. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-316-77470-7

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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