A useful overview of recent American political history.



A solid academic analysis of the American communist movement that draws on recently declassified Soviet documents.

"Most Americans have never liked communism. Indeed, most have despised it,'' writes Haynes, a historian at the Library of Congress (Dubious Alliances, etc.). Even in the heyday of American communism, during the economic upheavals of the 1930s, most Americans carried such an aversion to Marxist ideals that communist labor organizers took pains to hide their affiliation. In part, he suggests, this dislike owes to the fact that communism has always seemed alien to Anglo-Americans: It came from non-English-speaking Central European immigrants, surfacing at a time when anti-immigrant feeling ran high, and it offered a dogma that ran counter to American ideals of private property and individualism. Still, Haynes writes, while anticommunist feelings may have been firm, most Americans tolerated communists so long as they kept a low profile and presented themselves as "progressives.'' That laissez-faire attitude obtained until the darkest hours of the Cold War, when both mainstream political parties stirred up anticommunist fever. To trump red-baiting Republicans like newcomer Richard Nixon, for example, the Truman administration took great pains to enlist voters of Eastern European ancestry in such organizations as the semiofficial Committee to Stop World Communism. That administration also launched the so-called witch hunts, which Haynes grants a certain legitimacy: "Documents found in Soviet archives,'' he writes, "confirm the [American Communist Party's] direct involvement in Soviet espionage.'' But party politics went only so far: Haynes ascribes the ultimate failure of communism to establish itself as a major force in American politics to organized labor, which was less hostile than merely indifferent to the alien credo.

A useful overview of recent American political history.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1996

ISBN: 1-56663-090-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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