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.