In thousand members in the later 1940s prior to

In Many Are the Crimes, Ellen Schrecker writes a thoroughly researched, well-thought-out, and even somewhat controversial analysis of the years of anti-communist sentiments leading up to the peak of McCarthyism. She offers excellent explanations of both communism and anti-communism over several decades, as well as the development of their relationship while presenting both movements in all their complexity. As we learned in class, McCarthyism predates McCarthy’s rise to prominence and continued well after McCarthy’s death. Schrecker acknowledges this, and though she identifies 1946 to 1956 as the years in which McCarthyism reached its peak, she devotes a significant portion of the book to the development of anti-communist sentiments beginning near the end of the first world war and ending in the late 1950s. Her first chapter deals with the rise of American Communism in the twenties and thirties and discusses the strengths of the party alongside its weaknesses to criticisms and attack by anti-communist organizations and individuals. She presents the question of whether Communism was “a progressive reform movement or a revolutionary Soviet-led conspiracy,” answers the question with “both, and more,” but does not hesitate to elaborate. She does not oversimplify or deny the complexity of the party’s characteristics, goals, and details of its eventual fall. On the subject of American Communism, it is difficult to accept her portrayal of the movement in its entirety. She portrays the movement as “neither strong nor dangerous,” despite it reaching a peak of 75 thousand members in the later 1940s prior to its unrecoverable collapse in the 1950s from the actions of anti-communist movements. Although she admits that not all the victims of the Red Scare were innocent and that the Communist Party in the U.S. was secretive and exhibited dishonest behavior, it was due to the repression of McCarthyism that they had to resort to such measures. She argues that their rise in popularity in the industrial and trade unions was through primarily honest means and that the union strikes that escalated to violence were not an effect of communism, but something that was inevitable with the conditions that unions experienced in the Cold War era. Indeed, the American Communist movement created some of the most progressive reformations of their time, supporting concepts like welfare, unemployment reform, anti-segregation, and anti-racism laws, and was by far the most dynamic and passionate movement of the left during this time period. Although there are certain inconsistencies between other scholarly views of the American Communist Party and Schrecker’s portrayal, it is agreed that if the Communist Party were not weakened and repressed into barely existing and had instead continued to grow in popularity, the politics of the Cold War era would have been handled very differently.In contrast to Chapter One, Chapter Two explores the organizations and prominent individuals associated with the anti-communist movement. Schrecker explores and explains this topic exceedingly well, detailing both legal (but terrible nonetheless) and illegal activities on the part of anti-communists. Despite an abundance of nationalistic opposition, the majority of the opposition that the Communist Party faced was based on political views from both the left and right. A trend that Schrecker observes and acknowledges is that many that were attacked or criticized by the Communist Party, especially if they were formerly part of the party, later became outspoken against communism. Thus, the anti-communist movement was diversified by class, political interest, and race, though as Schrecker notes, many liberals, moderates, and various government organizations tried to shift away from identifying with ideologies in the 1930s. In particular, Schrecker explores the effect of Roosevelt and his administration on the Communist Party in Chapter Three, discussing how they did not condemn or support any group on the surface, but by allowing the FBI to investigate various political groups when prompted by Hoover, hastened the end of the Communist Party. Indeed, J. Edgar Hoover and Hooverism play a major role in Schrecker’s analysis of this time period. Her identification of the major components of the anti-communist movement composes perhaps the best written and most researched sections of the text. Schrecker emphasizes sharply on the actions and efforts made by the FBI, the American Legion, and Hoover during the late 1940s that led to the sharp decline of the Communist Party in the 1950s. Her references to the bureau files are particularly damning, and they add to the analysis that she makes based on previous sources. She defines and describes the term “Hooverism,” and makes the argument that it would be a more accurate name for McCarthyism when referencing the downfall of American Communism since she observes that nearly all steps taken by the government to denounce and destroy it were based on Hoover’s initiatives. Although McCarthyism, similar to the behavior of its namesake, was perhaps the loudest and most memorable voice, Hoover and Hooverism’s methods of attacking the Communist Party were more methodological, organized, and overall more effective in directly causing the demise of the party. Though the Communist Party took the biggest blow, other liberal organizations were eradicated as well, and Schrecker takes this opportunity to suggest that the undignified methods with which McCarthyism defeated its opposition shaped the politics of the 1960s and 1970s and influenced more political corruption and secrecy, and thus more distrust from the American population. Schrecker spends the first three chapters building up important background information for the reader. In the second part, appropriately titled “Representations,” she discusses the developments within the Communist Party, the government, and the anti-communist movement that led to a negative, perhaps overstated image of American Communism. Though she attributes much of this image to the efforts of the anti-communist movement, she accurately states that much of it was based on the policies and actions of the Party itself. This “demonization” of Communism played a massive role in persuading the general public, particularly the left, to turn a blind eye when the Communist Party was under attack in the early 1950s with the implementation of various legislation. It is important to note her stand on the Communist Party’s own hand in its demonization prior to the start of the Cold War, rather than the Cold War alone creating the repression experienced by American communists. Chapters Four and Five, then, build on the factors of this demonization and explain how Americans came to accept this demonization. Schrecker makes the important distinction that although many knew that the stereotypes and image of the Communist Party were not entirely true, it was the potential threat that the party and the movement in general that disturbed the public and led them to turn the proverbial blind eye. This sentiment, as Schrecker points out, was expressed clearest during the Hiss and Rosenberg espionage trials and condemnations. With the passing of the 1940 Smith Act, which criminalized anyone who sought to teach violent means to overthrow the government, any individual or organization that was accused of advocating revolution would be subject to prosecution. The observations made from class videos roughly correspond with the same conclusions that Schrecker makes; she admits that there was real evidence against Julius Rosenberg (but not Ethel) and that perhaps there will never be any true resolution to the Hiss case. Still, the most important idea that Schrecker introduces here is whether or not the persecution of these civilians and the punishments they received were necessary, considering what they did. Schrecker seems to trivialize the importance of the nuclear plans here, asking if the advancement of the USSR’s nuclear plans by a “year or two” was serious enough to warrant treason and the death penalty on the part of the Rosenbergs, especially considering that the United States was, at least formally, in peacetime. Her implied answer to this question is no, but whether or not the reader’s beliefs coincide with hers on the deservedness of their conviction is unimportant; Schrecker makes her point about the fear of even the plausibility of their guilt. In contrast to the espionage trials, Schrecker points out that there was little to no post-WWII espionage activity associated with the Communist Party due to the persecution and removal of communists in government positions: most communists were no longer in a position where they could gain access to sensitive documents. Due to the lack of incriminating evidence against communists for sabotage, let alone espionage, she proposes that the 1940 Smith Act was passed to legally incriminate the Communist Party. With Hoover and the FBI spending the better half of a decade gathering data and creating a legal case against the Communist Party, Schrecker naturally leads us to the conclusion that the Communist Party’s loss in the Smith Trial was a turning point in the fight against communism, and not only gave the FBI judicial precedence over the Communist Party, but also deepened the public’s distrust. As the book shifts from “Representations” to “Instruments,” Schrecker begins to discuss the three main parts of anti-communism, and how each part drove nails in the Communist Party’s coffin. Chapter Six continues with how “the FBI was the single most important component of the anti-Communist crusade,” as well as how the FBI gained enough political power and traction to have such influence. Schrecker’s estimation on how many Americans lost jobs or were sentenced to prison due to Hoover’s overestimation of Communism as a threat numbered in the tens of thousands — a large number, but not implausible. Whether the FBI’s effects on the American people are as she says, it is undeniable that the FBI employed both legal and illegal means to extinguish the Communist Party under Hoover’s initiative. Interestingly, in a book about “McCarthyism in America,” the chapter on the practice’s namesake is the shortest; Schrecker spends only twenty-six pages discussing how McCarthy came to prominence. She maintains that although it is known that McCarthyism existed prior to his role in politics, McCarthy was simply the epitome of the behavior seen in proponents of McCarthyism and that his actions, beliefs, and behaviors were common for outspoken anti-communists. In Chapter 8, Schrecker discusses anti-communist economic sanctions and political dismissals and provides narratives and anecdotal evidence of the effect that policies adopted by federal and state governments alike impacted American Communists. Trials and hearings given to individuals were often unfair and infringed on basic rights, and in the end, neither liberals or conservatives were satisfied with the loyalty program that was supposed to stop “reds” from infiltrating the government. Schrecker points out that as time went on and more and more supposed communists were expelled from government power, the security programs and the constraints on what qualified one as having ties to the Soviet Union only increased in number and severity. The last two chapters discuss the effects of the anti-communist movements. Chapter Nine discusses Salt of the Earth, a movie filmed by former Hollywood workers who had been put on a political blacklist about the 1951 strike against the Empire Zinc Company with actual Mine-Mill miners as actors. Though Mine-Mill was a success for proponents of McCarthyism, Schrecker argues that it was the beginning of the end for McCarthyism. Chapter Ten summarizes the effects of McCarthyism, from jobs lost to families broken, but if there is one thing that Schrecker exaggerates regarding the effectivity of McCarthyism and Hooverism, it is its impact on the entire left; she claims directly that “McCarthyism destroyed the left.” It is true that the efforts of the anti-communist movement were not restricted to American Communism, but also various liberal movements that were pronounced guilty by association, and that everything targeted by McCarthyism was impacted gravely, however it is a stretch to say that the left was destroyed.Although Schrecker writes an immensely detailed and well-cited analysis of the relationship between the anti-communist movement and the Communist Party, it is not unfair to say that she occasionally exaggerates the effects of the persecution of the general left throughout the mid-1900s. She argues that decades later, we still suffer under the rightist effects of McCarthyism in all aspects of society. Indeed, the attitude and actions of certain politicians today bear a striking resemblance to McCarthy’s attitude and actions in the 1950s. There is still an immense rift between the left and right, especially with how more conservative members generalize liberals as socialists based on association. Of course, neither side is innocent of this generalizing behavior. Schrecker goes on to speculate about what an America with a Communist Party could have been; she describes an alternative method to approaching the tension of the Cold War and imagines a system with more support for the lower class, more appreciation of cultural diversity, more awareness of class differences and quicker, more effective movements toward racial and gender equality — indeed, a society that is overall more considerate about the needs of the whole. She further claims that McCarthyism, particularly with the failures of the security programs designed to purge the government of communism, created a kind of mindset in the American people that made them distrust the government and inevitably led to scandals like Watergate. In her analysis of the post-WWII and Cold War eras, Schrecker occasionally exaggerates the extent of her beliefs and writes almost mournfully about the “America that could have been,” her arguments are well written, her research is sound, and thus the majority of the beliefs that she presents to the reader are difficult to refute. She treats the loss of the Communist Party’s influence in American politics and society as a true tragedy and is not afraid to make her political bias clear. Despite this, her major conclusions are undeniably true: McCarthyism was much more than just James McCarthy and his crusade against communism, the anti-communist movement attacked and destroyed much more than just American Communism (the effects of which we still feel today), and that the Communist Party contributed to its own demise, in that it and McCarthyism built each other up and eventually died hand in hand. Schrecker’s decades of invaluable research and knowledge of the era manifest in her book and make it an invaluable resource to anyone with a desire to understand the relationship and dynamics of America’s brief period of communism and anti-communism.