The loyalty investigations triggered by the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s marginalized many talented women and men who had entered government service during the Great Depression seeking to promote social democracy as a means to economic reform. Their influence over New Deal policymaking and their alliances with progressive labor and consumer movements elicited a powerful reaction from conservatives, who accused them of being subversives. Landon Storrs draws on newly declassified records of the federal employee loyalty program--created in response to fears that Communists were infiltrating the U.S. government--to reveal how disloyalty charges were used to silence these New Dealers and discredit their policies.
Because loyalty investigators rarely distinguished between Communists and other leftists, many noncommunist leftists were forced to leave government or deny their political views. Storrs finds that loyalty defendants were more numerous at higher ranks of the civil service than previously thought, and that many were women, or men with accomplished leftist wives. Uncovering a forceful left-feminist presence in the New Deal, she shows how opponents on the Right exploited popular hostility to powerful women and their "effeminate" spouses. The loyalty program not only destroyed many promising careers, it prohibited discussion of social democratic policy ideas in government circles, narrowing the scope of political discourse to this day.
Through a gripping narrative based on remarkable new sources, Storrs demonstrates how the Second Red Scare undermined the reform potential of the New Deal and crippled the American welfare state.
Landon R. Y. Storrs is associate professor of history at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era.
"[I]mportant, portentous work . . . the means by which the once powerful American Left was reduced to stigmatized impotence were far from pretty. In fact, Storrs argues convincingly that historians have yet to grasp just how ugly they were."--David Hawkes, Times Literary Supplement
"Why is there no socialism in the United States? In this book, University of Iowa history professor Landon R. Y. Storrs proposes a new answer: Much more than previously supposed, left-leaning policy makers were targeted by government 'loyalty' investigations and intimidated into adopting conservative ideas. In making the argument, Storrs does a lot of spectacular things."--Rick Perlstein, Bookforum
"[F]ascinating. . . . [Storrs] has uncovered many fascinating stories of dedicated public servants whose careers were cut short, with a chilling impact on government programs, and further documents the negative aspects of the anticommunist crusade beginning during the New Deal and long continuing."--Choice
"[W]ell-documented and tidily written."--Jim Burns, pennilesspress
"In her persuasive new book, Landon Storrs . . . provides a fascinating account of how we lost our path to a New Deal by succumbing to the politics of fear. . . . [T]he powerful anticommunist movement, which silenced feminism (among other social movements), helped to move social policy away from the left-liberal consensus of the thirties and toward the less vital center, where it has remained ever since."--Alice Kessler-Harris, Women's Review of Books
"Storrs' research in the brilliant book is prodigious. . . . Her accomplishment . . . is truly awesome, as she creates a giant jigsaw puzzle, methodically putting each piece in its place to reveal an unexpected picture."--M. J. Heale, Review of American History
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