In the name of protecting Americans from Soviet espionage, the post-1945 Red Scare curtailed the reform agenda of the New Deal. The crisis of the Great Depression had brought into government a group of policy experts who argued that saving democracy required attacking economic and social inequalities. The influence of these men and women within the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, and their alliances with progressive social 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 claims 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 also shows how opponents on the Right exploited popular hostility to powerful women and their supposedly 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 repressed political debate and constrained U.S. policymaking in fields such as public assistance, national health insurance, labor and consumer protection, civil rights, and international aid.
Landon R. Y. Storrs is 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.
"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
"[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
"An exceptional piece of detective work, The Second Red Scare is one of the finest books written on the McCarthy era in the last decade and raises important questions that will no doubt be debated at length in the decade to come."--Alex Goodall, Journal of American Studies
"At a time when respect for civil liberties in America seems tenuous, [this] provocative book deserve[s] a wide audience."--Dean J. Kotlowski, International Social Science Review
"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, Reviews in American History
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