The Red Plot Against America

Title:                      The Red Plot Against America

Author:                  Robert E. Stripling

Stipling, Robert E. (1949). The Red Plot Against America. Drexel Hill, PA: Bell Book

LOC:       49048799

HX89 .S85

Date Posted:      March 6, 2013

Those who remember the Dies Committee, of which the author was chief investigator, will not be surprised that most of the “reds” in his tale turn out to be liberals and progressives, many of them noted for their anti-Communist sentiments.

Before there was Joseph McCarthy there was Robert Stripling.

Robert Stripling’s The Red Plot Against America was published in 1949, but has long been forgotten due to the liberal memory hole that dictates our popular recollections of that era. Having served ten years as Chief Investigator of the bipartisan House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Stripling provided a substantive primer on the precise nature of the Communist threat against the United States of America—specifically, the threat from within the United States of America. The Red Plot narrates HUAC’s meticulous work— names and dates, details and wrangling— which had been underway since 1938 and in which Stripling had been a prime mover.

With America touched by the same totalitarian trends that had been blowing through Europe since the 1920s, HUAC was the premier governmental body to wage what I suggest we regard as the “culture war” of what (perhaps too hastily) has since been lauded as “the Greatest Generation.” More to the point, HUAC was the scene of that generation’s most charged political theater. Congress had created the Committee in the 1930s to publicly gather information on, primarily, American Nazis, Klansmen, and other homegrown fascists. Only later, as Communism’s wide scope and insidious nature became apparent, did HUAC set out to expose the vast leftwing conspiracy of its American operations, a conspiracy propagated by both card-carrying members and fellow-traveling sympathizers.

Then—as now—moments of battlefield sacrifice and triumph could not, by themselves, efface grave civilizational uncertainties. On one hand, in 1946 Winston Churchill had delivered his Iron Curtain speech demarcating the line between the free and Communist worlds. Beginning in the summer of 1948 Whittaker Chambers had delivered (“more or less by chance,” as Stripling relates) damning testimony about the Communist cell that had operated within successive Roosevelt Administrations and even in the newly-formed United Nations. On the other hand, that same fall breakaway Democrat Henry Wallace’s presidential campaign with the “Progressive Party,” which fronted for the American Communist Party, had received over 1.1 million votes (more than half, not surprisingly, coming from New York and California). Similar to today’s neoconservative priorities—of overhauling post-Cold War American attitudes to one-time geopolitical partners such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Palestinian Authority, and the Saudi royal family—Stripling sensed, during his own era of unsettling realignments, a gap in our discourse vis-a-vis Communism. And he raced to fill it.

Note well that when The Red Plot was being written, the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, was still just a blip on the national radar. Goaded, perhaps, by the force of Stripling’s argument—which voiced frustration at the many obstacles placed in HUAC’s way, including those from the Roosevelt White House—McCarthy went on the offensive in the year following the book’s publication, delivering his famous “Enemies Within” speech in February 1950.

Yet The Red Plot Against America contains nothing that is “McCarthyite” and everything that is “Striplingite.” It is a substantive rendering in plain, everyday English of the hard, often thankless, often vilified investigation into the American social fabric when European civilization was collapsing for the second time in 30 years. This work was undertaken—transparently and vigorously—by a small group of freedom-loving Americans in Washington, DC in order to preserve the integrity, viability, and endurance of the land Lincoln described as “the last best hope of Earth.”

Similarities to today’s fight against Islamist infiltration and subversion of the West, a fight waged in large part on the Internet—and just a portion of the Internet at that—will, or should, be self-evident. A revival of HUAC in our time, in spirit and perhaps also in form, should be on the table. It’s a matter of hard-nosed common sense and good governance. My principal concern, frankly, would be not for the mission of such a federal committee, but for the mettle of the members selected (or who would offer) to serve on it.

Not! It didn’t work except to imagine a Red under every Bed! We already have the ironically named “Patriot Act” to remove civil liberties. All we need is a HUAC to define what it means to be American. I thought the NRA was supposed to do that. Or Ron Paul.

Lifetime conservatives typically trumpet America’s Cold War victory against the Soviet Union, a victory won despite decades of liberal opposition. Such conservatives have bragging rights, I guess. Thus Ann Coulter can pose for a photo at Senator McCarthy’s grave and suggest, as she did at CPAC 2007, that student Republicans form “Joe McCarthy clubs” on college campuses. But bragging rights bring with them even bigger responsibilities. During our post-Cold War era there are many parallels to be observed and lessons to be learned from the “culture war” that was underway before the Cold War had even begun.

It saddens me that the neocons, the ultra right are so paranoid that they would even think about suggesting that President Obama would be soft on communism, much less that he buys into a “communist agenda” whatever that means. Oh, Mr. On-The-Right, whose agenda? North Korea? Vietnam? China? Venezuela? Cuba? I’m sure you can find an agenda they all follow can’t you?

Bah, humbug! Let’s devote energy to making the country truly secure and not resurrecting a bugaboo already demonstrated to the world to be “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Oh, you mean it’s not communism that worries you but extremism Islam? And where did that extremism come from? What do you know about the history of Iran? And Palestine? So you want to do a witch hunt for anyone who might be soft on Islam? That’s being American?

Red Scare

Title:                      Red Scare

Author:                  Robert K. Murray

Murray, Robert K. (1955) Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

LOC:       55007034

E743.5 .M8

Date Posted:      February 27, 2013

This book is an excellent case study of a phenomenon which has passed from the memory of most elderly Americans despite its parallelism in certain respects with the present. As the author makes abundantly clear, the “Palmerism” of 1919 and 1920 ran only less rampant than our own “McCarthyism,” and had the sympathy of the ailing Woodrow Wilson. Palmerism showed the same disheartening ability to class together all shades of liberalism and radicalism and to paint them with the glowing red of revolutionism. Over half of the narrative is devoted to an examination of the psychological background and to the events which brought the red scare to full flower. It is the author’s contention that a budding reaction against progressivism and war promoted nativism and isolationism-movements which were aided by capital’s efforts to portray unionists and strikers as part of a widespread revolutionary conspiracy. The preliminary barrage of bombs and the May Day riots of 1919 had little if any connection with the ensuing Seattle general strike and the strikes by Boston policemen, steel workers, and coal miners, but a sensational press deliberately misrepresented the facts. Communists, anxious to promote chaos and willing to have the workers goaded to desperation, joyously sought to give the impression that these strikes were steps toward revolution. The public, never given to analyzing fine political distinctions on the left, reacted violently and cried for both vengeance and preventive measures. Indeed, these strikes were far from having political implications but were desperate attempts to remedy truly pathetic wages and conditions of labor. Nevertheless shrewd publicity convinced the American people that the real issue was radicalism and removed “the last remaining barrier to hysteria.”

The war-time desire for conformity now spread into schools and churches; negroes were mobbed, and Wobblies in Centralia, Washington, were lynched. Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer, under public pressure, organized a General Intelligence (or antiradical) Division under J. Edgar Hoover, and staged two massive raids which gathered in some eight thousand presumed radicals. Most of them had to be released, but over eight hundred were convicted at administration hearings and deported. The states joined the game, acting under their criminal syndicalist laws. New York had been stirred to early action by its Lusk Investigating Committee, and now the legislature refused to seat five socialists, some of whom had previously served. Their cause was championed by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and Governor Alfred E. Smith vetoed five anti-radical bills intended to outlaw the Socialist Party and impose a loyalty oath on teachers.

Curiously enough the struggle over the seating of the five New York assemblymen, so the author states, marked the beginning of the ebb in the red scare. More and more prominent public figures took their stand against the popular hysteria, and newspaper editors began to reverse their position and warn of the growing threat to representative government. Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis F. Post, director of deportation proceedings, cancelled warrants by the thousands and examined the remaining cases with more care. Palmer was now left holding the bag which he had seized at public request, and his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination bogged down. Even the bombing of the House of Morgan (September 16, 1920), failed to revive the popular hysteria.

And yet, says our author, the receding red scare left a number of pebbles on the beach. Among these were a reversion to isolation from international affairs, the long refusal to recognize the fact of the existence of Red Russia, the repression not only of radical parties but of socialism, the deterioration of organized labor, a backlog of criminal syndicalist legislation, a decline in liberal thought, an apathy toward reform, and the growth of the atmosphere which made possible the tragedy of Sacco and Vanzetti.

This is one of those rare books in which there is nothing to criticize unless one deliberately rejects the limits imposed by the author or denies his right to adopt the moral approach which he freely acknowledges as his bias. He disclaims the possibility of being completely detached and he is to be commended in this, for it makes his study the more valuable. It is well to break the mold set by too many historians when they identify their leanings with objectivity. In the opinion of this reviewer the author has handled his subject with all honesty, balance, and dignity.

In closing it should be noted that the book contains several amusing cartoons, a valuable “Note on Sources,” and a good index.

The Red Decade

Title:                      The Red Decade

Author:                   Eugene Lyons

Lyons, Eugene (1970). The Red Decade: The Classic Work on Communism in America During The Thirties. Arlington House

LOC:       72139886

HX86 .L97 1970

Date Posted:      February 16, 2013

Over eighty years ago, Eugene Lyons—Russian born, American bred—sought to explain just what happened among America’s left-wing intellectuals in the previous decade. The thirties were unkind to them, as they started the decade damning such “social fascists” as FDR, voted for Foster and Ford, then, on orders from Moscow, hailed the liberals as allies in the fight against fascism. Ah, but then Stalin signed a pact with fascism—so back went Franklin to the vituperation pile. (Eleanor was OK.) The war brought about some changes: it was “imperialist,” and so resistance to Hitler was out of fashion (a word Hellman would disengenuously use later). The Hollywood Anti-Nazi Committee changed its name to something less provocative; those who had whooped for the purge trials moved onto calling for strikes in defense industries. The yanks weren’t coming, they said. Then Hitler broke the treaty. The change was immediate. Suddenly the yanks WERE coming, if the intellectualoids of the left had anything to say. Supporting all this, driving this, in fact, were those Hollywood Ten types the left love to tell us were just “activists,” persecuted innocents. These innocents sided with Stalin and, for a time, Hitler. (Think about that the next time you laud such people.) This book is a true classic. It’s erudite and witty style makes the subject anything but dry. This book is a must for conservatives—and liberals who wish to be truly iconoclastic.

The Collapse of Communism

Title:                      The Collapse of Communism

Author:                  Bernard Gwertzman

Gwertzman, Bernard (1990) and Michael T. Kaufman. The Collapse of Communism. New York: Times Books

LOC:       90010755

HX44 .C6415 1990

Date Posted:      February 13, 2013

The articles in this book, edited by , were written by the correspondents of The New York Times. The book is a collection of short but informative articles edited by Bernard Gwertzman and Michael T.Kaufman. The book is a useful volume by correspondents of who had the benefit of being first-hand observers of the events in Eastern Europe, the USSR, and China. One should not, however, expect to read detailed analysis of every aspect of the 1989 Springtime of the People; rather, I can recommend this volume as an extensive collage of journalistic articles, especially for lower-level courses on Europe and Eastern Europe.