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In Reds, Ted Morgan argues that the recurring McCarthyite figure—existing long before McCarthy and long after—is really a byproduct of American anti-Communism, which became a fixed principle after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. He traces the development of this phenomenon, and clearly demonstrates how every president since Woodrow Wilson has defined himself and his presidency in relation to anticommunism, and how many have adopted McCarthy-like tactics to meet the nation’s security needs.
Reds carries us from the Russian revolution and the birth of the FBI up through McCarthy, Kennedy and Nixon, and ends with ruminations on President George W. Bush’s rhetoric of war in a new age of terrorism. Some events and trends that are saliently covered in this survey include: how, in 1933, FDR’s granting of diplomatic recognition to the Soviets provided further opportunity for communists to expand their spy networks by using their embassy and consulates as espionage hubs; how Martin Dies, Jr., the first congressman to make his name as a Red hunter, developed solid information on Communist subversion through his Un-American Activities Committee, but whose hearings were later marred by partisan attacks on the New Deal, presaging McCarthy; how the most pervasive period of Soviet espionage came during World War II, when Russia, as an ally of the United States, received military equipment financed under the policy of lend-lease and then subsequently placed spies operated throughout the U.S. government and in America’s nuclear facilities; and how, by the time McCarthy exploited the Red issue in 1950, the battle against Communists had been all but won by the Truman administration.
Ted Morgan’s analysis of the paradoxical culture of fear that seized a nation at the height of its power not only rethinks the figure and affects of McCarthy, but it also provides needed new perspective on the current U.S. efforts to deal with “the terrorist threat”. Reds ultimately brings to life a critical period in American history that has profound relevance to the present time.
"...ambitious, engrossing, and provocative work on the recurring phenomenon of McCarthyism....Given current efforts to expand the government's power to fight terrorism, this is a timely survey sure to provoke controversy."
—Booklist (American Library Association)