As an American living in the early 1950s, you might have found yourself forced to answer the question: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?" You might have heard accusations that your own government was "soft on Communism." Congress had determined that your children must include the phrase "under God" when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The Cincinnati Reds had changed their name, briefly, to "Redlegs" to avoid confusion with any other "Reds." In Indiana, some citizens considered removing copies of The Adventures of Robin Hood from libraries because the story's subversive message encouraged robbing from the rich to give to the poor. These developments grew out of the broad anxiety over communism which characterized the McCarthy era.
Recent years have witnessed a flood of books on various aspects of "McCarthyism," but generally these works have slighted the complete story of the origins and development of this broad phenomenon in favor of the particular. Now comes Richard M. Fried's lively Nightmare in Red to offer the first well-balanced, complete account of the entire era. The book uncovers the origins of extremist anti-communism in the troubled 1930s and traces it beyond the censure of Senator McCarthy to its lingering demise in the late 50s and 60s.
Fried presents an engaging narrative about the many different people who became involved in the drama of the anti-communist fervor, passing chronologically from the New Deal era and World War II, to the early years of the Cold War, through the peak of the McCarthy era, and beyond that to the decline of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1960s. Along the way, we meet the familiar figures of the eraWisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, and the young Richard Nixon. But more importantly, Fried also shows us how thousands of ordinary peoplefrom teachers and lawyers to college students, factory workers, and janitorswere affected by McCarthyism. Along with the famous cases such as the Hollywood Ten (which led to the entertainment world's notorious blacklist) and the Alger Hiss case, Fried recounts a wealth of little-known but telling episodes involving victims and victimizers of anti-communist politics at the state and local levels.
Providing the most rounded history of the rise and fall of the phenomenon we call McCarthyism, Nightmare in Red extends back into the 1930s and forward past McCarthy's censure, revealing the roots of McCarthyism as well as traces of it that remain today. This wide-ranging study provides a highly original account of the impact of anti-communism in mid-century American politics and culture.