Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

Synopsis

Set against a backdrop of mounting anti-communism, Red Apple documents the personal, physical, and mental effects of McCarthyism on six political activists with ties to New York City.From the late 1940s through the 1950s, McCarthyism disfigured the American political landscape. Under the altar of anticommunism, domestic Cold War crusaders undermined civil liberties, curtailed equality before the law, and tarnished the ideals of American democracy. In order to preserve freedom, they jettisoned some of its tenets. Congressional committees worked in tandem, although not necessarily in collusion, with the FBI, law firms, university administrations, publishing houses, television networks, movie studios, and a legion of government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to target "subversive" individuals.Exploring the human consequences of the widespread paranoia that gripped a nation, Red Apple presents the international and domestic context for the experiences of these individuals: the House Un-American Activities Committee, hearings of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, resulting in the incarceration of its chairman, Dr. Edward Barsky, and its executive board; the academic freedom cases of two New York University professors, Lyman Bradley and Edwin Burgum, culminating in their dismissal from the university; the blacklisting of the communist writer Howard Fast and his defection from American communism; the visit of an anguished Dimitri Shostakovich to New York in the spring of 1949; and the attempts by O. John Rogge, the Committee's lawyer, to find a "third way" in the quest for peace, which led detractors to question which side he was on.Examining real-life experiences at the "ground level," Deery explores how these six individuals experienced, responded to, and suffered from one of the most savage assaults on civil liberties in American history. Their collective stories illuminate the personal costs of holding dissident political beliefs in the face of intolerance and moral panic that is as relevant today as it was seventy years ago.

Excerpt

On November 13, 1950, a fifty-six-year-old woman waved goodbye to a handful of supporters, surrendered to the custody of a U.S. marshal, and was committed to the District of Columbia jail in Washington. She was then incarcerated at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderston, West Virginia, for a period of three months. Helen Reid Bryan was a Quaker. In her lowly paid role as administrative secretary in an organization deemed “subversive,” she had refused, as a matter of principle, to hand over the organization’s records to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. This was her crime. Eight years later, while working for a small Congregational church inVermont, Helen Bryan was once again investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation officers. They concluded that, for twenty years, the Bureau had gotten it wrong: she had never been a member of the Communist Party.

This is a book about McCarthyism: a phenomenon that, for at least a decade, disfigured the American political landscape. It is a book about the effects of McCarthyism, not its origins. In particular, it focuses on the impact of the prevailing climate of intolerance and repression on the lives of people, such as Helen Bryan. Upon the altar of anticommunism, domestic Cold War crusaders undermined civil liberties, curtailed equality before the law, and tarnished the ideals of American democracy. In order to preserve freedom, they thought, it was necessary to jettison some of its tenets. Crushing domestic dissent from the late 1940s through the 1950s was a vast bureaucratic undertaking. Congressional committees worked in tandem, although not necessarily in collusion, with the FBI, law firms . . .

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