The Life and Lies of Paul Crouch: Communist, Opportunist, Cold War Snitch

The Life and Lies of Paul Crouch: Communist, Opportunist, Cold War Snitch

The Life and Lies of Paul Crouch: Communist, Opportunist, Cold War Snitch

The Life and Lies of Paul Crouch: Communist, Opportunist, Cold War Snitch


"Gives greater depth to our understanding of people in the Communist Party, and in particular of those who left and gave testimony against their former comrades."--Robert Korstad, author of Civil Rights Unionism

"A welcome addition to the historical literature on American anticommunism."--Jeff Woods, author of Black Struggle, Red Scare

"Incisive, provocative, thoughtful, jargon-free, a good read. A balanced comprehensible account that weaves together Crouch's life and his era's complex, confused political history."--Daniel Leab, author of I Was a Communist for the FBI: The Life and Unhappy Times of Matt Cvetic

Paul Crouch (1903-1955) was a naïve, ill-educated recruit who found a family, a livelihood, and a larger romantic cause in the Communist Party. He spent more than fifteen years organizing American workers, meeting with Soviet leaders, and trying to infiltrate the U.S. military with Communist soldiers. As public perceptions of Communism shifted after WWII, Crouch's economic failures, greed, and desire for fame morphed him into a vehement ideologue for the anti-Communist movement.

During five years as a paid government informer, he named Robert Oppenheimer, Charlie Chaplin, and many others as Communists, asserted that the Communist conspiracy had reached the very doorsteps of the White House, and claimed the civil rights movement was Communist inspired. In 1954, much of Crouch's testimony was exposed as perjury, but he remained defiant to the end.

How, and why, one individual--once known as the most dangerous man in America--could become a loyal foot soldier on both sides of the Cold War ideological divide is the subject of this fascinating, incisive biography.


American history is full of ideologues. Indeed, the nation was created, in part, by men and women who were true believers in their cause and the righteousness of it. But true believers also can be dangerous, especially when they see the world only in black and white. Such a Manichean perspective blinds them to the positive possibilities of a competing worldview and makes compromise nearly impossible. The dangers of such individuals and their ideological purity are only increased when they have benefactors who hope to reap gains from such rigidity. Former special counsel to President Richard M. Nixon and convicted Watergate felon Charles “Chuck” Colson described well these circumstances when, in discussing the Nixon White House, he wrote: “A holy war was declared against the enemy…. They who differed with us, whatever their motives, must be vanquished.” From Colson’s perspective, we were right, and not only were they wrong—they were evil, un-American, and had to be destroyed.

Historian Richard Hofstader agreed that such a perspective is dangerous, and he worried that it creates a paranoia in which the ideologue sees the world in “apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point: it is now or never in organizing resistance to conspiracy. Time is forever running out. Like religious millenarians, he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days.” For Hofstader, what made these ideologues so dangerous was not just that they saw the world as a struggle between good and evil but their belief that that struggle needed to be won immediately. Thus, not only . . .

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