Academic journal article American Studies

RED WAR ON THE FAMILY: Sex, Gender and Americanism in the First Red Scare

Academic journal article American Studies

RED WAR ON THE FAMILY: Sex, Gender and Americanism in the First Red Scare

Article excerpt

RED WAR ON THE FAMILY: Sex, Gender and Americanism in the First Red Scare. By Erica J. Ryan. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 2015.

In about 2010, when I (successfully) proposed to the University of Illinois Press a book to be entitled Between the Great Red Scares: American Anti-Communism and Political Repression, 1921-1946 (to appear in about 2018-19), I argued that although there was by then a massive literature on the two great post-world war red scares (1919-20 and 19461954), the "inbetween" period has been relatively neglected, although anti-communism and political repression, even if diminished, had by no means disappeared. Therefore, I maintained, especially as what was available on these topics was scattered through very specialized books and articles (often on individual strikes and/or localities), that there was a crying, unmet need for a volume synthesizing existing relevant material.

During the six years since I made this proposal, the amount of relevant material, including the book under review here by history professor Ryan (Rider University), has literally exploded. But as it has continued to be quite specialized, the need for an overall synthesis is now greater than ever. Among the other relevant books of this explosion, just to mention the most prominent for only the last nine years, are Ernest Freeberg's Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent (2010), which includes much on the amnesty campaign of the 1920s for World War I political prisoners such as Socialist Party leader Debs (who gained one million votes for president in 1920 while still jailed); Jennifer Luff's Commonsense Anticommunism: Labor and Civil Liberties between the World Wars (2012), essentially on the vicious and highly self-interested anti-communism of the AFL (which saw communist-dominated unions, including those of the new CIO, as a major threat); Randi Storch's Red Chicago: American Communism at Its Grassroots, 1928-35 (2008); Nick Fischer's Spider Web: The Birth of American Anticommunism (2016) (on the 1920s); Kirsten Delgard's Battling Miss Bolsheviki: The Origins of Female Conservatism in the United States (2011), also on the 1920s; Alex Goodall, Loyalty and Liberty: American Countersubversion from World War I to the McCarthy Era (2013), which covers the whole period but primarily through specialized chapters; Rebecca Hill's Men, Mobs, and Law: Anti-Lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History (2009), focused mostly on the interwar period; and Landon Storrs's The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left (2015), with much on the preWorld War II background to the post-war red scare "loyalty program" which began in 1947.

On anti-labor repression, recent excellent books include Ahmed White, The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America (2015), the best of four new books on the 1937 "little steel" strike and its brutal repression, including the notorious Chicago "Memorial Day Massacre"; Bryan Palmer's Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 (2014); and Kathryn Olmsted's Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (2015), which is a rather mistitled book focused overwhelmingly on the brutal (fascist is truly the more accurate word) repression of Communist-led California agricultural strikes/unions. …

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