The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left

By Landon R. Y Storrson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The Second Red Scare stunted the development of the American welfare state. In the 1940s and 1950s, conservatives in and out of government used concerns about Soviet espionage to remove from public service many officials who advocated regulatory and redistributive policies intended to strengthen democracy. The crusade against “Communists in government” had even more casualties than we thought. In addition to its well-known violation of civil liberties and destruction of careers, the Second Red Scare curbed the social democratic potential of the New Deal through its impact on policymakers who sought to mitigate the antidemocratic tendencies of unregulated capitalism.

This book examines a cohort of women and men who entered government service during the 1930s and 1940s and then were investigated under the federal employee loyalty program. Created in the early 1940s and formalized in 1947, the loyalty program ostensibly sought to prevent government employment of Communists, but it also drove out noncommunist leftists, who were more numerous in the higher ranks of the civil service than has been recognized. During the crises of the Great Depression and Second World War, service in the dynamic Roosevelt administration offered the luster and cachet—although not the financial rewards— that in other eras would be found on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, and the federal government hired some of the nation’s most brilliant and ambitious talent. That high-powered group included some people who were inspired by the opportunity to forge policies they believed would prevent future depressions and wars by reducing inequalities—of class, race, and even gender—within the United States and abroad. Although a few of them were or had been members of the Communist Party, most never were. They did not dominate the policymaking arena, but their increasing influence provoked a powerful reaction from American conservatives. That reaction included exploiting Americans’ fear of Soviet espionage to ensnare left-leaning officials in investigations that either marginalized them or forced them toward the political center.

Some of the prominent people whose hitherto secret or little-known loyalty cases this book explores are Leon Keyserling and Mary Dublin Keyserling, Arthur Goldschmidt and Elizabeth Wickenden, Wilbur Cohen, Catherine Bauer, Esther and Oliver Peterson, Frieda Miller, Caroline Ware, David Demarest Lloyd, Thomas Blaisdell, and Paul R. Porter.1 The cumulative impact of their loyalty investigations and many others altered the general tone and content of the reform agenda and also affected

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