Catalogue


Commonsense anticommunism : labor and civil liberties between the world wars /
Jennifer Luff.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
Chapel Hill, NC : University of North Carolina Press, c2012.
description
xii, 288 p.
ISBN
0807835412 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780807835418 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Chapel Hill, NC : University of North Carolina Press, c2012.
isbn
0807835412 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780807835418 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Acknowledgments -- Introduction -- The AFL and the origins of modern civil liberties -- Labor and liberties : the American Federation of Labor, 1886-1915 -- Spycraft and statecraft : surveillance before the Great War -- Sedition and civil liberties : the AFL during World War I -- Becoming commonsense anticommunists -- Communism, civil liberties, and the red scare -- Secrecy and surveillance : anticommunism and the Bureau of Investigation -- Surveillance scandals and the downfall of the Bureau of Investigation -- From commonsense anticommunism to red-baiting -- Commonsense anticommunism and civil liberties -- Labor's counter-reformation : the American Federation of Labor and the end of reform -- Anticommunism, the Dies committee, and espionage -- Labor's red scare : the AFL and the architecture of anticommunism, 1939-1941 -- Epilogue -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Index.
catalogue key
8384474
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [261]-280) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2013-01-01:
Luff (Georgetown) has written a very interesting and persuasive book about labor anticommunism before the McCarthy era. Her main focus is on the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and its antiradical and anticommunist stance. The author documents the union's collaboration with the FBI and effectively argues that the organization was perpetuating its own "red scare" well before Senator Joseph McCarthy's Wheeling, West Virginia, speech in 1950. Luff points out that the union was not representative of all workers, but rather, represented skilled workers who were the elite of labor. Other groups were tolerant of communist members, but in the end, communists were purged. However, although anticommunist and antiradical, the AFL fought for freedom of speech and other civil liberties. Luff also shows that FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover was a defender of civil liberties in the 1920s and 1930s, although he was heavily involved in the 1919 Palmer Raids and later was guilty of civil liberties infractions. The author has done a great deal of research, and the book adds to the understanding of the historical roots of McCarthyism. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries. A. Yarnell Montana State University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A valuable contribution to labor history and to the history of civil liberties." - Journal of American History
" Commonsense Anticommunism is an unusually good book about a subject usually dealt with poorly. . . . A genuine contribution to historical literature." - Journal of Cold War Studies
"Luff's book deepens our understanding of American Federation of Labor (AFL) leaders' relationship to the state." - American Historical Review
"The author has done a great deal of research, and the book adds to the understanding of the historical roots of McCarthyism. Recommended. All academic levels/libraries." - Choice
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2013
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Between the Great War and Pearl Harbor, conservative labor leaders declared themselves America's "first line of defense" against Communism. In this surprising account, Jennifer Luff shows how the American Federation of Labor fanned popular anticommunism but defended Communists' civil liberties in the aftermath of the 1919 Red Scare. The AFL's "commonsense anticommunism," she argues, steered a middle course between the American Legion and the ACLU, helping to check campaigns for federal sedition laws. But in the 1930s, frustration with the New Deal order led labor conservatives to redbait the Roosevelt administration and liberal unionists and to abandon their reluctant civil libertarianism for red scare politics. That frustration contributed to the legal architecture of federal anticommunism that culminated with the McCarthyist fervor of the 1950s. Relying on untapped archival sources, Luff reveals how labor conservatives and the emerging civil liberties movement debated the proper role of the state in policing radicals and grappled with the challenges to the existing political order posed by Communist organizers. Surprising conclusions about familiar figures, like J. Edgar Hoover, and unfamiliar episodes, like a German plot to disrupt American munitions manufacture, make Luff's story a fresh retelling of the interwar years.
Main Description
Between the Great War and Pearl Harbor, conservative labor leaders declared themselves America's "first line of defense" against Communism. In this surprising account, Jennifer Luff shows how the American Federation of Labor fanned popular anticommunism but defended Communists' civil liberties in the aftermath of the 1919 Red Scare. The AFL's "commonsense anticommunism," she argues, steered a middle course between the American Legion and the ACLU, helping to check campaigns for federal sedition laws. But in the 1930s frustration with the New Deal led labor conservatives to redbait the Roosevelt administration and liberal unions to abandon their reluctant civil libertarianism for red-scare politics. That frustration contributed to the legal architecture of federal anticommunism that culminated with the McCarthyist fervor of the 1950s. Relying on untapped archival sources, Luff reveals how labor conservatives and the emerging civil liberties movement debated the proper role of the state in policing radicals and grappled with the challenges to the existing political order posed by Communist organizers. Surprising conclusions about familiar figures, like J. Edgar Hoover, and unfamiliar episodes, like a German plot to disrupt American munitions manufacture, make Luff's story a fresh retelling of the interwar years.

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