304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones
Labor and Civil Liberties between the World Wars
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 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.
"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."
"A valuable contribution to labor history and to the history of civil liberties."
--Journal of American History
"Truly an original piece of scholarship that makes a substantial contribution to the history of communism, anticommunism, labor, and American political history. This well-written and provocative book is evenhanded in its approach to controversial issues--readers will learn a great deal from it."
--Eric Arnesen, George Washington University
"A learned, nuanced, and comprehensive exploration of the role labor conservatives played in constructing the postwar Red Scare. This much needed and painstakingly researched book will be required reading of anyone looking to understand the origins and scope of the Red Scare."
--Ellen Schrecker, Yeshiva University
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