Reds: The Tragedy of American Communism

Basic: Perseus. Jun. 2024. 384p. ISBN 9781541620032. $35. HIST
Isserman (history, Hamilton Coll.; The Winter Army) presents a sweeping history of the American Communist Party, from its many fractious iterations in the years immediately following the 1917 Russian Revolution, to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He expertly chronicles the many contradictions and ambiguities in the movement, while placing the party’s history in its 20th-century American context. Throughout its history, the American Communist Party attracted a variety of seemingly contradictory people. Democratic, reform-minded individuals who wanted to end racism and inequality worked alongside authoritarians and ideologues who espoused Soviet propaganda. During the Popular Front era of the 1930s, a time relatively free of internal conflict and mainstream visibility, the group fought for unemployment relief, social security, and racial equality, while communist union organizers successfully spearheaded efforts to organize millions of workers. Some of the party’s ideas became fruitful, but Isserman offers a convincing and nuanced history of the group’s failures and bad intentions too.
VERDICT This engaging history is based on a wide array of memoirs, FBI files, and other primary records that illuminate the American Communist Party’s lengthy history. Readers of U.S. history, especially about movements deemed radical, will be interested in this title.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing