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US Anti-Communism in “Memories of the Red Decade” Essay (Article)

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2020

The author of “Memories of the Red Decade: HUAC Investigations in Maryland” is Vernon L. Pedersen, who currently works at the University of Great Falls in Montana. Pedersen is an American author. He is a graduate of Indiana State University’s History Department, where he received Bachelor of Science degree in 1985 and Master of Arts degree in 1987. Pedersen also acquired Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1993 in Georgetown University’s History Department. His dissertation was focused on the Communist Party in Maryland. Pedersen’s main professional interest is the development and inner processes of Communism all around the world and in the USA namely.

Pedersen’s article called “Memories of the Red Decade: HUAC Investigations in Maryland” was written in 2004. It elaborates on the American Labor in the times of the Cold War. The article is focused on the Communist influences in the United States, the country’s anti-communist moods and movements. The author offers a new perspective on the meaning of Communist parties that existed in the United States during the Cold War and the supporters of Communism. The piece might have been influenced by the wave of non-traditional revelations that occurred after 2001 and contradicted the common ideas of the Western world.

The intended audience of the article includes historians and scholars interested in this subject, ideological sympathizers of the author, and the students of History Departments willing to study the inside of Communist moods and movements in the United States during the Cold War deeper and in more detail. The language of the article assumes that the reader would be familiar with the basic terms frequently used in it such as McCarthyism, pluralism, anticommunism, or Palmer raids. The piece might be rather complex for an average reader, who does not have specialized education.

Pedersen depicts the development of Communism in the United States exploring the perspectives and career paths of its various protesters and supporters. The author presents the history of Communism in the USA decades before the beginning of the Cold War and follows it through the first and second World Wars in relevance to a number of other events and phenomena. The writer does not address opposing writers; instead, he subjectively explains the history of Communism in the United States.

One of the main theses discussed by Pedersen is that “although the opposition of Communism was often unjustifiably extreme, most of the individual and organizations targeted by anticommunists were, in fact, tied to the Communist Party USA”.1 The author explores the series of investigations and arrest cases involving Communists and their actions that led to suspicions. Pedersen also states that “an air of amusement over the Bureau’s obsessive behavior, and sympathy for the accused reds, clearly comes through the sober journalistic prose”.2 This statement emphasizes that the obsession did not affect everyone in the country, and there were the individuals able to judge critically.

Pedersen uses a mixture of primary and secondary sources for his article, but since this piece is mostly a research, the author relies mainly on the primary sources such as documentation from various court hearings, interviews, speeches and confessions of the participators and witnesses of both sides, biographies of some leaders. The secondary sources used by Pedersen are the researches and interpretations of the events of Cold War done by other scholars.

The argument presented by Pedersen is rather durable, yet it is not too lengthy. The author carefully follows the history of Communism in the United States and its influences. Pedersen presents the points of view and wrongdoings of both communists and their opposition, trying to stay bias free. In my opinion, the article is an excellent demonstration of the anticommunist obsession and political rivalry during the Cold War. Pedersen succeeds to prove both rational and unreasonable actions of anticommunists and the bases for the obsession.

Bibliography

Pedersen, Vernon L. “Memories of the Red Decade: HUAC Investigations in Maryland.” In American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture, edited by Robert W. Cherny, William Issel and Kieran Walsh, 177-189. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Footnotes

  1. Vernon L. Pedersen, “Memories of the Red Decade: HUAC Investigations in Maryland”, in American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture, ed. Robert W. Cherny et al. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 177.
  2. Pedersen, “Memories of the Red Decade,” 183.
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