Communism in the US has a long history. Let’s set aside the earliest bits and focus on the two most recent periods. These periods are the US-Russian Alliance period and the modern progressive period.
The US-Russian Alliance period was characterized by – unsurprisingly – an alliance between American Communists and Russian ones. This story is relatively well documented, if still not exactly well known.
It’s hard to avoid sounding like a nut job to mainstream ears when talking about this period, but it’s very difficult to overstate the ties between the Soviets and high-level officials in the US government. The Soviets, for example, didn’t counterfeit US dollars, they just printed them from original plates taken directly from the Treasury Department. At least, they didn’t control the US military . . . unless, of course, they did.
(Then, of course, there’s our allies . . .).
Hoover’s book is a decent place to start for analysis of this phase of Communism. However, this phase is ending as Hoover is writing the book. Focusing on it misses the bigger picture of the break between US and Russian Communists.
This break, brings us to the second (and most recent) phase of Communism, modern progressivism.
During the US-Russian Alliance, Communists took control of the governing institutions of the US. I use the term “Cathedral” (courtesy of Mencius Moldbug) to describe these institutions. Generally, the term refers to the institutions that run the country. Specifically it refers to the media, bureaucracy and elite universities.
A nice way to illustrate the fact that the Communists controlled these organizations is to look at the career of any known Communist agent. Let’s take one of the best known, Alger Hiss. Hiss’s career (including after he was accused of being a spy and after being in jail) included stints at: the State Department, the United Nations, clerking for Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, the Justice Department, some Senate Committees, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and – naturally – Harvard Law.
If you don’t know what I mean by the term Cathedral, it’s basically that list. Really, the only way it could be better is if he’d worked at the New York Times.
Given the reaction of these groups to Hiss’s trial, there’s no doubt that if Hiss had managed to avoid jail, many of these places would have re-hired him.
I rest my case that Communists, at one point, took over the governing apparatus of the US.
If you’d like to argue that Communists no longer control the governing apparatus of the US, you have two choices. First, you could argue that some other group eventually threw out the Communists and took the governing apparatus over. I know of no such argument.
Second, you could argue that the ruling group converted away from Communism. I think this happened . . . sort of. This conversion marks the start of the modern progressive phase of Communism.
This conversion is hard to explain. If you want to understand it, the best way to begin to try is to read this book (my favorite from the period).
The book is the memoirs of Elizabeth Bentley, a Soviet spy who broke with the Soviets but never repudiated any of her original, fundamental political ideas. Essentially, she just realized that the Russians were working for the Russians and not for Communism as she had always understood it. It’s faster to quote my self than to type:
Note that [Bentley] doesn’t ever repudiate her original ideas (hence unlike Whitaker Chambers, she is not a conservative icon) – in fact, she breaks with the Soviets because she believes that they do not actually agree with Communist ideas. Bentley’s break (and the Cold War) are best understood as a war between rival branches of the same original ideology.
And so, with this break, we got a ruling party that didn’t change ideologies, but that did change allegiances. The result has been the slow creeping increase in progressive ideas and policies that we see all around us.
Anyway, I didn’t say much about Hoover’s book. It will help you understand how the US-Russian alliance worked. However, don’t let that blind you to the later, more interesting phases of the ideology under discussion.