Beginning in the late 1960s, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr say, the study of communism in America was taken over by “revisionists” who have attempted to portray the U.S. as the aggressor in the Cold War and saw suspicion about the American Communist Party (CPUSA) as baseless “paranoia.” In this intriguing book, they show how, years after the death of communism, the leading historical journals and many prominent historians continue to teach that America’s rejection of the Party was a tragic error, that American Communists were actually unsung heroes working for democratic ideals, and that those anti-Communist liberals and conservatives who drove the CPUSA to the margins of American politics in the 1950s were malicious figures deserving condemnation.
The focus of In Denial is what the authors call “lying about spying.” Haynes and Klehr examine the ways in which revisionist scholars have ignored or distorted new evidence from recently-opened Russian archives about espionage links between Moscow and the CPUSA. They analyze the mythology that continues to suggest, against all evidence, that Alger Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, Harry Dexter White, Lauchlin Currie, and others who betrayed the United States were more sinned against than sinning. They set the record straight about the spies among us. Haynes and Klehr were the first U.S. historians who used the newly opened archives of the former Soviet Union to examine the history of American communism. In Denial is the record of what they discovered there. They show that while the international communist movement may be dead, conflict over the meaning of the communist experience in America is still very much with us.