Cover of The Logic of Persecution by Martin H. Redish
The Logic of Persecution
Free Expression and the McCarthy Era
Martin H. Redish


320 pages.

Paperback ISBN: 9780804755931


Excerpts and More

This book demonstrates that neither the current liberal nor conservative position on the McCarthy era provides the basis for an appropriate normative perspective. Adding the perspective of the theory of free expression, it becomes apparent that both sides have ignored a vitally important point. While recently declassified documents demonstrate widespread participation by American Communists in conducting or facilitating espionage, much of the negative treatment received by American Communists had little or nothing to do with such activity.

From the perspective of the First Amendment right of free speech, there exists a significant difference between speech that advocates conduct, on the one hand, and speech that itself is part of a nonspeech criminal act, such as espionage, on the other. By helping to separate protected speech from unprotected "speech-acts," First Amendment theory can do much to distinguish between the legitimate governmental responses to American Communism and those that contravened basic notions of communicative freedom protected by the Constitution. At the same time, by focusing the First Amendment inquiry on the McCarthy era, one should be able to glean insights about the broader implications of free speech protection.

About the author

Martin H. Redish is Louis and Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy at the Northwestern University School of Law.

"The Logic of Persecution, by Martin Redish is a well-crafted and consistently engrossing attempt to reconfigure our understanding of 'McCarthy era' constitutional history . . ."

Law and Politics Book Review

"The Logic of Persecution is an extremely important work of First Amendment theory.... [It] is also a valuable contribution to the historiography of the so-called McCarthy erea, adding important insights to the historical debate over the period's Communism and anti-Communism....the Logic of Persecution will undoubtedly be the starting point for those looking for a scholarly legal perspective on such issues."

—Jonathan Bernstin, George Mason Law School

"[Redish] offers insights that deepen the understanding of both the McCarthy era and freedom of expression."

Political Science Quarterly

"We live in an era in which there are real threats to public safety from groups formed both within and outside of our country. A national debate concerning the balance between public safety and the First Amendment's protection for advocacy of unpopular or unlawful activities has begun. The Logic of Persecution: Free Speech in the McCarthy Era is must reading for any person who wants to be a thoughtful participant in that debate. Professor Redish, by examining the extent of the Communist Party's subversive activities and also Supreme Court rulings during the 1940s and 50s, provides new insight into the ways in which courts can protect our cherished freedoms of belief and speech, while allowing for the effective enforcement of laws that protect our national security."

—John E. Nowak, University of Illinois

"Having published extensively on the McCarthy Era myself, I am impressed with Martin Redish's take on First Amendment considerations of persecutions of Communists in the 1940s and 1950s. He presents a balanced assessment of the crisis surrounding claims of internal subversion His proposals for revisions in policy are neither knee-jerk nor simple. They require an understanding of the philosophy of freedom of expression and the implied limits and extensions of the First Amendment."

The American Journal of Legal History