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In 1946, with the dead of the great war against fascism and Nazism still warm in their graves, another kind of war was declared in the United States. It was a war against dissent, a war against ideas – particularly the ideas of socialism – and against the people who promulgated these ideas. The Soviet Union, which had seen 20 million of its citizens perish in the war against Hitler, was declared the enemy of mankind, and a kind of demented civil war was waged in the United States against anyone who defended any aspect of Communism, Socialism or the Soviet Union.

The beginning of this war was declared by the Truman White House, with an executive order requiring people working for the government to state under oath that they were not nor had ever been members of the Communist Party. From this beginning, it spread like a plague across the country, penetrating every level of society, industry, schools, film, literature, and, of course, government.

The chief instrument in spreading and enforcing this new terror was the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It conducted a series of star chamber hearings that led to the imprisonment of dozens of men and women – labor leaders, writers, actors, filmmakers, teachers – a list that included some of the best-known and most talented people of the time.

One of the organizations caught up and eventually destroyed by this network of terror that had spread across the country was an insurance company called the International Workers Order. In this book, Arthur J. Sabin tells the heartbreaking story of how this organization, and with it the hopes and dreams of thousands of American working people, was destroyed. It is a very important story, a grim and awful story. It must be read and understood so that nothing like it will ever happen again.

Howard Fast