New York: The John Day Company, 1954. First edition. Octavo. Original blue cloth and dust jacket (not price-clipped). Minor wear to dust jacket, else fine. Item #92
First edition of James Burnham’s (1905–1987) classic review of what various investigating committees had discovered regarding the infiltration of the US government by communist espionage networks. Published on the heels of Whittaker Chambers’ Witness (1952)—which recounted Chambers’ years as a domestic Soviet spy, his subsequent defection from communism, and his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s—Burnham’s The Web of Subversion lucidly narrates the surprising facts and conclusions drawn from the many congressional probes into communist espionage cells, methods, and activities in the US. In a manner reminiscent of his journalistic counterpart, the intrepid John T. Flynn, Burnham set himself the task of distilling from the mountains of investigative materials a clear and coherent accounting of communism’s present danger to the US government. Burnham was uniquely positioned to appreciate the threat. Prior to his “conservative turn” in 1940, Burnham was an active Trotskyist who aligned himself with domestic Trotskyist groups in order to formulate an “American approach” to Marxism capable of addressing American concerns. However, in the final years of the 1930s, his growing disillusionment with Marxism’s ideological foundations and utopianism led Burnham to swear off Marxism and Trotskyism for good in 1940, whereupon he wrote his seminal work The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World (1941), which he also published with the John Day Company. Burnham would thereafter emerge as a vocal opponent of communism, publishing his Cold War trilogy—The Struggle for the World (1947), The Coming Defeat of Communism (1950), and Containment or Liberation? (1953)—in which he examined the spread and influence of global communism and advocated for communism’s unconditional defeat around the world. It is in The Web of Subversion that Burnham assesses the evidence of communism’s infiltration of the US government and reiterates the need to contain and defeat the threat within America.