Information

Howard Fast


Howard Fast, the son of a factory worker, was born in New York City on 11th November, 1914. Fast became a socialist after reading The Iron Heel, a novel written by Jack London. "The Iron Heel was my first real contact with socialism; the book... had a tremendous effect on me. London anticipated fascism as no other writer of the time did."

He dropped out of high school and at the age of 18 published his first novel Two Villages. Fast held strong left-wing views and a large number of his novels dealt with political themes. This included a series of three books on the American Revolutionary War period: Conceived in Liberty (1939), The Unvanquished (1942), and Citizen Tom Paine (1943).

In 1943 Fast joined the American Communist Party. As he later recalled: "In the party I found ambition, narrowness and hatred; I also found love and dedication and high courage and integrity — and some of the noblest human beings I have ever known." His Marxist views were reflected in the novels that he wrote during this period. This included Freedom Road (1944), a novel that dealt with the Reconstruction era; The American (1946) and a fictionalized biography of the radical Illinois governor, John Peter Altgeld.

On the morning of 20th July, 1948, Eugene Dennis, the general secretary and eleven other party leaders, including John Gates, William Z. Foster, Benjamin Davis, Robert G. Thompson, Gus Hall, Benjamin Davis, Henry M. Winston, and Gil Green were arrested and charged under the Alien Registration Act. This law, passed by Congress in 1940, made it illegal for anyone in the United States "to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government".

The trial began on 17th January, 1949. As John Gates pointed out: "There were eleven defendants, the twelfth, Foster, having been severed from the case because of his serious, chronic heart ailment." After a nine month trial the leaders of the American Communist Party were found guilty of violating the Alien Registration Act and sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Robert G. Thompson, because of his war record, received only three years.

In his autobiography, Being Red, Fast commented: "That the jury made a mockery of the months of evidence and came to its verdict of guilty almost instantly tells more about the nature of this trial than a hundred pages of legal evidence. What fell to us - and by us, I mean those of us in the arts - was the question of what we could do in the new conditions of anti-Communist propaganda created by the trial. It was not only the twelve defendants in Foley Square who were under attack; in every trade union where the Communist Party had any influence, Communists and suspected Communists were being attacked and driven from their leadership positions, from the union, and from their jobs. In this, the anti-Communists (many of them in their jobs because of the work and courage of the Communist organizers) in the AFL and the CIO turned and led the hunt against the Communists."

In 1950 Fast was ordered to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. because he had contributed to the support of a hospital for Popular Front forces in Toulouse during the Spanish Civil War. When he appeared before the HUAC he efused to name fellow members of American Communist Party, claiming that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and he was sentenced to three months in prison.

On his release from prison Fast discovered that Jerome had arranged the production of The Hammer. "During the weeks before going to prison, I had written a play called The Hammer. It was a drama about a Jewish family during the war years, a hard-working father who keeps his head just above water, and his three sons. One son comes out of the army, badly wounded, badly scarred. Another son makes a fortune out of the war, and the youngest son provides his share of the drama by deciding to enlist."

Fast went to see the pre-view of the play: "The play began. The father came onstage, Michael Lewin, small, slender, pale white skin, and orange hair. Nina Normani, playing Michael's wife, small, pale. The first son came onstage, James Earl Jones, six feet and two inches, barrel-cheated, eighteen years old if my memory serves me, two hundred pounds of bone and muscle if an ounce, and a bass voice that shook the walls of the little theater."

Fast complained about the casting of James Earl Jones as Jimmy Jones. He was told that it had all been arranged by Victor Jerome and that he was being a white chauvinist in objecting to the part played by a black actor. Fast replied: "I'm not being a white chauvinist, Lionel. But Mike here weighs in at maybe a hundred and ten pounds, and he's as pale as anyone can be and he's Jewish, and for God's sake, tell me what genetic miracle could produce Jimmy Jones." However, after threats that Jerome would have him expelled from the Communist Party he accepted the casting. (28)

In 1950 Howard Fast attempted to get his novel about, Spartacus, an account of the 71 B.C. slave revolt, published. Eight major publishers rejected it. Alfred Knopf sent the manuscript back unopened, saying he wouldn't even look at the work of a traitor. Fast now realised he was blacklisted and formed his own company, the Blue Heron Press, to publish Spartacus (1951). He continued write and publish books that reflected his left-wing views. This included Silas Timberman (1954), a novel about a victim of McCarthyism and The Story of Lola Gregg (1956), describing the FBI pursuit and capture of a communist trade unionist. Fast also worked as a staff writer for the Daily Worker.

According to John Gates, Fast was having serious doubts about communism. He suggested that Eugene Dennis should talk to Fast: "I told Dennis and other party leaders of Fast's deep personal crisis and implored them to talk to him, but outside of some of us on the Daily Worker, not a single party leader thought it important enough to talk to the one writer of national, even world-wide, reputation still in the party."

During the 20th Soviet Communist Party Congress in February, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Joseph Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union's political prisoners to be released. Howard Fast explained how he reacted in The Daily Worker to the speech: "We accused the Soviets. We demanded explanations. For the first time in the life of the Communist Party of the United States, we challenged the Russians for the truth, we challenged the disgraceful executions that had taken place in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. We demanded explanations and openness. John Gates pulled no punches, printed the hundreds of letters that poured in from our readers, the bitterness of those who had given the best and most fruitful years of their lives to an organization that still clung to the tail of the Soviet Union."

Khrushchev's de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. In Hungary the prime minister Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. During the Hungarian Uprisingan estimated 20,000 people were killed. Nagy was arrested and replaced by the Soviet loyalist, Janos Kadar.

John Gates, the editor of the Daily Worker, was highly critical of the actions of Nikita Khrushchev and stated that "for the first time in all my years in the Party I felt ashamed of the name Communist". He then went on to add that "there was more liberty under Franco's fascism than there is in any communist country." As a result he was accused of being "right-winger, Social-Democrat, reformist, Browderite, peoples' capitalist, Trotskyist, Titoite, Stracheyite, revisionist, anti-Leninist, anti-party element, liquidationist, white chauvinist, national Communist, American exceptionalist, Lovestoneite, Bernsteinist".

William Z. Foster was a loyal supporter of the leadership of the Soviet Union and refused to condemn the regime's record on human rights. Foster failed to criticize the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. Large numbers left the party. At the end of the Second World War it had 75,000 members. By 1957 membership had dropped to 5,000. In 1957 Fast published The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party (1957).

On 22nd December, 1957, the American Communist Party Executive Committee decided to close down the Daily Worker. John Gates argued: "Throughout the 34 years of its existence, the Daily Worker has withstood the attacks of Big Business, the McCarthyites and other reactionaries. It has taken a drive from within the party - conceived in blind factionalism and dogmatism - to do what our foes have never been able to accomplish. The party leadership must once and for all repudiate the Foster thesis, defend the paper and its political line, and seek to unite the entire party behind the paper."

Howard Fast, who was a staff journalist on the Daily Worker added: "The Daily Worker published its last issue on January 13, 1958, precisely thirty-four years after its first issue had appeared. I doubt whether there was a day during those decades when the paper was not in debt. It was always understaffed, and its staff was always underpaid. It never compromised with the truth as it saw the truth; and while it was at times rigid and believing of whatever the Soviet Union put forth, it was so only because of its blind faith in the socialist cause. It is a part of the history of this country, and like the party that supported it, it preached love for its native land. It had once boasted a daily circulation of close to 100,000. Its final run was five thousand copies."

The Hollywood Blacklist was ended in 1960 when Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay for the film Spartacus based on Fast's novel of the same name. Fast himself moved to Hollywood where he wrote several screenplays. However, he continued to write political novels and had considerable commercial success with The Immigrants (1977), Second Generation (1978), The Establishment (1979), The Outsider (1984) and the Immigrant's Daughter (1985). His autobiography, Being Red, was published in 1990.

During his lifetime he published more than 40 novels under his own name and 20 as E.V. Cunningham. Fast also wrote a biography of Josip Tito. His books were translated into 82 different languages and his last novel, Greenwich, was published in 2000. As Alan Wald has pointed out: "In the 1940s, and again in the 1970s and 1980s, he achieved best-seller status with novels explicity promoting left-wing ideas."

Howard Fast died in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, on 12th March, 2003.

We were always poor, but while my mother lived, we children never realized that we were poor. My father, at the age of fourteen, was an iron worker in the open-shed furnaces on the East River below Fourteenth Street. There the wrought iron that festooned the city was hammered into shape at open forges. As a kid, Barney had run beer for the big, heavy-muscled men who hammered out the iron at the blazing forges, and there was nothing else he wanted to do. But the iron sheds disappeared as fashions in building changed, and Barney went to work as a gripper man on one of the last cable cars in the city. From there to the tin factory, and finally to being a cutter in a dress factory. He never earned more than forty dollars a week during my mother's lifetime, yet with this forty dollars my mother made do. She was a wise woman, and if a wretched tenement was less than her dream of America, she would not surrender. She scrubbed and sewed and knitted. She made all the clothes for all of her children, cutting little suits out of velvet and fine wools and silks; she cooked and cleaned with a vengeance, and to me she seemedi-a sort of princess, with her stories of London and Kew and Kensington Gardens and the excitement and tumult of Petticoat Lane and Covent Garden. Memories of this beautiful lady, whose speech was so different from the speech of the others around me, were wiped out at the moment of her death.

In the 1940s, "Citizen Tom Paine" and "The American," a fictionalized biography of Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, became best sellers - but brought him trouble from the House Un-American Activities Committee, which labeled them as Communist propaganda. "Citizen Tom Paine" was banned in high school libraries in New York City.

In 1945, the committee demanded he identify people who helped build a hospital in France for anti-fascist fighters. Fast refused and after years of legal battles was jailed for contempt.

Prison only made him more radical, as Fast "began more deeply than ever before to comprehend the full agony and hopelessness of the underclass," he later recalled. Out of this experience he wrote "Spartacus," his populist version of the slave revolt in ancient Rome.

The novel was rejected by several publishers, many of whom received visits from FBI agents, and Fast eventually released it himself.

He seldom wrote autobiographically; the nearest he came to a self-portrait was in Citizen Tom Paine. For Paine, the greatest revolutionary propagandist of the 18th century, the likely fate of the American revolution of 1776, as well as of the French of 1789, was betrayal and defeat. Paine knew the vicious attacks of enemies in America and abandonment by his friends, as well as persecution and imprisonment in France under the Jacobins.

And, indeed, Fast's novel is a portrait of the writer as revolutionary. It is also a singularly harsh portrayal of the nature of revolution itself, and of the terrible fate awaiting its creators; it belongs on the same shelf as Arthur Koestler's novel of the fate of an old Bolshevik, Darkness At Noon (1940).

It was while writing Citizen Tom Paine that Fast joined the Communist party. The wartime love affair with the Soviet Union and the Red army was at its peak. Fast later showed himself to be an insightful diagnostician of the way good people, worthy of affection and respect, were degraded, humiliated, lied to and betrayed by Stalin and his conscienceless henchmen in the American party.

The title for his 1957 study, The Naked God: The Writer And Communism, was drawn from a brief, brilliant passage reflecting on the East German Stalinist leader Walther Ulbricht: "He has lost touch with humankind. For him are no more hopes or visions or high dreams - only the caress of power over his righteousness."

That the jury made a mockery of the months of evidence and came to its verdict of guilty almost instantly tells more about the nature of this trial than a hundred pages of legal evidence. In this, the anti-Communists (many of them in their jobs because of the work and courage of the Communist organizers) in the AFL and the CIO turned and led the hunt against the Communists.

Where did that leave us? I had an idea that I put to some of the leaders, but they brushed it aside. The party had no time or money for what they certainly regarded as the high jinks of the intellectuals, a group never too highly regarded by any Communist leaders at that time. My idea was to organize a great meeting of the arts in the cause of peace. My feeling was that the struggle for peace was paramount. If the march to war could be halted, other matters could be solved more easily. I laid out the details of what could be done to Lionel Berman of the Cultural Section, and he agreed with me that it was worth a try. The leadership of the party turned us down flat. They felt that every resource had to be directed toward fighting the repression and winning the trial. They had little faith in what we might do, and they had no money to spare for us.

One of those most shaken was Howard Fast, the only literary figure of note left in the Communist Party. He was a controversial figure not only in the country generally but in the party too. A fabulously successful author before becoming known as a Communist, he had been boycotted for his political beliefs. In the Communist movement he was both idolized and cordially disliked. His forte was the popular historical novel, although he was not noted for his depth of characterization or historical scholarship. Fast had made money but he had also lost it because of his adherence to his principles, and he had gone to jail for his beliefs. Fast had stuck out his neck more than most; he had received the Stalin Prize and defended everything Communist and attacked everything capitalist in the most extravagant terms. It was to be expected that he would react to the Khrushchev revelations in a highly emotional manner, and I know of no one who went through a greater moral anguish and torture.

I told Dennis and other party leaders of Fast's deep personal crisis and implored them to talk to him, but outside of some of us on the Daily Worker, not a single party leader thought it important enough to talk to the one writer of national, even world-wide, reputation still in the party. Later when he announced his withdrawal and told his story, party leaders leaped on him like a pack of wolves and began that particular brand of character assassination which the Communist movement has always reserved for defectors from its ranks.

Fast's book, The Naked God, contains considerable truth, tut it suffers from his weakness of portraying people as either good guys or bad guys. I am far from the angel he depicts and the others are not quite the devils he makes them out. The reality is more subtle, complex and contradictory. But the Daily Worker, to its credit, never joined in the torrent of abuse from the Left that was heaped on Fast. His reaction to his Communist experience has been highly charged with emotion, but not without cause. At the very least, as a man who had given his whole life and career to communism, Fast deserves more understanding and compassion from the Left.

The offices (of the American Communist Party) were in a nine-story building between University Place and Broadway, a building that also housed The Daily Worker and the Communist Party leadership. The people in the top offices of the party, the general secretary and the members of the National Committee, were housed on the ninth floor, and in referring to them, one often spoke simply of "the ninth floor." The general secretary of the party at that time, Gene Dennis, was a tall, handsome man who had taken over the party leadership from Earl Browder. In 1944, Browder, the leader of the party through some of its most bitter struggles during the thirties, had attempted to change the party from a political party that offered candidates in elections to a sort of educational Marxist entity. His move, I believe, was based on the wartime and prewar influence of the party on Roosevelt's New Deal, and on the hope that it might continue. It is impossible here to go into the lengthy and frequently obtuse theoretical discussion on this point; much of it was almost as meaningless then as it would be today. Sufficient to say that Browder lost the struggle, was removed from leadership, and expelled from the party. Dennis was his successor.

I had never met Gene Dennis and I had never ventured to the sacrosanct heights of the ninth floor, and being in proper awe of the leaders of an organization I had come to respect and honor, I went first to Joe North in the more familiar offices of The New Masses. Would he set up a meeting for me with Gene Dennis? I had perhaps an exaggerated sense of the importance of carrying a message from the Communist Party of Northern India to the Communist Party of the United States, yet in all reality, a plea from one Communist Party to another was of importance and to be treated with respect. Joe agreed with me, picked up his phone, and was told that Dennis would see me. I took the elevator up to the ninth floor, was shown into Dennis's office. He sat behind his desk; he did not rise nor did he offer his hand. Nor did he smile. Nor did he ask me to sit down. Nor did he indicate that he was either pleased or displeased to meet me.

Now this is the national leader of the Communist Party of the United States. Here I am, one of the leading and - at that time - most honored writers in the country. The party busted its ass to get me into the movement. It showered me with praise, lured me with happiness was enough, and I took myself down to the offices of The New Masses on East Twelfth Street. its most winning people, reprinted stuff from my books in The New Masses, and embraced me. But Dennis never asked me to meet him, and now that I was in his office, he looked at me as a judge might look at a prisoner before passing sentence.

Since he didn't ask why I was there, I delivered my message uninvited. Very briefly, I spoke of the crisis in India, and then I repeated to him what the Indian Communist leader had said. He listened, and then he nodded - a signal for me to go.

Am I crazy? I asked myself. Or is this some kind of joke? But Dennis was the last man on earth to exhibit humor. Wasn't he going to ask me what I had seen? Wasn't he going to ask me about the political situation? I had spoken about the largest colonial country in the world. Wasn't he interested? I waited. He told me I could go. I turned and left.

I then went from Dennis's office to Joe North and told him about Dennis's reaction to me and my message from India. Joe said that such was Dennis, and that Dennis was Dennis, and that he was not easy with people. It seemed to me that what a party leader dealt with most was people, and how the devil did he come to be the general secretary of the Communist Party? Joe admitted that Dennis was not the greatest, that it should have been Bill Foster, the grand old man of the left, but Foster had a bad heart and was too old.

Howard Fast said yesterday that he had disassociated himself from the American Communist party and no longer considered himself a Communist.

Mr. Fast, the winner of a Stalin International Peace Prize in 1953, has generally been considered the leading Communist writer in this country. His books were once sold in large numbers here, and in recent years many of them have been widely translated and sold throughout the world, particularly in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. Until last June he was a columnist for The Daily Worker.

Apparently troubled by the need to end his political affiliation, Mr. Fast at first was reluctant to be interviewed. When he agreed, he defined his position in these terms: "I am neither anti-Soviet nor anti-Communist, but I cannot work and write in the Communist movement."

Nikita S. Khrushchev's secret speech last year exposing Stalin was the chief factor leading to his present position, Mr. Fast said.

"It was incredible and unbelievable to me," he said, "that Khrushchev did not end his speech with a promise of the reforms needed to guarantee that Stalin's crimes will not be repeated, reforms such as an end to capital punishment, trial by jury and habeas corpus. Without these reforms one can make neither sense nor reason of the speech itself."

In a column in The Daily Worker last June (Man's Hope, June 12, 1956), Mr. Fast first indicated the shock and anger that the Khrushchev speech had produced in him. He ceased to contribute to that newspaper after that, but did not then break with the Communist movement.

Mr. Fast indicated he had spent the months since last June in fighting out with himself the question of his future. He asserted that he admired Communist party members as dedicated fighters for peace, but that he personally felt he could no longer submit to Communist discipline.

Revelations of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union also influenced his decision. "I knew little about anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union before the Khrushchev speech," Mr. Fast said. "That little troubled me, but I repressed my doubts. Then the article appeared in The Folksshtime last spring telling what had actually happened. It was not an easy thing to live with."

The Folksshtime, a Yiddish language Communist newspaper in Poland, printed the first news from a Communist source of the repression of Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union and of the jailing and execution of numerous Yiddish writers in that country under Stalin.

Asserting that he had been a devoted Communist because of his belief in democracy, equalitarianism and social justice, Mr. Fast said that his anger at the Khrushchev speech was particularly sharp because of his experience with the American judicial system.

"I was tried and convicted in 1946 under circumstances that made a mockery of our pretensions of justice here," he said. "But while that was happening, I was consoled by the belief that in the Soviet Union a person would receive justice. I can no longer believe this."

Mr. Fast was convicted in 1946 on a charge of contempt of Congress arising from his refusal to produce the records of the Joint Antifascist Refugee Committee before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He served three months in jail on the charge.

Recent events in Poland have moved him deeply, Mr. "Poland has been a living proof of the dream of many people that socialism and democracy can exist together."

Mr. Fast said he would not repudiate or return the Stalin International Peace Prize he received in 1953.

A Communist sympathizer since the early Nineteen Thirties and a Communist party member for almost a decade and a half, Mr. Fast declared: "I am not ashamed of anything I have done. I fought against war, Negro oppression and social injustice. I am proud of my books. I regret that in some of my political articles I went overboard - but by and large I stand by what I wrote."

Mr. Fast said that in Daily Worker articles written last spring, he had called for Communists to take a new look at the Soviet campaign against cosmopolitanism ( Cosmopolitanism, April 26, 1956), a movement he now regards as a form of Soviet anti-Semitism directed against Jewish intellectuals there, as well as at the party ban on psychoanalysis (Freud and Science, May 1, 1956) and its condemnation of writers like James T. Farrell, author of the Studs Lonigan books and other works of fiction.

"I was supported in raising these questions by John Gates, Alan Max and Joe Clark," Mr. Mr. Gates is the editor of The Daily Worker, Mr. Max the managing editor, and Mr. Clark the foreign editor. These three are generally regarded as leaders of the Communist party's "anti-Stalinist" wing.

Tall, dark and thin, Mr. Fast explained his original interest in communism as born of the poverty in which he grew up after his birth here on Nov. 11, 1914.

Mr. Fast estimated that more than 20,000,000 copies of his books had been printed and distributed throughout the world.

Mr. Fast's fiction was always didactic to a degree, opposed to modernism, engaged in social struggle and insistent on taking sides and teaching lessons of life's moral significance, and he liked it that way.

"Since I believe that a person's philosophical point of view has little meaning if it is not matched by being and action, I found myself willingly wed to an endless series of unpopular causes, experiences which I feel enriched my writing as much as they depleted other aspects of my life," he said in a 1972 interview.

Despite the international popularity of historical novels like "Paine," which glorified the professional revolutionary, and the huge commercial success that Mr. Fast's well-paced narratives achieved, his work tended to succeed or fail as art to the extent that he distanced himself from ideology.

Many of his books from the 1940s and 1950s explored class and race disparity in the United States and implicitly promoted what he then considered a utopian Soviet system. In the 1950s, he was one of the most high-profile authors in the United States to be jailed and blacklisted for actions related to membership in the Communist Party.

He wrote of joining the Communist Party in 1943, influenced by "a series of dismal and underpaid jobs that I had held since, at the age of eleven, pressed by the need of our utter poverty, I went to work as a newspaper delivery boy."

He continued: "If we are to seek for understanding, any sort of understanding, then the reader must not only recall the 1930s, but must comprehend the full meaning of the surrender of childhood, a situation that poverty still imposes on millions of children the world over."


Howard Fast - History

It has been said, with as little thought as goes into the contriving of most epigrams, "Happy are the people with no history." But happiness has been variously interpreted, and it is usually a most unhappy people who lack a history. And it should be added that no people, however exploited, however insignificant, actually lack a history--the word itself being simply a tag for the process of life in terms of mankind.

The history is there, in the case of all peoples and where that history is forgotten or blotted out, it pays to inquire into the causes of that extinction, to see what ends it has served. A people without a remembered history is like a man who suffers from amnesia his life has been deprived of meaning, direction, perspective, and to a degree, hope. It is recognition of that fact which has prompted during the past decade so astonishing and original an interest in the history of this nation and it is the same recognition which has brought us to new study of the history of the Negro.

Look at history for a moment in a slightly new fashion regard it as a process which is responsible for every single factor, every attitude, every complexion of the life you live. The food you eat, the clothes you wear, the things you do, your work, your hopes--set all that in a world frame of a terrible struggle against fascism and for democracy--and the sum, as well as each part of the sum, is directly and specifically the result of a process of history. And how far can you go toward understanding even the simplest of the factors if the forces which produced them are distorted or blotted out?

Nor is it purely a question of understanding a host of other matters are linked to an awareness or lack of awareness of a historical past--pride, dignity, hope, courage, moral strength, political action, indeed all the many facets of living hinge, in one way or another, upon a full and correct memory of a people's past.

Apply the theory specifically, and take up the question of the Negro in America today. We know fairly well what his situation is in political, economic and social terms we know it is better than it was a decade ago, and we believe it will be better a decade hence but we must admit that his situation today, for all the progress we have made, is a sore on the face of the democracy, a perversion of its best tradition--and a constant threat to the whole concept of national unity. Remembering that, think of our scholars, our many, many scholars, who have complacently reiterated, in work and by word, that the Negro has no history.

They've done their work well indeed twisting, distorting, expunging, until today a great section of this country's 14,000,000 Negroes, as well as the majority of the whites, accept their conclusions. And thereby, the Negro, like the man with amnesia, cannot remember, and not remembering, cannot draw hope, sustenance and direction from his past. Instead of his history being an integral part of his life, he must organize and fight, in intellectual terms, for the recovery of that history. That he is doing--and already there are striking advances which he can show. But the pain of what he lost is not easily forgotten--and the reeducation is slow.

Lest all this be dismissed as coddling of precious sensitivity, let us take a few instances from the "nonexistent" Negro history and apply them to today.

Today, the Negro is beginning to take his place on the political stage, both as an organized mass from below and a participant in government from above. And today, more than ever before--witness the frantic actions of the Reader's Digest , the New Leader , etc.--an organized attempt is being made to maintain the lie of Reconstruction, the lie which states that during the one time Negroes were given almost full political rights, they failed, tragically and completely. Instead of being able to lean on the history of those eight years, to learn through a study of them, he is forced to engage in a struggle for the historical truth.

Today, by hundreds of thousands, the Negro is actively engaged in the war for national liberation. It is true that he is discriminated against but it is also true that he has made more rapid strides during this war in industry, in the Army and Navy, than in decades before. For all that, he has encountered confusion he has been divided, troubled. And on the white side of it, that confusion was tenfold. How many of the fears and doubts could have been dissolved if the whole of the nation knew the full tale of the Negro's glorious role in the Civil War! How the perspective would change if we were as aware of Frederick Douglass' statements as we are of Washington's and Jefferson's! If 10,000,000 whites and 5,000,000 Negroes knew Douglass' address to the Negro soldier as well as they know Lincoln's Gettysburg address! If the whole nation knew the saga of Colonel Shaw's black 54th Massachusetts Regiment! If we could read in every school history the tale of the black slave volunteers in Andrew Jackson's people's army, and how they fought at the battle of New Orleans! We know the story of Valley Forge, but what schoolbook talks of the black Virginia regiment, no man of which deserted, the only regiment in the army to hold that record? We have as fine and splendid a roll-call of heroes as any nation on earth, from our first war of national liberation to this--but how many history books relate that a black man was the first to die for this nation, Crispus Attucks, who was killed during the Boston Massacre?

This is the barest, thinnest beginning I could fill a volume, and still tell only a small part. But I would like you to dwell on the qualitative difference in the role this country plays today that would be possible if both black and white Americans knew how completely and honorably bound to each other they have been in every struggle for existence as a free nation.

I spoke of pride before, of dignity and hope--and in that sense, would it be a bad thing or a good thing if the people of this land knew that only once in the whole history of mankind did a nation take the full and fateful step from slavery to democracy--and that was a Negro nation, Black Haiti?

How many shibboleths would be blasted were it known widely that the Negro never accepted slavery in America, that he was incapable of accepting it, that during the course of his slavery he organized over twenty major revolts. Think of the dignity he would assume, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of others, if he knew the whole tale of the brave black men who had fought and died for freedom.

It is a dangerous mistake to think that we are uninfluenced by the great men of the past. While it is true that forces within the nation go into their making, they in turn become active and potent forces, leaving their imprint in no uncertain terms on the national consciousness.

The Negro hero exists almost without exception, he was a man who fought against the long odds--and won he walked in the democratic tradition, and he walked proudly, with dignity and humility. And today, among his people, there is both a need for him and a hunger.

He must live again, just as all of the Negro's past must live again. It must live because the question of national unity can no longer be postponed--the Negro question must and will be solved, and this is one of the many steps toward solving it.


August 27, 1949: Left-Wing Activist Concert Featuring African-American Singer Disrupted by Orchestrated Attacks

Paul Robeson. [Source: Paul Robeson Community Center] A concert organized by various left-wing organizations and slated to take place at a picnic ground near Peekskill, New York (see Mid-August - August 27, 1949) never happens. Instead, the organizers and audience members are attacked by an angry, violent mob.
Mob Attacks - Novelist Howard Fast, who is slated to emcee the concert, arrives at the grounds, and, hearing reports of a mob gathering under the rubric of a “parade,” organizes some 40 “men and boys,” both white and African-American, to defend the women and children coming together in the hollow for the concert. Fast’s fears are quickly realized: a large mob of American Legion members and local citizens, and largely fueled by alcohol, as evidenced by the hundreds of liquor bottles later found strewn throughout the grounds, moves to attack Fast’s group with billy clubs, broken bottles, fence posts, and knives. More by chance than by strategy, Fast’s group finds itself in a defensible position, where it cannot be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Its members manage to beat back three separate assaults Fast hears screams from the mob: “We’re Hitler’s boys—Hitler’s boys!” “We’ll finish his job!” “God bless Hitler and f___ you n_____ b_stards and Jew b_stards!” “Lynch Robeson! Give us Robeson! We’ll string that big n_____ up! Give him to us, you b_stards!” “We’ll kill every commie b_stard in America!” “You’re never going out!” “Every n_____ b_stard dies here tonight! Every Jew b_stard dies here tonight!” (Singer and activist Paul Robeson, the concert headliner, is unable to approach the concert venue, and is never in any real danger.) During the assaults, state and local police stand by and do nothing to intervene local and national reporters jot down notes and take photographs. Late in the evening, someone sets a cross ablaze, prompting Fast’s group to link arms and sing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Later inquiries by the concert organizers will show that at least three different times during the violence, individuals were able to escape the riots and phone the local and state police, the state attorney general’s office, and the office of the New York governor, “all without result.” No arrests are made and no one is held for questioning, even though, the organizers will find, 󈫾 cars were overturned and at least 13 people were hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.” [Fast, 1951 White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982]
Book Burnings - The fourth and final assault of the night comes in the form of a barrage of rocks and other missiles. Fast’s group runs for the concert venue, where its members mount the platform and once again link arms. Fast and others see some members of the mob find the books and pamphlets brought by the concert organizers the mob members make a huge pile and set it ablaze. Fast later writes: “[T]o crown our evening, there was re-enacted the monstrous performance of the Nuremberg book burning which had become a world symbol of fascism. Perhaps the nature of fascism is so precise, perhaps its results on human beings are so consistently diseased, that the same symbols must of necessity arise for standing there, arms linked, we watched the Nuremberg memory come alive again. The fire roared up and the defenders of the ‘American’ way of life seized piles of our books and danced around the blaze, flinging the books into the fire as they danced.” (Upon revisiting the site two days later, Fast will note “at least 40” flashbulbs in and around the ashes, indicating that many photographs were taken of the book burning, but in 1951, he will write that he has yet to see any of those photographs.) [Fast, 1951]
Law Enforcement Intervenes - Three of the most severely wounded of Fast’s group are escorted to safety by federal law enforcement officials, who had watched the proceedings without intervening. The rest are forced to sit while local law enforcement officials investigate the stabbing of one of the mob members, William Secor. (Evidence will show that Secor had been accidentally cut by one of his fellows.) Later, state police escort members of Fast’s group to their vehicles and allow them to drive away. No arrests are made and no one is held for questioning, even though, the organizers will find, 󈫾 cars were overturned and at least 13 people were hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.” The head of the Peekskill American Legion, Milton Flynt, says after the riot, “Our objective was to prevent the Paul Robeson concert, and I think our objective was reached.” [Fast, 1951 White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982] Author Roger Williams will later write of Fast’s descriptions, “Fast’s account, although marred by exaggeration and Marxist rhetoric, is substantially supported by other participants and eyewitnesses.” [American Heritage, 3/1976]
Initial Media Responses Relatively Favorable to Mob - The first media reports and commentary about the concert are far more supportive of the mob (see August 28, 1949, and After) than later examples (see Mid-September 1949).
Second Attempt - Within hours, Fast and the concert organizers decide to reschedule a second concert, this time to be protected by large numbers of burly union workers (see September 4, 1949, and After).


FREEDOM ROAD by Howard Fast

The author of this book most assuredly saw the novel as political, indeed as didactic. Oh horrors–didactic fiction, story told in the service of teaching something, didactic that worst of curse words for the bourgeois literary establishment. It is no curse word to me, in fact is something to be aspired to, and I daresay the great Howard Fast felt the same way when he was writing Freedom Road, first published in 1944.

The foreword to the edition of Freedom Road currently in print was written by W.E.B. Du Bois. If the greatest historian of Reconstruction and the counter-revolution that overturned it, the author of Black Reconstruction in America, The Souls of Black Folk and so many other vitally important works, the founder of the NAACP, and a great communist to boot–if W.E.B. Du Bois, himself a towering figure in African-American history, commends this book to us, and he does in his foreword, I can do no less than commend it to you.

The story tells of Gideon Jackson, a man of African descent who was enslaved in South Carolina, who left the plantation where he’d been held in servitude and fought with the Union Army during the Civil War, and who, from 1868 to 1877, plays a pivotal role in the grand effort to bring democracy and equality to the South. This effort includes wresting the right to vote, writing a new state constitution, working to build a system of free public education, claiming land ownership and building homes and community with Black and poor white working together in common cause for the good of all. Jackson eventually serves in the U.S. House of Representatives his son travels to Scotland to train as a doctor he and his whole family learn to read and write, build a house, hold personal possessions all these gains hard won but possible through unity and with the backing of the Union army of occupation holding back the forces of the old slaveocracy. Until it all comes crashing down when the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, looked to at that time as the safeguard of freedom, makes a deal, withdraws the troops that had been the safeguard of liberty and looks the other way while racist reaction organizes a terrorist armed force, the Ku Klux Klan, to wage war against Jackson, his family and community, and communities like them throughout the South, bringing on a bloody counter-revolution to end Reconstruction, shut down equal education, voting rights, land rights, and replace them with sharecropping, bitter poverty, no rights–the era of Jim Crow that would last nearly another hundred years.

All this is true. All this happened. Fast made it his job to tell the story, a story that was little known in the mid-20th century and is still little known today, the story of the war of racist terror that came after the brief flourishing of freedom after the Civil War. Jackson’s character was based on one or several Black men who did indeed serve as leaders in the Reconstruction period, who accomplished much and would have accomplished much more had they not been sabotaged and left to the forces of murder and mayhem. Fast doesn’t sugarcoat it. The final scene is a bitter battle, Jackson and his small community holed up in the old plantation house with guns and rifles, waging a furious defensive battle against an all-out assault by the Klan marauders who outnumber the freedom fighters and ultimately kill them all.

There are many lessons to this story, and the story itself, so true, so little known, bears telling and re-telling, and so for this alone Freedom Road is a book that matters. But please don’t misunderstand: I recommend this book not merely for its political virtues. This is a fine work of literature. There are beautiful passages, stirring, touching there is, as Du Bois noted, “profound psychological insight” and “lyrical charm” there is above all the protagonist, Gideon Jackson, as finely wrought a character as I can remember ever encountering. It’s a book to make you feel deeply, think hard–and rededicate yourself to the struggle.


The Taft Presidency

Despite his pledge, Taft lacked Roosevelt’s expansive view of presidential power, as well as his charisma as a leader and his physical vigor. (Always heavy, Taft weighed as much as 300 pounds at times during his presidency.) Though he was initially active in “trust-busting,” initiating some 80 antitrust suits against large industrial combinations–twice as many as Roosevelt–he later backed away from these efforts, and in general aligned himself with the more conservative members of the Republican Party. In 1909, Taft’s convention of a special session of Congress to debate tariff reform legislation spurred the Republican protectionist majority to action and led to passage of the Payne-Aldrich Act, which did little to lower tariffs. Though more progressive Republicans (such as Roosevelt) expected Taft to veto the bill, he signed it into law and publicly defended it as “the best tariff bill that the Republican Party ever passed.”

In another key misstep where progressives were concerned, Taft upheld the policies of Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger, and dismissed Ballinger’s leading critic, Gifford Pinchot, a conservationist and close friend of Roosevelt who served as head of the Bureau of Forestry. Pinchot’s firing split the Republican Party further and estranged Taft from Roosevelt for good. Often overlooked in the record of Taft’s presidency were his achievements, including his trust-busting efforts, his empowering of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to set railroad rates, and his support of constitutional amendments mandating a federal income tax and the direct election of senators by the people (as opposed to appointment by state legislatures).


The Picture-Book History of the Jews

Fast, Howard and Bette

Published by Hebrew Publishing Co, 1942

Hardcover. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. First Edition. 58 pages. For younger readers. Illustrations in color and B/W. First edition (first printing). A very good copy in illustrated cream paper over board covers. Slight sunning to cover edges. Inscription (not authorial) to prior owner on front free endpaper. Dust jacket, price-clipped, slightly soiled. A very good plus copy.


Howard Fast on ‘Being Red,’ Part I

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND, and often when I invite a guest to share his or her ideas with us, I think of that old saw: “Would that mine enemy had written a book”. Not that this is ever a hostile confrontation. That’s not my style (much to some viewers’ consternation, I’ll admit). But a book, or an article perhaps, may provide an intellectual peg or two to get things going here on THE OPEN MIND.

Well, not need to worry, then about today’s guest…for novelist, commentator, polemicist Howard Fast has written more than three score books over the years, and even now writes a weekly column for The Observer in New York.

Nor does he hide his light under a bushel…though he has changed its color.

And “Being Red”, his recent Houghton Mifflin memoir of a writing career filled with world-wide best sellers like “Citizen Tom Paine”, “Freedom Road” and “Spartacus”, tells of Howard Fast’s long membership in the Communist Party, then of his apostasy.

Presumably, his principles took him to jail in the 1950s for refusing to name names. Presumably, too, his principles took him out of the Communist Party.

So that it’s not inappropriate to ask the redoubtable Howard Fast just what are his first principles, and what sense of the nature of human nature has informed his extraordinarily creative intellectual odyssey. What is it? What’s the basis of “Fast thinking”?

Fast: I…that’s an enormous question to settle in one sentence. But if I had to I’d say to, to do no harm to other people and to cause no pain to other people. To try to live without ever causing pain to other human beings, which is a very difficult thing to do.

Heffner: Of course before we began the program you told me that years ago you and your wife had dreamed of a much more removed, simple life than you ended up enjoying. You would go your way, write your books, she would do her creative artistic work. And yet you are one of the most controversial persons in the 20th century.

Fast: Yes, well, when…oh, I suppose when I was 12 yeas old, around that time, I, I decided that I had to be a writer, that I had to tell stories, that this would be my life. And it was always my life. I wanted no more. I met a woman I fell madly in love with at age 20. She was 18. I married here when she was 22. Today, 50…55 years later I’m still married to her, and it was a good marriage…we had a little cottage we built in the country by saving our nickels and dimes after living for some years in a little one room apartment. We built this cottage for $7,000 with a set of plans we bought for $10. We immediately tried to start a family going. This…this to me was paradise…I had all the world could offer. We would live there. We would raise children, and I’d tell stories and thereby earn a living. I had found that every three, four weeks I could sell a fiction story at one of the national magazines, who would pay me $700, $800, $1,000…you could live a year on $1,000 then, live very comfortably on $1,000. And into this came World War II and after World War II, nothing was ever the same. The life we had dreamed of and planned and put together came to an end. A new life began and from…I would say from 1941 to 1958 I lived a life that was filled with danger, adventure, high hopes, dreams, assaults upon myself, the writing of books. I would say that this life that I put into that book called “Being Red”, when this life came to an end, I was the most beloved and the most hated writer in all of American history. I had had things done to me that were never done to any other writer in all the history of this country. I faced a situation where no publisher in the United States would publish “Spartacus”, where every major publisher in the United States turned it down. I came to a moment in my existence when J. Edgar Hoover, this dreadful, miserable little man who was then the, the terror-riding dictator of the United Stats, went a personal messenger to Little, Brown and company in Boston and told them that they must not, under the pain of sever reprisal, publish “Spartacus”…which went on to sell over 3 million copies here in this country, without shaking the country to its foundations, or even tipping it a bit, and became a very interesting motion picture. So anyway, this, this is a very brief summation…put more shortly was, I got myself into a lot of trouble.

Heffner: Okay, let’s talk about the trouble. Let’s talk about Howard Fast going to jail. Let’s talk about Howard Fast leaving the Communist Party that he had…I was going to say, “served so well”, but I think hat probably isn’t’ the case with you. It had served you, hadn’t it?

Fast: Well, you, you used the word before “apostasy”, that’s the wrong word…

Fast: The “apostasy” was on the part of the Communist Party…my beliefs never changed, my ideals never changed. These were the ideals that I held, that the people who were in the party with me held, and now, at last, the truth about the American Communist Party must come out. Now, for example, the lexicon of great names in publishing, in writing, in art, in music, who were members of the Communist Party in a cross-section of the very best in the United States during the 30s and the 40s. These were people of talent, of high principle, of great dreams and great ideals. These people were not apostates when they left the Party. The Party which had given them, or at lest pretended to give them a great dream of a brotherhood of man, became something else and what it became was illustrated on a worldwide scale in the Soviet Union. I think that if the Party here had come to power, they would not have done well. They would perhaps have done as badly as in the Soviet Union. The structure we flawed, it was terribly flawed. They, they put…they spread out on man’s old dream of the brotherhood of man, called socialism in the Industrial Age…they, they implanted on this a rigid, terrible structure, which they called the dictatorship of the proletariat. It’s not the dictatorship of the proletariat. It became the dictatorship of the handful of people who led the Party. And as with all dictatorships, it could not work. It brought only doom and destruction, and we see the last stages of this horror in the Soviet Union. So you must separate this history of the Communist Party in the United States once and for all from what happened in the Soviet Union…these are two separate movements…because, well…let me tell this story…I’ve told this story before on the air…no newspaper has ever picked it up…as a matter of fact, I told it twice…I told it on the CBS program, “Nightline”, which is supposed to have 10 million people listening to it. I told it again on CBS cable because one of the callers, people who called in, said, “Please, Mr. Fast, tell the story about Ronald Reagan and the Communist Party”. Well, in the 30s Ronald Reagan, who, I must say was a person of good will…there was not much there, and not enough inside, but the good will this man had. And in the 30s he saw all around him people he loved and respected, people whom he admired as the best in the Hollywood community, as members of the Communist Party. So he decided he wanted to join the Party. So this was passed on to the man who was then in a position to decide, as far as the Hollywood community was concerned, the playwright, John Howard Lawson, and Lawson was very uneasy with it. He said, “Look, this man is a flake. You, you never know what he’ll do tomorrow”. And he asked a very famous actor, who I will not name, still alive, to talk Reagan out of it. And this actor and his wife sat until the small hours of the morning and convinced Reagan that he could be more use to the Party as a non-member of the Party. Now, I don’t think this reduces Reagan. I think this, this helps Reagan. It helps the image of the…as a man of compassion, certainly at that time. But, it’s an angle on the Communist Party that we do not hear.

Heffner: Well, let me ask you about that. You say that Ronald Reagan saw all around him important, influential persons in Hollywood, creative people, people who he knew and who liked him and who he liked…members of the Party. What then was the influence of these people on American cultural patterns? What was their influence on the movies we saw? And on the way we behaved, because presumably we pay a lot of attention to what we see and the stories we hear…

Fast: If you’re asking me was it a good influence, a positive influence, I would say “yes”. (Laughter)

Fast: For example…let me be specific about some pictures. I, I mentioned John Howard Lawson. A very interesting, a very gifted playwright…he wrote, during the War, two pictures that expressed what we like to think of as the soul of the crusade, which to us at the time was World War II. One of them was “All Out on the road to Mermansk”, a picture with Humphrey Bogart…a wonderful description of the service the Merchant Marine performs. Nothing quite like it has ever been done about World War II. He also wrote a film called “Sahara”, which brought together the concept of different races participating in the struggle against Nazism. These were…I must admit, they were very tendentious pictures. But you fight a war like World War II, everything is tendentious. Let me go to “Spartacus”, which they’ve just re-issued. They’ve reconstructed the film, repaired the film. It’s a magnificent spectacle. It’s a film which, perhaps, can never be made again because it had well over 100,000 extras. You saw great armies moving in “Spartacus” that we couldn’t do today. We simply can’t spend that kind of money. It would cost better than a $100 million today. But what did “Spartacus” say? It said “These people who were slaves would not endure their slavery and they rose up against the Romans who enslaved them”. These people were a step in the long and ancient struggle fro freedom. Now this is a very positive thing. Now do you see the Washington Monthly, the magazine…

Fast: …in…it’s a very provocative magazine in Washington, edited by a man called Charles Peters, who’s simply wonderful…I never met him, but I have such respect for the man. It had an article in it about the movies. What does the movie say today? What do they say? Where are the dreams? We’re, we’re in this crazy, drug-ridden, greedy, besotted time. There are no dreams, there are no hopes. In that period we dreamed, we hoped, we, we tried to translate what we dreamed of into film. We weren’t corrupting America. We weren’t subversively infiltrating anything. We said “These…these were the things of America. These were the essence of America”. The “Ballad for Americans” played at a Republican Convention. This was a typical Communist effort to express what those of us who, we were kids then, what we felt about the United States. We loved the United States. We felt this is the highest achievement of mankind. And what do I see today? I see a President, George Bush, putting a nation to death 10,000 miles away, killing 150,000 people, who have never done us any harm, whom we don’t know, setting this horror with the Kurds into motion, this whole mad lunacy. We’re not doing it. This is not the work of dreamers. This is not the work of kids who dream of a better world. This is the work of Mr. Bush and Mr. Sununu and the rest of them down there. So I can argue a case.

Heffner: But tell me, when you’ve argued the case, how do we go back and explain that as late as World War II the dreamers, those who had this American ideal that you describe so deeply within themselves, still participated in a Party that many, many, many other people identified with what had happened in the Soviet Union long before you exited the Party?

Fast: You had a situation which existed…and to myself it’s not quite credible, but it existed, where the lies and pressures against the Soviet Union were so enormous that along with them we rejected the truth. We simply did not believe. We didn’t go there. We had no eyewitness to register. We didn’t believe. I didn’t believe. Everyone I knew didn’t believe. I did not believe that the accusations were conceivable. And may I say that during World War II a lot of other people didn’t believe in that time around then. A lot of people who were not Communists did not believe these accusations.

Heffner: Well let me ask…what divided…what was the dividing line between those who did believe, who saw, who got the reports of the trials, of the purges from the Soviet Union, and believe them. Why did people who stayed in the Party not believe them, as you say, and the others did? This was not really a generation on trial, because there were many in that generation who rejected the Party.

Fast: Those people who believed the worst of the Soviet Union…tremendous amount of it was true, no question about it…those people who believed it, were people who had to believe it because their bias against the Soviet Union and, along with that, against a great many of the people who were in the Communist Party, was such that they’re in a position to believe. We, we tend to believe what reinforces us, what reinforces our own beliefs. If we didn’t believe what reinforces our own beliefs how could this war that we’ve just seen have taken place? The American people who believe that we have a just and decent democracy had to believe that this war was just. How can they conceive that their President had manufactured this thing? Now people believe that way.

Heffner: Well, in believing that way I go back to in “Being Red” you, you tried to explain, you do explain, forgive me, I don’t mean that you try unsuccessfully…your own involvement in, let’s call it “radicalism”. You were talking about the poverty of your childhood. You say they were…talking about people who lived on Riverside Drive and Ft. Washington Avenue, “They were middle class people, but we had nothing, and to us they were wealthy and the only…was we knew wealth in those days of the 1920s…there was no safety net between…beneath the poor, no welfare, no churches handing out free dinners. Survival and poverty was your own affair. I have tried to explain this to people who expressed indignant wonder at the fact that I joined the Communist Party. The absence of unemployment insurance is educational in a way that nothing else is”. Does that mean that today you would not have been a believer in socialism which you saw in its really practical form as the Communist Party?

Fast: Well, you know, Socialism in America is far older than the Communist Party. The Communist Party came into being in 1921 if I’m not mistaken. Socialism, a socialist movement came into being at least 50 years before then. And it had very deep roots in the United States, so my belief in socialism is not entirely shaken…by no means…I have seen so much horror and so much misery produced by the profit system that I believe some day we must outgrow it. Some day we must find a different way to order the affairs of mankind.

Heffner: And yet you have also written that…let’s see if I find it…yeah, in one of your commentaries in The Observer, you say “I simply do not accept as any blueprint for socialism a system that does away with democracy, competition and any sort of viable market system”. Does that mean that the notion of competition and the market system has become so important for you that…

Fast: No. Competition…without competition we, we die I think. We become static.

Heffner: You’re not talking about competition of ideas only are you?

Fast: All kinds of competition. There is no reason why there should not be competition in a socialist system. It was the rigidity of the Soviet system that did away with competition because no rewards were offered for competition. Neither rewards in terms of dignity or honors or in terms of money. We must have competition, and we must have disagreement because unless two people like you and I can sit down and disagree publicly, in the eyes of millions, then the place where we live dies. It becomes static. It becomes a wasteland that is meaningless. So this democratic ideal must be at the basis of socialism. We must have competition, because without competition, as I said, things die. We must have a market system because unless you…unless you satisfy the market…so let me try to explain this in another way that perhaps people will get it more clearly: Years ago my wife and I were guests at the home of Dr. W. E. B. Dubois, the great Negro…I use the term “Negro” because that was the term used in his time, educator and encyclopedist. His wife was Shirley Graham, a Black writer, and that evening she had invited to the house her brother Bill Graham. Bill Graham was a very successful Black businessman, very bright. He had, at that time, the Coca Cola contract in Harlem. He had local contracts for some of the major beer companies. He was the most…probably the most prominent distributor of that kind in the various ghettoes of New York. He listened to us arguing these questions of Socialism and Communism the whole evening and finally he said, “Look, I’ve been listening to you. You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. I am going to do more to free my people than you can do”. “Well, how Bill? How? What are you going to do?” He said, “I have established a marketplace and my marketplace is so important that no company in the United States can fail…can, can afford to ignore my marketplace”. He said, “This is the most powerful force for freedom that you can imagine. Where people will consume products, they will be treated with respect”.

Heffner: Did you believe him?

Fast: Yes. I believed him at the time because what he said was absolutely obvious. What brings the companies around in America? The Blacks are a great marketplace. So, at the same time the desires, the needs of the Black and other ethnic communities are satisfied. They were never satisfied in the Soviet Union because there was no concept of a marketplace.

Heffner: I’m getting the signal that we have 30 seconds left…and I want to talk about his notion with you and I want to see how consistent this is with what, traditionally, we think of as Socialist ideas. So, if I can ask you and you’ll say “yes”, we’ll end this program…if you sit still we’ll start another one right afterwards.

Heffner: Thanks, Howard Fast, for joining me today. And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you’ll join us again next time. And if you care to share your thoughts about today’s program, today’s theme, today’s guest, please write to THE OPEN MIND, P.O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. For transcripts send $2.00 in check or money order. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck”.

Continuing production of this series has generously been made possible by grants from: The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation The M. Weiner Foundation of New Jersey The Edythe and Dean Dowling Foundation The New York Times Company Foundation The Richard Lounsbery Foundation and, from the corporate community, Mutual of America.


Howard Fast on ‘Being Red,’ Part II

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. And last time, when I introduced the first program with my guest today, I was sorely tempted to read the opening sentence of his intriguing recent memoir, Houghton Mifflin’s “Being Red”: In it he wrote, “There is no way to tell the story of the curious life that happened to me without dealing with the fact that I was for many years what that old brute Senator Joseph McCarthy delighted in calling ‘a card-carrying member of the Communist Party’”.

Instead, I noted that novelist, commentator, polemicist Howard Fast has written more than three score books, including such world-wide best sellers as “Citizen Tom Paine”, “Freedom Road”, and “Spartacus”, and even now writes a column for The Observer in New York.

Mr. Fast was sent to jail in the 1950s for refusing to name names – and, later, when he refused to remain in the Communist Party was assigned to Purgatory by his former Comrades. Well, last time we talked about what sense of himself and of the world informed those profound personal choices and Mr. Fast, I want to go back to that initial question: What your sense is of the nature of human nature that has taken you along the path that you have followed in lo these many decades.

Fast: Well, this…this is not a question that can be easily answered. Human nature, which I have watched with amazement for 77 years, is a very…a very…I’m trying to find the word for it…and it’s very hard for me to do so…a very malleable thing…let’s use that. Human nature is not definable. The human being is a construct, a product, a creation that responds to his environment in a new way, different from any other animal. The…all other animals accept, accept their environment and they live simply to deal with that environment. The human being changes his environment and in this process of changing his environment, he created civilization, as we call it. So…and you can only say that the human being is a creature who can manipulate his environment and in so doing produce an extraordinary number of situations.

Heffner: You know, it’s interesting to me that at the end of our first program together, we talked about competitiveness, about competition, and I read a selection from what you had written in the past in which you emphasized the importance of competition and the free market. So you’re talking about the nature of human nature there, that you can’t posit, I gather your feeling is, you can’t posit good will, you have to posit the notion that out of conflict, out of competition, arises what is best, or at least most successful in us.

Fast: I , I would also…then I’d also have to continue the definition of human nature. Human beings are creatures of love. The human being is a tribal creature and this tribal unit, this very ancient family unit is bound together, not only for its own preservation, but with bindings of love. The human being responds to love. The child who is loved and held tightly throughout his childhood, this becomes a healthy and a fine human being. The child who is not loved, who is mistreated, who is maltreated during his childhood, this is the source of what we call evil. This is the source of the killers, the criminals, the degenerate forms of mankind. We are creatures of love, and God help us when you take that love away. We are also creatures who cannot exist alone. When we try to exist alone we are malformed. We need each other. We actually…it’s, it’s my belief, but this is a sort of a metaphysical belief, but a very deep belief of mine, that all human beings are bound together, that we are a single organism, and it’s the shattering of this organism that brings most of the terrible ills of mankind. If we could empathize, and this, again, of course, I speak as a total pacifist, a confirmed pacifist…absolutely I believe that any arming of human beings to kill is sinful, immoral, unforgivable. Now if we could empathize with these poor peasants in Iraq, whom we destroyed so ruthlessly with our bombing, we would have said to ourselves, “why are we killing ourselves?” Because these people are ourselves. So you ask a question about human nature. You know, we could talk for the rest of the program.

Heffner: Well, you know, I was…I began that way because I was interested in seemingly the shift in the “Fast” philosophy…

Fast: Alright, now wait a minute…you spoke of competition before…

Fast: …alright, what…what essentially is competition? There are a whole variety, a thousand steps of competition. We’re competing now…you realize that, of course.

Heffner: I don’t feel that way at all.

Heffner: Because we’re exchanging…

Fast: Oh, but we’re not simply exchanging, we’re, we’re receiving a notion and we’re trying to clarify that notion and you throw it back at me and you want me to clarify it. And then I say, “Well, what about the notion, what does it…”, so in a very gentlemanly and friendly way we’re competing.

Heffner: But you see I…alright, let me tell you the level of competition for me. I rather thought that the younger Fast had put his emphasis totally upon cooperation. That part of humanity that you described so tenderly just before.

Fast: That has nothing to do with competition.

Heffner: No that’s what I’m saying, and that today Fast writes more about competitiveness and I wonder whether this is the difference between the old Socialist and the new Fast?

Fast: No, other differences, many other differences. You didn’t mention that I have written in my lifetime 16 plays. One of them was just played in the Emiline Theatre in Mamaroneck. It played there for the past 10 days. It closed yesterday…it’s a play about Jane Austen. I loved the theater and I write plays whenever I can and I’ve never gotten one into town, but they’re produced all over the country so that satisfies me. But when we talk about the theater…what is the theater? If you were to have drama…drama is competition. If there’s no competition, there’s no drama. If there’s no stress, there is no drama. Now, the thought that we could live without competition…this…this is probably one of the things that wreaked disaster in the Soviet Union. We, we must compete we must try to make things better. And you don’t make a thing better in and of itself. I make it better than you do, you make it better than I do. Otherwise, how would we make it better?

Heffner: But you don‘t think that there are…I’m not going to talk about “the children of light” and “the children of darkness”, but that there is a basic, psychological, philosophical, personal difference between those who emphasize competition and those who emphasize cooperation? And that it seems to me that in one…at one time of your life you emphasized the cooperativeness, the cooperation, the warmer, softer, gentler, as your friend George Bush…

Fast: …I won’t argue that. (Laughter)

Fast: Very…very likely it’s true. But…

Heffner: What changed your mind?

Fast: Oh, I don’t think I changed my mind. Good heavens, well, we…I don’t want us to get bogged down on the meaning of words because that becomes too complex and you never really finish it once you start it. I’ll grant you the point. Possibly I have more respect for competition today.

Heffner: You see, and it’s not to win, to make or to win a point, it’s because I think I have so much to learn from you. Not that I’m that much younger, but so much to learn, and I, I had this sense that as you look around you…you, for some reason, and I’m trying to identify why, not in the sense of “for some unknown reason”, I mean “my God, I can’t understand it”…some reason I’d like to understand. You know find the forces of the market, competition more…more of a plus than of the minus I think you once felt it was.

Fast: You know, if you want…let me tell…it’s personal, my own…

Fast: …and nobody’s talked about it…this is why I think the Soviet Union failed. It’s a strange reason. I think they failed because Stalin and the men around him in their iron-minded stupidity and rigidity destroyed the independent farmer. Because if they had not destroyed the independent farmer, there would be enough food in Russia today, and they would work out other problems. If people are well-fed and well-clothed they will not, they will not rebel in terms of change. They’ll seek for other means of change. The competition between farmers is very important. I don’t see how the United States could have developed this incredible farming system it has without competition. I remember something that was…piece that was on television, on Channel 13 many years ago. A farmer, I believe in Iowa, was talking and he said, “I farm, I’d say 1,000 acres. Government says you gotta leave 200 acres fallow, so now I have 800 acres. I produce more from the 800 than I did from the 1,000. Government comes back and says, ‘you’re down to 600’. Okay. I produce more from the 600 than I produced from the 1,000”. Now this is competition. This is the need of this man to produce more food.

Heffner: Well, invention is the mother of necessity…then why do we go back to your concern…how can we go back to your concern…about the 1920s…there was no safety net beneath the…

Heffner: …poor, no welfare, no churches handing out free dinners. But at…

Fast: Now you…now you speak of cruelty. Now you speak of a total lack of compassion. I don’t like that. This, this is for the fascist countries. Mr. Buckley once challenged me with that. He said, “If there was no welfare…if we forced the Blacks to either work or die, that would be better for them. Wouldn’t it? That would strengthen them. That would get rid of the weak and the strong would come to the fore and survive. That’s the way it was with our parents, grandparents, great grandparents”. Oh, no, no. Not so. Not so. Because when you create a mechanism that will do that, that will feed people, that will let people die instead of feeding them and taking care of them, they you have to undo the whole thing because you have a mechanism which is driven by brutes, exercised by brutes. This is what Adolf Hitler did. You know, there are many terrible things in the Holocaust, but there’s one thing about the Holocaust that is not enough mentioned. Hitler decided in part to murder 6 million Jews so that he wouldn’t have to feed them. This was a part of the solution. Germany was at war. Look at the food we save. So, there, there’s a difference between compassion and…

Heffner: I just wanted to make sure that Howard Fast hadn’t gone 180 degrees…

Heffner: …in his political odyssey. Gone 360 instead?

Fast: I am, I am in the position of Mencken, who said in the famous quote of his…I think I can get it almost right…Mencken said, “In all my life I’ve lived under a government with whom I have always disagreed, which I have always disliked, which I could not praise for any action…” and so forth and so on. I haven’t changed. I think what goes on in Washington is deplorable. I think these dreadful wars that are ticked off for the vanity of people…just…Reagan with his little vain war and now Bush with his vanity war that killed thousands of people…these, these are monstrous, deplorable things. I agree with Charles Peters of Washington magazine who said, “To have a victory parade after this war is like the parades Mussolini held when his troops came back from slaughtering the Ethiopians, who fought against their machine guns with spears and bows and arrows. And it’s like the parades that Hitler held when he wiped out the Polish resistance with his superior air power”. Well, these, these things…I haven’t changed in my attitude toward these things. I could not live with myself if I said “Hurray, we’ve won a great war”.

Heffner: Okay. Now Mr. Fast…we have 10 minutes left…to this second program. Forgive me, I want to go back to something from our first program together. I think you avoided the thrust of my question…I won’t say “evaded”. I asked you about…when you told the story of Ronald Reagan…a little known story of Ronald Reagan who you suggested wanted to find out what this thing was, the CP that, that so many of his friends and the people he admired, the creative people, many of the creative people in Hollywood were involved with. I’m…still want to know whether it was totally unfair to say that these people had an influence upon the making of motion pictures and that that influence in turn was felt, experienced by the American public.

Heffner: What did they do? I mean not in the realm of documentaries…you spoke about that…

Heffner: …I mean in the entertainment.

Fast: …they made tendentious pictures. In other words, they used film educationally and if you will, propagandistically. I mentioned two of the films that are classically tendentious films of World War II, “Action in the North Atlantic” in which…I then called it “All Out on the Road to Mermansk”, that was another film. I meant “Action in the North Atlantic”, which was written by John Howard Lawson, in which Humphrey Bogart played the lead, and the other one, “Sahara”. Now, this…these people in Hollywood who were either Communists or Left Wingers, they felt that films had to teach and films had to move people toward what they felt were more democratic…

Fast: …outlooks and positions.

Heffner: If that’s the case, was Martin Dyes, a name that was hateful to me as a young man, and of course, to you, was Dyes and were the others who tried to find un-Americanism in film, were they so truly wrong in saying that the writers…

Fast: Because if Americanism is decency, then today the film business is loaded with anti-American…”Die Hard”, kill this, killer this…is this Americanism? Is this…to hold themselves up to the entire world as a nation of lunatic slaughterers, people like “Rambo” who run around with rapid fire weapons, killing everything in sight? Is this Americanism? Or…

Fast: …is decency and democracy Americanism?

Heffner: So then what you’re saying and in our last program you mentioned “Ballad for Americans”, and when you go back and read the lyrics carefully of “Ballad for Americans”, one realizes that Paul Robeson, and the others who did sing it, too, were talking about the great American tradition.

Heffner: And that it had been stolen by those who would do the things that you opposed, that the great American tradition, one of cooperation, had been undermined.

Fast: If a Dyes Committee were to fight the studios that make such garbage and “Die Hard” and “Rambo” and the rest of them, I would oppose them to my last bit of strength, because we must allow it. This must be open. We must endure the garbage for whatever good we can produce at the same time. And now and then we produce a beautiful picture that says something. It may be that “Dances with Wolves” is a fairytale as so many people say, but it’s a beautiful fairytale, and I want…well, I can’t say “my kids” because my kids are middle-aged, but I want my grandchildren to see “Dances with Wolves” and in this way they will get a deeper and a better understanding of what this country is. I don’t want them to see the “Rambo” stuff and the rest of that garbage. So what is American and what is un-American, the people and only the people can decide and they must decide it by either buying tickets or not buying tickets. There’s no Martin Dyes, no un-American Committee, none of those people…in the first place, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. We have in Washington a compodium of such boobs as never existed before in one city. So, God knows they must not make any judgments…how do they dare, how do they dare make judgments about what is art? They wouldn’t know “art” if they met it face to face every day of their lives.

Heffner: You sound as though you were talking about your former colleagues in the Communist Party.

Fast: Ah, maybe in a sense I was. Maybe in a sense I was. Because certainly, certainly they often took attitudes which were the same…censorious attitudes…you can’t do that.

Heffner: Politically correct is an expression that’s being used these days. As I read “Being Red” and read a good deal more than you had written, I couldn’t help but think that there is a great parallel between thrust toward being politically correct today and the political correctness of the Party back in the 30s and the 40s.

Fast: There’s no political correctness. There’s nothing that’s politically correct. My God, did you ever see a child say “I want to grow up and be a politician? I mean the very word is a symbol for corruption in our country. The thought of this pack of people in Washington being “politically correct”, it’s unthinkable.

Heffner: Couple minutes left. Once a critic wrote of you, “Fast’s article”, referring to an article you had written “reveals him as unchanged. In the past his praise of the Soviet Union, as was the case with many Communists often went to extremes. Today while the American Party has moved to a more independent position, Fast continues to be Soviet oriented, but in reverse. What was formerly beacon has become bug-a-boo. What was previously the source of all good is now the major source of evil, certainly of evil in the Socialist world, and the Communist movement, then of much of the evil elsewhere”.

Fast: He’s got it all wrong. I have…I believe the Soviet Union is one of the important concepts, political concepts on the face of the earth. It’s there. And either it becomes something promising and good, or else terrible, terrible things will happen. No, I’m not an enemy of the Soviet Union. He is ridiculous. I, I feel that Communism is ridden with faults, and that these faults brought a great project to its destruction. But to be an enemy…I’ve never, never written anything about the Soviet Union to back up whatever, whoever that man is, to back up what he’s written there. No. I, I have a lot of hope, very high hopes that the Soviet Union will emerge from this as a democratic state.

Heffner: As a democratic state?

Fast: Yes, a democratic, socialist state because I believe that may happen.

Heffner: Do you think it will happen to us?

Fast: In the United States?

Heffner: A democratic, Socialist state?

Fast: I don’t know. There’s no way to know. No way to predict. I don’t know what form it will take here. Something will have to be done. Greed won’t keep the country running. Something has to be done here. We have too many increasing poor and too many very rich and somehow this must be straightened out.

Heffner: That’s what you felt when you were a very young man, right?

Heffner: And you took action. You took political action.

Heffner: What would you do now?

Fast: Oh, I write. I write it in The Observer every week. I let go, I write whatever comes to mind, and I write it with no restraints.

Heffner: Are you as convinced now as you were in the 20s that we can’t move on as we have been moving?

Fast: That we can’t move on? You know we, we are a great…

Fast: …wonderful structure, all the Bushes in the world cannot destroy us. Sununu cannot destroy us. All the boobs in Washington cannot destroy us. This is a great country. It is filled with good, compassionate people and we will work these things out. Now don’t ask me how. I have no crystal ball. But I have great faith in America. We have taught the world that ethnics of ten different, of a hundred different races can live together in peace. And that’s the great lesson of America and it goes on.

Heffner: Howard Fast, that’s probably the best and the most optimistic note to end on and I do want to thank you for joining me today and during the last program.

Heffner: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you’ll join us again next time. And if you care to share your thoughts about today’s program, today’s guest, please write to THE OPEN MIND, P.O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. For transcripts send $2.00 in check or money order. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck”.

Continuing production of this series has generously been made possible by grants from: The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation The M. Weiner Foundation of New Jersey The Edythe and Dean Dowling Foundation The New York Times Company Foundation The Richard Lounsbery Foundation and, from the corporate community, Mutual of America.


Howard Fast

Naceu en Nova York. A súa nai foi unha inmigrante xudía británica e o seu pai, Barney Fastovsky, un inmigrante xudeu ucraíno. Ao morrer a súa nai en 1923 e co seu pai en paro, o irmán máis novo de Howard, Julius, foi vivir cuns parentes, mentres que Howard e o seu irmán maior Jerome traballaron vendendo periódicos. Demostrou ser un lector voraz de novo lendo para un traballo a tempo parcial na biblioteca pública de Nova York.

O mozo Howard comezou a escribir cando era novo. Mentres fai autostop e monta en ferrocarrís que percorren o país en busca de traballos, escribe. A súa primeira novela, Two Valleys (Dous Vales), foi publicada en 1933, con 18 anos de idade. A súa primeira obra popular é Citizen Tom Paine (Cidadán Tom Paine), un conto sobre a vida de Thomas Paine. Interesado sempre na historia americana, escribe The Last Frontier, (A última fronteira), sobre unha tentativa dos cheyennes de volver á súa terra nativa e Freedom Road (Camiño da liberdade), sobre as vidas dos antigos escravos durante o Período de reconstrución.

En 1948 escribe "My glorious brothers sobre a epopea dos macabeos, vencendo aos greco-sirios seleucidas. Trata sobre o amor dos xudeus pola súa terra e a liberdade.

Home de esquerdas con ideas progresistas, uniuse ao Partido Comunista dos Estados Unidos en 1944 e foi chamado polo Comité de Actividades Anti-Americanas. [ 1 ] [ 2 ] Rexeitou divulgar os nomes dos contribuíntes ao Joint Antifascist Refugee Comittee (Comité de Axuda aos Refuxiados Antifascistas), que comprara un antigo convento en Tolosa para convertelo nun hospital no que traballaban os cuá­queros axudando a refuxiados republicanos da Guerra Civil Española (un dos contribuíntes era Eleanor Roosevelt), e encarcerárono por tres meses en 1950 por desacato ao Congreso. [ 3 ] Despois queda inscrito nas listas negras do macartismo e ten que utilizar pseudónimos para poder publicar.

Mentres estaba no cárcere comezou a escribir o seu traballo máis famoso, Spartacus, novela sobre a sublevación dos escravos romanos encabezada por Espartaco. Fast envioullo ao seu editor en Little, Brown and Company, ao que lle entusiasmou a novela, pero J. Edgar Hoo­ver enviou unha carta adver­tíndolles de que non deberían publicala. Tras isto pasou por outros sete coñecidos editores con idéntico resultado. O último deles foi Doubleday e tras unha reunión do comité editorial, George Hecht, entón xefe da cadea de li­brerías de Doubleday, saíu da sala enfadado e desgustado por tal acto de covardía, chamou por teléfono a Fast e aseguroulle que se publicaba o libro pola súa con­ta faríalle un pedido de seiscentos exemplares. [ 3 ]

Fast nunca o fixo, pero co apoio de liberais e os escasos soldos seu e da súa muller, creou Blue Heron Press e publicou o libro. Para a súa sorpresa vendéronse máis de corenta mil exemplares da obra en tapa dura, que pasaron a ser varios millóns tralo final do Macartismo. Foi traducido a 56 idiomas e dez anos logo da súa publicación, Kirk Douglas convenceu a Universal para rodar unha película baseada na novela. Ao forzar Douglas a inclusión nos títulos de crédito do nome de Dalton Trumbo, escritor tamén na lista negra que realizara a adaptación da novela, rompeu de feito dita lista. A película foi un éxito, gañou catro Oscar e foi nomeada a outros dous.

Posto na Lista Negra polas súas actividades comunistas e os seus antecedentes penais, Fast era incapaz de publicar baixo o seu propio nome (excepto en Blue Heron Press, que ademais publicou libros doutros autores na Lista Negra), polo que utilizou varios pseudónimos, incluíndo E.V. Cunningham, co que publicou unha serie popular de novelas de detectives protagonizadas por Masao Masuto, un Nisei (fillo de emigrantes xaponeses) membro do departamento de policía de Beverly Hills (California).

En 1952 traballa para o Partido Laborista Americano. Durante os anos 50 tamén traballou para o xornal do partido comunista, o Daily Worker. En 1953, concedéronlle o Premio Stalin da Paz. En 1956 abandona o partido en protesta pola política represiva da Unión Soviética con Hungría. [ 3 ]

Escribe ao pouco April Morning, unha historia sobre as Batallas de Lexington e Concord desde a perspectiva dun adolescente ficticio. Aínda que non suscitada como novela do adulto novo, converteuse nunha asignación frecuente en escolas secundarias americanas e é probablemente o seu traballo máis popular a principios do século XXI. Fíxose unha película para a televisión en 1988.

Escribe tamén contos de Ciencia Ficción que, tras ser publicados en revistas e obras colectivas, son publicados como recompilacións.

En 1974 múdase coa súa familia a California, onde escribe guións de series de televisión e de How the West Was Won. En 1977 publicou The Immigrants (Os Emigrantes), primeira dunha serie de seis novelas.

O seu fillo Jonathan Fast, tamén novelista, é o marido da novelista Erica Jong.

Como escritor, o éxito sorriulle desde mozo, grazas ás súas novelas históricas, que son sempre apaixonados cánticos á liberdade. En Spartacus (1951), a máis popular das mesmas, na que narra a abortada revolta dos escravos contra Roma (73-71 a.d.C.), figura unha dedicatoria que reflicte fielmente o seu credo persoal: Escribino para que aqueles que o lean -os meus fillos e os fillos doutros- adquiran grazas a el fortaleza para afrontar o noso turbulento futuro e poidan loitar contra a opresión e a inxustiza.

Foi un dos fundadores do Movemento Mundial da Paz e membro do seu consello director durante cinco anos (1950-1955). Tamén foi candidato ao Congreso, por Nova York, co America Labor Party.


Howard Fast

Howard Melvin Fast, född 11 november 1914 i New York i New York, död 12 mars 2003 i Greenwich i Connecticut, var en amerikansk författare, främst känd för den historiska romanen Spartakus. Han härstammade från ukrainsk-judiska invandrare. Hans tidiga historiska romaner (I frihetens namn, Sista gränsen och Frihetens väg) hälsades som mästerverk av kritikerna. Eftersom hans romaner hyllade friheten, utsågs han 1942 till huvudförfattare för Voice of Americas radiosändningar till det ockuperade Europa. 1945 reste han som krigskorrespondent i Asien. Men 1947 kallades han som vittne inför kongressens utskott för oamerikansk verksamhet. Han vägrade att namnge andra kommunistsympatisörer och blev då fängslad.

Efter fängelsestraffet ville inget förlag publicera hans romaner. Spartakus tvingades han publicera på eget förlag. Han var fortfarande aktiv kommunist. Han grundade World Peace Movement och var 1950-1954 ledamot av World Peace Council och mottog 1954 Stalins internationella fredspris. Först efter Ungernupproret 1956 bröt Fast med kommunistinternationalen.


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