Masses & Mainstream
April, 1957, pp 54-55
MORE COMMENTS ON HOWARD FAST
Bert Cochran, Editor, American Socialist
Howard Fast's break with Stalinism is the only way one should make this kind of a break, be it individual or collective - straight-from-the-shoulder, clear-cut, and public. What has been so disturbing about many of the post-Twentieth Congress reformations was their queasiness. It has been written long ago that nothing important is ever done in this world without passion. All the more is it true about this kind of a proposition. Far better that the stick be bent a bit in the opposite direction in the act of cutting loose from a school of Jesuitism than that the break be announced in a voice so quavering and uncertain as to cast its purpose into doubt, and qualified with so many reservations as to make dubious its permanency.
Also commendable in my opinion is Howard Fast's long anguished wail on discovering himself the victim "of the most incredible swindle in modern times." After all, there is more to socialism than a belief in the nationalization of the means of production and exchange. You don't make a socialist by simply demonstrating with a lot of charts and graphs that collectivization is superior from an engineering point of view. Beyond an understanding of society and history lies the passion for truth, for justice, for equality, which the modern world has now put within the grasp of mankind. That is why one may look askance at those who adopt resolutions about past "mistakes" with the same ease and unthinking repetition of ritualistic phrase with which they whitewashed any and every outrage in the past. In counter-distinction, Howard Fast's statement has the earmarks. of something personal, something deeply felt and sincerely meant. That is why it deserves to be taken seriously.
Many writers and intellectuals have broken from Communism in the past fifteen years, and most of them have travelled long distances on to conformity from the points at which they stood at the moment of their break. The pressures of this society are many and powerful, and the bitter disillusionment which an experience with Stalinism invariably breeds, made them easy victims for succumbing to the wiles and competing for the rewards of official public opinion. What political outlook Howard Fast will finally work out for himself no one can say. It is a matter of satisfaction that his present statement is written from the standpoint of an independent radical who pledges to continue the good fight. If he stays true to this vow, Fast can be of considerable importance in helping to create the climate for a new democratic socialist movement in this country. He is in a position to render great service.