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Masses & Mainstream
March, 1951, p 31-32

Greetings to Foster

WHAT do you say about Bill Foster? Years ago, I lunched with Jacob Potofsky – he was not yet head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America – and he asked me whether I wouldn't write a book about Sidney Hillman.

"If I wrote a book about a labor leader in America," I answered, "it wouldn't be Hillman."

"No," Potofsky agreed. "I suppose it would be Foster."

Not in deference to me or what I thought of Foster; but in simple acknowledgment of the fact that Foster was a giant, and that there was no other man in the labor movement who measured up to the great size of him. Even Potofsky recognized and paid tribute to the fact of William Z. Foster.

It is the peculiar and particular wholeness of Foster. In this time of cowardice and treachery and sell-out and renegacy, here is a man of seventy years whose whole life makes a uniform pattern. It is not only the shape of an honest man – so rare these days – but a man of such profound yet simple integrity that even those so-called labor leaders who have sold and betrayed the working class time after time, find it most difficult to lie about one whose life exemplifies everything brave and good and decent, everything that they turned their backs upon.

I might say that in Bill Foster there is a singular significance for me, as a writer. He lives the answer to the defeatism, the obscurantism, the cheap and miserable pessimism, the brutality which pervades our literature today. In his own life, Foster is the confirmation of the strength and the goodness of human beings. He is the new hero whom the writer must seek today, a man who was formed and shaped out of the historic strength of the working class; and who realized it consciously and scientifically; and who never turned his back on the people who gave him so much of his strength and his stature.

Where are such men on the other side? Measure against him the dirty, conscienceless sell-out artists, the sniveling Social-Democrats, the murderous masters of death, the Dubinskys, the Murrays, the Trumans and the Eisenhowers. Measure them against him, and you will see clearly – so very clearly – why Bill Foster's cause will triumph.

A word on him as a writer and scholar. As a writer, I have always had real admiration for a man who wrote so beautifully and so understandably on the most complex of themes. His writing, as with other things, is a part of that wholeness of him – his closeness to the people and to the language they speak. And his latest work, a Marxist history of the Americas, is one of the foremost scholarly contributions of our times.

He has that full and varied stature which signifies a complete man.

Howard Fast

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