HOME     by HF:   Anthologies   Articles   Films   Intros   Juvenile   Mystery   Non-fiction   Novels   Pamphlets   Plays   Poetry   Stories  
  site:   About HF   Texts   Reviews   Chrono Checklist   Bookstore   Bulletin Board   Site Search   Author Index   Title Index  
Blue Heron Press   Citizen Tom Paine   Freedom Road   Last Frontier   My Glorious Brothers   Spartacus   The Children   Peekskill   Unvanquished   Masuto   EVC's Women  

Prospects, An Annual of American Cultural Studies
Volume 20, 1995, p. 511-523
© Cambridge University Press

A Conversation with Howard Fast,
March 23, 19941

Conducted by ALAN WALD and ALAN FILREIS
Edited by THOMAS J. SUGRUE

ALAN WALD: When we read your memoir that came out in 1990, Being Red, many of us had also read an earlier book called The Naked God in 1957 – and our impression of your experience was represented by The Naked God until we read Being Red. There seems to many of us to be a big difference between the two books and it is also noticed by some of us that in your long list of books in front of Being Red you don't mention The Naked God, and in Being Red you don't talk about The Naked God. So we are wondering whether or not Being Red is sort of a new version of the past that is appropriate for some reason. Is there something inadequate, perhaps, about the earlier version or some political need now to rethink and reform your ideas? What are the differences between the two books? Why did you write the second?

HOWARD FAST: The chief difference is thirty-five years – which is a big difference. When I wrote The Naked God, I was very angry. I was furious with what I considered a betrayal of people of good will by a large part of the leadership of the Communist Party. You see, I do not look upon the destruction of the Soviet Union and the careers of the men who led the Soviet Union as an attempt to establish a tyranny. I look upon it as a betrayal of the long struggle of man to create an equitable society. If, if – and like all "ifs" it is rather unthinkable – but if the leadership of the struggle of the Soviet Union had not fallen into the hands of Stalin and the people around him, would it have been any different?
Well, after an experience of twelve years as a member of the Communist Party of the United States, I can say it would have been no different. The structure – Leninist concept – of a party that was incorruptible was as fallible as all other dreams. All parties are corruptible, and Lenin created a form of party that was even more corruptible than any of the capitalist parties. So, when I wrote The Naked God, everything had come up to hit me in the face, and particularly the report of Khrushchev to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Union. Now people said to us – by us I mean people in the Communist movement, the many, indeed hundreds of thousands of people who were associated with it as fellow travelers and friends – they said to me and to all of us: "How could you not know what was happening?" The answer is that at least half of the people who were gathered in the hall of the Supreme Soviet listening to Khrushchev also did not know what was going on. There was a cloak of secrecy that had never been penetrated until Khrushchev made his speech.
The list of people who saw in the Soviet Union the salvation of mankind goes from George Bernard Shaw and Sean O'Casey and Bertrand Russell to so many others. All of us believed that the torrent of anti-Soviet propaganda was without foundation. This is something that will be studied by future scholars, and they will ask how is it possible that you were willing to die? And so many of us did die, and so many of the boys I knew who went to Spain died there, all of them believing what Lincoln Steffens had said was true, "I have seen the future and it works." Was that the future?
It did not work. And when we saw it collapse, our anger was enormous. In those few weeks . . . by the way I should say that I hope you know what I am referring to when I speak about the Khrushchev speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Union. It was a twenty-thousand-word document read in a secret session to representatives of the Communist Party from all over the world. And, as a matter of fact, in historical hindsight, it is the Khrushchev speech at the 20th Congress that destroyed the world organization of the Leninist Party as it existed. Now, there was a Hungarian delegate there who took his copy of the speech (they were all given copies) and sold it to the CIA. The CIA had it translated and gave it to the New York Times. The editorial board of the Times called us at the Daily Worker and said, "Look, we have a copy of Khrushchev's speech to the 20th Congress. We are satisfied, totally satisfied, that this is a verbatim and totally honest copy." (Which as it turns out it was.) "Do you want it?" We said, "Send it right over." So the Times copied it and sent it right over to us.
There was a meeting in the editorial rooms of the Daily Worker that somehow has not been mentioned here this afternoon, but I must mention that in its thirty-five-year history this paper never retreated, never hesitated. It printed the truth as we saw the truth for every one of those thirty-five years. Every measure of force and legality that the United States could garner was used against us. I say "us" because, on and off through a period of twelve years, I worked without pay as both a correspondent and a columnist for the Daily Worker. We gathered there in the editorial rooms and for the next several hours listened to the collapse of our world, the collapse of our dreams, the collapse of what people who are beloved of us, our dearest friends had died for. And willingly died for. All of it crumbling there. Then we did what no other Communist newspaper in the world did. We published the entire text of the Khrushchev speech in the Daily Worker. It took a whole expanded edition to do it. We were the only Communist Party in the world that had the courage to do that. For the next two weeks, we launched a series of attacks on the Soviet leadership. Not the kind of attacks that a capitalist press had been launching against them in the past half-century. We said, "You have betrayed us. You have betrayed the human race. You have betrayed everything that man believed in."

WALD: So one of the big differences – to you – between the two books [The Naked God and Being Red] is that the first is written in the anger of betrayal?

FAST: In rage. Being Red is written in reflection.

WALD: There is something here in this version that you see in the past that you want to pass on to the younger generation as positive. Is that more than rage?

FAST: Perhaps more that is positive. Perhaps less that is rage. Because when I wrote The Naked God there was no perspective. We did not understand. How could men who accepted the brotherhood of man – how could such men betray us? How could they do it?

ALAN FILREIS: In that era of frustration and anger, you wrote a letter, which I have here, in which you said, "I guess I am over the worst of it." This is after you left the Party. It is dated October 1, 1957: "All of those with just a few exceptions whom I loved and honored in the Party have left it. Many of us keep thinking how lucky we are. I know I often have that thought. There were many nights of heartsickness and fear but that is mostly done with now. The problem now is not to hate out of a subjective sense of tragedy, but I suppose that has always been the problem with those who left."
Can you tell us a little more about the "hear/sickness and fear"?

FAST: The Communist Party ran a training school up on the Hudson River. It was in a summer hotel. They would take fifteen or twenty – most of us veterans, people who had come out of World War II – and subject us to a fantastically compressed course of philosophy and socialism and Marxism, and the whole rest of it. It was a great experience for me. It lasted only two weeks, but the people I met there, all of them, were steelworkers and coal miners. It was just a marvelous experience to be with them for those two weeks. All of them veterans and at least a half-dozen of them veterans of the Spanish [Civil] War. And a question came up that sounds completely cynical: "Suppose the Party instructed you to go to the top of the Empire State Building and jump off? What would you do?" My answer was I'd tell them to go to hell. But there were people there – working people there – who said, "If it was necessary for the victory of the working class I would do it." And they would. And they believed it. So when you ask about the heartsickness, think about what these men would do.

WALD: This raises an important question for us. If it's true, as you and as many other people have written about the Communist Party say, that the flaw in the American Communist Party was its dependence on and delusions in regard to the Soviet Union, how much of the heroism and self-sacrifice were dependent on that belief? Would all those people – such as the three thousand Americans who went to Spain to fight, with two thousand of them dying because they had very few weapons and so on – have made great sacrifices if they had not really believed that the Soviet Union was the first step forward? Would people have resisted McCarthyism so heroically if they had not believed that somewhere people had really created socialism?

FAST: That's a good question. Think of what the position of the Soviet Union was. If you know the history of the Spanish War, you know that to some extent – and I think to a very large extent – the Soviet Union betrayed the Spanish Republic, because Hitler sent his dive bombers and Mussolini sent his Blackshirts, and all sorts of aid was given to the Franco forces, but the Soviet aid to the Republic was minimal. And yet it was not enough to shake us. We made excuses. The Soviet Union had to do this. They were in a position where they could not give us the aid that the Republic needed to be victorious, even though a victory in Spain would have changed the whole course of events that led to World War II.
On the other hand, I have to say this: We had the best party in the world. We had the best of America, the best of American know-how. With this little party, we worked wonders. And if the Soviet Union had not been there, there still would have been a working-class party, but it would have taken a different direction and would have been a different kind of a party. There has always been a socialist movement of sorts in America going way back to the middle of the 19th Century. No such measures were taken against the socialist forces in Europe or England, for example. Why this sudden outburst of murderous fury against the Communist Party of the United States?

FILREIS: One of the things that Alan's [Alan Wald's] work has led me to is an enormous appreciation of the Left's antiracism activities and policy in this period. One of your most remarkable activities was the "We Charge Genocide" petition to the United Nations for "relief from crime of the U.S. government against the Negro people."

FAST: It was my idea.

FILREIS: It was your idea. It's astonishing when you think about it. A number of Americans appealed to the United Nations for "relief from crimes of the U.S. government against the Negro people." I would like you to think about how that looks to you now – years later – after the Khrushchev revelations [that] a party that did or did not know what is going on in the Soviet Union was charging genocide that was perpetrated by the United States against some of its own people. How complicated is that?

FAST: The Soviet Union, the leaders of the Soviet Union – and this I know from personal experience – never understood "the Negro question" and in those days we called it "the Negro question." This was a very pertinent focus, a chief focus of the Communist Party here. I will get to that in a moment. There was a man called Willy McGee who was unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment, I believe, or perhaps death. . .

WALD: He was executed.

FAST: He was executed. My memory goes. Just before he was executed, the Party asked for volunteers to go to Washington, D.C., and make a rather unique protest. So this group went to Washington and I went with them to write about it for the Daily Worker. They went to the Lincoln Memorial. Half of the men there were Spanish vets. They chained themselves to the Lincoln Memorial – to the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial. I think there were about ten men chained in a circle around each pillar. Fortunately I was not chained. I was standing at the side with my little notebook – which is always an advantage a reporter has – to be out of the direct line of fire. We had every expectation that the Washington police would simply come and open fire against these men. They didn't. They came and cut the chains and they didn't even put us in jail.
But to get back to your question. Afterwards I was discussing this with Bill Patterson, who was one of the leading black Communists at the time. This was when the drive of the Negro people was integration, not separation, and the drive of the Party was toward integration. We were discussing what had happened in Europe – the Holocaust. I said, "Bill, if we put together every unjustified murder – the death of a black in the South you would have a Holocaust. You would have the material for it. Could you get the records?" He thought he could. That is how the book appeared which was titled We Charge Genocide. Then I said, "Let's take it to the United Nations."

WALD: I want to ask you something about the cultural activity in the 1950s. Again, I don't ask these questions merely out of curiosity about the past, but many young people today would like to be cultural workers who participate in antiracist struggles and pro-union struggles, and use their talents to forward our contemporary socialist values, but they are uncertain as cultural workers how they can relate to a political party. So I want to look back at the Communist experience about what is recuperable and what could be rejected. You talk in both Being Red and in The Naked God about the cultural section of the Party. You talk about your relations with [Lionel] Berman and [V. J.] Jerome. And you describe a situation in which it seems that you are continually being watched for the possible misuse of a word or for writing something that could be misinterpreted, or for creating an ending of Spartacus that is not quite right. And yet you have a lot of freedom, too, because no one is forcing you to submit your manuscripts in advance and no one is telling you what to write in advance, but there is a feeling of somebody watching over your shoulder. I think you gained a lot of freedom from having a connection with the radical movement in terms of giving you themes and inspiration, but there are constraints at the same time. What can we learn today in terms of the relationship of the artist to political struggle and political organizations?

FAST: Well, to begin with, aside from my rage and grief and anger, there is also part of me that was very happy that the Communist Party of the United States came to its end. It was constructed as the Soviet Party was constructed. I understood everything that happened in Russia because I saw the same thing happening in a minuscule fashion in our Party. And here you heard some nice things said about V. J. Jerome. I always looked upon V. J. Jerome – who was the cultural czar of the Communist Party – as a horrible, rigid little monster who never knew what he was doing. In the Soviet Union, the things I did would have been, I suppose, punishable by death or by being put away in one of the camps or whatever. But, here, the Party lacked the power. They lacked the power to inflict any punishment on a member of the Party except expulsion from the Party. They would have liked to have expelled me on many occasions, but they were afraid to because so many had left. I was one of the few remaining. On one occasion, I wrote a piece about a meeting in Boston and I said there were white boys and black boys and white girls and black girls. And, for this, they brought me up on expulsion for using the term girl in connection with a black person. They were rigid. They were stupid. And I am talking now about the top leadership of the Party. When I wrote My Glorious Brothers in 1948, they brought me up for expulsion. Jewish nationalism. Thank God there was a man in the leadership named Jack Statchel who said any Jew here in 1948 who is not a Jewish nationalist is an idiot. So they dropped that.
Now, the cultural things we did as individuals, we did. There was very little the Party could do about it except to criticize it. And I am not talking in this sense about the great proletarian, the great anti-institutional novelist writers we have in this country: a man like [Samuel] Ornitz writing Haunch, Paunch and Jowl as a Communist, Mike Gold writing Jews Without Money, or Cliff Odets writing Awake and Sing. These were not subject in any sense to the Party. The Party had enough sense to know that they had to keep hands off. But in certain cases where the Party made something possible, they thought that they had the right to have hands on.

WALD: You tend to use "they" to refer to officials such as Jerome, yet in the case of Albert Maltz, who wrote about the need for more freedom, you yourself were one of the people who jumped on Maltz.

FAST: Yes, yes I did.

WALD: And you would not regard yourself as one of the "idiots" at the top?

FAST: At the time, yes. Jack Lawson – John Howard Lawson – who was the cultural commissar of the Party on the West Coast was writing a history of Western culture and, when certain things happened in terms of World War II, he began to revise it. Maltz attacked him severely and Maltz was a beloved friend of mine. (It was one of the consolations of being in prison that I was in prison with him.) When [Lawson] felt that events forced him to change much of what he had written, Maltz said, "No, if you write honestly and truly, you should not have to change it." And, in a sense, Maltz was right. I thought Maltz was all wrong because at that time I believed wholly in anything that John Howard Lawson or V. J. Jerome would say.

WALD: But the article that Maltz wrote- "What Shall We Ask of Writers?" – was not about Lawson. It was arguing that we cannot judge writers by their political commitments. He particularly pointed to James T. Farrell, whom you yourself admired very much, as an example of a writer whose writing was criticized because he had gone over to Trotskyism.

FAST: Maltz was right.

WALD: You and others such as [Samuel] Sillen and Gold – even though Sillen is a very nice man and Gold is a charming loveable guy – jumped on Maltz viciously until he finally capitulated and said he was wrong and that art is a weapon and people have to be judged by their politics.

FAST: That is absolutely true.

WALD: So there was something more than stupid guys at the top. There must have been some kind of culture that encouraged the judgment of art by political positions.

FAST: It was more than a culture. It was a dogmatic part of the Party's existence. Let me give you an even more horrible example – where, thank God, I was at that point where you grow and you change unless you have a rock mind. I wrote a play [The Hammer] about a family that had three sons and one became a wealthy businessman and war profiteer. It was a Jewish family, obviously. An actor, Michael Lewin, a skinny little guy with thin red hair and one of those pasty white skins, played the father. And this was to be a great surprise for me when I came out of prison. I come out of prison. I go down with my wife to watch. And who do I see walk onto stage as the third son, but James Earl Jones. With a voice that shook the place. Six feet tall, built like a mountain.
Oy! I said, "Herb! What the hell are you doing? This is a Jewish family.2 The father is a skinny, little redheaded Jew. What are you doing?"
He said, "We are carrying out a decision of the Party that the validity of what the theater calls the suspension of disbelief is more valid than casting according to type."
I said, "But everyone is going to see Jimmy Jones. They will not see the suspension of disbelief. Nobody has that much suspension of disbelief."
They came down on me with great force and either I accepted it or all sorts of things would lead up to my expulsion – which was always the case. The first night – the opening night – was sold out to an organization that no longer exists, a Jewish garmentworkers organization called the Jewish People's Organization or something of that sort.3 It was one of those working-class mutual-insurance groups. And they filled the theater. Everything is going nicely and all of a sudden Jones walks onto the stage. And I hear all over, in Yiddish, "Was tut de shvartze?" Well, the rest of the show was a nightmare. And the Herald Tribune critic who was there came to me afterward and said, "Fast, I admire you and I'm gonna do you a favor and not review this."

FILREIS: This is an example of unintentional Party high hilarity. In Being Red, you describe at least one story that I found wonderful, which suggested intentional Party high hilarity. Something that you did that was outrageous and funny to you and part of some kind of protest activity. I am recalling the story where you and a friend rented a room, put up a speaker, locked the door on the way out. You had moments like that which were not moments of super seriousness that were creative and innovative.

FAST: When Truman recalled MacArthur, they were going to have a great parade up Park Avenue for MacArthur. One of my friends who was a Lincoln [Brigade] veteran, Irv Goff, a wonderful man, came to me and said, "Look, I talked the Party into it. We will rent a room in the Waldorf and put so much magnification in there and we'll play a record that can be heard all over Manhattan Island denouncing MacArthur, denouncing Truman: "Bring the boys back! Why did you bring MacArthur back?!" So I wrote this thing, a very passionate little piece, and I recorded it. I had a friend who was a bond salesman who used to sell phony bonds, but in his heart he was all left-wing. And he rented a room in the Waldorf facing Park Avenue. Then there were electricians and radio men in the Party. They got these giant speakers that we had to fold up to put into suitcases, and all sorts of amplifying material put into suitcases.
There were fifty secret service men and over a hundred G-men, not to mention five hundred New York cops around that building and in every floor of it, and we had to walk about a thousand pounds of electronic material through them. If ever there was a testimony of the stupidity of the Secret Service and the Justice Department! We brought it all into this room and we set it all up there and we were ready to go. We closed the door and worked the key back and forth and snapped the key in the lock, so the only way to open the door was to take the lock out. After that, we discovered that the Waldorf had direct current – they did not have alternating current.
So, Goff went down to the Party headquarters on 13th Street and explained the situation. They asked him, "How do we know that you and Fast aren't government agents and deliberately screwed it up? There is only one way to prove you're not. That's two thousand dollars worth of material that the Party put out for. You've gotta go up there and bring it out." You have to explain to fifty secret service, G-men, and cops . . . They said, "Either do that or you're both out." Then we had to find a locksmith who was a Communist, and we found him. He took the lock off, Secret Service and all. And we put two thousand dollars worth of amplifying machinery back into the suitcases and took it out of the Waldorf. And no one was caught and no one was punished for it.

WALD: I would like to ask a question about the literary impact of the Cold War in terms of your writing style and strategy. One of the most remarkable novels you ever wrote is The Proud and the Free, which came out just as you were going to prison. It is a remarkable novel for me because, as someone who follows the New Left revisions of U.S. history, I have noticed all the revisions about slavery and the Civil War. But you take up the American Revolution and argue that in fact there was a class struggle within the American Revolution between what you call the foreign brigades, the Pennsylvania Line, made up of basically poor people children of indentured servants, blacks, Jews, and so on – and the gentry officers. When I look at all the revisionist historians of the New Left generation, I do not see anybody else who has yet to take up that question. I think you were way ahead. I wonder whether the crisis of the Cold War forced you to go more deeply and critically into U.S. history than you had before. Did the Cold War force you to take up new literary tasks and projects that you might not have?

FAST: Actually not. The story of The Proud and the Free begins with Carl Van Doren. He had taken me under his wing before I ever joined the Party. Carl Van Doren wrote a marvelous book called Mutiny in January, and he suggested that I write a novel about [the American Revolution] years back and finally I got around to it and I wrote this novel about the Foreign Brigades of the Pennsylvania Line. This was the beginning of the enlistment of Irish immigrants, blacks, some Hungarian and Polish immigrants, a handful of Jews, into what were called the Pennsylvania Foreign Brigades. They became the backbone of the struggle. They were the best troops in the American Revolution and they were actually removed from history – taken out of history – and, until Carl Van Doren dug this up, there was no mention of them in any history course taught in North American schools.
But I don't think [my interest in history] was a result of the Cold War. It has been a passion of my life to try to dig out the truth about the American past. I did it in The Last Frontier. I did it again in the book called Unvanquished and Tom Paine. And, in October, a new book of mine is being published called Seven Days in June. I am telling the truth in this book of what we call the Battle of Bunker Hill. It is the first time any book I know of has told the truth about what happened there. So, I have always been intrigued by the past. This is what happened with Freedom Road, too – why I became so fascinated by Freedom Road.

WALD: In Literature and Reality, you argue that the interpretation of the past is something that is always conditioned on the present moment. You're wrote The Proud and the Free in 1950-51, so surely the form and focus and emphases might have been influenced by 1951.

FAST: That is absolutely true. We reinterpret the past according to this moment and someday there will be a reinterpretation – I say very softly so as to speak of the role of Abraham Lincoln and it would be very difficult because gods are hard to destroy. But these things go on when you reach a part of history that clarifies a certain issue. When we take up the question – "Should there have been a Civil War (the bloodiest war in the history of the world up to that time) or should there not have been a Civil War?" – people will write books about the Civil War that have never been written before.

FILREIS: You endured bitter poverty as a child and I wonder if you would tell us a little about that and its effects on your subsequent politics, your attitudes about writers and American literature, and its effect on your career as a radical writer.

FAST: I can say a great deal about that. I am one of the few American writers who achieved prominence – Jack London is another one; there are not too many more – who came from the working class. My father was an ordinary working man. He started life – his great dream was to be an ironworker – because in those days when he was a kid the city was festooned with rolled iron. If you had been in New York in my childhood, you would have seen this twisted, rolled iron everywhere you looked: balconies, fences, millions of tons of it all through New York. It's mostly gone today. So, at the age of fifteen-sixteen, he became an ironworker. When that gave out, he got a job as a crimper on a cable car running south from 42nd Street on Seventh Avenue. Then he went to work in a tin factory in Long Island. He and all the other young Jewish workers there trained with an officer of the Civil War who was going to lead them as a Cavalry Regiment in the war in 1898 to avenge themselves on Ferdinand and Isabella for expelling them from Spain! They put half their salary into the kitty to buy horses, and of course the Civil War guy walked away with the kitty and no horses and they never got there.
This was a man who married a wonderful woman who grew up in England, and for the first eight years of my life I lived under the aegis of this marvelous woman. She died leaving three little boys. And my father, all his life, was a wonderful man with two feet firmly planted in midair – and it was a terrible time: it was the Depression. He tried to keep a job as a cutter or something in the garment factories. He was always out of work, on strike, or something else. I went to work at age eleven with my brother selling newspapers. We always worked and very often the family kept alive on what we brought home. My brother and I said to my father, "We are not going to live in this filthy, miserable slum apartment anymore." My father said, "I can't move. I do not know where to go." So we rented another apartment. We moved him out of there. We adored him. We worshipped him. But, after my mother died, he could never take hold of anything: It was a hellish, terrible, hungry existence. For some reason – my brother and I – we supported each other and got through it.
The thing that got me through it was the New York Public Library, where I read everything passionately. Over the weekend when I wasn't working, I would read from morning to night. And so I came to [writing and politics] on my own in the public library – with some guidance from a wonderful librarian there. When I became a teenager, she gave me George Bernard Shaw's Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. It's a wonderful book. Much better than Karl Marx's Capital. I think it is the best book on socialism that has ever been written. Then I began to read Shelley, who is a tremendous revolutionary influence. Men of England is one of the most passionate revolutionary songs every written. Here and there, I was being restructured into a socialist, eventually into a Communist.
People ask, "Would you do it all over again?" Of course I would do it all over again. There is no question about it. It was a point in my life when I did not feel that a decent person had any right to exist in this society if he were not a member of the Communist Party. Today, I think very differently. Now I am eighty years old next November, so you learn, and you think, and you change. But that was my only childhood. It was a bitter childhood. My only joy was when it ended, when I finally realized that we could take something into our own hands.

FROM THE AUDIENCE (Eric Cheyfitz): Since you talk about changing and you talk about your own critique of the Communist Party and its failures, I wonder what you see today in the United States and the world that might represent or coalesce into a progressive social politics?

FAST: You see, the destruction of the American Communist Party, as I said, was a deliberate thing. I don't think the ruling class ever acts unintelligently. They will act unintelligently in every way except the maintenance of their own power. And they certainly knew that the trade union movement in America, the Congress of Industrial Organizations was . . . well, it could not have been possible without the Communist Party. The Communist Party lived for that and they created it. The Communist Party created trade unions and built that great sixteen-million person force. So when they killed the Communist Party, and they killed it dead (I should say, they created the situation for its destruction – and it also destroyed itself). Then they went after the trade unions.
Up to the point where Ronald Reagan did something that was astonishing and horrible. He fired the entire union of plane guidance workers (PATCO). When he did that, it struck the death knell to the American labor movement. After that, one by one, every union in this country is being broken, and the unions that still survive – great unions like the municipal unions in New York, the teachers' union, and certain industrial unions – they are going to be broken too. This is death battle that the American ruling class is fighting. They are "leaning down" as they say, making themselves cleaner, more productive, more profitable, and they are firing thousands of people. They are cutting down the sustenance level of the working class. With all of the intelligence, the brilliant advice of John Maynard Keynes, they have cast Keynes aside, and they are back to what Marx described as "the relative and absolute impoverishment of the working class." And this impoverishment is taking place all over America. Executives, vice-presidents, second vice-presidents. I live in Greenwich, Connecticut. Our town is filling up with the CEOs of various industries who are now out of a job, with no hope, no future, nowhere to turn – cast down from the upper middle class to working-class stature. Good luck if they can get a job in one of the supermarkets or one of the big general stores that are opening up all over.
So what do I see in the future? I see a worsening of this, because this is a process that is shipping our work out to the Far East, to other countries, to cheap labor. The latest thing – cheap labor in Mexico – shipping work to Mexico. They have forgotten a simple proposition than you cannot manufacture anything unless you have someone to buy what you manufacture. We are racing into a condition where the American working class – or what is left of it – the American working people – cannot buy back what the industries here are making. It does not matter whether they make it in China or Japan. The American people cannot buy it back. And what will come next? I cannot forecast it, but it will come. It will be the most explosive thing in the next twenty years.


NOTES

1. Thanks to Dan Traister and Beth Wenger for editing advice and to Jason Busch for research assistance.

2. Fast refers here to Herb Tank, co-founder of New Playwrights with Howard Fast, who produced Fast's The Hammer.

3. Jewish Workingmen's Circle - ed.


RETURN