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Publisher on Trial
A Symposium
The Case of Alexander Trachtenberg
1952

The Man and the Books

By HOWARD FAST, Author, "Spartacus," "Freedom Road," etc.

Since Alexander Trachtenberg now stands on trial under an indictment which interdicts those books which deal with Marxism-Leninism, it is fitting that a special and particular attention be given to his case. It is true that he is one of sixteen defendants, but he is also, and has been for over a quarter of a century, the publisher of Marxist-Leninist works in America. Thereby the indictment has a singularity as exercised toward him. Both the man and the books he has published are on trial.

The man I have known long and well, and it would be a shame indeed if I were to belittle this acquaintanceship or deny the riches that came of knowing him. The man is a warm and wise and human person who has earned the affection and the respect of thousands both here and in many other lands. The books, however, which this man has published with incredible devotion and steadfastness, go beyond the man himself. Sitting here now, in the fullness of his years, not a young man, yet never an old man, Alexander Trachtenberg can point to a body of Marxist-Leninist literature surpassed in few countries indeed.

The works of those giants who led and liberated the working class over the past hundred years, have been made available to the American people because this man has known neither fear nor pessimism, and has again and again surmounted obstacles almost insurmountable. In no small part he can claim much of the pride and much of the credit for making available to the working class of the United States the works of Marx and Engels and Lenin and Stalin. And he has also issued the works of William Z. Foster and other American Marxist writers.

Some day history will properly weigh and assess the role these books played. This is a special sort of meeting, for here on the platform are many people whose lives have been concerned with the making, the writing, and the reading of books. As I look about me I wonder who among us can properly estimate the debt he owes to Alexander Trachtenberg and to the firm of International Publishers, which he has headed for so long.

I speak best of my own indebtedness. I know that were it not for the many wonderful doors unlocked for me by these great works of the highest wisdom of mankind, I could not possibly have written the books I have written. I might still have been a writer, but it is only because of these books and because of the movement which gave strength and blood to them that I am able to be a writer who can give something to the people, and contribute in some measure to the struggle for human freedom and dignity. A whole generation of my life is tied in, in some way or another, with the man who fought for these books and guided the destinies of the house which produced them. How can I be other than enormously grateful to Alexander Trachtenberg?

Thereby I speak for myself, but I think that hundreds of thousands of American workers, Negro and white, would, if they could have voice here tonight, speak in similar terms. They would perhaps put it differently. They would speak of the shining hope, the vision of a new life — a life without war and hatred, corruption and destruction, which has been opened to them through these books.

Nor do I think the intellectuals of America would have less meaningful gratitude were they able to break through the iron bands of fear and intimidation which encompass so many of them. The best, the finest, the bravest of our intellectuals have been nurtured upon these books. From them they have drawn the most profound wisdom, the deepest logic of life. From them they have taken the key to understanding the needs and the aspirations of the people.

Now the man and the books are on trial. We must fight to maintain his freedom. But we can say that no force on earth, no power vested in the murderous war-makers who have attacked him, can destroy the books with which he has connected his name and his life. These books and the thoughts they contain are imperishable. They are a force beyond computation, beyond estimation. And these books and the millions who believe in the supreme logic of life they present, will in turn win freedom and happiness for Mr. Trachtenberg and his co-defendants.


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