June 5, 1950
Howard Fast: On Going to Prison
By Howard Fast
There are many statements by men going to prison in America these days, for the political prisoner is no longer singular; but rather a manifestation of these times, of the cold-war terror, of the transition of the free and beautiful land we still remember into a police state. And the virtues with which we grew to manhood, the tradition and rights of our democratic past, are now being replaced with the ethics of the stool-pigeon and informer. The courts have become open and unashamed instruments of fascism, and the very word "justice" rings hollow in today's America.
So I go to prison, not alone, but with thirteen others; and what "could not happen here" has happened here. It is of these thirteen others that I would like to tell you, for I have come to know them well in these past years; and knowing them, I never found them wanting. They are of the best that America has made, and their crime--which they all hold in common--is that they upheld the Constitution of their native land. Let nothing else complicate this; for this was their sole and only crime, and they are being punished for the highest and purest expression of patriotism.*; ; ;* ; ; ;*
We defied the Un-American Committee, this mean and miserable committee of fascist-minded men, which lately was headed by the convicted thief, J. Parnell Thomas. Two of us, John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo, go to serve a year in prison because they refused to reveal their political beliefs to the Un-American Committee, but more basically they were punished because they made true and democratic films--just as George Marshall, another of the thirteen, was sentenced because he fought for the rights of the Negro people.
Eleven of us comprise the board of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. We were asked by the Un-American Committee to turn over to them the names of those Spanish Republicans we had helped, so that we might become associate murderers to that vile hangman, Franco. And because we refused to do this, we go to prison.
Is this not something you should know--and proclaim--and shout from the rooftops? What have we become, here in America that after so many of our brothers and sons have died in the struggle against fascism, we should allow a little group of evil men to impose fascism upon us and make our proud name a vile thing on the lips of all men of good will? When the hour is so late, will you rest easy with us behind bars?
I say that I am proud to be in this company of men and women, and that I have never been in better company. You know me as a writer, and you know that I have never hesitated to write what I believed. Eight million of my books have found their way into the hearts and the homes of the American people, and you know what I stand for and believe in. Now I ask you to believe me again when I say that what is best and truest in America goes behind bars with these men and women.
With us in prison, are any of you free? You must ask yourselves that.
Names of the new 14 political prisoners:
George Marshall: The Civil Rights Congress.
John Howard Lawson: Of the Hollywood Ten.
Dr. Edward K. Barsky: The Board of the Joint Anit-fascist Refugee Committee.
Dr. Jacob Auslander.
Dr. Louis Miller.
Prof. Lyman R. Bradley.