Epilogue

Communism creates its own antibodies. There is but one group of people in the entire world who are totally immune to all threats and blandishments from Moscow or Peking—the former Communists. Paradoxically, there are far more of us inside the iron curtain than out and our numbers are growing by the day. The red rulers fear us more than all other of their foes combined; more of us have suffered death and torture at their hands than all the Communists executed by Hitler, Mussolini, and other Fascist dictators. The people who participated in the demonstrations in Poland; the men, women, and children who manned the barricades in Budapest in 1956, were led by our political blood brothers, the former Communists. Because of our experiences we are the most implacable foes of totalitarianism and the greatest allies in the fight for liberty—a fact recognized in all lands yet blindly ignored in the United States.

It is an axiom that the demands raised by the revolutionaries of yesterday may well be the low norms of the morrow. The revolutionary demand of $15 a week unemployment compensation for which my skull had once been nearly split in two is by now way below the standard established in most states. The revolutionary demand of fifty cents an hour minimum wage, for which I had been roughly handled and driven out of town at pistol point in Yorkville, Ohio has long been raised to one dollar an hour by a Republican administration, no less.

All nations need their quota of rebels to goad them into enacting those social reforms that are essential to their progress. Stagnation and decadence invite disaster, for the Goths and Vandals are forever lurking outside the gates in search for the breach in the crumbling walls.

For having been such a rebel as I was, about a million of my countrymen in all walks of life were made into whipping boys by every demagogue and professional patriot who deals in hate to further his political ambition; branded subversives by opponents of all progressive measures who are hell-bent to restore all evils of the past in their selfish greed. I have never committed a crime or been charged with one; nor was I ever arrested. I was never involved in spying nor even knew about it—and that applies to all but a minuscule percentage of us. The few involved in spying have either gone to jail or glory depending on who told on whom first. The Communist Party which I quit over twenty years ago has by now all but disintegrated. Yet, I and my fellow former rebels have been degraded to second-class citizens, denied even the right of serving our country in the capacities we are best fitted for because of a panicky law that demands a negative answer to this question:

“Are you now or have you ever been a member of. . . ?”

Panicky laws do not make for national security, especially when they themselves smack of totalitarianism. Nor can we depend for our national defense on the strength of our arms alone. We need ideological weapons also and trained men to use them—experts that are plentiful among former Communists.

Basically there are only three great revolutionary proclamations that exert the most profound influence on the mind. The Communist Manifesto is but one of them. The other two in historical order are:

The Sermon on the Mount;

The Declaration of Independence.

As a nation born of revolution and a professed Christian one we have a special claim on both of these. Why on earth should we panic when faced with the incendiary cry of revolt.

Arise ye prisoners of starvation . . .

Of all nations in the world we have the best claim to respond:

Peace on Earth; Good Will toward Men;

All men are created equal with the unalienable right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness!

In this struggle of ideologies the odds are two to one in our favor if we are but bold enough to take advantage of it. Let us devote our diplomacy, our surpluses, our technological skill with our traditional democratic forbearance to the above aims. Let us persist in this endeavor for another few decades. We will then discover that we no longer have to fear the rising of those proletarians who, according to the Communist Manifesto, have nothing to lose but their chains.

There won’t be any of them left!

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Chapter 61

dingbat

Once my eyes recovered their sight I was galvanized into action. This was the spring of 1939 and there was no time to waste. The Nazi war machine was getting ready to roll. People all over the world were pinning their hopes on the great Soviet Union with its mighty Red Army to forestall the Hitler juggernaut—that illusion needed to be blasted. I sat down and wrote day and night until I finished the draft of a short book which was aimed to shake the American people into awareness that the Soviet Union was just as totalitarian and equally as imperialistic as Nazi Germany.

That draft was titled “Chronicle of the Second World War,” as set down by a young reporter with the last surviving American troops hiding out in a mountain post, awaiting the last assault. It was a projection of the coming World War II as I visualized it then, with Stalin villainously making war inevitable between Fascism and the democracies, and when they were both sufficiently exhausted falling first on Hitler, next on the democracies, ultimately taking possession of a devastated world.

When I was finished with it I thought of just the right organization for it—the World Peaceways, a group of pacifists who were not involved with any of the peace fronts of the Communists.

When Mr. Wise, Secretary of the World Peaceways, read that first draft he became enthused. He was thinking of an initial printing of 100,000 copies to be followed by a second printing of 200,000 and as many more as public interest in it warranted. He wanted changes though; his suggestions were good and I agreed to them instantly.

After that first draft was finished I rejoined the furriers union. Fur shops were still sweatshops and I would get home too fatigued physically to do much writing at night; by the time the manuscript was ready for editing it was late August. Two days later came the news of the Nazi-Soviet pact and my appointment with the World Peaceways set for the following week was canceled by silent agreement. No one needed my book any longer to warn him of Stalin’s treachery, Hitler had already invaded Poland.

I followed with sardonic glee the gyrations of the party, the desperate flip-flops of the comrades to justify that Soviet-Nazi alliance. Yet even I couldn’t foresee their ultimate degradation—that the remaining members of the Communist Party would openly work for the victory of Hitler. Thorez, the leader of the French Party, deserted the army and the French Communist Party issued leaflets calling on all other French soldiers not to fight Hitler but desert. Harry Pollit, the Secretary of the British Party, with whom I once spent a whole night in Madrid, called for making peace with Hitler even while Britain was being devastated by falling Nazi bombs. The Communist Party of America ordered my one-time Cleveland comrade Wyndham Mortimer to call a strike against the North American Aviation Corporation to keep our own country from producing planes in our defense. My former favorite Y.C.L. friend, Al Balint in Cleveland, led a steel strike to cripple our preparedness while my former colleague, devout Louis Budenz, the Catholic managing editor of the Daily Worker, was openly supplicating for the defeat of the democracies.

In 1940, I incurred the hostility of my Communist union by joining the Volunteers for Roosevelt for a third term, and on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, I kissed my wife and infant son good-bye and went downtown to enlist.

The line was long, it stretched around the block. More and more people came to join it; there was shoving and jostling; it was difficult to keep the slowly moving line in order. A couple of young fellows thought I was an easy mark and tried to elbow me out of my place. Naturally I fought back and the Marine sergeant came up to investigate. “What’s the trouble, Pop? What are you doing here?”

“I came to enlist, what else?”

I was indignant. Here I was, leaving my wife with my six-month-old son to fend for themselves because principles take precedence over family obligations; now some young squirt, who as likely as not had no real conception what this war was about, was trying to push me out of line.

“Come on, Pop, quit it,” said the Marine sergeant with a friendly grin. He was tall, broad-shouldered—a trained, healthy specimen. “Be a nice guy, Pop, and give a chance to the young fellows. You don’t belong here, Pop. When we need grandfathers, we’ll call you,” he coaxed.

The line rocked with laughter. The sergeant was not being sarcastic, he was humoring me, to the delight of those young men.

I left the line and walked away.

“Pop,” they called me, and “Grandfather!”

I stopped in front of a plate glass window and took a good look at my reflection. My face was haggard and deeply etched; my cheeks sunken over the missing teeth I had lost in Spain and had no money to replace; I was still more than twenty pounds underweight because of a souvenir from Spain—chronic diarrhea. I was only forty-one, but Pop indeed; my soldiering days were over. The best a man of my age could expect in modern warfare would be guarding bridges. I went back to work utterly deflated.

Less than a month after that incident, on a sunny Sunday morning, I encountered Peter Chaunt, the Party boss of the I.W.O. Hungarian Section. I was wheeling my infant, he was walking his sleek wolfhound. We stopped to talk. When he asked how I felt about the war I told him about my frustration, about being too old to join in the fighting. Chaunt became most serious and told me I was in a position to make a very great contribution to fighting Fascism. The Uj Elore was no longer a Communist newspaper, it had changed its name and had been turned into a united front organ to rally all Hungarians in America regardless of creed or political beliefs behind the war effort. The Hungarian Horthy troops fighting alongside the Nazis were then deep in the Soviet Union, yet many Hungarians in the United States were still secretly sympathetic to Horthy. These men were traitors to their adopted country, the United States, yet were able to influence the ignorant Hungarian masses. Chaunt proposed that I come back and take over editorship of that paper; my name was popular with Hungarians; my past record as a fighting anti-Fascist would make me the ideal champion to rally the patriotic Hungarian masses around me.

That offer appealed to me. In the mobilization of our national resources for war I considered certain steps dangerous for the welfare of our nation, like the order that froze wages while leaving profits uncurbed. I expressed those thoughts to Chaunt, adding the Leninist slogan: “We mustn’t allow the capitalists to profiteer and place the burden of the war on the shoulders of the working class.”

“You’ve really been away too long, you’ve really lost touch,” Chaunt replied condescendingly.

Nothing mattered in this war but one thing, to save the Soviet Union, Chaunt explained the new party line. Let the capitalists make all the profits they can, let them raise prices, do anything they pleased as long as they turned out the war materials the Soviet Union needed. As Marx said, “The greater the profits, the greater the capitalist incentive.” We had to spur on this capitalist incentive by preventing strikes; by using all our influence to drive the workers to greater productivity, to make them work double shifts and to hell with time and a half for overtime. The interests of the Soviet Union were the supreme guide; if that interest was best served by helping American capitalists to greater profits, then dialectically that was what we had to do, that was Leninism.

I was too amazed to speak. Chaunt took my silence for agreement. “Come see me tomorrow morning and don’t forget to bring your statement with you.”

“What statement?”

“A statement confessing your errors, admitting that the party line is always right. Stress particularly how right the party was in making that nominal pact with Hitler; explain how you became a victim of the warmongers by not realizing that that pact was the greatest contribution by the Soviet Union to maintaining peace, which only failed because of the Chamberlain and Blum imperialist warmongers.”

Chaunt was petting his dog. It was a sleek, aristocratic wolf-hound—Russian, not Soviet. Chaunt himself looked more prosperous than I had ever seen him.

“Is it a real united front paper?”

“Sure. That’s why you’re needed so badly, that’s why I want you to start tomorrow.”

“I am ready to start tomorrow. But I want to publish my statement as a two-column signed editorial on the front page.”

“Why on the front page?”

“Because I want it there. And I want it published as written.”

Chaunt was now wary. “Of course the Central Committee will have to go over it and pass on it before publication. They may want some changes made.”

“Not if it is a united front paper.”

I still played it straight, noting with delight the beginning of a doubt in Chaunt’s eyes. Now it was my turn to assume the long- familiar Communist tone of lecturing, to count off the points one by one on my thumb.

Number one: My statement would open with the announcement that I was no longer a party member, that I was assuming editorship of the paper only because of my firm belief in the need of united effort to bring this war for the survival of democracy to a successful conclusion.

Number two: Next I would explain that I had quit the party because I was opposed to the tyrannical and despotic practices in the Soviet Union which permeated all Communist Parties in the world.

Number three: I have reached the conclusion that ever since Stalin came into power the Communist Party Line has been wrong in all its major decisions beginning with the policy in China in 1927 up to and including the criminal adventure of the
Nazi-Soviet pact which exploded the Second World War.

Chaunt did not hear me all out. He yanked the dog viciously to his feet and stalked away, his freckled face livid with anger.

There may have been no connection but shortly afterward I began to experience trouble in the fur market.

I would go on a new job in the morning; there would be a whispered conversation between the shop chairman and some workers who recognized me; the boss would call me in later and I would be dismissed without explanation or, where the boss needed me badly, with a despondent shrug—”I like your work but I can’t afford to have trouble with the union.” One day I became embroiled in a physical fight. I was called a paid Nazi spy, sharp furriers’ knives flashed. Had it not been for the timely appearance of two policemen I might have been carved up or crippled, a fit punishment for an anti-Communist.

That made it obvious both to my wife and me that sooner or later I would be forced out of a job in every fur shop, that we had to leave New York.

We counted our resources—a few hundred dollars in cash savings, some used furniture—a pitifully small stake to start a new existence. Never mind. We settled on a small town, half rural, half urban, which was most unlikely to harbor any Communists who knew me.

We moved there convinced that the trail had come to an end; that my life as a Communist would be but a memory of my past, that nothing would hinder me from adjusting myself to the normal life of a citizen.

It did work out except for the stigma.

Chapter 60

dingbat

Addiction to Communism is like addiction to drugs—the victim resists the cure and is reluctant to admit the destructive side of his habit.

My withdrawal symptoms manifested themselves in prolonged periods of mental anguish which made me shun contacts with the outside world. My companionship was limited to my wife—my old—time girl friend from the days long past. She had consented to marry me even though she knew I had no prospects of a job, that in the months until the fur season opened up we’d have to exist on my remaining savings from my foreman days which by then had shrunk to less than two hundred dollars. She had no job either and we lived in a furnished room on a carefully planned subsistence level, limiting ourselves to a strict budget of ten dollars a week out of which rent took four, to a diet of soup and cheap staples with an occasional splurge of a Sunday meal at Stewart’s Cafeteria. For newspapers I depended on the trash baskets of the near-by subway station, spent money only on the Daily Worker—no comrade threw that away, his instructions were to leave it on the subway seat in the hope that
some bored passenger might pick it up.

Since the subway cost a nickel I stopped riding it. I walked about sixty blocks each way to the few party unit meetings I forced myself to attend. Those units were called branches now. My branch met in a fencing studio around Twenty-third Street and the comrades were mostly professional people, men and women in their late twenties and early thirties. I didn’t know them and they knew me only by my party name which was Douglass. I was content to leave it that way and they didn’t make much effort to know me better, either. I sat through those meetings without participating in their earnest discussions about changing the fate of the world which, as far as their own role was concerned, usually revolved around the question whether to sell the Daily Worker on one specified corner in preference to another. Little had changed in party routine in those ten years since my first attendance at a party meeting in New York; assignments were as seriously debated and as little carried out as then. The main difference that I saw was that these comrades were arguing dialectics with a choicer vocabulary and with less of an accent.

The last party meeting I was ever to attend happened to fall on the day the afternoon papers headlined the outbreak of an army revolt in Madrid, and reported that Negrin and other government and party leaders had fled Spain in their private planes. I was brooding over those developments, distressed over the fate of those faithful in the ranks who had no private planes in which to escape, when the voice of the literature chairman brought me sharply to my senses. He was holding aloft a party pamphlet just issued, written by Joe North, former Daily Worker correspondent in Spain, former editor of the New Masses, then the Daily Worker’s special expert on Spain.

“It is a most important pamphlet,” the chairman intoned, “everybody should buy as many as he or she can afford, it explains the party line on Spain. This pamphlet refutes the lies of the Fascist provocateurs, it proves why the Loyalist Army will continue to fight on for years until victory is assured. It must be distributed in quantity to reach the greatest masses of people.”

The comrades each dutifully bought several of them. I picked up a copy and leafed through it. Incredible as this may seem it bore the title “Why Loyalist Spain Will Win!” or some such words. Joe North did not hog all the credit for that brilliant dialectical forecast of history. He modestly acknowledged that his analysis had merely confirmed the correctness of the party line and the previous reports made by those other two eminent researchers and objective scholars, Robert Minor and John Gates.

I lifted my eyes and saw that the noses of all comrades were buried in the pamphlet. Then the silence was broken by a comrade on my left commenting with loud satisfaction: “This pamphlet sure came just in time. Now we’ll know how to answer the lies of the Fascist Hearst and the other capitalist newspapers.” His words were greeted with spontaneous applause. I got to my feet and walked out without giving them a further glance; what the hell was I doing there among those political cretins?

Other incidents of similar idiocy followed in quick succession, making it more and more difficult to put off resolving the issue. Like the time I attended a new Theater League performance somewhere around Fiftieth Street off Broadway.

It was an anti-Nazi play by Bertolt Brecht, the famous German revolutionary playwright. It was the tragedy of an honest, upright German Reich justice who had retained his position on the bench even under the Nazis, although deep in his heart he was still devoted to the principles of true justice as they existed in Germany before Hitler. The play opened with the justice and his wife fearfully discussing their horrible suspicion that their own beloved only son, a loutish boy of 14 who belonged to the Hitler Youth, might be capable of denouncing his own father as being disloyal in thought to the Nazis. True enough, exactly that was to happen to him. Few eyes remained dry at the conclusion of the play as that German judge was led away by brutal stormtroopers wearing swastika armbands while their son, that monster product of Nazi training, proudly declaimed from the stage that no true Fascist must ever hesitate to denounce his own father and mother if they were disloyal, if only in thought, to the Nazi Reich.

There was tremendous applause and many curtain calls. The party comrades were cashing in on the play by loudly hawking their literature when one of the leaders of that theatrical group turned to me with pride: what did I think of the performance, wasn’t Bertolt Brecht a genius? I praised the performance and told her how it moved me; as to Brecht, he was obviously a man of great talent but in this instance, unquestionably also a dishonest plagiarist. Those were lighting words. I was immediately challenged to prove that and in no time became the center of a large crowd, mostly hostile. I asserted that the play was based almost verbatim but without acknowledgment on a Soviet news report. Hostility now gave way to perplexity and I was asked to elucidate.

I related how, early in 1935, following the assassination of party leader Kirow in Leningrad when the first big Soviet purge began, the Party had called on the Young Pioneers to ferret out the hidden counterrevolutionary sentiments of their parents and report it to the G.P.U. We at the Uj Elore once published a report on one such trial sent to us by the official Soviet News Agency which gave details of the exemplary Communist behavior of a young boy of 14, a leading member of the
Young Pioneers, whose suspicion became alerted when he saw his father abruptly stop talking to his mother the minute he entered the room.

This incorruptible product of Soviet upbringing had not only denounced his father to the G.P.U. but also blazingly repudiated his father’s cowardly denial of the charge. He denounced him in open court as a barefaced liar, demanded that his father pay with his life for his traitorous sentiments, and called upon all Young Pioneers to overlook all sentiment and follow his example. In conclusion that news report proudly noted that this outstanding Young Pioneer leader was the first one to applaud in court when he heard his father pronounced guilty and sentenced to death.

When I finished my tale the group around me hastily dissolved except for a few innocents who stayed on to argue that I really couldn’t be serious in maintaining that there was any analogy at all between those two cases? Couldn’t I see that the theme of this play was the bestial corruption of youth under Hitler? Wasn’t it also clearly evident that the story I quoted was about the trial of a bourgeois counterrevolutionary traitor in the pay of the imperialists? No, the only thing evident to me was that I had overstayed my welcome and I left in the glare of hostile eyes.

Then came signs.

Within a period of two days three letters came to me unexpectedly from France. One was from Alexander Cseresznyes, the other from that German commissar, the third from a Spanish youth leader formerly on my staff in the Brigade. They were from different concentration camps in France, but containing the same heart-wringing tale of misery and ill-treatment to which those remnants of the defeated Loyalists who crossed into France were being subjected. They were sleeping in the open in midwinter without blankets, clad only in their filthy summer rags. Those concentration camps were but bare ground surrounded by barbed wire, without even wells or latrines, and only the cold winter sky for roof. They were forced to sleep rolling in their own excrement in holes scratched out of the ground with their bare fingers, drinking the human-sewage-infected water that accumulated in the shallow, handscooped holes in the ground. Besides being starved they also suffered from their Senegalese guards who sadistically enjoyed using their whips on them. They were begging me for help, to organize for them food, money, used clothing, cigarettes, anything. In closing they affirmed anew their loyalty to the Communist Party and emphasized that what they desired above all was political asylum in some country willing to receive them.

I took those letters up to the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade demanding that we act at once. “Yes, it is too sad, we know all about it, but there is nothing the Friends can do right now, collections are slow in coming in, we need all the funds to run the office and to take care of the wounded and needy veterans here.”

I lost my temper and demanded an emergency meeting, what those comrades wanted most was a chance to leave France. Pasionária was not suffering in those camps. She had been transported with other Communist leaders by boat and special plane to the Soviet Union to be feted there as the last-ditch fighter of Fascism, even though her son, the offspring of this fiery speaker who passionately demanded that every last Spaniard fight to the death, had sat out the Spanish Civil War in Moscow where his mother had prudently sent him for safety.

I drew up a resolution on the spot and thumbtacked it on the wall :

BE IT RESOLVED: that the Friends and Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade petition the Soviet Union to offer asylum to all the exiled victims of Franco now languishing in the French concentration camps.

Be It Further Resolved: that copies of this resolution be sent not only to the Daily Worker but also to all capitalist newspapers and wire services, for widest dissemination.

By that time there was quite a commotion, my resolution was hastily removed from the wall, and I was upbraided by the paid office staff. Didn’t I know what I was doing? How could the Friends and Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade be asked to sign such a petition, how could I possibly ask the Soviet Union to admit those people? Wasn’t I aware who those people actually were? Did I know how many actual spies, saboteurs, counter-revolutionists, imperialist and Fascist agents and spies were among those “so-called veterans”? Why, most were international wreckers trying to worm their way into the Soviet Union.

“You bastards really believe that? Believe that those comrades in arms of ours, who gathered from all corners of the world at the call of the Comintern, who risked their lives over and over in the fight against Fascism, are really Fascist agents?”

I must have become overemotional for they started to soothe me. “Now, now, take it easy comrade, we know how you feel. Do you think we enjoy thinking of those comrades suffering in those French concentration camps? We are working very hard to get them admitted to Mexico. . . .”

I stalked out telling them to cross my name off their list, pronto!

The signs came more rapidly now. Upon his return from Moscow Gil Green, National Secretary of the Young Communist League, commented admiringly on the loud, prolonged applause and standing ovation afforded to the party leaders in the Soviet Union. He contrasted it scathingly with the informal, almost indolent attitude with which the membership received its leaders here and demanded a change. His orders were that in the future the Party and Y.C.L. leaders were to be greeted by the same loud cheers and standing ovation whenever they entered a meeting hall.

The focus became sharper:

FRANCO! FRANCO! FRANCO! SIEG HEIL! HEIL GIL GREEN, BROWDER, STALIN!
Arise ye prisoners of starvation;
Goosestep ye wretched of the earth!
Damnation shall be your salvation;
Soviets to bring the new rebirth!

Next Stalin spoke and Molotov echoed him.

“The Soviet Union does not consider any imagined or real ideological differences a barrier to establishing friendly and cordial relationship with any other nation.”

“Fascism is a matter of taste.”

I needed no further signs. My recovery was complete. Cured by the hair of the same dog . . .

Chapter 59

dingbat

I had one last official piece of business to attend to. I went back to Ohio for my formal leave of absence from the party. I was a hero again, a great hero with mass meetings and public receptions scheduled. I ducked them all, including the big ceremonial banquet given by the Hungarians in my honor—I couldn’t bear to be toasted in celebration of a non-existent victory while Hernández, Díaz, and the rest of my comrades were left fighting to the death.

I did agree, though, to address a meeting of the Cleveland Newspaper Guild. It was a cautious talk; I skirted the party line about Spain and parried questions about it. It wasn’t a good lecture—the newsmen sensed I was holding back but were sympathetic enough not to press me.

The next day, Paul Bellamy, editor and publisher of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, sent a message: would I come and see him? The party was excited about it. What a wonderful break for propaganda in the capitalist press!

Bellamy received me with cordial informality. He put me at ease quickly with a few remarks of sympathy for Loyalist Spain and then the interview began. It was off the record and by the time I finished answering him I saw the Spanish Civil War in a far clearer perspective than at any time in Spain. His questions organized my unassorted facts, my undefined thoughts and conclusions into a coherent whole and I answered him truthfully.

At the close of the interview Bellamy unexpectedly offered me a job on the foreign desk.

“But I am a Communist,” I gulped.

Bellamy didn’t mind that. He was gambling that I would continue to maintain the same objectivity I had manifested in our talk. My understanding of Communist aims might even be an asset in appraising the international situation which showed signs of boiling over at any moment.

My heart leaped at his answer. Here was an opportunity to do real journalistic work for a change, also financial security. This was still the depression and all I had between me and starvation was a few travelers checks, less than $200, all that was left of my life’s savings. Bellamy was waiting for my decision.

I took a deep breath, thanked him, and regretfully declined his offer. After refusing to work for the Daily Worker I couldn’t have taken a job on a capitalist newspaper, that would have been interpreted as a betrayal of the party.

Back at party headquarters the comrades were disappointed with my sketchy report. All I would say was that Bellamy personally showed sympathy with Spain. They wanted to know whether I could persuade Bellamy to lead a fight for the lifting of the arms embargo. I answered in the negative. I couldn’t tell them that my answer to Bellamy concerning the embargo was the same that I had given to Comrade Alpi, that it was too late for that, that the best way the U.S. Government could help the Spanish people at this stage would be by negotiating for an armistice with guarantees of no reprisals on either side.

John Williamson, Ohio District Organizer, recognizing I was deaf to all offers of party jobs, tried to bargain with me to stay on temporarily to reorganize party finances. He thought I could do a wonderful job at raising money; with my record in Spain and my wide circle of acquaintances I ought to be able to tap sources that had never contributed. As a start I ought to hit up Bellamy for a big contribution for Spanish aid. That really settled it. I told him I wasn’t well, I had to have time off to get back in shape. The final agreement was that although I was entitled to an official leave of absence, I still had to attend party meetings in order not to lose touch with the party but I was exempted from carrying out assignments—released on parole, so to speak.

I was free at last! “No more orders and regulations for me,” I kept repeating to myself as I boarded the bus to New York. It had taken ten years from the time I accepted that temporary assignment to the Uj Elore, but I was finally free.

It was a great letdown. I should have been elated but I wasn’t. I was free to do what? To go back to my old life? That was impossible. I couldn’t escape into the past—my blessed ignorance and indifference to politics was gone forever. My past associations, even my family ties were severed—we no longer lived in the same world or talked the same language.

I was free—or was I? What was freedom? I was casting myself off from the ship on which I had sailed for ten years to navigate alone on a solitary raft with no clear destination in mind. Was that freedom?

It didn’t seem so. A free man is supposed to be a happy one. Which I was definitely not!

Chapter 58

dingbat

The editorial offices of the Daily Worker were much much neater, cleaner, and better equipped than when I had last seen them nearly two years before. The comrades also were better dressed, their shirts were clean, their collars were not frayed, they all wore ties and most of them were shaved. The party and the paper had evidently prospered. They gave me a good reception. I was still a hero, albeit a smaller one—having had a hand in the making of many a proletarian hero those
comrades had a better perspective.

The Daily Worker wanted to put me to work right away—they were trying to build up the circulation of the Sunday Worker and claimed I was just the right man for it. I was to take over the editorship of the Sunday Worker Supplement and turn it into a popular literary magazine written in a nonparty style that every worker and housewife could understand. Such a magazine circulated by the party throughout the country in hundreds of thousands, even millions of copies, would have a tremendous impact and influence on the people. It was an alluring project yet I refused, as I did the alternative offers to join the New York staff of the Daily Worker, or to revive the Daily Worker Ohio Bureau again. I told them I had a year of absence coming and intended to take it.

My reception at the Central Committee was also good. Here I was no hero, only a leading comrade returning successfully from an assignment.

Joe Peters, in charge of the organizational department of the Central Committee (the head of the Party’s spy apparatus as I learned later from Whittaker Chambers’ testimony), had grown a potbelly since I last saw him. Although politically we had been on opposite sides in the Hungarian factional struggle there was no enmity between us. After I insisted I was definitely not going back to the Daily Worker, Peters offered me a number of positions in the party apparatus, to send me to any place in the country I wished on special assignments. I declined those offers, too, agreeing only that I’d see him after my leave of absence.

When finally I had myself announced to Alpi, known as Comrade Fred Brown, he came flying out of his office. A Latin, he embraced me, a long-lost brother back from the war. He felt my arms, checked me all over, asked me, his eyes sparkling, how his special assignment had worked out? He was happy when I grinned and told him I did manage to get around. He asked me to wait until he could get rid of a few of his appointments, then he would close shop and we’d go to some small Italian place where we could talk without interruption. Minor and Gates had already made their reports to the Central Committee, he was now most eager to hear my account to get a real perspective.

The small bodega in the Village was quiet and restful, the paisan left us discreetly alone after our meal, silently replacing the empty bottles with fresh red vino from time to time. As my story unfolded Alpi grew more and more downcast and depressed, and only when he heard me conclude that the Fascist victory was a matter of a few months at the most, did he rouse himself to argue against it.

He told me that my account was entirely contrary to the reports given by Gates and Minor whose unanimous conclusions were that Loyalist Spain was absolutely determined to fight to the death and if the party concentrated all its efforts on lifting the arms embargo in the U.S., the victory of the Loyalists was certain. He was in agreement with them.

My reaction was bitter. Minor was a senile idiot, Johnny Gates an overambitious careerist hell-bent to make his way into top party leadership by whatever means. Alpi was a military man, I reminded him, let’s forget politics, let’s forget the Comintern thesis on the Spanish situation, let’s hold in abeyance the analyses of the Soviet military experts, what the hell else would they say except to confirm the party line. Let’s look at facts as I had found them. I ticked them off, one by one, many in the form of questions.

What good are planes, howitzers, even battleships and destroyers, without trained personnel to man them?

How long does it take to train artillerymen? How long does it take to train enough pilots, navigators, ground crews, artillery officers out of men who, no matter how determined and brave, often lack primary, not to mention secondary schooling? Those were the youth we had on our side in Spain—the Fascists had most of the educated ones.

Who would man those arms and weapons even if they were to reach Spain in time, read the instruments, figure the artillery tables, when one of the greatest weaknesses of the Loyalist Army was the lack of soldiers sufficiently literate to be developed into
competent noncommissioned officers, without whom no modern army can function efficiently?

I told him about a recent shipment of brand-new heavy machine guns I had heard about, stored away in the military warehouses in Barcelona, lying there unused because it takes men with good training to operate heavy machine guns and Loyalist Spain did not have even a fraction of those.

Alpi listened in silence, his head bowed over the table, his fingers playing with the crumbs from the breadsticks on the red-checkered tablecloth, maneuvering them as if an army.

“Take the Loyalist Army!” The Spanish were brave and self-sacrificing, excellent troops where they had good leadership in the field, but essentially they were soldiers of mood. They would rush enthusiastically into fire when pepped up with calls to their courage and loyalty—they would break just as fast when met with unexpected resistance. Furthermore, the withdrawal of the Internationals had broken their spirit. They felt we had abandoned them because their ship was sinking, leaving them to drown. I quoted him what some of the bravest and the best of their officers and men had told me after we officially withdrew from the brigade. I also told him about the general attitude of the nonparty Spanish populace, nationalists, trade unionists, so cialists, anarchists whom I had met in person.

Next, the Spanish Party itself was guilty of a grave error in policy. True, it had gained an immense following but still not sufficient to sway the majority. Because of the soft-pedalling of its revolutionary aims, its failure to call for the expropriation of the capitalists and the distribution of land its own followers were getting dissatisfied, while the nonparty majority was beginning to resent more and more the party’s ruthless drive for absolute control.

That was the picture. The Loyalist government could not possibly resist for long. At this stage it wasn’t arms alone that Loyalist Spain needed for its survival, but also armed assistance: trained French Divisions under French military commanders, and since the French could definitely not be counted upon to intervene, a hundred thousand or more Red Army trained Soviet volunteers transported by sea like Mussolini’s Fascist Legions, experienced flyers and technicians like those flown in by Hitler.

Alpi’s response was low. “You know that is impossible, that would involve the Soviet Union in war.”

I wasn’t ready to concede that fully. However, I told Alpi there was one thing the party and the Soviet Union could safely do—come out for some sort of negotiated settlement between the Loyalists and Franco, along the lines the British had
recently proposed. Make a world-wide drive for armistice, amnesty, and plebiscite, enlisting the support of all democratic nations for international guarantees of no reprisals by either side. That was the only way left to save the millions in Loyalist territory from the savage, bloody reprisals openly threatened by Franco.

Alpi was dejected. My report was contrary to all reports from the Comintern, contrary to the party line, to the policy of the Soviet Union, he murmured.

“Let me write a detailed report, a true and factual one,” I pleaded. “I could get that out in a few days. You submit that to the Central Committee and cable it directly to the Comintern. We must save what we can of Loyalist Spain, the least we will accomplish is staving off a massacre. The civilized world will support us in that drive.”

Alpi was in anguish.

“You know, Voros, that’s impossible, you know I can’t do that. You know the Comintern line is the line of Moscow. You know I can’t go against that.”

His usually deep, resonant voice was now a low whisper, I detected a tremble in it. He wasn’t talking to me, he was talking to himself.

We rose without a further word. This was Alpi, the one—time fearless leader of the armed Italian revolutionary bands, the most sincere man among all the top leaders of the various Communist Parties I had come across. He understood the Spanish situation, my report merely confirmed what he had surmised was the truth. He was appalled by the savage reprisals that awaited the Spanish people, yet—even he wouldn’t dare act contrary to the party line, tragically wrong as he knew it to be.

As we shook hands, he asked me what I wanted to do, he would find the kind of a party position best suited to my inclinations. I said I would call on him as soon as I was ready but I knew that would be never.

I walked the streets of New York all the rest of that day, more depressed than I had ever felt in my life, cursing the party and the party leadership from Stalin down to Alpi. They were all a bunch of bastards, stooges every one of them. I cursed and swore they would never again trick me into accepting any party function, they would never again maneuver me into a position where I could not say what I thought, where I would have to subordinate my principles to a line handed down from above. Had I been more coherent, I could have expressed it succinctly:

“No more thought control for me!”

Why didn’t I quit the party then?

That’s just exactly what I thought of doing. As I passed the headquarters of the New York Newspaper Guild I felt like going up to the club, stepping up to the bar, ordering up a drink for everyone and then offering the toast:

“Here is to Stalin, and the Communists, may they all burn in hell!” and then tearing up my party card.

It was a most gratifying emotional outburst and I kept relishing that picture in my mind, until reason took over. What was I trying to do, play into the hands of the Fascists?

Fascism was marching Victoriously toward world domination, its confidence in victory growing with every new appeasement. The Fascists were the Herrenvolk, openly proclaiming themselves the Master Race predestined to rule with blood and iron over the enslaved masses. The democracies were burrowing in cowardly fashion every man deeper in his own tent awaiting the very great slaughter. The only hope of standing up against Fascism lay in the Soviet Union, the only country that could be counted upon not to appease Hitler. Much as I hated Stalin my place was still on his side; much as the ideals of Communism were violated in actual practice in the Soviet Union and by the Communist Parties everywhere, they still paid at least lip service to them, holding out the hope for a better and more just society.

Yet I found no comfort in my reasoning. As I paced street after street in a greatly depressed state some lines by a revolutionary poet suddenly came to my mind. I did not recall his name, nor the actual wording, only the content of what he said.

“We, Communists, are condemned men. We live in a prison, whether in or out.”

That poet meant the prison of capitalism. But I knew better, Communism was a prison, too. Since I couldn’t choose to live in the prison of Fascism, all I had left was the prison of Communism. What the hell choice was that?

Condemned men have no choice. And I was one of them.

Chapter 57

dingbat

While the Americans rejoiced, the volunteers of many other nationalities faced the prospect of withdrawal from Spain with grave concern.

The Americans had nothing to fear from returning to their homeland. The only charge that could be raised against them was violation of a passport regulation, at worst a minor offense, and the wide anti-Fascist, pro-Loyalist sentiment in the U.S.A. made prosecution for it extremely doubtful.

However, the Germans, Italians, Yugoslavs, Hungarians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Austrians, Poles, etc.—many of them with a blood price on their heads—could not possibly return to their own Fascist or semi-Fascist countries without facing long—term imprisonment, torture, and even death. Many of those exiles had had hopes of settling in Spain after the war, of finding a haven
there after existing for years like hunted animals, hiding out with forged passports only one step ahead of the police, imprisoned for false entry time after time, and shunted from one unwelcoming country to another. Men without a country, the crippled among them even dreamed of a modest government pension, of living out their lives in their newly adopted country as honored citizens.

These dreams were now shattered. By the terms of Negrin’s unconditional withdrawal no volunteer was permitted to remain on Spanish soil even if he wished to stay and become a Spanish citizen. That left these volunteers with but one country to go to—the Soviet Union. I considered that a cheerful alternative, this was the preferred choice of most of them anyway.

“They have fought the Fascists, the foes of mankind; now they will have a chance to help build Socialism in the only socialist country in the world—the fulfillment of the Communist dream! History is working out well for them, the only reward worthy of aspiration.” I wrote a warm farewell to them in an editorial for the Volunteer for Liberty, congratulating these
Internationals on their good luck in going to the Soviet Union.

My first intimation that there was something wrong with that concept came when I was unexpectedly summoned by Marty. Waving the proofs of that editorial with its Spanish translation in my face he began to scream: Who gave me the right to formulate policy for the Soviet Union? He tore those proofs to bits and ordered me out of his sight, raving that although he knew all Americans were arrogant and stupid, yet he hadn’t expected to encounter such colossal political idiocy in a leading comrade.

I left in a daze. I did not have the faintest idea what was wrong. Basically that editorial was nothing more than a friendly, run of the mill expression of solidarity with the Soviet Union and the international working class, such as any Communist editor would write year in and out, by the ream.

The next day I found a note on my desk addressed to all editors announcing the new official line we were to follow, i.e., the volunteers who were the finest and most experienced anti-Fascist comrades in the world were badly needed in the democratic countries to lead the fight there against Fascism; hence that is where all of them must go.

I must indeed have been a political idiot as Marty had charged because I didn’t catch on even then. In fact, I approved of that new line and thought it logical until a German colleague enlightened me. He was witheringly sarcastic, deriding me as a self-righteous, insensitive, smug American and finally turned on on me furiously.

“Don’t you see what this line actually means?”

I didn’t, even though I tried hard. That line sounded solid to me.

“It means the Soviet Union has shut her doors in our face, you fool!” he almost hissed in hate. His long-practiced party-leader mask was gone, his face was writhing with emotion.

“We have no place to go, can’t yet understand that! Which country would permit us, seven—probe Communists, to enter her gates? Would you expect the capitalists to invite us in and say, ‘please cut our throats and ring the death knell of capitalism over our tomb!’ We are the battle-tested, battle-scarred Communists who have fought to the death at the call of the Comintern, and now the Soviet Union is refusing us asylum. We’re doomed, doomed by the Soviet Union, we may even end up by being handed over to Hitler!”

He turned away from me, his face buried in his hands. Up until then I knew him only as one of those close-mouthed, secretive Germans who rebuff all attempts at friendship and intimacy, careful not to show any emotion. Now that hard-bitten revolutionary actually sobbed. The enormity of that revelation affected me greatly. I found there was nothing I could do or say; I tiptoed out of his office. I did not know then how prophetic his words were—that many of them would indeed be handed over to Hitler by Stalin after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 to celebrate that love feast. . . .

When we crossed into France the men went wild over the sight of real milk and white bread with which we were greeted at the French railroad station. At Le Havre we were held up nearly a week because of a strike by the French seamen. Although we were confined to the grounds I managed to slip out and mingle with the population.

When we finally sailed from France we made strange passengers. Even though we had been deloused, most of us out of sheer habit were still scratching our armpits, rectums, and genitals in full view of the other passengers who, alarmed, understandably would have no traffic with us. Few if any of the
volunteers were aware of this rebuff. They, too, preferred to keep their distance, contemptuous as they were of those “lousy capitalists.”

Chapter 56

dingbat

While the Americans rejoiced, the volunteers of many other nationalities faced the prospect of withdrawal from Spain with grave concern.

The Americans had nothing to fear from returning to their homeland. The only charge that could be raised against them was violation of a passport regulation, at worst a minor offense, and the wide anti-Fascist, pro-Loyalist sentiment in the U.S.A. made prosecution for it extremely doubtful.

However, the Germans, Italians, Yugoslavs, Hungarians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Austrians, Poles, etc.—many of them with a blood price on their heads—could not possibly return to their own Fascist or semi-Fascist countries without facing long—term imprisonment, torture, and even death. Many of those exiles had had hopes of settling in Spain after the war, of finding a haven
there after existing for years like hunted animals, hiding out with forged passports only one step ahead of the police, imprisoned for false entry time after time, and shunted from one unwelcoming country to another. Men without a country, the crippled among them even dreamed of a modest government pension, of living out their lives in their newly adopted country as honored citizens.

These dreams were now shattered. By the terms of Negrin’s unconditional withdrawal no volunteer was permitted to remain on Spanish soil even if he wished to stay and become a Spanish citizen. That left these volunteers with but one country to go to—the Soviet Union. I considered that a cheerful alternative, this was the preferred choice of most of them anyway.

“They have fought the Fascists, the foes of mankind; now they will have a chance to help build Socialism in the only socialist country in the world—the fulfillment of the Communist dream! History is working out well for them, the only reward worthy of aspiration.” I wrote a warm farewell to them in an editorial for the Volunteer for Liberty, congratulating these
Internationals on their good luck in going to the Soviet Union.

My first intimation that there was something wrong with that concept came when I was unexpectedly summoned by Marty. Waving the proofs of that editorial with its Spanish translation in my face he began to scream: Who gave me the right to formulate policy for the Soviet Union? He tore those proofs to bits and ordered me out of his sight, raving that although he knew all Americans were arrogant and stupid, yet he hadn’t expected to encounter such colossal political idiocy in a leading comrade.

I left in a daze. I did not have the faintest idea what was wrong. Basically that editorial was nothing more than a friendly, run of the mill expression of solidarity with the Soviet Union and the international working class, such as any Communist editor would write year in and out, by the ream.

The next day I found a note on my desk addressed to all editors announcing the new official line we were to follow, i.e., the volunteers who were the finest and most experienced anti-Fascist comrades in the world were badly needed in the democratic countries to lead the fight there against Fascism; hence that is where all of them must go.

I must indeed have been a political idiot as Marty had charged because I didn’t catch on even then. In fact, I approved of that new line and thought it logical until a German colleague enlightened me. He was witheringly sarcastic, deriding me as a self-righteous, insensitive, smug American and finally turned on on me furiously.

“Don’t you see what this line actually means?”

I didn’t, even though I tried hard. That line sounded solid to me.

“It means the Soviet Union has shut her doors in our face, you fool!” he almost hissed in hate. His long-practiced party-leader mask was gone, his face was writhing with emotion.

“We have no place to go, can’t yet understand that! Which country would permit us, seven—probe Communists, to enter her gates? Would you expect the capitalists to invite us in and say, ‘please cut our throats and ring the death knell of capitalism over our tomb!’ We are the battle-tested, battle-scarred Communists who have fought to the death at the call of the Comintern, and now the Soviet Union is refusing us asylum. We’re doomed, doomed by the Soviet Union, we may even end up by being handed over to Hitler!”

He turned away from me, his face buried in his hands. Up until then I knew him only as one of those close-mouthed, secretive Germans who rebuff all attempts at friendship and intimacy, careful not to show any emotion. Now that hard-bitten revolutionary actually sobbed. The enormity of that revelation affected me greatly. I found there was nothing I could do or say; I tiptoed out of his office. I did not know then how prophetic his words were—that many of them would indeed be handed over to Hitler by Stalin after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 to celebrate that love feast. . . .

When we crossed into France the men went wild over the sight of real milk and white bread with which we were greeted at the French railroad station. At Le Havre we were held up nearly a week because of a strike by the French seamen. Although we were confined to the grounds I managed to slip out and mingle with the population.

When we finally sailed from France we made strange passengers. Even though we had been deloused, most of us out of sheer habit were still scratching our armpits, rectums, and genitals in full view of the other passengers who, alarmed, understandably would have no traffic with us. Few if any of the
volunteers were aware of this rebuff. They, too, preferred to keep their distance, contemptuous as they were of those “lousy capitalists.”