The Saturday Review - Aug. 14, 1948
Letters to the Editor
SIR: I think your readers need to be told, editorially that Howard Fast is under sentence to three months in jail -- and why. The considerable likelihood is that he will go to prison in October.
The facts behind his case are simple and clear:
Fast is a member of the executive board of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee (JAFRC). For ten years this committee has been administering relief to the Republican refugees from Franco Spain who are in France and Mexico. It has supplied them with hospital beds, physicians, bandages, clothes, medicines. This is Fast's first crime, his most obnoxious crime.
The charitable work of the JAFRC has been executed abroad by the Unitarian Service Committee and the Quakers. The records of the JAFRC have been regularly inspected and approved by the U.S. Government agency that licenses the work of such relief organizations. This is Fast's second crime.
At this point it becomes necessary for your readers to know that the House Committee on Un-American Activities some time ago declared that opposition to the Franco Government was un-American and subversive. And that this committee then demanded by subpoena the books and records of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee.
Howard Fast, as one of a board of honorable American men and women, refused to hand over to this committee the names of thousands of other Americans who had contributed money to their medical aid fund. They did so in order to protect their donors from investigation, persecution, public calumny, and job blacklisting.
As anti-Fascists, the members of the JAFRC also refused to hand over to the declared friends of Franco the names of Spaniards in French camps who had received their aid, lest the names be transmitted through the Thomas Committee to the Spanish Embassy and the families of these men then be reached by Franco's executioners.
For these crimes, Fast and the other members of the board of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee were declared in contempt of Congress, tried in court, and convicted by a jury largely composed of Government employees. Now, their appeals denied, they are to go to prison. A final petition for judicial review has been granted them for the fall.
I think you need to urge your readers to reflect upon another fact. Fast, more than any other novelist in American literature, has tried book by book to sing a hymn of American democracy. Whether or not he has been successful can be left to the judgment of the reader. But certainly he has tried. And now, while he awaits execution of sentence, some fifteen men and women who spoke treason during the war over the Italian, Japanese, and German radios, are walking the streets at liberty. They have not been investigated by the Un-American Activities Committee or charged with any crimes by the Department of Justice, not even contempt of Congress.
I believe further that you need to call upon your readers to honor Howard Fast for his alleged crimes.
I believe you need also to call upon the leading literary men and women in Amcrica, calling upon them publicly by name - Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Pearl Buck, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Louis Bromfield, Robert Sherwood, Carl Van Doren, Bernard De Voto, John Marquand, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill - and many others I will not set down here. I think you must ask them to interrupt their work and their lives in order to speak out on this issue, to agitate and split the sky with their indignation. And I believe deeply that you must insist that if they remain silent then they will be abdicating their moral responsibility,
Los Angeles, Calif.