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The Communist Controversy in Washington
references to Howard Fast:
Although the committee had failed to establish conspiracy or for that matter much more than the usual inefficiency and accompanying waste of time and effort in the operations of the Voice in the French and Hebrew language broadcasts, the platter program in Latin America, and the matter of the two Bakers, it did question witnesses who pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked about Communist connections. One of these was the author, Howard Fast, who, before his break with the Communists, had been somewhat of a literary hero in the Soviet Union. It was true that he was not employed by the Voice of America, had never been employed by the Voice of America, and had never held any Federal job except a short connection with the Office of War Information in 1942. His name came up, however, in connection with a policy guide signed by Bradley Connors, assistant administrator for Policy and Plans of the Department of State. The memorandum of instructions for the use of the Voice of America and other staff of the IIA gave permission under certain circumstances to use the works of Howard Fast. The language of advice was, "Similarly, if – like Howard Fast – he is known as a Soviet-endorsed author, materials favorable to the United States in some of his works may thereby be given a special credibility among selected key audiences."44 This was doubtless a memorandum that one of the informers detested by Martin Merson had secured for the subcommittee staff.45
Fast was first asked whether he was Howard Fast, the author, and then immediately, whether he was a member of the Communist Party. He said "I am" to the first question, and declined to answer the second question on Fifth Amendment grounds. 46 Instead of being interested in what he had done in the Office of War Information,47 the chairman concentrated on how much money Fast had made in Federal employment.48 It turned out to be a relatively small amount, and nothing was made of the sum, one way or the other.
44 State Department Information Program?Voice of America, p. 97.
45 See above, n. 23.
46 State Department Information Program?Voice of America, p. 98.
47 Fast was asked whether he had known members of the Communist Party working with the OWI when he was with it, but he refused to answer this question on Fifth Amendment grounds. State Department Information Program? Voice of America, p. 99.
48 There was one line of questioning by Senator Potter of Michigan that gave Fast some trouble. He was asked whether he would, if drafted, serve in the "fight against communism in Korea," and he refused to answer the question directly. He kept saying that he would "accept the service of my country if I were drafted," shying each time from the direct question whether he would fight Communists or communism. At length, Senator Potter asked, "Why are you so nervous when we say fighting Communists?" To which Fast answered, "I am not nervous; angry, but very calm. Don't tell me I'm nervous." State Department Information Program?Voice of America, p. 109. Howard Fast was in fact so highly regarded by the Soviet Union as a "progressive" author that he was awarded the Stalin Prize. He later broke with and left the party, as he reveals in The Naked God (New York: Praeger, 1957).
But Mr. Connors would not say whether the alleged mislocation of the two stations was the result of stupidity or of a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Voice of America.
He had been press officer for both Generals Marshall and Wedemeyer during their separate missions in China after V-J Day, denied that he had wittingly or unwittingly leaked any news to anyone, denied the allegations of the confession that he had done so, said that he was not a member of the Communist Party and had never been, nor of any fellow-traveler organizations listed by the Attorney General, and agreed that "there is considerable feeling not of the best nature" between Caldwell and him. He also denied Caldwell's statement about his critical attitude towards the Nationalist Government and said that he "was in full sympathy with the Nationalist Government," that he felt that there were certain reforms that could have been made, but that he was unalterably opposed to the Communists. This was all there was to the suspicion that the directive which mentioned the works of Howard Fast would lead to the disclosure of a Communist conspiracy in the Voice of America, or to the operation of a very efficient operation of any kind, for us or against us.
The commission's policy had been based upon a recommendation from its own subcommittee – the Committee on Books Abroad – and was intended merely to lay down a general line. The thought seems to have been that works or portions of works of Communist authors might sometimes conceivably promote American ends. Thus some of the early works of Howard Fast were thought to be in this category, although not later ones, which were rejected for agency use. But this was a Truman administration group and a new line was begun with the advent of the Republicans. On January 30, the first of the directives on new policy was issued and sent to the field offices on February 3, 1953, as Policy Order No. 5. This was the order which Bradley Connors had signed and to which the subcommittee gave some attention, as has been indicated. In the whole context of the order, however,67 the phrases about Howard Fast, which were by way of illustration, were intended generally to implement the master policy laid down on December 4, 1952.
67 For the full text of the order, see State Department Information Program – Voice of America, pp. 144-145.