from the dust jacket of the 1957 Praeger first edition
The Naked God; The Writer and the Communist Party
If asked to describe Howard Fast's first book after his break with the Communist Party, one could call it simply a great writer's coming to grips with the basic contradiction in the Communist system -- the contradiction between mind and dogma. More specifically, this book juxtaposes the creative artist's constant drive toward truth, justice and beauty, and the hollow, rigid, "political" incantations of the movement's cultural high priests. In so doing, it highlights the contradiction between humanity with its dreams of a better future, and the monstrous inhumanity of a power-drunk, completely insensitive bureaucracy which has lost all touch with the aspirations and hopes of common men. This is the core and the key message of the book.
In a book by a man who was formerly hailed as one of the great hopes of American literature; who joined the Communist Party after the great exodus of intellectuals set in; who stayed in the movement through thirteen bitter years, becoming its one articulate voice, its last member with prestige as writer, artist and human being; who declined in reputation and fortune in the United States; who, as the last important and articulate intellectual in the Party, was driven to man practically all the barricades that were left to be manned and to fight, sometimes single-handedly, all the ridiculous, desperate, pathetic, last-ditch battles of a movement that had lost practically all mass support and mass sympathy; and whose eclipse here was matched by a meteoric rise to fame in the Soviet orbit and in countries like India, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. It is the work of a man who, until a few months ago, was a hero of world Communism; whose SPARTACUS alone sold close to a million copies in East Germany (although it had been violently attacked by the Communist literary czars in the United States); who had become the best selling author in the Soviet Union, recipient of the Stalin Prize, center of attraction for visiting Soviet and Iron Curtain diplomats, the subject of doctoral dissertations and bibliographies.
THE NAKED GOD is many things: the outcry of a soul in agony, torn by compassion, moved by anger, raging with fury; the vision of eyes that see for the first time when the bandages have been removed after a difficult operation -- not yet accustomed to light, halting, hesitating, not too certain about colors and shades, but seeing at last. Most important, it is honest. It is not an apologia in the grand style, a beating of the breast or a complete abandonment of ideals held for so many years. It is an account of mistakes and errors, without excuses and without attempts to make them look less grievous than they were. It explains, in terms of specific instances, the whys and wherefores of total commitment to a false ideal. And, too, it explains the inability to quit the Party, the cleaving to a faith that transcended reason, until the final, devastating blow of the Khrushchev speech shattered a soul already torn to shreds by thirteen years of service to the naked god.
To some extent this book is based on Mr. Fast's article "The Writer and the Commissar" in the October issue of PROSPECTUS. Certain sections have been rewritten and a great deal of new material has been added.