Communist Councilman from Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a Federal Penitentiary - Vol. 2

Communist Councilman from Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a Federal Penitentiary - Vol. 2

Communist Councilman from Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a Federal Penitentiary - Vol. 2

Communist Councilman from Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a Federal Penitentiary - Vol. 2

Synopsis

Original Foreword by Henry Winston. Introduction by Simon W. Gerson for this new edition of Ben Davis's 1960s book. Written while Ben Davis served prison time for a Smith Act conviction later ruled unconstitutional. Index. Notes.

Excerpt

These autobiographical notes are written in the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. If the Truman administration had not jailed me and my fellow-Communist leaders, we would have been continuing our work for peace, freedom and socialism. The only possible compensation for this ordeal is that one has more time in prison to think about past experiences, to study, to reflect and -- if the authorities permit -- to write a book which may one day appear in print. In any case, the dreary and frustrating confinement sent me on a search for some definite undertaking to help break an oppressive monotony -- which was all the more painful for being utterly senseless and undeserved.

Thus, it may have been my prison sentence that provided the occasion for this work, but its true origin and content come from deeper sources -- out of life itself, out of my experiences and those of the Negro people as well as the white workers and progressives with whom I shared my Communist activities. There were many stories I had wanted to tell, many views I had long wanted to record, many questions at meetings to which there had seldom been opportunity to give adequate answers.

I write under the abnormal conditions of prison life, and my work may bear some of the earmarks of this stifling existence. In prison, anxieties over trifles become magnified into world-shaking problems, and one has to battle hard at times to maintain emotional equilibrium. The extremely limited contact with the outside world can cause one to become lopsided in his opinions. The reference material available in the prison library is scanty -- especially on new developments in the United States and in the world. And, most of all, the absence of collective thinking, of the constant exchange of opinion with my comrades is the biggest single void in prison life. All of these handicaps may be reflected in a kind of self-centeredness, but I hope that in dealing with some of the highlights of my personal background, I may illumi-

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