In BEING RED, Fast looks back to his poverty-stricken, New York childhood, identifying it as the source of the hatred for social injustice which lies at the hearts of his novels and his political thinking. He recalls with pride that after the dazzling success of THE LAST FRONTIER (1941) he became radio’s prestigious wartime “Voice of America,” and he describes the events and discussions which led him to join the Communist Party in 1947.
His tone becomes increasingly bitter as he shows how the adulation he received as a rising young star of American literature turned to hatred and vilification in the witch-hunting and blacklisting atmosphere of the McCarthy period, with a devastating effect on his career.
Among the detailed accounts of the incidents and confrontations which particularly affected him — some of which he fictionalized in THE PLEDGE (1988)—is the story of his imprisonment for refusing to hand over lists of names to the House Committee on Un-American Activities and a graphic description of the physical attacks by right-wing vigilantes on the Paul Robeson peace concerts Fast helped to organized at Peekskill, New York.
Fast has skillfully organized his complex material to convey the gradual development of his political commitment and the cumulative effect of political persecution on his literary and personal life. Although he left the Communist Party in 1957, he is able to trace the seeds of his doubt to a much earlier period.
Underlying this very personal and candid memoir is a strong plea for tolerance and the free flow of ideas. Throughout it Fast maintains an affection for the ordinary Party members he knew, respecting them as idealists. He reserves his criticism for officialdom—for U.S. and Soviet authorities and for the American Communist Party’s leaders.