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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Disillusionment for 1930s activists as their efforts fail

Many activists who hoped to change America for the better in the 1930s grew disillusioned, and years later, did not want to think about that hopeful period, West explains. He offers examples of formerly devoted activists who have since left the life and refuse to look back.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Was there a period in the 'thirties, though, like with the workers alliance, in which there was any kind of united front?
There was a good period of united front. The workers alliance, which you mentioned. David Lasser was the SP. He was national president. Herbert Benjamin, I believe one of the letters I gave you last night I was writing to Herbert Benjamin. He was a CP. And this was the kind of front. Part CP, part SP, but worked together very closely. And for all ostensible purposes it was a united thing. Of course there were those who realized that there was some differences, you know. But it served to weld together a very much stronger organization as a result of getting together like that. David Lasser. I knew him very well. He worked very cooperatively. And I knew Benjamin very well, too. Sad thing. I came through Washington a few years ago. I'd heard that Herb Benjamin was there and I looked him up in the phone book and called him up. Told him who I was. I'd known him very well back in the 'thirties. He said "You know, I don't want to be reminded of anything that happened in the 'thirties. I have no recollections of it. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to see you." Just like that. That's happened to lots of people. You probably know about that. People who put their lives on the line. I don't know what happened. They became bitter or something. Disillusioned. And they don't even want to think about it. So it made me sad because I'd known him at that time he was a dedicated person, very much. Another man I knew. The one I drove the car down to Birmingham and was arrested in Philadelphia. Then he was a militant left winger. Years later I was in New York and I wanted to go see him. I was in an apartment house on Riverside Drive and my hostess that evening said "You know who owns this house? Well, it's your old friend so and so." I said "I'll have to go see him." So I went to see him. And he didn't want to talk, didn't want any memories of the past at all. My hostess says "He owns a half dozen other apartment houses like this."