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
- RAY FAHERTY:
Was there a period in the 'thirties, though, like with the
workers alliance, in which there was any kind of united front?
- DON WEST:
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."