Chapter

Jailed for Ideas

Gerald Horne

in The Final Victim of the Blacklist

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780520243729
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939936 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520243729.003.0012
Jailed for Ideas

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The roasting encounter endured by John Howard Lawson in Washington in the fall of 1947 was a turning point for this writer. He was blacklisted from Hollywood. Red Hollywood was disintegrating; as early as 1949 the L.A. writer Carey McWilliams had detected a “great decrease of political interest and political activity in Hollywood.” Since Lawson was on the fast track to a tiny, cramped, and dank prison cell, his fate seemed decidedly undesirable. He turned abruptly toward the writing of history. He expanded his critique to encompass the entire apparatus of the cold war. The “Maltz affair” and similar incidents probably said more about Lawson's personality than they did about Communist Party praxis—though, inevitably, it was the reputation of both that suffered grievously as a result. Though Lawson was “profoundly optimistic about the future,” he ruefully conceded that his being behind bars was a “fantastic low comedy situation”.

Keywords: John Howard Lawson; Red Hollywood; prison cell; writing; Maltz affair; Communist Party; political activity; blacklisted

Chapter.  8223 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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