JS: Finally we started to move around January or February of '37. Went to New York with a group and we got ourselves a little orientation and organized and split up into little groups and given tickets and what not. As we get on the ship we got over to France in March, sometime in March, we got over to France.
So you basically you all had worked out a cover story because it wouldn't
have been legal -
JS: Each one, individually, I mean -- we were just tourists, students or something. Each one, individually, was going, getting a ticket and going to Europe. Not as a group Of course we were organized in small groups to sort of keep track of each other. I was one of the group leaders. The groups were about 6 or 7 people at a time, but we didn't stay together, we didn't hang out together, we didn't have bunkrooms together. We especially were cautioned not to congregate together and make it obvious that we were going as a group. In fact, we were supposed to pretend we didn't know each other, which was true in most cases. Even the small group, we weren't supposed to be visible as a group.
INTERVIEWER: At this time -- we're talking about like
February, March of '37 -- was the embargo in effect, the arms embargo?
JS: Oh, sure.
INTERVIEWER: And so it was -- and the United States was
supporting that and was pushing that?
JS: Of course. So was France. The French government of Leon Blum was supposed to be a united front government or something and he was supposed to be a socialist, but he was very strict observing the boycott. He was trying to stop all volunteers from getting through France to go to Spain. We had to go sort of underground all the way through France in order to get there and that took time and a lot of organizing and a lot of care and planning to do it.
INTERVIEWER: The group you went through -- was the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade. Was that right or was that brigade formed
once you got to Spain or was it formed
JS: Well, it was formed in Spain after the first group got there. When we got over into Spain, we didn't know there were several batallions -- the Lincoln Batallion, the Washington Batallion. We were processed and split up and sent to different training centers to join different brigades and batallions as the need occurred. So when we went we went through France and crossed over the mountains -- we didn't know where we were going to endd up or what we were going to be doing or where we were going. Everything had to be carefully guarded as a military secret. Most of all there were Fascist spies all over France -- everywhere -- who were working with the ggovernment trying to stop us and trying to get all the information they could about us -- where we were going and how -- to feed to the enemy so they could stop us and kill us if necessary. We just followed our instructions and orders. There was pretty good organization there. I don't know who was behind the organization, but it's fairly clear that it was probably some leadership groups of the communists in Europe who were organizing this operation of getting through France and getting into Spain.
INTERVIEWER: But before you left, while you were still
in the United States, was there any sort of ceremony or procedure where
you were sworn in as like a member of this military ---
JS: No, no, no, no. Nothing at all like that.
INTERVIEWER: No basic training?
JS: No, nothing, nothing.
INTERVIEWER: No drill?
JS: Just a bunch of guys. We got to New York. We were told to go to a certain -- a little flea - flop house, to stay and to come to some meeting the next day. And we listened to some political propaganda speech on why we were going to Spain and that was all. And then we were broken up into groups and told to go back and stay put until we got further instructions and that was it.
INTERVIEWER: You said yesterday when we were talking that
you had been in ROTC, so you were somewhat familiar with military chain
of command, points of discipline, instruction, organization of the military.
I'm assuming that among a number of the other volunteers that they had
absolutely no military training or experience whatsoever.
JS: Most of the others, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any sort of, like instruction,
or anything given to these young men? JS: Military?
INTERVIEWER: Before leaving?
JS: No. We had no military instructions. It was all political. In fact, when we got into Spain and we got into our so-called training, we didn't have any military instructors even then. They were just political instructors. Political leaders who themselves didn't know much about military training.
INTERVIEWER: How was your passage paid for?
JS: I don't know. Somebody paid for it and gave us tickets. I mean it was an organization, they were collecting funds to support Republican Spain. I don't know who was in the organization or who was leading it or how they were raising the funds but they -- you know, there were a lot of affairs in those days. Public meetings, progressive people contributing funds, etc. I assumed that's where the money came from.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have spending money or anything for
food on the way over or travel when you got there?
JS: Well, when you got in that ship, you know, everything is paid for. You don't need any money. I think they did give us a few bucks each to have in our pocket, but didn't need any money on the ship. You got off the ship and we were met by some guides and we were told where to go. We went to some kind of pension or some little places where to stay and that, we didn't need money for that, either. So we didn't have any money to speak of. Couldn't go wandering around like tourists and having fun. We had to stay put. Stay in the room. Keep quiet and keep our noses clean and wait for instructions. About a day or two later there would be a meeting and somebody would come and round us up and take us to a meeting where we had some more political talk and then instructions an how to get organized to travel through France. Which was quite a job. We had to do that in small groups, too.
JS: But meanwhile, when we were travelling through France we didn't have money to spend. Of course, we couldn't go out and spend it. We had to stay hidden all the time.
INTERVIEWER: Were the French police actually arresting?
JS: Oh yeah.
INTERVIEWER: people who were coming in to try to
help the Republicans?
JS: Oh, sure. They were trying to stop us. But you see there was -- the government was dead set against letting any of us get through, but not the people. Most of the people were very friendly and sympathetic. They couldn't influence the government. The way we succeeded was this: there was a popular front. Leon Blum was the leader of the Socialist Party and it included some other parties, I think even the communist party. I'm not sure. There was a Popular Front government and nationally that was the policy of no help for Republican Spain -- boycott, etc. Embargo, no arms, no volunteers. But the people had a different idea. And this popular front government in some of the villages or towns the socialists were predominant and they had control of the town. Or some others, the communists, were in control of the city and town. They had the city council and they'd control the police, etc. and some other towns, other parties had the majority and control of other areas. So the trick was to hopscotch from one town to another where good guys, the friendly guys, were in control of the town. We would end up in little towns where the mayor was a communist and the chief of police and about everybody else were very helpful and friendly. They knew we were going through. They knew we were there. They knew where we were hiding. Nobody said anything. They actually underhandedly were helping us. That's how we made it. Of course, even in those towns there were fascists -- they were no doubt snooping around, trying to see what was going on and report it to other Fascists. We managed to get through and all the other volunteers managed to get through in groups.
INTERVIEWER: Did you speak French?
JS: A little bit, you know. I had it in high school. I was sort of a spokesman for my group. If they had to send out to get -- you know we were holed up here for days, a week. Had to send out to get cigarettes and a few things like that, they would send me because I was the only guy who knew a little French. Sometimes we would team up with another group from England and there would be a couple university guys who knew French very well. They would go. Very often, I had to go. For instance if it was time to move on, someone had to go to the railroad station and buy a bunch of tickets to go to the next town. Very often it would be me; they'd send me out because I could speak a little French. I would go and ask for a ticket to Biziet or someplace, ask how much and I'd say "Give me 18 tickets" and they'd look at me and they knew right away, but they didn't say anything. Smile a little bit and give me 18 tickets.
INTERVIEWER: Is that how many people would be in your
group, these small groups?
JS: Yeah. In these small groups there may be 15, 18 etc.
INTERVIEWER: Were they all Americans?
JS: Yeah, mostly. Well, once we holed up in a place, we were in a town in the south. I think it's called Sete and we were stuck there for about 2 weeks because there was a break down in the railroad. Other groups came. What we were doing -- there was a big school, run by the city, of course and it was not operating. Some kind of vacation period or something. It was empty and we were holed up in the attic of that school. We had to stay there, keep quiet, not make noise. It's a wonder we didn't get cabin fever, you know. Stir crazy. We couldn't make noise. We couldn't sing. We couldn't talk loud or anything.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do during that time?
JS: I don't know. I don't remember. We were disciplined; we had to be. Play cards, keep quiet. And then other groups would come. One time we had maybe 60, 80 people. Some of them were English, some were Belgian, I think. A mixture of groups -- of course, groups more or less stayed together and separate. The reason we were stuck there and broken down was the route, at the beginning for about 6 months or more, had been to go down to southern ports like Marseilles, get into a fishing boat that belonged to a friendly progressive guy, at night, and we would -- small groups would get in the fishing boat and we'd slip around the coastline and get over into Spanish waters and then, with luck, drop us off right into Barcelona or some place like that. And that was going along pretty well until one day -- March, April, end of March or early April one of these fishing boats was minding his own business and all of a sudden an Italian submarine comes by and torpedoes it. They knew where everybody was going and when and where. And the Italians had their submarines cruising all around the border there. They blew the thing up sky high and killed half the people right off the bat and the other half most of them couldn't swim. Fortunately it was not too far from the coast. They stayed close to the coast. Some of the guys managed to swim there and pull a few others with them. Some of the peasants or fishermen of Spanish towns around came running, giving help with their boats and tried to save some of the guys, pull them out of the water. A few, quite a few, were saved, but those that came through, they were shell shocked. A little fishing boat getting hit by a torpedo -- they were shell shocked. They weren't much good at the front, at fighting, but they kept going, they did their best. .
JS: Yep. So they had to figure out a new way to get across.
The only other way they could see was to climb across the Pyrenees. And
that wasn't easy either. The Pyrenees was the Pyrenees. It wasn't Central
Park. You had to do it at night and you had to do it to evade the fascists
and the border guards and the French had a lot of border guards, guarding
that border, trying to stop any volunteers going across as well as smugglers.
Ordinary smugglers, you know. It was quite a job, but they finally made
arrangements to get us across the Pyrenees at night.
. (We were in) Southern France, near one of the inlets, fishing inlets, maybe it was a town called Setee. Bunches of taxis drive up, so apparently the taxi cab union -- it was under control of the progressives in that area. A bunch of taxi cabs drive up and we were marshalled down and jammed into the taxi cabs, as much as we could get. And then we take off and we drive and drive and drive and we go straight for the mountains.
INTERVIEWER: How many of you are there at this point in
the taxi cabs?
JS: A lot. We couldn't stand there and count them. We had almost -- over a hundred people holed up in that school and they cleared us all out. They drove us to the foot of the mountains ' I don't know exactly where. Maybe it was about 20-30 miles in from the coast, the foot of the mountains. It was getting dark and we got out on the lower slope of the mountain, as high as the road could go. There were still some French farmers along that stretch that didn't go very much higher because the mountains became very steep. We had to get out and they organized us into single file groups and we started to hike up the mountain. Single file, one at a time . We had to be very careful, very quiet, we had to follow one after the other, footsteps, because we were going through French farmers' farmland until we got up higher on the mountain slope. We couldn't leave a single sign that we had been through there. Being civilians there was a tendency on some of the guys -- when you had to come to the end of a field and make a sharp turn, they would just short cut the corner and trample on the corner of that field. Well, the guide got mad and he slammed this guy and "Get back in line" and got on his knees and fixed up the soil and the ground and the plants so it would look just perfect, the way it was before. He didn't want the farmer to know.
. but the leader -- the way they worked it out -- the leader, the guides that were taking us up the mountain and evading the guards, border guards, they were professional smugglers from Andorra.
JS: Yeah. And they had made out -- the leadership of the - - whoever was organizing this operation. They got together and made deals with the Andorra smugglers and the Andorra smugglers were recruited to be the guides. And they did a very good job.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any -- you mentioned the taxi cab
drivers and sort of suggested that they had been in political sympathy
with you all?
JS: Well, of course, they had to be or they couldn't be trusted to take us there.
INTERVIEWER: What about the Andorrans?
JS: The Andorrans. ..
INTERVIEWER: Was this a business deal?
JS: Business deal? They were smugglers. They were professional smugglers. They didn't have too much political interest, but I think they did a little bit. If you know Andorra, it's in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains in between France and Spain. Actually it belongs half to France and half to Spain. And most of the inhabitants, the Andorrans, at that time were sort of closely related to the Basques who were north of Spain. The Basques, on the other hand, were pretty near all supporters of Republican Spain because the Republic promised them autonomy and freedom and so forth. So there was a political interest, I think, on the part of practically all the Andorrans, even the smugglers. And most Andorrans were smugglers, there wasn't another way or them to earn a living and they've been doing it for generations. So, they did a beautiful job. We would climb up one gulley and then we would hear some wild animal, you know, croaking, far away, from another mountain top and the guide would make us stop. And we'd hear some funny noises you know, like birds and what not and they'd make us turn around and go back into another gully. They had lookouts all over and they knew where the guards were and they sent us warnings if we were going to run into border guards. So, they guided us through very well. The problem was most of us were civilians, students. We weren't very strong. We weren't very hardy. We weren't mountain climbers. And we had to go like hell to go from the foot of the Pyrenees over to the top and over the top and over the borderline to get onto Spanish soil and we had to do that before sunrise. And it was pitch black and we couldn't have even a cigarette light, nothing.
INTERVIEWER: Is there snow on the ground?
JS: No, there was no more snow then, at that time. The snow had already melted. They took us through some lower passes where there wasn't snow, but it was spring. I remember when we got into Spain it was very close to May, so it was probably around the end of April. We didn't run into any snow.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any that tried to turn back in
the course of that climb?
JS: No, but some accidents happened. Some guys would -- we would have to go up narrow trails withh a big precipice on the side. we had to go up creek beds that were dry and rocky and what not and slip and skip and try not to make noise. And it was hard on us. Hard on me. We were huffing and puffing and we didn't think we would make it -- because, you know, we were youngsters from the cities. Of course, some of the group in our caravan were some French volunteers, some Belgian volunteers. The Belgian volunteers were old radical Progressives, from the sea front, from the seaports. Many of them were stevedores. They were big, built like a brick shit house. They could pick up a 300 pound trunk that came off a steamer and carry it up the stairs.
One of their guys twisted his ankle. Big, strong, husky guy, but twisted his ankle and he couldn't walk. They weren't going to leave him behind, nobody could take him back. We were halfway up the mountain. There was this feeling of solidarity and what not. So the other guys, the stevedores, that's what they called them, stevedores, four guys got a hold, picked him up, two legs, two arms, carried him. Not only carried him, they ran with him up to the head of the line. We were huffing and puffing trying to keep up the line and they were passing us and running ahead of us carrying this big, 250 pound stevedore with them and they lead the line from then on. The policy was never leave anyone behind. Of course, once in a while, somebody would miss his footing and fell down a 1,000 foot precipice and that would be the end. We had to leave him there.
INTERVIEWER: Did that actually happen?
JS: Didn't happen in my group, but it happened in other groups. So that's how we -- we huffed and we puffed and finally there was a little false alarm and we were worried, but we were near the top and we kept going. They'd give us little rest period. Maybe five minutes at a time, after an hour or so. They would stop and let us sit down and relax and catch our breath. They didn't give us too much time for resting. They kept pushing because it was a long climb and a very hard one. I think everyone made it. Everyone made it. We finally -- just as dawn was breaking finally got over the top and we were on the other side and we could see the Spanish country side. And what a relief that was. what a relief and a surprise, too. Especially -- guys like me who weren't very strong and I wasn't sure I would be able to make it.
INTERVIEWER: What were you carrying with you? Did you
have packs or anything?
JS: No, just a little hand bag. We were allowed to take little hand bags. The big suitcases and things that we brought from home -- we left them with the French and the Frennch got them over into Spain, into the base at Albaceti and got there ahead of us with them. Apparently they didn't have too much trouble just getting baggage across, although they had to be careful too because there was an embargo on everything going into Spain, food, clothing, ammunition, military equipment, anything, but they managed that all right. So we were each carrying a little bundle. Carrying little bundles. That's how we got through France. Each guy was carrying a little bundle. They wanted us to look like French peasants or at least tourists so they made us all buy berets. They gave us, each one of us, a beret and each one was carrying a little hand bag. And when we would go to the ---
INTERVIEWER: Is that when you first started wearing berets?
JS: Yeah. Then -- say we were walking to the railroad station from the hideout, and we were told not to go as a group, but to go single file with about 10 feet or more between each guy. So here we would be parading, a whole line of guys, all about the same age, all wearing berets, all carrying the same little bag, and people would look at us and smile and not say anything. We really stood out.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have to leave your identification
behind or did you have your identification on you, like your passport?
JS: I don't remember that. The upshot of it was -- we lost all our id's, our passports, together with the clothing we had brought. We put them, usually, in the little hand bag, or bag, whatever it was we had, for safekeeping. It was safe, all right, but we never got them! I don't know who got them. Probably -- there were a lot of fascist infiltrators into the national brigade, especially at the base. There were a lot of them and also anarchists and all kinds of people and they were stealing stuff, too. Peddling it and making money out of the war. On the whole, that was it. We went there and apparently some people felt we were never going to come out anyway so they just made use of all the equipment we had brought.
INTERVIEWER: when you got to Spain, you said you saw the
sun come up and you were really thrilled about that. Was there somebody
waiting there for you to put you up or something that first night?
JS: No. There was nobody. It was just a mountain field. A pasture like. You see the topography of that area is very strange. The Pyrenees, for instance, on the French side it's a very tall, very steep, very harsh mountain. But on the Spanish side it slopes down gradually. Almost like a pasture land. A slope, a gradual slope. When we got over to the other side we could see vast distance away. Down below us there was a little country road running parallel to the top of the mountain. Where it came from or where it was going -- we didn't see any people around there at all. No people at all. Just an empty field and we were surprised. There was an old tough mountain to climb down, but we just flopped on the ground, exhausted and jubilant that we had made it. Somebody told us this was Spain, you're going to spend the night, you don't have to worry. After about half an hour some trucks began to appear from the distance on this little country road. They were coming to get us. They knew we were coming, they knew where we were going to be, etc. If they had been there waiting for us, the French guards and fascists would have noticed it and they would have been on the look out to stop us. There was nobody there. We just got over the top and after lunch we were there and then the trucks started to roll from about 30 miles away. They came from a town called Figeras. Figeras -- which was an old Spanish army fort that dates way back to the Napoleonic war or something like that. This is Catalonia. Pretty close to the Basque region but actually it's Catalonia.
INTERVIEWER: In the countryside there, there was a lot
of support for the Republic?
JS: Well, I don't know. We didn't get too much contact with the countryside. Most of the people in the north there and in Catalonia supported the government, but there were also strong fascist elements among the people. Not fascists so much -- anarchists. Anarchists and also in the progressive movement there in Catalonia there were a lot of Trotskyites who were sort of closely allied with the anarchists, more than with the communists. So we came there about some time in early April and we spent a couple weeks, two, three weeks in this fort -- the Figeras which is very close to the French border and close to the Mediterranean coast. That's an interesting place to talk about. At any rate, from there we went down to the international base in Albacseti which is around the central part of Spain. While we were on our way down there, down to Albacseti, we heard stories and saw reports of an uprising in Barcelona, in Catalonia against the Republican government organized by the Trotskyites and the anarchists. This was right on May Day. The Trotskyites picked May Day as a day for liberation -- liberate the workers from government control. Very messy. The government kind of had to take some troops -- send some troops in there -- away from the front to restore order and put a stop to this uprising, which they did, in about 2 or 3 days without too much trouble. It caused a lot of harm.
JS: But actually, orientation lectures and talks we got all the way through and every group travelling in a big group there was always some English university professor or student who was well versed in politics, who would be giving us orientation talks and what not and what was going on. And a little bit of the history
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever have, in the course of those
talks, anyone ever talk to you about military tactics or
JS: They didn't know anything about military ... we weren't there to be soldiers. We were there to be political supporters of the Spanish Republic.
INTERVIEWER: But doesn't that seem to you to be somewhat
a contradiction in the sense that you were there to be soldiers.
You were there to fight.
JS: Yeah, but we didn't know how and the guys who were leading us didn't know how. They had to be sure we knew what we were fighting for and what we were going to get killed for so that we would go willingly. And they did a pretty good job with that and I was supposed to help out in the political talks but I didn't know too much. A lot of these political leaders who went along with us they knew a hell of a lot. They usually were students from the British universities and things like that. That's one thing that kept us organized and kept us quiet when we were laying low and hiding out in these hideout places and had to keep quiet for days on end. So they organized card games, they organized political lectures, chess and checkers they provided and things like that. Keep us occupied and keep our spirits up. And of course they brought us food and drink which the local friends would supply during the night. It was well organized. We managed to get by, but as far as military was concerned, we didn't get anything at all in that respect until we got into the training center and even then we didn't get a hell of a lot.
INTERVIEWER: Let's talk about that. When you got there,
were you assigned to a particular unit or how did all of it work? They
took your civilian clothes away, gave you uniforms. What did your uniform
JS: You have some of those books, the Spanish soldiers and volunteers? They didn't look like much of uniforms, but --there was baggy pants, generally brown and shirt and that's about it. maybe a little cap and that was the whole uniform.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have a canteen? Were you issued a
JS: No, we weren't issued guns and we weren't issued canteens or anything like that.
INTERVIEWER: A compass?
JS: Compass! Oh god. That was high tech. No, I don't think even the officers had a compass or even binoculars.
INTERVIEWER: Did they take your berets away?
JS: No. No, we were keeping them mostly. Sometimes they didn't have enough of those army caps and we would still use the beret. We got there and we get some more orientation and we get barracks place to sleep in, etc. Then we would be called out once or twice a day to do a little drilling. Just cold sort of drilling you know, marching and this and that. Not a hell of a lot of military training. After 4, 5, 6 days and when we go through processing center they take down our names, addresses, data, everything and where we came from and what we knew, etc. Then they assigned us to different places. most of the guys were assigned to the Lincoln battalion.
INTERVIEWER: Was there another battalion for Americans?
JS: Yeah, Washington Battalion.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you never hear about them?
JS: They got wiped out, practically, early on and not too many survivors so what was left of them was merged in with the Lincoln Battalion and then it was the Lincoln Battalion that was known and referred to all the time. The Washington Battalion didn't last very long.
INTERVIEWER: Well, they usually refer to it as the Lincoln
JS: They call it a brigade, but it really wasn't a brigade. it wasn't big enough to be a brigade. Things weren't too militarized in those days. Everything was very fluid. So we registered and then some wise guy would decide, well, you to the Washington Battalion and you go to the Lincoln Battalion and they would separate us into different groups. Then other leaders would take us and give us some drills and talk about how the military -- they didn't know too much themselves. Didn't take long. Sometimes only -- some of the guys would be there only two weeks and didn't know how a hell of a lot of anything and there would be a big offensive battle around, say, Brunetti -- Jarama. When we got there, the Jarama offensive was over, more or less. That's where a lot of the Washington Battalion got wiped out. Some of the guys were only there about 2 weeks. They were sent up as reinforcements to the Lincolns or Washington, I don't know which. Many of them never even got there. They were marching along the road to get close to the front and along come fascists bombing planes or fighter planes or whatever. German, I guess. Or Italian -- and they would strafe the road with it and they killed off half the league, recruits before they even got to the front, before they even were able to fire a single shot. They were just on their way marching to the front line. And they hadn't had more practice than maybe two or three shots fired before they went out. That was their whole military training.
INTERVIEWER: How long were you in training?
JS: Well, mine was different because I wasn't assigned to the Washington Battalion or the Lincoln Battalion or any place else. I was assigned to a special unit of artillery.
INTERVIEWER: That was based on your ROTC?
JS: That's right.
INTERVIEWER: You were considered to be a seasoned military
JS: I was -- in fact they had me slated to be a sergeant right away practically, because I knew something about artillery and aiming and firing and so, they assigned me to another small group, to an artillery unit. It was a very interesting artillery unit, because we didn't have any artillery. And we didn't even have a unit.
INTERVIEWER: How many people were in your unit?
JS: I would say about 15 or 20 at the most. And we were supposed to be training for use of artillery, which we didn't have. The people who were training us didn't know anything, and they didn't know what kind of guns we were going to get, if we were going to get any. Actually, that's quite a story there. They were expecting to receive a shipment of light artillery pieces, very modern, very new, from Russia. The Russians were trying to send military equipment to Spain, sort of illegally, too, you know, it was against the League of Nations embargo, but they were loading up ships in the Black Sea and sending them through the Mediterranean and getting some stuff into Spain. Including some of their new little artillery guns. They were called 76's -- 76 millimeter artillery. They were nice little guns, but they didn't have very many of them. There were a couple of -- 2, 3, 4 units of those operated by the Spanish forces that took part in the offenses and defenses. Which was good. We were hoping, expecting that we would get another shipment of those and the next shipment was supposed to be our guns and then we were going to have a real artillery practice and go into action to help the Internationals on some of their offensive. Well, that shipment never came. Several of the Russian ships were torpedoed by the Italian submarines in the Mediterranean and all our equipment down at the bottom of the Mediterranean. They're still there waiting for us to retrieve it but I don't know if we'll ever get it up again. That's what happened. We waited and waited and waited. we were worrying -- I guess the Russians were worrying too -- about how much the Italians, the fascists -- knew exactly. What ships were carrying miilitary equipment and where they were going and what their route was because they were sinking a lot of them. My hunch was, our feeling was that there were some traitors among the Russian military generals and they were of course exposed either by Stalin and his purges and some of them were disposed of. And we had no doubt that there was a lot of sabotage there, too. Some of the -- I don't know how it happened -- the Spanish Republic got, I don't know. They got some old artillery pieces that were left over from the Napoleonic war, I guess. They were fantastic. if you go to a Russian military museum, you'd see these old big cannons standing outside on cement pedestals as a symbol of what artillery was like say a hundred years ago, or something. They had some of those guns around and they brought them over to us and told us they were ours and that we had to use them and shoot with them. Oh what a fantastic job that was. They had big wheels, wooden wheels that were this high-- Six feet at least, or more.
INTERVIEWER: And they were wooden?
JS: Wooden with wooden spokes and a steel band around them and they weighed -- oh, fantastic, they were tons. They shot a big shell .. maybe 7, 8 inches. Something like that, down there. And they were loaded. You had to load the shell and you had to load a big powder bag and then you had to load another one behind it and ... ..And then they closed the breach and you had to put in a fuse into the breach and fire it.
INTERVIEWER: How long was the fuse?
JS: Oh, not very long. Maybe 4 or 5 seconds. And then you had a long line and you'd get over to the side and fire the thing. The whole shooting match would roll back about 10 feet and you had to push it back into position again to get ready to fire the next round.
The guns were first made ... I don't know ... They're probably dated to 1890 or something like that. I'm sure they were never even used in the first World War. They were outdated and they were falling apart. The wooden spokes of the wheels were all rotten. They were falling out and we had to get some of our guys who were good mechanics. A couple of Hungarian mechanics from Cleveland or some places like this -- Ohio -- they'd be -- they would chop down some trrees and fashion some wooden spokes and replace the spokes on the wheels because the wheels were falling apart. They had to take off the steel band around the wheels and replace them with other steel. They had to hammer and blacksmith, actually, steel bands.
INTERVIEWER: But how did you move these up to like firing
JS: Well, muscle power
INTERVIEWER: You didn't have horses or mules or anything
JS: No horses. No mules. They were -- we had three of them and we'd draw them up to the front line with trucks. We sort of put them more or less in position and then the trucks would have to back off. They were carrying the ammunition and then we would have to push them by muscle force into correct position. That was quite an operation to figure out how to aim them and all that.
INTERVIEWER: Could you aim them?
JS: Oh yeah. Yeah. More or less. That's a story in itself. Very often with those old guns, because there were some other outfits-- some other batteries that had been firing them already before us -- they fired the first shot and the breach would explode. Killed a few people. They put the gun out of commission. We heard about that. So our mechanics -- they picked up some spare iron and being good blacksmiths they built a steel band around the breach so that it would strengthen it and would keep it from exploding, which is very smart. we didn't have any exploding on our side.
INTERVIEWER: What was the distance that those guns could
JS: Technically, maybe 3, 4, 5 miles, I guess, but I'm not sure because they were so old. I don't know if they would ever reach that far. Very heavy and cumbersome. They were useless. Utterly useless. The fascists had nice modern little light artillery pieces that would go boom, boom, boom, boom and we would take 10 minutes or so to load up and fire one of our guns and they were no good. We were more worried about them exploding in front of our faces and the breach exploding than the fascists were worried about us. ..
INTERVIEWER: How long were you in Spain all together?
JS: About 2 years and 2 months
INTERVIEWER: You said that when the different seasons
would come, you'd have different stuff to eat. What happened in the winter?
JS: Sometimes we'd have some rice. I don't know where they got it from, but they managed to supply us even with some rice or chick peas or lentils and that's about it. Once in a while we'd have a little meat. We supplied our own meat. . once in a while one of the horses or the burros or the mules would get shot in No Man's Land and it would be lying there, you know. And that night, of course, there would be a big race, a f ight over it. Everybody, on both sides, to get the dead mule. They -- the fascists -- were after it just as much as we were. And once in a while some of the Spanish troops would get into that No Man's Land at night and be able to haul that dead mule back up the hill into our lines. So they would dole out some of the meat to each little outfit around there and we would get a share of it. So that's how we would have meat once in a while. .
INTERVIEWER: Was there much illness?
JS: No, not too much, except well -- I was one. I picked up malaria while I was there, down in the Toledo area. A lot of wet marshlands and trenches and full of mosquitoes and invasions of locusts and what not. I got a case of malaria and that was interesting deal. ..
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever -- during the time that you
were in Spain, it must have been just a lot of hardship, in terms of not
enough to eat, exposure to the elements. You've talked about being put
in areas where it made no sense for you to be there and completely exposed
and vulnerable. Did you ever have doubts or questions about 'What am I
doing here?' and 'This is crazy.' ?
JS: No. One or two of the guys would get demoralized like that, but usually we'd have political discussions and they'd overcome that. Once in a while, one or two during the course of two years, would be in such a bad state that they would send them back. But most of the time we -- most of the guys just bore it and they stayed through it and we didn't -- Of course, you know, this was a time of the deepest Depression and back home we were used to hard times anyway. So there wasn't too much difference, but at any rate, we felt we were doing some good and we always had a little glimmer of hope that things would turn around and change and we would get some guns and armaments, and the non-intervention policy would change and the international situation would change. After about a year, year and a half, middle of 1938, of course we listened to the news and we had a radio and little news bulletins. This was the time when Chamberlain sold out in Munich and the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia and when we heard that, we knew we were lost. We knew who we were, we couldn't possibly win. We had been sold out all right from the start. That's when our morale began to fade away a little bit. That was -- close after that the League of Nations came to a decision. It was a sort of an agreement, a compromise with the Republic that all the foreign troops or foreign volunteers -- that we would withdraw. This is part of the non-intervention pact. League of Nations was still functioning to help the Fascists. So the Republican government, leaders of the government were kind of weak and wishy-washy at that time. They were persuaded by the League of Nations that if they would withdraw their volunteers, that the League of Nations would see that the Italians and the Germans would withdraw their troops and they would work out a peace settlement or something. So officially we were withdrawn and it took about three, four, five months to be arranged, before we got out. We were nearly trapped, so we couldn't get out, but that's another story. At any rate, we were withdrawn from the front.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when that was?
JS: Well, in the fall of '38.
INTERVIEWER: And where did you go when you were withdrawn?
JS: First we went back to Albacsete which was our entry point, the base. We were looking to pick up our passports and there were suitcases that we had brought. All of it gone. All disappeared -- nobody had anything. Then they shipped us all, our units to Valencia. And that was supposed to be a port of embarkation. We were supposed to go from Valencia and they were going to arrange some boats to get us out of Valencia. They never did. We hung around there for weeks -- we hung around there for weeks. Meanwhile, fighting was going on further up north around Taragona and the Fascists had gone on a big offensive -- broke through the Republic lines and got clear to the coast and cut the country in two. So Valencia in the south was cut off from our forces along the north and we were supposed to go up by train from Valencia to Barcelona and into France. Now it couldn't be done. The Fascists were there. So they figured the only way out would be to get us by boat along the coast up to Barcelona and the Fascists had the sea coast for a big stretch there in Taragona. And the Italian submarines were all over the place. And blowing up any ship they could see. So our leaders didn't know what to do. They finally decided they had to move us out somehow or other. They took a gamble and then one night they got us into an old coal carrier, coal freighter and they stuffed us, hundreds and hundreds of us, into the hold. It used to have coal in it -- full of coal dust. Covered up the hatches and the ship took off, hoping that it would evade the Italian submarines. And that was a really dicey situation to begin. Stuck in a hold, you couldn't even lie down. Couldn't breath and dark and couldn't make any noise or light a cigarette or anything. And you go for hours and hours on an old lumbering freighter along the coast. Riding through the Italian submarine waters. Never knowing when we were going to get blown up. Well, finally, somehow or other the captain managed to get it through and when the sunlight came, they opened up the hatches and told us we could get out and get some fresh air. We were past the danger zone. And we were fairly close now, getting close to Barcelona. And then one little tiny Russian airplane came buzzing over us to sort of salute us and guide us in. We were cheering. It was one of those little mosquito planes that they call a mosca. We were glad to see that because we figured well, we almost had it made and we did. About an hour or so later, we managed to get into the port in Barcelona. We stayed there a while -- 3, 4, 5, 6 days, a week. Nothing much happening -- it was almost two weeks. And the big leaders were dickering and arguing and fighting and planning and unplanning and all that. A lot of confusion and chaos. There was a breakdown of unified planning and leadership at that time. Interesting stories about some of the leaders in the Comintern at that point. Come into that later. The Fascists are advancing. They're advancing, coming closer and closer to Barcelona. Beginning to bomb Barcelona and here we are stuck in Barcelona, a lot of us. They had had a big parade in Barcelona -- oh, months before, a couple months before when a lot of them, a lot of the International Brigaders that were in the north were assembled in Barcelona. made a big parade. Dolores Ibaruri, [La Pasionara] greeted them, made a big speech and then they got into the railroad trains and got into France and they were all finished. But we weren't finished; we were still stuck down there and fighting to get back out and get up to France. We weren't sure we were going to make it. Finally they put us on a train and we go as far as some city about halfway between Barcelona and the French border. I forget the name of it. If I looked at a map, I could pick it out. (it was Gerona). We got out there -- as far as the train could go. I don't know why. And we stayed there -- holed up in some kind of a makeshift barracks for 2 or 3 days. Meanwhile, the Fascists were already attacking Barcelona, coming closer and closer and closer. And we're stuck there. Well, it turns out that some of the leaders who were responsible for the international brigades wanted all the volunteers not to leave, but to keep on fighting. And others said 'no, that's crazy, that's suicide. There's no use wasting lives like that. ' So that's one reason there was a stalemate and there wasn't much action. The rumor was that it was under Andre Marti who was standing in the way and telling the different units that they should go back and fight. INTERVIEWER: Who was that? JS: Andre Marti. He was one of the bigshots. Frenchman and bigshot in the communist movement. Was a little nutty. A Martinette. So he made a lot of political speeches to all the different groups, convinced some that they should go back. They were already disarmed -- they had no guns, they had nothing. And they were an their way home, but he said you have to fight. With what? He said go to the front and there will be plenty of soldiers who will be killed in front of you and pick up their guns and use their guns and go and fight the Fascists.
INTERVIEWER: Did many people do that?
JS: Some did. There was resistance to that and a lot of the international brigade units refused to do that. But there were some who listened and did it. Who were they? German anti-Fascists who had no place to go. So they listened and they went back to fight and they all got killed. Cuban anti-Fascists. Italian anti-Fascists. All these people who had no way, no place to go back home, so they were convinced and talked into going back and fighting some more and this was practically suicide.
INTERVIEWER: So you were saying that it was the ones who
had no home to return to, basically went back ...
JS: They were anti-fascists. Very strong anti-fascists. They were actually being sacrificed for nothing. I guess there was no chance that they could survive. No chance that they could hold back the fascists. They had guns, artillery, planes and submarines, the whole works. These guys didnt even have a rifle between them. They were supposed to go and pick up rifles off the field from the dead troops. Fantastic!
INTERVIEWER: So, they you are
JS: There I am and our unit came under the pressure to do the same thing and our officers, leaders were also debating what to do. Whether to do it or not. Some guys thought we should. You know, they were the hot politically developed guys. Others thought we shouldnt.
INTERVIEWER: What was your opinion?
JS: Well, Ill tell you. They finally decided that they would lay the choice before the units and asked for volunteers. If anyone would volunteer to go back and continue fighting, OK, they could leave and go. If anyone wanted to go back home, they could do that. SO they asked for volunteers. So we had about 100 in our group I think, and we got about 6 or 7 volunteers. I was one of the crazy ones who volunteered. So--
JS: I was crazy. I mean -- full of political juice, what would you call it? Fervor and anti-fascist hatred and what not. I felt it was my duty. I don't know why. It was nutty, but I did. We didn't have anything. We didn't have maps, we didn't -- how are we going to be artillery men without artillery pieces and guns -- without even rifles, without maps, without anything but they told us go around and look in all the stores and all the armories and what not and see if you can just pick up things that are around that you could use. We tried to do that, but it was a hopeless case. After about 2 days of that, I don't know who prevailed, but there was controversy, a struggle going on in high places about this policy. Finally our group leaders decided that it would be foolish and useless to send us seven back, to stop the fascists so they decided that they would rescind the volunteer business and put us back into the group to go back to France. About a day later we were on the train going back to the French border. The fascists, by that time, had already taken Barcelona and were creeping up behind us and pretty close, coming pretty close just one day behind us. But we finally got to the border and there was a group from the League of Nations that greeted us and took us over the border, took care of us. That's an interesting way they took care of us. The fascists came up to the border, about a day later. So we were really about 24 hours ahead of them and some of the guys who were left behind, who missed the train, for one reason or another. One of our buddies, American guy, he had a cold or something was a little sick and so he couldn't go with us on the train. He was in the clinic getting treated so he fell behind and he was about a day behind us. He got captured and he was very lucky because the fascists when theyd catch Internationals, theyd just shoot them right away, without any questions asked. He for in the prison, the fascist prison for 2 years or more I think. He wrote some interesting books.
.We got across & some the guys didnt & got captured or killed. When we got into France, of course a lot of the Spanish people were put into concentration camps by the French. And they stayed there 3, 4 years --
INTERVIEWER: The Spanish ones?
JS: Yeah, they were prisoners
INTERVIEWER: So going with you in this retreat are not
just international brigades from other countries, but it's also --
JS: Oh, a lot of refugees, too, were crossing over. Trying to get away from the fascists.
INTERVIEWER: But were there also, like Spanish fighters
of the Republican army?
JS: There were some, yes. There were some and civilians, too. And some Internationals who were not under control of the League of Nations. They got thrown in with the civilians in the concentration camps. French camps. And that was a big story about their life there and how they struggled there and what finally happened to them. we were Internationals and under the control of the League of Nations, so we were in a safe area, supposedly. A little bit better than the safe areas in Bosnia, but not much. So we were actually prisoners of the League of Nations. They gave us one little meal -- omelette and some bread and butter -- Oh, it was heavenly. I think it was the best meal we ever had in our lives. A banana and some eggs and some potatoes and some bread. They put us on a train. The train was sealed, guarded by soldiers. We weren't allowed to get down off the train at all. Nobody was allowed to come onto the train. Nobody was allowed to come near the train or even talk to us. Wherever the trains went, they tried to keep the local French people away and keep us from communicating with the French people and the French with us. We were like prisoners. Couldn't get off the train. When the train was supposed to come to Paris the Progressives in Paris organized big demonstrations and groups to come and greet the volunteers on the train. So the French government, anticipating this and knowing all about it, they re-routed the train around Paris so it wouldn't go through Paris and kept that going directly to the docks Le Havre. That's how they avoided demonstrations in Paris. We get to the docks in Le Havre. They don't let us off the train at all at Le Havre, they rode the train right onto the dock. Right onto the dock next to the ship. Under police escort, or soldiers escort, we were taken from the train right into the ship and nobody could talk to us and we couldn't talk to anybody.
INTERVIEWER: What was the mood of the people on
that train like while you were making this trip?
JS: Well, I have to describe it. We were relieved, of course, that we were still alive. We were, of course, not too happy, because Republican Spain lost, but we had been anticipating this for months and months -- half a year actually so we were able to overcome that, we were used to that and we were looking forward to getting back home in one piece. So it was a sort of a mixed attitude. Mostly relief but a little, quite a bit, of bitterness, you know, against the ones who helped the fascists, the League of Nations and what not. We were practically prisoners on the ship, too. It was another big --
INTERVIEWER: It was another big ocean liner?
J: Oh, like the USS President. When we got to New York, of course, they were having good size demonstrations to greet us. By then we were -- on that side we were heroes. Temporarily at least, anyway. We were heroes and so we had the usual treatment, reporters and what not and friends. I don't know what happened then. A few days I supposed in New York, being checked out by the organization or whatever it was. And then be given the fare, tickets, to go back home. Rochester. .
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when this was? When was that?
The month or -- this is all 1939?
JS- '39, yeah. Must have been around May, June, something like that -- finally got home.
INTERVIEWER: Weren't there very high casualties..?
JS: Yeah, very high. Because when the international brigades came in, they were sent into the most dangerous places where there was danger of break through because the Spanish people weren't trained very well. They weren't well organized. They didn't have good guns and in many places there were break throughs -- dangerous places -- and they would send the international brigades to plug up the little holes.
INTERVIEWER: But the brigades weren't trained and didn't
have equipment, either.
JS: No. But with the help of the brigades they managed to plug up the holes. There were high casualties in all those battles. All those battles, very high casualties. Especially among the infantry. .
INTERVIEWER: What impact do you think this experience
had on your political outlook? Your political views?
JS, well, that's hard to say. It's sort of a -- well, it hardened us. Most of us, me especially -- it hardened us to be more devoted. Some people got disillusioned and drifted away and others got a little hardened and stronger and devoted to the cause, the so called cause. It was a good cause. But when you fight and you're beaten it isn't good for your morale, but you keep on fighting. We used to have a slogan in -- back in the trenches there. Towards the end. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. So we knew we had to get out, we were beaten and we had to withdraw. That made sense. But it didn't mean that we were going to give up fighting. Most of us didn't give up. In fact, a high percentage of vets, when we had left -- there was January, February, March -- March, April, around there, the last volunteers had left Spain. In September World War II officially broke out, just six months later and a lot of our guys volunteered into the merchant marine, they were seamen, sailors, longshoremen - - into the army directly, even before we became involved. ..
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever try to join the United States
military during World War II?
JS: Yeah, I did join, but a little later. I was working in defense work for a couple years and then when the U.S. became directly involved I had an exemption because of being married, having a kid, working in defense, in defense work. I volunteered again (in 44) this time and they accepted me, even though I was kind of old for a volunteer, you know. ..
JS: Yeah, the army. They had my record; I didn't hide anything. I told them I was in Spain and I was in artillery and all that. Much to my surprise, when my basic training was over the officers recommended me to go to officers training school. I was a little surprised at that, but I went and I got through it with difficulty and a lot of difficulties because I was getting a little old and I wasn't too strong. But I made it. A lot of others were thrown out in the course, never got to finish, but I was surprised that I made it on. I was assigned again to artillery ..
INTERVIEWER: Were you able to get any political newspapers
or literature while you were in the army?
JS: No. ..
INTERVIEWER: Were you a member of the party when you went
JS: Well, more or less. Actually I was a member of the YCL.
INTERVIEWER: What was the difference between the two?
JS: Not very much because I was -- as a YCLer actually I was meeting with a unit of the party which was small and practically a duplication, it wasn't a big part of their anything.
INTERVIEWER: Were there age restrictions? Did you have
to be a certain age?
JS: I don't know -- restrictions at all. You could come in at 17 and you could be a unit organizer for the party, right away, without knowing anything. There were no hard and f ast rules. There was a lot of talk about discipline and this and that and regulations, but there was really-- very loose, very loose organization.
INTERVIEWER: When you came back from Spain, were you --
did you pick up again in terms of party meetings?
JS: Oh, yeah. Sure.
INTERVIEWER: Were you still in the YCL then?
JS: No. No, then I was nominally in the party.
INTERVIEWER: What do you mean, nominally?
JS: Well, before I was in the party but I wasn't nominally. I was nominally a youth. Now I -- I have to spend a few years in Spain, I became, perhaps, an adult, as it were. So I started out an officer, as a private. I was living on the lower east side and , they had big branches in those days. It was the result of Browderism, it was almost like a public meeting when you had 150 people in one unit, lower east side. A lot of people were inspired by this kind of struggle. So they fancied themselves as communists and joined the party and attended the meetings. But that's about all it amounted to. What we did at the meetings I don't know. I haven't the faintest idea. We were supposed to get up and make speeches, but that's about all there was to it, and I didn't even know what kind of speech to make.
INTERVIEWER: Did you study Marxism much? Were you reading
JS: We were supposed to, but it wasn't well organized. It wasn't well organized. Actually, we kept busy, doing nothing practically. We were so busy that we didn't even sit down and have study courses and study. We weren't organized very well. Part of the problem we had a tendency that could convert the party into just not a political party really, but a social organization of Progressives. And then little by little, in the course of a year or two years it began to fade away.
INTERVIEWER: Were you in the army at the time the party
dissolved? The Browderites dissolved the party?
JS: Yes, I was
INTERVIEWER: How did you find out about that?
JS: Some friend of mine sent me some clippings from the Daily Worker and I got it in the mail after the thing happened. That was a shock. And that really upset me. You kind of get lost, disoriented. And then we were in the army and nothing we could do about it. Nobody we could talk to about it so we just kept doing our jobs in the army and waiting to see what would happen. And shortly after we got out of the army back into civilian life, we began to straighten things out.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do when you-- how'd you
straighten things out?
JS: Well, I don't know. We didn't do anything. We stayed -- see the party was reconstituted again, immmediately and I stayed in. And that's about it.
INTERVIEWER: Did you go back to the lower east side?
JS: Yeah, I was living in the lower east side. Got married ..
INTERVIEWER: So you must have been in the South around
JS: 54, 55.
INTERVIEWER: What name were you using?
JS: Clark. X Clark.
INTERVIEWER: And what was Ruth's name?
JS: Y. So that was our new identity and we crafted ourselves, you know. And fashioned a history. I don't know what we said or how we said it. We had to develop a whole past history under that name and where we were living and working and this and that. Which convinced some people but some people not. We would rent a room in somebody's home, they had a room to spare, and I guess our stories were a little fishy, but they figured we were just running away, unmarried and living together and so they figured us out. And I got jobs there. She got a job pretty soon. She was a very competent secretary. She had a job as a secretary, clerk, bookkeeper and everything in some big -- no, it was small - - auto service place. And I had trouble finding a job. And finally the guy in the auto service place told me I should go out and try to sell air conditioners for cars. This was something very new in those days. And a little expensive. And I was not much of a salesman. I didn't know anything about cars or about air conditioners. And I didn't succeed in selling a single thing for weeks and weeks. Finally I quit that but then I got a job -- I don't know how it happened, but I got a job in a little machine shop. I faked up some references. I didn't know anything about a machine shop, but I got a job as a helper there or something. Night shift. It was dirty and it was hot, low wages, but we managed. We didn't get any financial help at all from anybody.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any civil rights activities going
on there when you were in Birmingham then?
JS: In Birmingham? No. We weren't aware of any. We weren't aware of any. Everybody was hiding, lying low, deep into the stone shelters, you know. McCarthyism was riding high. But there were some liberals and Progressives that may have been -- they kept their mouths shut. They couldn't do anything.
INTERVIEWER: And then, from Birmingham, where did you
JS: Went to New Orleans.
INTERVIEWER: Why New Orleans?
JS: I don't know. I don't remember, but there were a couple of contacts. There was a lawyer or two, you know, who were progressive and were still trying to function as progressive lawyers, but very carefully. Didn't have any direct contact with the party or party people. Then there was one couple -- Jonson, G. Jonson -- it was a famous case back then, as a result of our work. He was a native born American, born in Mississippi. ..
JS: There was nothing much going on to speak of. The authorities had their eye on them because they were known to be radicals for a long time. Let's see. I got a job selling wire fences. That took me around to the bayous and all over, measuring out for fences, into the four corners of the city and even the middle class. I made a little wages. Not really wages. And of course the owner was of French background and a very well off guy -- he used to cheat all of his salesmen, regularly, and there wasn't much we could do about it. But, he gave us work. I remember once I was out on a job, measuring up a fence around a church, somewhere. Way up in a swamp, halfway behind the church it was swampy and I had to go and measure and wade in the swamps and big mosquito bowl. Then we decided to do a little bit of activity. We had some contact with one guy that the New York office sent down to check up on us and see what we were doing. They put out a big brochure, 12-page brochure, on the Negro Question.
INTERVIEWER: The party did?
JS: The party
INTERVIEWER: In New York?
JS: In New York. They wanted us to distribute that around the south. How to do it? I don't know. They sent us several thousand, several thousand copies. We got hold of some mailing list, somewhere, somehow. I don't know where. We got some mailing lists and we worked hard, you know, after work, in the evenings and at night, addressing envelopes and stuffing envelopes and putting stamps on them, and so forth. And we finally had a pretty good size -- at least 1500 names on the envelopes with this stuff, with this brochure the Negro Question and things like that. We didn't know how to distribute it, so we set out one night. We went out, 2 cars, we went to different places and dropped bundles in different mail boxes all around. We went around to several towns around. Went even as far as Baton Rouge and dropped -- it was all night long we were working on it -- and we dropped little bundles here and there. It got spread around and we got into the newspapers. Big headlines you know - Invasion of the Communists .
JS: .. The whole county, the whole state was in an uproar. Headlines all over the place. They were looking for these Reds who had come in and one story was that a woman had seen a blue Buick with Chicago license plate, come through the town and they think that that's where it came from, that's who brought it in there to the South. They never would have imagined that anyone living there would do a thing like that. It was really upsetting. They had the wheels of the State security and legislature turning. They made a real fuss. And then the police and FBI began to make it hot and they started questioning these lawyers, progressive lawyers, who were just sitting around. They weren't bothering us at all. They didn't have anything to do with it. They were hounding the Joson family. Jonson was sick; he had TB, and two kids. So they arrested him.
INTERVIEWER: Oh my.
JS: Arrested him, handcuffed him to his bed in the hospital. He was sick. Put him in the hospital because he had TB, but chained him to his bed. And that made big headlines. We were trying to get him out of there. A dragnet was closing in all over. They were rounding up everybody who used to be a communist. The FBI and the police -- they knew more than we did. We didn't know -- We were supposed to go and find these people and we didn't even know who they were or where they were, but the FBI did. And they went around hounding everybody. So a few little contacts that we did pick up -- were, in any event scared immediately. Oh, there was a trial. A big trial and some of the progressive lawyers got involved in it.
INTERVIEWER: Big trial of whom?
INTERVIEWER: And what happened in that trial?
JS: I don't know?? We were gone already.
INTERVIEWER: Were you told to leave?
JS: We decided to leave and we told them we were going to leave and they didn't object. We knew that if we stayed there another couple of weeks they would have caught up with us and we'd be in jail. So one day we packed up our things in our old jalopy. We had an old Hudson car and it was very reliable, good sturdy car. Bought it for a couple hundred dollars. And it took us all the way through the South, a couple years. We left one night and we just lit out, disappeared from the place we were -- we were renting a little room in a house of an old widow in the Carrollton area. She was sort of a friendly person, tolerant. She figured that we were -- something fishy about us, but never bothered us. I remember she had a little backyard and in the backyard she had a fig tree. And once in a while she gave us some fresh figs right off the tree. I had never seen a fresh fig; I didn't know what it looked like. Anyway, we lit out there and went up to Shreveport, I guess, and cut over and went through Texas. All through Texas, all the way to Arizona and to California. And then we changed our identities back again to what they were. We ended up in San Francisco ..
MEH : So how long, all together, were you in the
JS: Two years.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that your presence there had
any impact, at all?
JS: It sure did.
INTERVIEWER: For G.Jonson.
JS: In New Orleans, it did. In Birmingham it didn't have much impact.
INTERVIEWER: What was the impact, you think, in New
Orleans? And was that positive?
JS: Well, yeah. I think it was positive. It upset a lot of people, but a lot of other people were stimulated by this. Other progressives there were progressives around, but they were kind of hiding. They had to keep their head down. Im sure it didnt hurt them the least bit, but it certainly shook up the establishment.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever hear anything else about Grady
Jenkins and what happened to him?
JS: Well, after the trial -- there was some kind of a trial and I don't know how they got him off. It lasted a long time. There was defense committees and things set up to raise money -- I think the better part of a year. And finally he got -- they let him off somehow or other. I don't know the details and they packed up and went to California. They were living in California somewhere and I lost track of them. They never kept in touch. I don't know if the party helped them at all or they had to shift for themselves. I don't believe they had to shift for themselves. Some of the local Progressives -- there were a couple lawyers. I don't know their names. I never met them and never had any contact with them, who were known as liberal, radical lawyers and they suffered a little bit too, as a result. I think they were instrumental in defending him and getting him at least out of that -- out of the chains in the hospital.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have any contact with African-Americans
when you were in New Orleans?
JS: Not direct. Not party contact. Just business contact. Drove around --
INTERVIEWER: No political contacts?
JS: No political contacts
INTERVIEWER: Were you aware of any organizing
going on there? Any civil rights organizing?
JS: I wasn't .
INTERVIEWER: So, youre back in New York. What year are
we up to?
JS: Um. Maybe About .About 56 or 57 ..
INTERVIEWER: And when you got back to New York,
is that when you met William Z ???
JS: Um, yeah. Subsequently. .. It wasn't a year, when this friend of ours in the party, who was related indirectly to Foster, got hold of me for lunch and propositioned me -- if I would go to work as Foster's secretary & driver.
INTERVIEWER: Was he head of the party at this time?
JS: Nominally, yes, but it is questionable how much authority he had in the party. Actually revisionism was very strong. He advised against the party leaders going underground. They didn't listen to him. The Russians were making deep inroads into the party and winning over one after another to the Khruschev line.
INTERVIEWER: Where were you -- were you in the South when the speech was made by Khrushchev attacking Stalin? ..
JS: .. That was about the time when I was either in the South or just coming out of the South.
INTERVIEWER: What did you think about that, when you heard
JS: Bullshit. I didn't fall for that at all. First of all I knew he was a revisionist clown.
INTERVIEWER: How'd you know that?
JS: Well, from his previous speeches and things that were going on over there. I think by then -- '56 -- I'd already been in contact with Foster and Foster would drop a few remarks. What year was it when Khrushchev came to the United Nations and made his speech there?
INTERVIEWER: I'm not sure
JS: Maybe a year or two later after '56. Probably '58. Yeah, it was '58. By that time I was already working for Foster and he was lying in bed. He was paralyzed on half his side and watching T.V. and we saw on T.V. Khrushchev at the UN banging his shoe. His face was -- ?? -- Foster's face was very dark.
INTERVIEWER: Very what?
JS: Dark. He was very unhappy with that. He made it plain that he didn't think it was very smart. He didn't have much use for Khrushchev as a whole and this business of attacking Stalin he did not approve of; and then the way he behaved at the UN and the way he was making inroads into our party and converting all the leadership, one after the other, into following his line. Some of them who were good Marxists and were followers of Foster, Foster's line, he would invite them over to come to -- his honored guests -- to the Soviet Union, keep them there 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, whatever it took. Propagandize them and wined them and dined them and give them a good time and when they come back, they were no longer friends of Foster. They were praising Khrushchev. This happened to all of those who had before supported Foster.
INTERVIEWER: What exactly did you do with Foster and how
much time did you spend with him?
JS: Well, all day. I had to get there in the morning and stay until after supper. First of all, if he had to go anywhere, I had to help him get out of bed and get dressed and get into the elevator, into the car. I was his driver, I was his chauffeur. I had this car, it was an old car, but it was good. It was supplied by the party for Foster's use. So I took care of it and I kept it in a garage around the corner where I lived and I lived in Washington Heights until I come to Riverside Drive. It wasn't too far from the Bronx. Not far from the Shay Stadium. So I would get him into the car and that was quite a job -- cane, what not. I don't remember. I would drive him where he had to go. Usually he would go down to the party headquarters, Manhattan and 26th Street, and attend some of the leadership meetings and fret and fume and get enraged and blow his fuse and have another stroke or something every time he went to one of those meetings.
INTERVIEWER: Would you sit in on those meetings?
JS: Oh, no. They were closed. But I was in the office next to -- the reception office, and I could hear when they were arguing and fighting- could hear through the walls, through the door. There was commotion going on there and he was a fighter and he would fight with them.
INTERVIEWER: Who was he fighting against?
JS: All the rest of the leadership.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember any names of who was
in leadership at that time?
JS: Well, there was Gus Hall, Eugene Dennis, and whats his name? John Gates and people like that. Weinstein, and who was that other top leader? The name escapes me.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anybody on Foster's side?
JS: Oh, around that time there was practically nobody. One guy was very sympathetic. That was Benjamin Davis. He was very close to Foster and he admired him and he knew he was right.
INTERVIEWER: He was African-American?
INTERVIEWER: - and he after ran for was it City Council?
INTERVIEWER: And was he elected in New York?
JS: Yeah, I think so. You know, his whole life - - his livelihood depended on the party. He had no he was a lawyer, but he never practiced law. .
JS: And he (Benjamin Davis-Editor) was a good guy, but he had no way of earning a living except the job he had with the party as a leader of the party. Well, he couldn't go against the party. So he would come by once in a while to visit Foster. I had to arrange all the visits, etc. Sort of a social secretary and sometimes pick up people and bring them there, like I did with Davis and others. He made it plain that he was ideologically -- he was with Foster, but he had to go along, officially, with the party leadership to save his job, to save his livelihood. He had a wife, he had a kid and he had no way to earn a living and in those days an African-American, ex-communist leader, didn't have much opportunity to earn a living.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what the issues were
that they were fighting about?
JS: I don't remember the exact stuff, but it was the usual questions of legality, working within the bourgeois system, whether revolution had to take place as a violent revolution, whether socialism could be achieved peacefully and issues like that. And Benjamin Davis certainly had the right instinct and supported Foster, but he couldn't do it publicly. He died shortly after that, maybe 5, 6, 7, years later of cancer. Ruth went up to visit him in his hospital just a few days before he died. They were alone and he sort of apologized to her for what he had done and how he had behaved.
INTERVIEWER: In terms of what?
JS: In terms of his taking positions against Foster and with the revisionists and he practically asked for forgiveness for what he had done. That was that. That was about the only sympathy he got, Foster got, out of those leadership meetings and it didn't amount to very much and he would get it from a way, you know. The man, who had two strokes before, three heart attacks. It's surprising that he was able to survive. I would get him back home, get him up the elevator with great difficulty. It was hard for him to walk; one side was paralyzed practically. I remember once he would ask me all sorts of -- find certain books for him. In his shelves he had a good selection of history books that he would do a lot of reading while he was lying in bed and trying to write articles and he would -- fairly good articles. Sent them in but they never printed them. Or else they doctored them up so they ruined the meaning. He would ask me to go to the library and get some books for him because he was always working, always studying, even when he was sick, an invalid in bed.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of a man was he?
JS: He was an old Irish man from way back. He told me stories about the good old days. I think originally they came from Boston, but then they settled down around the turn of the century in Philadelphia. As a kid, as a youngster he was working in a fertiliser plant and thats where he picked up a touch of TB or something. Working a fertiliser pants. Very poor living conditions. All those Irish lived in shanties. Tell some amusing stories about that .So then something
INTERVIEWER: Sense of humor?
JS: He had a very good sense of humor. He was full of quips, stories and jokes and so forth. He had stories -- he really had them and they were very humorous. He was a Wobbly and he built the rails and he worked on the West Coast in lumbering and was a seaman. He was in Seattle. He signed on a sailing ship. An old sailing ship. This was the beginning of the century, before the steam ship. He spent three years -- two years or three years, I'm not sure --going to Shanghai and places like that and came back and his TB was cured. He was there, I think, in 1912 when Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was leading the Seattle general strike, if you remember what happened. I think it was 1912.
INTERVIEWER: I think it was later. I'll have to check
the date. For some reason I think it was like 1919.
JS: Yes, you may be right. 1919. So he had worked with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She was one of the party leaders, too, that he was fighting with afterward.
INTERVIEWER: Wasn't the Great Steel Strike in 1919? Maybe
the Seattle General Strike was 1918 and then the Steel strike was -- I'll
have to look that up.
JS: You're probably right. I -- my memory for dates is not very good. Anyway, he was a nice guy. He was very warm, friendly to his friends. To his wife. They were married -- I don't know how long -- 50, 60 years. They were very devoted to each other. She was 5 years older than he, I think. She was also an old anarchist from the old anarchist groups that came over from Europe. Jewish, Russian anarchist groups. She was Jewish and 100% Irish on both sides.
INTERVIEWER: Did they have any children?
JS: Yes. Yes and no. She had a daughter from a previous marriage, but they didn't have any children between them. And the daughter's name was Sylvia. She was sort of a dominant influence in their daily lives. At any rate --- I remember once I was home and I get a frantic call from Esther, Foster's wife. "Come over quick. Bill is in trouble." So I run, get dressed and go get the car and drive over there and I find Bill Foster lying on a pillow in the hall and trying to get up. It turns out that he was rash and he got out of bed himself and he was trying to go to the bathroom or something like that and lost his balance, because he was only on one leg and fell down on the floor and he couldn't get up. So he called me. So I had to go over there and with Esther's help, to get him up. He was a big guy. Tall and heavy and we got him up and back in the bed. There were little incidents like that. He was a very interesting guy, very intelligent, very smart although I don't think he ever finished grade school. He was studying, reading history books, the original manuscripts and what not.
INTERVIEWER: Did he ever speak to you about his concerns
about what was happening to the party and where it was going and what was
happening in the Soviet Union?
JS: No, he didn't speak to me directly about it. I mean -- he made remarks about what he was saying to the other leaders. What he was writing and I helped him write. He would dictate to me and I would type as he was dictating. So I was sort of a secretary and I would get the drift of what he was thinking from that. But the party leadership didn't accept those things. But he wrote them anyway and I'd deliver them. I'd drive over to the office to deliver those letters. After a while I could see that whenever I went into party headquarters they'd call out the guards and they'd look at me with suspicion like an enemy agent.
INTERVIEWER: During the time that you were working with
Foster, was he visited by the FBI or harassed by government agents? Did
you get any sense of that?
JS: No, not during those years he was sick, he was bedridden, etc. I don't think the FBI came into the apartment, although they were certainly watching his movements, and he'd go into the car I'm sure there were FBI agents who were following him and seeing where he was going, etc. But they didn't harass him directly in those years. They would harass me and Ruth, etc.
JS: We'd get up, go to work. Was working in a bank building. There would be two, at least two FBI guys would meet me at the door, on the street, start talking to me. Offer me all kinds of inducements.
INTERVIEWER: If you'd do what?
JS: Uh, threatening -- Well, they didn't say specifically, but, you know, to work for them and give them information, etc. And I'd chase them away. They were very persistent. A few times they would come right into the lobby of the building where my office was. I worked in a building on 42nd Street. I'd be going in to go to work and there would be a couple men.
INTERVIEWER: When was that?
JS: Around that time.
JS: . Once I went to work for Bill Foster I disappeared as far as (my brother) was concerned. Because I couldnt publicise that, either, even in my own family. So I just disappeared again. Thats about three times. I was working for my brother I would disappear without a word. He didnt know where I was or anything. And he just forgot about it. And then later on, a year or two years, three years later, I would show up and ask him for a job and he would give me a job back without asking any questions. That was convenient.
INTERVIEWER: I was going to say
JS: That was very helpful. Without that we would have been much worse off.
INTERVIEWER: So how long did you continue working with
JS: It was, I think, three years. And he was getting physically in pretty bad shape. His leg was beginning to get infected. There was speculation -- what to do about that leg. And he thought -- he had an idea -- it would be a good idea for him to go to Russia and have Russian doctors treat him because he still had a lot of confidence in Russia and Russian doctors; and he wanted to get over there to talk and argue with Khrushchev and the other leaders and try to convince them that their line was wrong, that their line was revisionist. He thought: he went to Moscow several times in the past when he had arguments with other leaders in the party. Way back in the 20's and '29 and '30. I forget the names of these people and the party leadership would be split and then he would go to Moscow and lay it all out before Stalin and the other Russian party leaders and they would have a kind of a trial on the issues. And each time his side won. And that's how he maintained leadership from the '20s -- 1920, '21. Up until that time there were two -- at least twice that I remember, cases where they were threatening to throw him out of the leadership and revisionist forces were practically taking over the leadership. He beat them by going to Russia and at that time Stalin was there and they listened to both sides and they ruled in favor of Foster's position. So he had a run into a memory and he thought it could work again that way -- that he would go over there and layout the issues before the leadership and discuss them and thrash it out and then they would probably change their minds. But he was dead wrong; he didn't realize how bad it was until he got there. Meanwhile, when he got there -- before he left, he had a big struggle with lawyers and the courts to restore his passport. He was practically held prisoner legally. He couldn't leave the country. He wanted to go to Moscow for treatment and they wouldnt allow it. And he asked to go to Czechoslovakia and they wouldn't allow him. Then he asked to go to China and they wouldn't allow him. Something later was going on in the courts and with the revisionist lawyers and they managed to get a favorable judgment somehow that allowed Foster to go to Moscow for medical treatment. I was still working for him as a secretary. But the party set down some conditions before they would let him come. One of the conditions was they had to get rid of me.
INTERVIEWER: Is this the American party?
JS: No, the Russian party.
JS: And the American party both. They were both in cahoots. The condition was that he had to get rid of me.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you think that was?
JS: Because they figured that I was too staunch a friend and I would spill the beans of what was going on and I would be defense barrier against their manipulations. So they wanted me out of the way. So we invented some excuse and I said Bill wasnt satisfied with some of the work I was doing and they wanted to replace me. So they replaced me just a couple of months before he left.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever talk with him about this, that
you were not going to be working for him anymore?
JS: Oh yeah. He was planning on it. They convinced him that he had to get rid of me if he wanted to go to Moscow, so he had to go along with them. And then they put in some hack in my place who was a yes man from the bureaucracy, for the machinery and was very reliable from the revisionist leadership point of view and they sent him off and he was allowed to take his private doctor along with him, who was a nice guy. A good guy.
INTERVIEWER: Bill was, Bill took his private doctor?
JS: Yeah but he couldn't stay there too long. Stay there 2, 3 weeks and orient the Russian doctors on his history and everything and then he had to go back, back home to work. I think that Foster's wife went along and also her daughter. Before long, Foster began to realize that he was a prisoner there. He couldn't get out; it was one of these fancy hospitals where leaders and others were prisoners and what not. Surrounded by this big area, surrounded by a wall and fence and guards and what not. Nobody could get in and nobody could get out. So things went bad. He began to distrust the doctors, and didn't trust them anymore. He knew a lot of good guys who were eliminated with the help of some doctors. So he refused to take his medicine.
INTERVIEWER: How did you know about this?
JS: Oh, I heard it later on from the doctor, from other people. He refused to take his medicine. The doctor, his home doctor, was already home and his leg was getting bad, getting gangrenous. They put in an emergency call and told his doctor in the Bronx to come back and his wife also to come back and before we knew it, they had amputated his leg. Before that he was begging the doctor to get him out of there and get him back home, get him anywhere, get him to China, but get him out of there. Doctor said '"How can I do it? You can't leave this place without an official permit or pass'" or something and there's a wall, there are gates.'" He said -- he was desperate -- he said "Get in the car and smash the gates down and get out and take me to the airport. Well, he was a little delirious and they rushed him out -- it couldn't be done in Soviet Russia. So there he was with his leg amputated and his condition deteriorated very rapidly after that.
INTERVIEWER: When did he die?
JS: November, 1961. He went to Russia in the end of 1960, maybe December '60, or something like that. And at that time I was visiting as a guest in Albania. Ruth and I had a two week vacation and travelling around and then we were allowed to come into Albania for a few days. Four or five days. Turned out we had to stay there about two weeks because we couldn't get an exit visa to get out for very complicated reasons. So one night -- this was November 1961, I remember that date -- there's a knock on the door at the hotel and the guy that wakes us up -- he was one of the leaders of the party of Albania -- and brought me the bad news that Foster had died. He just found it on the wire. And he thought that I should know about it.
INTERVIEWER: Was there some suspicion that he, in fact,
had been murdered?
JS: Well, of course, but not automatically and not instantaneously, but over a period of time, through the doctors' ministrations and his arguments with leadership. They wore him down.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know if he ever did talk to Khrushchev
on that trip?
JS: I don't know. He probably did talk to a lot of the leaders.
INTERVIEWER: During the time that he was gone, who was
in charge of the American party?
JS: Well, the same guys who were in charge the whole time. He wasn't in charge of the party. For years and years, he was just nominal, the chairman of the party, but he didn't run the party. He was just a figurehead.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when, about when you stopped
working for him? He died November '61.
JS: Yeah. He left the States around November or December or so of '60 and I -- they fired me a couple months before that. It must have been around September or so of '60. ..
INTERVIEWER: Now, in the meantime, I remember you telling
me the story --would it have been in July of 1960, you had gone to Cuba.
INTERVIEWER: Was that the first anniversary of the revolution
JS: I went there in 1959 when it wasn't even an anniversary and it was 6 months after Fidel Castro came down from the hills and took over Havana.
INTERVIEWER: So even, during the time that you're
working for Foster, you were still doing some travelling and some
JS: No -- little 2 week vacations. I went to Cuba in 59 and again in 1960, in July, at the time of the celebration -- I went to Cuba again in 1960. Those were the only two times I visited Cuba.
INTERVIEWER: I think we're about to go to Cuba, your first
trip in 1959. How did you come to go there and what was it like? When were
JS: I was uh, kind of July I think. 26th is that famous date?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, but didn't you go, the first trip,
in '59 before the revolution?
JS: Well, '59 wasn't before the revolution. He came down on January lst of '59 so it was July and we had 2-week vacation coming to us, so we decided to go to Cuba. I don't know -- I think it was -- passport said not to be used for Cuba, but we went anyway and somehow the airline didn't stop us in those days. We went there around the middle of July, toward the end of July because I know we were there when they were celebrating July 26th. They had a big uh, they didn't have a big uh, hullabaloo -- parade. I think they had a big meeting in the stadium. It was packed. It was full and there was Fidel on the platform, making the speech and his brother, Raul, and some other leaders of the revolution. I forgot their names. Che Guevara was there and so forth. And somebody, I don't know, a guy named --- I'm not sure -- anyhow, all the big shots were up there and the people were just fantastic, delirious and happy. This is 6 months after they came down and they really felt liberated. And he started to talk and he talks and he's giving a history lesson, starting from Genesis, all the way up through Marx, Engels and Lenin. So we being foreigners and friends, somebody got us a front seat. We were sitting in the second or third row, in front of the speaker stand. He was talking, of course. I didn't understand that much Spanish to follow everything he said. But he talked and he talked and the crowd -- they were delirious. They were shouting, applauding, cheering. After a couple hours we got tired; it was getting a little late, so we excused ourselves and we just walked back to our little hotel. I forget the name of it. Not far off from Malacon. One little hotel about 5 floors that was full of American students and spies and what not. We went into the lobby of the hotel.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, you were saying that ...
JS: They had the television on and on the TV you see that Fidel was talking, still talking, and we listened a few minutes and we went up to our room and to sleep. It was late; we were tired. Got up in the morning, go down to the lobby; and theres the television still going and Fidel is still going. Still talking.
INTERVIEWER: Good night!
JS: I couldnt believe it, but its a fact. And it turns out Ive seen this happen before, He makes a speech and he becomes hoarse and his throat is bothering him. So he stops. He stops and Raul steps up to the mike and he keeps on going. He just takes off like they had a script and hes reading the script. He just continues the speech, whatever it is he knew everything that Fidel was going to say and he said it. So Fidel sat around there and drank some water or something else. When he felt better after a half-hour or thirty-five minutes or something like that he would get up and Raul would step aside and he would keep on talking. Like relay racing. It was very interesting and a wonderful atmosphere. People were so excited and so happy at the change and of course there were a lot of Americans posing as students and what not around all the hotels, looking for contacts and some way to create some incidents. There were a lot of spies floating around there at the time. But they couldn't dampen the spirit of the people. The next year, 1960, we went again about the same time. And that year they had a big to-do. Fidel got the idea to have all the people, all the men, assemble in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where they had made their center while they were doing their guerilla work -- way up -- its in the south central part oof the country--more to the east. And a million people started to congregate to get up to that mountain to attend the big celebration he was holding forth, meetings up on top of the mountain and there was only one little dirt road going up to that mountain. And there were trucks and cars and everything -- some were going up and some were coming down. It was really havoc. It took about almost a day to get to that neighborhood on the train. I just bummed a ride and got onto a train--it was a cattle train. There were a lot of guys there in the train. I wasn't prepared for anything. I just thought it was -- a meeting. Well, the train went all day and all night and during the day very hot. And there was an open cattle car. And I didn't have water, I didn't have a canteen, I didn't have food, I didn't have anything! And it was getting at me. Some of the other Cuban people were a little smarter and more prepared. So I got a swig of water from somebody's canteen. Well, we get over close to the foot of the mountain and then we started to get into the trucks -- open trucks -- and climb up the mountain but it was just crawling -- you can imagine a million people trying to get up one little dirt road, not even two cars wide. Well, we got near the top and there was sort of a center and there was a medical team there and a little makeshift emergency hospital to take care of all the sick people who were there and I was one of them. I passed out completely; I got dehydrated. The Cuban medics came over and they thought I was a goner. So they put me in an ambulance and they told the ambulance driver to get down to the coast where there was a new little hospital that they had just finished building. It was one of the achievements of Fidel Castro, the first things they did. It was very hard to struggle down against the big flow of people coming up, but it was an ambulance so the people stopped and would skirt around and people were asking "'What you got there? Who's there?'" and he said "'An American journalist and he's dead -- he's dying, he's finished.'" Sure enough, the next day in the newspaper in Havana there was a notice that an American journalist representing the Daily Worker died in the Sierra Maestra. Well, anyway, the medic was riding with me in the ambulance -- I heard him saying -- I knew a little Spanish -- he was saying "'This guy's finished. He's cold.'" We finally got to the hospital. A little town -- I think it's called Manzanillo or something like that. A fishing village. It's probably one of the towns that Castro used to get into Cuba when he came from Mexico or something. So he rewarded them by putting a little clinic there -- just opened up two weeks before. It was a very poor excuse for a clinic, but it was better than nothing. They had one doctor in the town who came during the day and took care of all the patients and then he went home to sleep. And they had a couple of trained nurses, the same way. They were just people who had a little medical training and lived in town. They came in during the day and then they went home. And at night they'd close up the place. Left a guard, there was just a guard there. So anyway, I got there and they thought I was in bad shape, but I wasn't dead yet. So whatever he did, it was very simple. I was dehydrated; they gave me fluids and what not and cleaned me up and put me in a bed. Then he went home! Then he went home. Well, I was feeling a little better -- quite a lot better and that night, middle of the night, it's dark, . everybody was in their beds and sleeping, nobody else around. The telephone rings in the office. And it's my friends -- a couple of party friends who came with me at the time. Bassett was their name and they were in close with the party and the Cuban party too -- they had carte blanche over there. And they were informed by the Cuban party that this guy who came with them was dead. They said they brought the body down to the clinic at Manzanillo. They wanted to know what to do with the body. So he finally calls up the clinic, gets through, long distance call and he wants to know if they have the body and how to get it back to Havana. Well, the phone rings and there's only a guard in the office and everything is shut up tight. The guard picks up the phone and he doesn't know what they're talking about. He doesn't know who the patients are. My friend, Ted B, his Spanish was as bad as mine, but they managed to convey the idea that they were looking for the body of Jack Shulman the journalist from New York. The guard -- he couldn't quite make out what they were talking about, but he went into the clinic -- just one ward room, about six, eight, tenn people there, in beds. I was one of them. He puts on the light and says "Anybody here name of Shulman? American?'" I said "Yeah, me." He said "Somebody wants you on the telephone. I don't know what he wants, but better go answer the phone." So by then I'm good enough to get out of bed and hobble over to the office, pick up the phone: "Hello? Hello?" My friend Ted B, on the other end, he almost dropped dead. Because he thought -- he was looking for a dead body and here I am talking to him on the phone.
INTERVIEWER: But they didn't actually take you to the
JS: They didn't have morgues. They took me down to the clinic, technically to see if I could be saved. I wasn't quite dead yet. But they figured I was a goner, but it was a simple case of dehydration and a few other things like that.
INTERVIEWER: Whatever happened about the newspaper story?
JS: Well, about five days later I got back to Havana. I went into the office of the newspaper and said this story about my passing away is a little premature. They didn't believe me, but I showed them my credentials and convinced them I was the guy and I wasn't exactly dead yet. So they put in a retraction, but meanwhile my friends and anybody who knew me there -- they thought I was dead. The party people in Havana were wondering how to handle a body and how to tell Ruth! Ruth wasn't with me; she stayed in the hotel. She had more brains and she was in the hotel and they were afraid she would hear the news or see it in the paper, but she didn't read the paper. She didn't know much Spanish and she didn't listen to the radio or the news. I guess it was broadcast. So she didn't know and Ted was racking his brains to figure out how they could get over and break the said news to Ruth -- that I had died in the Sierra Maestra. Well, as a result of that phone call in the night, they were relieved of that chore.
INTERVIEWER: When did you start writing?
INTERVIEWER: Uh huh. You said that you were doing some
JS: Oh, that was an occasional article. For instance, I had an interview once with Arbenz, the president of Guatemala, who was deposed. I met him in Cuba on the first visit and the first visit also I was with a friend and they had the inside to the party leadership there, in '59. I was working for Foster at that time so they introduced me as working for Foster and I even had little interviews with some of the big shots, Blas Roca, other party leaders and talked to them and mainly because Foster was interested in finding out -- wanted me to ask and dig around to see if they were going Revisionist or not. Which they were
INTERVIEWER: Now, was Arbenz -- he wasn't in the communist
party, was he?
JS: No, no. But he was already kicked out and he was in exile and he happened to be in Cuba at that time.
INTERVIEWER: But you're talking about the other people
that you were that Bill Foster had asked you to speak with - to find out
JS: Those were the party -- some of the party leaders in Havana
INTERVIEWER: In Cuba?
JS: In Cuba.
INTERVIEWER: Well, did you write stories about those interviews?
JS: Oh no. I would just report it in to -- a report of what happened to Bill Foster when I got back, but -- and he was in a dilemma about it because I was trying to dig up, dig out some commitment about Revisionism and they didn't recognize Revisionism at all. So it didn't exist, which was proof positive that they were young Revisionists. Even then -- it was a party -- actually the party didn't cooperate fully with Fidel Castro for a long time. They thought he was a leftist terrorist nut and it wasn't until he was practically ready to take over the country that they got on the bandwagon. They were definitely Revisionists, but sort of disguised Revisionists -- they pretended. Like the French party - Duclos, etc. -- pretended that they were Marxist-Leninists and so forth and the way -- it was apparent was because whenever you asked them about Revisionism, they didn't know anything -- they didn't have any -- they didn't even think about Revisionism. I got the same story when I was in Paris and we got to visit the French party headquarters. And for a few minutes I had a little chat with some of the leaders including Jacques Duclos and I asked the same questions about -- did they have any trouble with Revisionism in the French Party. He shook his head. He didn't know.. what Revisionism?
INTERVIEWER: When was that?
JS: I think 60. It was 60.
INTERVIEWER: This interview that you did with Arbenz.
Did you publish anything?
JS: That was a big article that in the paper, in the Daily Worker, and front page, a big headline and a byeline. I dont think I have a copy of that. Lost a lot of that stuff.
INTERVIEWER: Did You ever regularly write for the paper,
or did you just submit different stories?
JS: No, not regularly. Once in a while I wrote something. Actually the reason I passed myself as a journalist for The Worker I couldnt come out openly and say Im Fosters secretary and so forth. I had to have an excuse for being there and getting in to talk to the leaders. Ted Bassett was actually officially on the staff of The Worker and I went along as also a member of the staff of The Worker, a journalist, although I wasnt writing any stories about it at all. I was still working for Foster. It wasnt my job to write stories.
INTERVIEWER: Have You been back to Cuba since then?
JS: No, never, Ive been to Albania a few times and of course China, for two or three years, but never got back to Cuba. So. ..
Section 4) IN CHINA AND ALBANIA
INTERVIEWER: You went to China in 1968; is that correct?
to be completed