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October 21, 1959, Vol. IV, No. 52
I Was a Teen-Age Fascist
By Adam Margoshes
When I was 16 I had to be what everyone else was not. It was a negative law of my nature which, given the surroundings, may not have been without a certain positive value. Everyone I knew in high school was a Communist – it was 1933 – so I became a fascist.
An honest to God fascist – not a Republican or a Socialist or a Democrat. Usually when the Communists called someone a fascist, they meant he was one of those. But I myself called myself a fascist, wore a black shirt, and even organized the ROTC into a political opposition to the otherwise unopposed (and mostly unnoticed) Communist movement at DeWitt Clinton. It was a scandal.
The Communists tried to get the students out to their parade on May Day, and we countered by putting up huge homemade posters – drawn in lipstick and eyebrow pencil – reading “Crush Clinton Communism.” They were a great success – the Daily Worker wrote them up, claiming they were distributed by the school authorities, who hadn’t noticed the posters and who certainly didn’t read the Worker.
I remember once delivering a speech outside the school grounds to a bunch of cheering ROTC boys and jeering Communists. “Marx stood Hegel on his head,” I shouted, “but what was wrong with Hegel? He was in the right position to start with!”
“Hooray for Hegel!” yelled my followers, mostly recruited from the reform-school element.
“Who the hell is Hegel?” demanded the Communists.
One night the Communist Party candidate for Congressman in the Bronx addressed a public meeting at the Clinton auditorium. I rounded up a gang of “fascist” hoods in a slum neighborhood conveniently located a few blocks away, and led them to the school, but a solitary cop refused to let us in. After my suitably indignant protest, he let me in by myself.
But I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. As soon a I sat down, five or six YCLers sat down next to me – all former friends, but now “class enemies.” I was apprehensive, but there was nothing I could do. At the end of the talk they dragged me behind the auditorium.
Most of them were no more serious political sadists than I was. “What’ll we do with him?” they asked one another. One of them started hitting me and bloodied my nose. “Don’t, don’t,” said the others, “you’ll only make a martyr out of him.” They were ashamed of their more obvious, more human motives. I was ashamed, too. Ashamed of my “martyrdom” and ashamed of my fear. I dirtied my pants, and I remember thinking: “So people really do that when they’re afraid.”
The next day, walking in the park, I met the guy who had hit me. “Hello,” I said, and extended my hand – not on principle, but without thinking. He looked away. I didn’t feel hurt, but I did feel a kind of numbed surprise.
A few years later he volunteered for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and I heard he was killed in Spain. I had never known him well, and somehow I couldn’t feel sorry – for me he had ceased to exist when he turned away from me in the park. Now, when I think of my time as a fascist, it doesn’t seem funny: it’s always that scene I remember – my hand stretched out and his face turned away – and I still feel that numbed surprise.
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