chapter  16
16
Pages 16

I N TELLING THIS STORY, I have tried not to be overjudgmen-tal. Not to be judgmental would, for me, be impossible; but I had become a Communist as an innocent. That's neither an apology nor an evasion, but an explanation. Among all the party people I had worked with, not one of them had experienced the essence and degradation of poverty to the extent that I had. I was street-wise, survival-wise, full of street smarts and tricks and all the dirty, necessary ploys of the poor, without which they could not survive. By the time I was thirteen, I knew about cops and whores and how to use my feet in a fight and how to hit a newsstand running and come away with the three cents on the papers and how to play scully for pennies and how to cheat at it, and how to shoot craps and other odds and ends of survival; but this was the world of the damned, and there were those who put their lives on the line to do away forever with the world of the damned. When I found the Communist Party, I joined the company of the good.