I felt like the whole Communist Party was right there in the room with me

Eric Lanzetti, organisatör för Förenta Staternas Kommunistiska Parti i New Yorks Lower East Side på 1930-talet, berättar en historia för Vivian Gornick i ”The Romance of American Communism”.

We had a young woman in one of the branches, Lilly was her name. Lilly was one of the people who took my advanced classes. She wasn’t the smartest person in the world, but she was a hard-working conscientious Communist with a powerful sense of class. She lived alone with her father on Rivington Street. The old man was an Orthodox Jew who paid absolutley no attention to her or her politics or anything. She made him breakfast in the morning, went to work, came home, made his dinner, went to a meeting, came home, made him hot milk, and that was it. The old man sat reading the Talmud all day long. Lilly ran the house entirely. If it wasn’t for her working, they would have both starved. But he was her father and she was scared shitless of him.

One night after a meeting she asks me if she can talk to me. I nod sure, she sits down and starts to tell me, very hesitantly, that there’s this man she’s in love with. I think she’s about to tell me she’s afraid to sleep with him, and I start to tell her if you’re in love there’s nothing wrong with it…. ”Oh no, no, no,” she interrupts me, ”it’s nothing like that. Of course, we’ve been sleeping together. It’s that he’s Chinese. I’m terrified to tell my father we want to get married.”

I stare at her. What the hell do I do with this? Finally, I say to her, ”Look, if you’re afraid to tell him alone I’ll go with you.” ”You’ll go with me?” she says. ”Not only me,” I say, ”we’ll take a delegation if that’ll make you feel any better.” ”A delegation?” she says. ”Sure,” I say, getting into the swing of it, ”we’ll take the whole damned Communist Party. Why not? You got a right.” ”I’ll think it over,” she says, and she goes away.

Well of course, i forgot all about it, the work went on, and a month later, after another meeting, Lilly suddenly comes up to me again, and she’s beaming from ear to ear. ”What happened?” I say. ”Well,” she says, ”it took me all this time to get up the nerve to say anything to my father, but last week I came home from work one night and I marched into his room and I stood in the doorway and I said: ’I’m getting married.’ He looked up at me and he just stared at me for a long time. Then he said: ’Is he Jewish?’ ’No, Pa,’ I said, ’he’s not, he’s Chinese.’ My father stared at me in such a way I knew he was thinking one of us had lost his mind and he wasn’t sure which one it was. But after a while he was sure. ’I’ll kill you,’ he said: My knees started to buckle Then all of a sudden it was like you were there in the room with me. I saw you and my branch organizer and all the people I work with and I felt like the whole Communist Party was right there in the room with me. I looked at my father and I said to him: ’If you kill me, who’ll cook your eggs?’ He hasn’t said a word to me since. Li and I are getting married next week.”

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