Cause at Heart
A Former Communist Remembers

Junius Irving Scales and Richard Nickson
With a new foreword by Vernon Burton and James R. Barrett

The story of the only American ever to be convicted solely for being a member of the Communist Party


"Scales's political life . . . is beautifully described in this well written book. His scenes of prison life alone—where he won respect from his fellow inmates and jailers alike—make remarkable reading. . . . A memoir that is as outstanding for its literary quality as for its historical value."
Monthly Review

"Moving and memorable . . . It is the voice of a decent, idealistic man who spent eighteen years of his life in the Communist Party doing everything up to serving as district organizer for several Southern states, including North Carolina. And we don't hear a false note: he is telling us the truth, as he reveals his illusions and delusions, his weaknesses and his strengths, his passionate belief in his party and the Soviet Union, and all the nagging doubts as well. He spares us nothing. . . . An interesting document that helps to explain in no small measure the tragic attraction the strange and hydra-headed American Communist Party held for the many decent human beings who passed through its revolving doors."
—William Herrick, New York Times Book Review

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On November 18, 1954, Junius Irving Scales, the Communist Party district organizer for the upper South, was arrested on a quiet Memphis street by FBI agents. Charged with violation of the Smith Act of 1940, Scales spent the next six years ensnared in a legal system that was in thrall to a daunting force: McCarthyism. Scales’s case twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court; ultimately, his lower-court guilty verdict was upheld. Scales served fifteen months in Lewisburg Penitentiary before his six-year sentence was commuted by President Kennedy in 1962.

Cause at Heart follows Scales from his privileged southern upbringing through the awakening of his social conscience, his civil- and labor- rights work for the Party across the South, his arrest and trials, his disillusionment with the Party, and his time in prison. Even behind bars Scales refused to cooperate with his prosecutors, to “name names.” In their foreword, Vernon Burton and James Barrett draw chilling parallels between the Smith Act, the legal grounds on which Scales was convicted, and contemporary restrictions on individual rights such as the Patriot Act. Today, as it did sixty-plus years ago, “Congress has radically expanded the description of what constitutes a threat to the U.S. government.”

Page count: 480 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $30.95

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Junius Irving Scales (1920-2002) was a Communist Party member for eighteen years. A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Scales lived in New York after his release from prison. Richard Nickson, a close friend of Scales for more than fifty years, is a professor emeritus of English at William Paterson University of New Jersey.