Lasser, David, 1902-Alternative names
Labor activist, aerospace visionary, and author of The conquest of space (1931) and Private monopoly, the enemy at home (1945).
Lasser founded the American Interplanetary Society in 1930, was editor at Science Wonder Stories until his dismissal for his labor activism, and subsequently founded the Workers Alliance of America, which he resigned from in 1940 after it became increasingly populated by Communists. After two government appointments were overturned because of his association with the WAA and his visions of space travel, Lasser took a position as research director for the International Union of Electrical Workers, which he held until his retirement in 1969. Since then he has resided in northern San Diego County where he has been involved in continuing education programs and at work on various literary projects.
From the description of Papers, 1931-1998. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 33082661
David Lasser was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1902. After attending a half year of high school, he quit, and lying about his age, enlisted in the United States Army. He was sent to France where he suffered shell shock and was later honorably discharged. Upon release from the hospital, he entered M.I.T. where he graduated with a B.S. in Engineering Administration, despite his lack of a high school education.
In 1930, after founding the American Interplanetary Society, the first organization in the U.S. to deal with space travel by means of rocket, Lasser wrote and self-published one of the first non-fiction accounts, in English, dealing with space travel titled THE CONQUEST OF SPACE. Arthur C. Clarke, world-reknowned science fiction author and scientific investigator, wrote "my encounter with the CONQUEST OF SPACE, soon after its publication in 1931, was one of the turning points in my life, and I suspect, not only of mine...."
In his early years, Lasser was an editor at Science Wonders Stories in New York City. With the deepening of the Great Depression, Lasser also worked as coordinator of a city-wide union for the unemployed. In fact, he spent so much time organizing the unemployed that his publishers at Science Wonder Stories one day told him "Since you love the unemployed so much, we suggest that you join them." In 1933, he founded a nationwide union for the unemployed named the Workers Alliance of America and became its first president. Seven years later, he resigned due to increasing Communist involvement in the organization.
Upon his resignation from the Workers Alliance of America, President Roosevelt nominated Lasser to join the Works Projects Administration which trained the long-term unemployed for private industry. Later that year, however, the U.S. Congress inserted a clause into WPA legislation stating that no part of their funds might be used to "pay the compensation of David Lasser." This action was prompted by Martin Dies, a Republican Congressman, who at the debate for the 1942-1943 Appropriations Bill for WPA Expenditures declared that "this fellow Lasser is not only a radical but a crackpot, with mental delusions we can travel to the moon!" Soon after, Lasser was released from his position. One year later, the House Appropriations Committee granted him full clearance and the offending clause was stricken from the legislation. This would prove to be only the beginning of David Lasser's struggle to permanently clear his name.
In the following years, Lasser worked at the War Productions Board as a coordinator of trade union officials serving various WPA industry divisions. In 1945, Lasser wrote PRIVATE MONOPOLY - THE ENEMY AT HOME and soon became labor consultant to Secretary of Commerce, W. Averell Harriman, who was assigned to develop the Marshall Plan. Lasser assisted in dealing with anti-Marshall Plan trade unions under Communist influence.
In 1948, Lasser was again offered a position as labor consultant to Harriman, who was at this time an ambassador charged with foreign operations for the Economic Cooperation Administration. Lasser was refused clearance by the E.C.A. security staff on grounds that his Workers Alliance affiliation violated E.C.A. law which prohibited appointments of those who had been members of disloyal organizations that advocated "contrary views." The E.C.A. claim that the Workers Alliance was such an organization was backed up by the Workers Alliance's appearance on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations. The Workers Alliance was cleared by the Justice Department for the period of David Lasser's membership and he was temporarily assigned to the E.C.A. office in Paris, France, pending final determination of his eligibility. Three months later, he was refused an extension of his assignment and an E.C.A. hearing took place. In 1950, for the second time in his life, Lasser was ousted from a government position as the hearing board cleared the Workers Alliance for "contrary views" during Lasser's membership, but recommended against his employment on the basis of alleged "Communist control" and following the "Communist line."
Lasser next took a job as a research director for the International Union of Electrical Workers affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (I.U.E.-A.F.L.-C.I.O.). He was assigned to visit European and Asian countries to improve relationships with the United States Labor Movement. Lasser retired from the I.U.E. - A.F.L. - C.I.O. as Assistant to the President for Economic and Collective Bargaining in 1969.
In the 1970s, Lasser began work on several literary projects, one of which was a fictional account of an asteroid, Big Joey, and its possible collision with Earth. Titled "Big Joey," the book was rejected for publication and abandoned, only to be revised and reworked in the early 1980s. Another unfinished work was on the nature of the universe, tentatively titled "The Infinite Adventure." For this book, Lasser spent ten years researching hundreds of journal and newspaper articles and took extensive notes. The book was abandoned after several years due to his discovery of a number of other books on similar topics by other authors.
After the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, Lasser began collecting government documents regarding his affiliation with the Workers Alliance and his alleged Communist ties. Requests were sent to President Carter by U.S. Senator Cranston and many other prominent officials in support of reopening David Lasser's case. A review was finally secured and directed by the Honorable Joseph Onek, Deputy Council to the President. As a result, in 1980 David Lasser received a letter from President Carter clearing him of all charges.
Later in his life, David Lasser became very active in his community of Rancho Bernardo, California. He was one of the founders of the San Diego State University Continuing Education Center in Rancho Bernardo and was the chairman of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee. He also taught a class on the universe titled "The Infinite Adventure." In addition to his work with San Diego State University, Lasser was chairman of the Citizens Fact Finding Commission charged with gathering information on the problem to astronomical observation of high sodium versus low sodium street lights. The low sodium lights were chosen by the City of San Diego, and Lasser received special recognition from CALTECH on behalf of Palomar Observatory.
David Lasser died on May 5, 1996, at the age of 94.
From the guide to the David Lasser Papers, 1930 - 1998, (University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.)
- Labor unions and communism--United States--History
- Labor unions and communism--History
- Electric industry workers--Labor unions--United States--History
- Electric industry workers--Labor unions--History
- United States (as recorded)