The scholarship on the impact on communists of Khrushchev's “secret speech” to the twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 is limited. Generally it is located within broader studies of organisational upheavals and ideological debates at the leadership level of communist parties. Rarely has there been analysis of the reverberations at the individual level. Consistent with James R. Barrett's pioneering approach, this paper seeks to incorporate the personal into the political, and inject a subjective dimension into the familiar top-down narrative of American communism. It will do this by focusing on the motivations, reactions and consequences of the defection of one Party member, the writer Howard Fast. It will thereby illuminate the story of personal anguish experienced by thousands in the wake of Khrushchev's revelations about Stalin.