James Cannon, Max Shachtman & Rose Karsner

A Letter to International Labor Defense

(March 1929)

Written: 22 March 1929.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. II Nos. 9–10, 1–15 May 1929, p. 5.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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March 22, 1929

International Labor Defense
80 East 11th Street, Room 402
New York City

Dear Comrades:

The undersigned members of the National Executive Committee of the I.L.D. wish to call your attention to a number of important matters relating to the work of the I.L.D. which in our opinion should be considered by a meeting of the National Executive Committee.

  1. The Christmas Fund ... We have seen statements in various papers and have also been informed from other sources that the I.L.D. failed to make the customary distribution of funds to the class war prisoners and their families during the Christmas period for which the Christmas fund was primarily instituted. Are these statements true? If so, what were the proceeds of the Christmas fund and how were they distributed.
  2. The Monthly Relief for Class War Prisoners and Dependents. We have been informed that the I.L.D. during the recent period has been failing to make the regular monthly contributions to the prisoners and their dependents which was the established practise of the I.L.D. carried out unfailingly over a period of more than three years since the fund was started. Are these statements true? If so, what is the reason for the failure and what steps are being taken to overcome it?
  3. The Moooney-Billings Campaign. What is the reason for the failure to develop this campaign for which the ground had been fully prepared before we left the office of the I.L.D. last October, and which Mooney had publicly endorsed? Is there any truth in the report that Mooney has repudiated the I.L.D.? If so, what steps are being taken to adjust matters and come to an agreement for the active participation of the I.L.D. in a United Front struggle for the freedom of Mooney and Billings?
  4. The question of maintaining the non-partisan policy of the I.L.D. in defense of the rights of all workers to free speech and assemblage. The I.L.D. was founded on the principle of non-partisan defense of workers’ rights, regardless of party or other affiliation and it carried out that line in practise. One of its first important cases was the defense of the Anarchist workers at Fall River, Mass. Recently comrades have been denied the right to sell the Militant at I.L.D. affairs in New York City although the Daily Worker and other Party publications were given, this right. The same attempt to prevent the sale of the Militant was made at an I.L.D. meeting in Chicago. Not only that, but at the I.L.D. Bazaar an organized group of hoodlums, claiming to speak in the name of the New York Section of the I.L.D. attempted to deny the right to sell the Militant on the sidewalk outside the Bazaar. Is this the present policy of the I.L.D., or does the organization as such condemn such acts of discrimination and suppression.

We believe these questions are of such great importance for the work and future of the I.L.D. as to make a meeting of the National Executive committee absolutely imperative. Since October, nearly five months ago, there has not been a single meeting of the National Executive Committee. Therefore the actual responsibility of its members is very slight, but once we, as members, bear a certain public responsibility for the work and affairs of the I.L.D. we deem it necessary, in view of the questions which have arisen, to have precise information and reports on the activities of the period which has elapsed since October. Otherwise any form of responsibility will become impossible for us. We request you to call a meeting of the National Executive Committee without delay.


Yours fraternally,

NOTE: Since this letter was written, we have been informed that a so-called meeting of the Executive Committee of the I.L.D. was called together by the faction agents of Lovestone and Foster, to which comrades Cannon, Shachtman and Karsner – despite the fact that they are regular members of the Executive – were not invited. The essential purpose of this meeting was apparently to officially O.K. the replacement of Wagenknecht as secretary by Juliet Poyntz and the juggling of other positions in the organization by the factionalism. Another act taken was the arbitrary removal from the Committee of comrades Cannon, Shachtman and Karsner. No reasons were given. No charges were preferred. The comrades were not informed either of the meeting or the removals. The only possible reason for the removals is the fact that the three above-named comrades support the Communist Opposition. That is how the Stalinite splitters maintain the non-partisan mass character of the I.L.D. We will treat of this matter more extensively in coming issue. – Ed.

Last updated on: 12.8.2012