Written: August 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 17, 1 August 1931, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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For us the defense of class war prisoners is a class question. We proceed from the point of view that they are hostages held by the class enemy. They are not the private property of any organization, party, group, sect or faction. Regardless of their individual views they are entitled to the solidarity and support of the workers as a class, and especially of all the advanced and conscious elements. However we may be divided on this or that question of principle we should present a united front to the class enemy in defense of every persecuted worker, whoever he may be. It is from this standpoint that we protested in a recent issue of the Militant against the conduct of the I.W.W. in the Union Square meeting for the Centralia prisoners.
The July 21 issue of Solidarity returns to the discussion only to demonstrate anew the sectarian point of view and to justify the objections we have brought against it. We are now informed, in an article by Jack Kenney that the meeting “was not called as a ‘united front’ meeting ... it was called by the General Defense and invitations were sent to organizations and groups asking them to send speakers.” That is no answer to the point of our objection. The question of auspices is more or less a formality in such a case. It is the organizations invited and represented on the platform which determine the character of the meeting.
It it was not even intended to be a united front, as the author states, it only makes matters worse and shows up a narrow-minded conception which is far removed from the idea of a class defense of persecuted and imprisoned militants. It was a united front, alright, but a very peculiar one – a united front without the Communist party. Why was it excluded? This is the question we raised. It has not been answered, because it cannot be answered on the ground of the real interests of the class war prisoners.
Kenney found it necessary to defend the presence of the “yellow socialists” who were invited to the meeting. We did not object to that; we protested against a friendly solidarity with them as against the Communists. The article in Solidarity justifies this reactionary policy with the statement: ”We at least know where the ‘yellow socialists’ stand.” Is that really so? Then you must know that they – that is the leaders – have stood on the side of the prosecuting attorney in the case of every Left wing militant in the needle trades sent to jail or prison in recent years. If you know where they stand, your management of the Union Square meeting is all the more indefensible, and our criticism of it is all the more justified.
The article in Solidarity includes a defense of the “anarchist wind bag”. Kenney overlooks no questions except the most important one. He says: “Perhaps his remarks about Russia are objected to.” Of course they are objected to. He adds: “If so, then wherein did he misrepresent the situation in Russia?” Well, we could answer that question at great length and have done so more than once. But allow us to answer the question here with another question: If you think it was quite in order for the Anarchist to air his views on Russia at the Union Square meeting, did you expect comrade Swabeck to devote his speech to a refutation? In that case you should have advertised a public free-for-all debate on the principle disputes in the labor movement. Such a discussion, announced for what it is, would have a value and the Communist League would no doubt participate. But the staging of this debate under the guise of a defense meeting for the Centralia men is out of place. The class war prisoners are entitled to more respect and consideration that that.
Last updated on: 13.1.2013