Editorial Notes

A Race With Time

(December 1931)

Written: December 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 37 (Whole No. 96), 26 December 1931, p. 4.
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Police frame-ups are an integral part of American labor history, as everybody knows. Throughout the numerous repetitions of this phase of the class struggle the same general pattern has appeared again and again. This applies both to the prosecutions and the defense movements against them. The present case of the New York Marine Workers, in all of its aspects, presents more and more the old familiar picture. It struck the movement like a bombshell. In the first days of panic the frame-up gang seemed to have everything their own way. Then a defense movement began; it gained momentum; and now its forces grow from day to day. But the scales are still weighted heavily on the side of the frame-up conspirators of the ruling class. The question: who will prevail? remains undecided.

In all this there is nothing new. We have seen it all before in almost every detail. Even the slowness of the general labor public to recognize that it is not a “criminal case”, but a direct blow at the organized labor movement, has many historic precedents.

In a chapter of Emma Goldman’s autobiography she recounts the early history of the Mooney case – a story that is familiar to old-timers in the militant labor movement, but probably new to many. In the first and most critical days the official labor movement, the conservatives, the respectables, the liberals and the faint-hearts, would have nothing to do with Mooney. He was charged with dynamiting, and they fled in terror from the issue.

It remained for a mere handful of radicals to organize and lead the fight The others followed, but they did not come in time. If Mooney’s escape from the gallows was due to the handful of militants who defended his cause against the world – and that is the indubitable fact – then the delay in organizing a great mass movement of defense, and the pussy-footing policies later introduced into it, were and remain responsible for his long imprisonment.

We face the same developments and the same dangers in the case of Soderberg, Hunker, and Trajer – the union workers who have been selected as the victims in the New York “dynamite plot.” They are no longer deserted and alone. The influence of their appeal gains ground from day to day. The militant activity of the Defense Committee is putting their case on the agenda of the labor movement. The blackguards and scoundrels who attacked the helpless prisoners in the first days of their arrest – who spread poisonous slanders against them in order to paralyze their defense – are being driven to cover. The honest and class-conscious elements in all workers’ organizations are asserting themselves in favor of a united movement to defend the victims of the frame-up.

The greatest danger now is that the widespread and militant movement of labor protest, which alone can save them, will come too late. As in all the cases which the labor movement has known it is a race with time. Every day sees new forces recruited for the fight. But every day likewise draws us nearer to the trial where the scales will be tipped decisively one way or the other.

The labor movement of America has spoken out loud on many occasions against the frame-up system. But all too often this protest has been deferred until the prosecution has gained the advantage of a conviction on perjured evidence. This was the case with Mooney and Billings. It was the case with Sacco and Vanzetti, and all too many others. Let us hope it will not be the fate of Soderberg, Bunker, and Trajer. The great task in protecting the labor movement from this heavy blow is to speed up the fight, to extend it on all fronts and unite all forces. Then it will be a movement for victory instead of a protest against defeat.

Last updated on: 22.2.2013