Editorial Notes

On Which Side?

(December 1931)

Written: December 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 35 (Whole No. 94), 12 December 1931, p. 4.
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The defense of workers under persecution by the state authorities of capitalism for their activity in the labor movement is a class question, and therefore a question of principle. It makes no difference what the opinions or affiliations of the prisoners may be. Blows directed against them are in reality directed against their class. In such an issue there are only two sides, and there is only one question to answer: On which side do you stand?

This question of principle is now coming to the front most insistently in the case of Soderberg, Bunker, and Trajer, the members of the Independent Tidewater Boatmens Union, who have been selected for victimization in the New York “dynamite plot”. In reality the frame-up is directed against their union, and by that fact, against the entire working class. The members of the I.T.B.U. have not been deceived by the attempt to pass off the frame-up as a prosecution of individual “criminals”. The union has already taken a decided stand on the case. It has recognized that the fight against the frame-up is a fight for its own existence as an organization and has made the defence of Soderberg, Bunker and Trajer its own. The question now presents itself categorically: For the boat owners, the police, and the agent provocateur on the one side – or, for the Tidewater Boatmens Union and its persecuted members on the other. An ordinary trade union militant who has been through a few fights with the boss class, to say nothing of an enlightened class conscious worker, should have no difficulty in deciding where he stands.

As in all anti-labor frame-ups of the past there is a great deal of police propaganda being carried on to becloud the issue and confuse the workers. This propaganda has its unconscious mouthpieces in the labor movement. In the early days of the Mooney case and also in the Sacco-Vanzetti case we saw the same thing. People who are naive enough to believe anything they are told by the frame-up gang withhold their help from the defense. And to these deceived ones must be added those who slander the prisoners at the time of their greatest need in order to cover up am justify their own treachery and cowardice. One of the first tasks in defending workers in a case of this kind is to tear the mask from the face of these camouflaged police agents, and show them up in their true light before the workers.

The people who went around whispering that Mooney and Billings were really “guilty”, and who did the same thing in regard to Sacco and Vanzetti when the case first broke, have their counterparts in the case of the marine workers now facing trial. This treacherous propaganda was strongest at the moment when the prisoners were first arrested and put through the torture of the third degree, when they appeared to be alone and friendless with no one to speak for them or to help them. But since the defense movement began to take shape, and the union rallied its forces for the fight, the voluntary helpers of the prosecution have begun to beat a retreat. This process will be accelerated as the issue is brought clearly into the open and the honest workers rally around the banner of labor solidarity.

In a previous issue we called attention to the abominable statement of the Daily Worker on the case – the statement poisoned with the spirit of class treachery. Some elements in the I.W.W., whose aim in life is to demonstrate on every occasion that they are just as rotten as the Stalinist bureaucrats, brought out a statement of the same character in the Dec. 1st issue of Industrial Solidarity. But this brought a reaction from the I.W.W. members in New York which is worthy of emulation by the Communist workers in the ranks of the party. Here is a copy of a telegram sent to Industrial Solidarity:

“Membership here demands retraction of article signed H.R. pertaining to victims on water front in recent Solidarity. Soderberg, Trajer, and Bunker, have pleaded not guilty. We consider accusation against them an injustice. Non-I.W.W. marine workers defense committee defending cases should be given support. Letter from victims follows. L.J. Seco, General Executive Board Member.”

We also know of the protests that have been made by Party members along the same line against the position taken by the Daily Worker. These are signs that the rank and file militants are going to say their word on this case and that it is going to be in favor of the defendants and not of the prosecution. This is the hope of the imprisoned members of the boatmens union in their desperate trouble. It is also the hope of the militant labor movement.

Last updated on: 22.2.2013