Editorial Notes

Attacking the Marine Workers’ Defense

(January 1932)

Written: January 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. 5 No. 5 (Whole No. 101), 30 January 1932, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive as your source, include the URL to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The attack on the Marine Workers’ Defense Committee in the Daily Worker of January 25th is a continuation, under a new form, of the policy of the party and the I.L.D. in this case since its inception. The attack is shifted from the prisoners to their defense committee, but at bottom the attitude remains the same – treacherous disregard for the fate of the prisoners and concern only for the factional interests of this corrupt and degenerated clique. The attempt to disrupt the defense on the very eve of the trial is an act of collaboration with the prosecution no less than was the statement of the Daily Worker on the day after the arrest more than two months ago. If the conspiracy to railroad these workers is defeated – as we trust it will be – it will also be a defeat for scoundrels who, in the name of Communism, have done and are doing their best to deprive the prisoners of the solidarity, support and defense that is their due. When the Communist workers finally call these scavengers to judgment their reckless sport with the lives of labor prisoners will not be the least count in the indictment that will condemn them forever.

When Soderberg, Bunker and Trajer were first arrested their friends appealed to the I.L.D. for aid. This appeal was rejected; this organization, which is maintained by the revolutionary workers for such purposes, refused even to send a lawyer to visit them in jail, to hear their story and to inquire whether they were being mistreated. The Daily Worker on November 18th disavowed the men and denounced them as they lay helpless in the hands of the third-degree torturers. Said the Daily Worker on that date:

“Soderberg, secretary of the Tidewater Boatmen’s Union, whom the capitalist press calls a ‘Red’, was expelled from the Communist party for being a suspicious element and also from the Marine Workers’ Industrial Union for disruptive and anti-working class activities. Trajer, Reilly and Bunker were expelled from the Marine Workers’ Industrial Union as bad elements.”

And to this, the Young Worker added: “Soderberg is a stool pigeon.”

Now, when the case is already on the calendar for trial they come forward and offer a “class struggle defense”. What kind of a defense did they offer in the days after the arrest when defense was desperately needed? Nobody stood in their way. The initiative was taken by others only because they would do nothing – nothing but denounce the prisoners and leave them to their fate. For this reason also the Marine Workers’ Defense Committee was formed at the request of the defendants. The I.L.D. and the Party were invited to participate, to send speakers to the mass meeting, to help in the organization of a united front of labor for the defense. All this they refused, and the work went on without them. Now they come forward to protect the prisoners from the “betrayal” of the defense committee which did the necessary work which they refused to do or help in doing.

This eleventh hour discovery of the merits of the case by the Daily Worker has not occurred without reason. It bears testimony to the effective work of the defense committee in popularizing the issue and it indicates the pressure brought against the bureaucrats by the Communist workers who were ashamed of the things done in their name. But the new approach to the case shows a cynical contempt for the intelligence of these workers. They will stand for a great deal – as the continued existence of the Stalinist bureaucracy demonstrates – but they have not forgotten the record this bureaucracy has made in the case of the marine workers, and they will not forget it.

In order to refresh their memory and to put all the issues clearly before the workers the defense committee has decided to issue a statement giving an account of its work and policy. This statement, which will adduce documents and facts on every point, will deal another blow to the disrupters and thereby strengthen the defense of the persecuted workers facing trial.

Last updated on: 25.3.2013