Editorial Notes

Another Defeat in Kentucky

(January 1932)

Written: January 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 4 (Whole No. 100), 23 January 1932, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The conviction of William Hightower and the sentence of life imprisonment is the second heavy defeat suffered by the miners and the entire working class of America in the Kentucky murder trials. These are no mere law cases. The courtroom, during these historic trials, is an arena of the class struggle. In reality, although not formally, the right of the workers to organize is at stake. The whole prosecution is designed to victimize men for asserting this right in action and to intimidate others by the ferocious “justice” measured out to the victims.

The attention of the entire working class ought, therefore, to be centered on this courtroom spectacle in Kentucky; the chief “witness for the defense” be compiled to hear and to heed. But such a movement is not to be seen or heard. The judicial hirelings of the coal operators grind out the convictions and prepare others in an atmosphere of undisturbed security.

A purely legal defense, however competent, unless it is reenforced by a determined and clamorous agitation, presents no serious obstacles to the railroading of a working class militant. This can be laid down as an axiom extracted from the record of the class struggle in America, Whoever has illusions about this, whoever wants to confine the defensive action of the workers to the presentation of legal evidence and the collection of funds for lawyers’ fees, is at best, a harmful, if well-meaning, fool. It is high time to appeal these cases to the working class. A nation-wide action of the workers is an impostponable obligation which they owe to the defendants and to themselves.

The chief obstacles in the way of effective protest action of the masses are the disunity in the labor ranks, and the partisan disputes which take no account of fundamental class interests. This deplorable circumstance is expressed in the obscene factional quarrel over the case between the Stalinists and the I.W.W. They have acted like tradesmen haggling over private property. The Daily Worker prints not a single word about the trials and conviction of Jones and Hightower. By that deliberate silence they take upon themselves a part of the responsibility for the outcome. In all this the Stalinists are true to themselves, for it is their mission to soil and discredit the banner of Communism. The conduct of the I.W.W. officials is no better. They content themselves with the fact that the hated Communists have nothing to do with the defense. Any scoundrel of faker is welcome at their defense conference, but not the delegates of a Communistic organization. In the self-satisfied contemplation of this victory over the factional foe they lose sight of the defeat suffered by the class and the basic reasons for it.

The life-sentences in Kentucky are warning signals of a furious offensive against the awakening labor movement. The laboring masses, attacked from every side, robbed of their standards and deprived of their rights, have no way out but to fight. They must find the way to fight unitedly, as a class, “An injury to one is the concern of all” – this glorious motto of the Knights of Labor must be revived and inscribed on the banner of the workers once again. Differences and disputes over methods and theory – which are unavoidable in the process of clarification – must not prevent unity and solidarity in the common fight against the class enemy. If the conscientious workers in all camps will dedicate themselves to this principle and fight for it they will soon find the way to sweep the disrupters aside and create the conditions for the united front of labor. Then they will be able to halt the defeats in Kentucky, and elsewhere, and transform them into future victories.

Last updated on: 25.3.2013