Editorial Notes

Father Cox

(January 1932)

Written: January 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 5 (Whole No. 101), 30 January 1932, p. 4.
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While unemployment increases daily and the suffering and misery accumulates to the explosive point the militant movement of the workers around the issue completely fails to keep pace: The unemployment movement shows many signs of regression, or at best marks time. This is the price of false and inadequate policies and bankrupt leadership. In the face of such a contradiction the way is opened for all kinds of charlatans to get the attention of the hungry masses. The situation is made to order for them, and those who show skill in the work of deception have the capitalist press for a publicity machine. The most conspicuous and successful of these traffickers in human misery that has yet appeared on the scene is the Catholic priest of Pittsburgh, Father Cox.

The exploits of this clever sky-pilot are crowding the legitimate workers movement out of the daily news. While this can be attributed, in part, to a more or less deliberate policy of the capitalist press, it must be admitted that his methods and program have a superficial attraction for many workers. He stole the thunder of the Communists with his “hunger march” to Washington and, from all reports, made just as good a showing. He demands “immediate relief”, government appropriations and similar measures, which have a practical sound and make a certain appeal to the desperate workers who are staggering under the heavy blows of the crisis. This is indicated by the attendance of fifty thousand at his Pittsburgh mass meeting. It is not altogether out of question that his project for a national convention at St. Louis should arouse widespread hopes and attain a measure of success.

One thing is incontestable: The intolerable burdens of unemployment are arousing millions who can no longer bear them in silence. They are moving with irresistible force toward some form of expression. Whether it will be a fighting program or a compound of reformist and religious illusions, whether it will be led by revolutionists or demagogues – this remains undecided. It is not written anywhere that the workers, in the first stages of their awakening, will take the road of militant struggle. Neither is it precluded. The policy and methods of the party are the deciding factor in this question. The conditions work in a progressive direction, but the leadership fumbles every time and turns the movement back.

Time is vitally important. Every error and every delay increases the danger that the course of the movement will be turned aside. The spectacular successes of Father Cox are a sharp warning of the reality of this danger.

Last updated on: 23.3.2013