Needed Now:
A New Defence Organization

(May 1934)

Published: The Militant, Vol. VII No. 20, 19 May 1934, p. 4.
Original bound volumes of The Militant and microfilm provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription/HTML Markup:Andrew Pollack.
Proofreading: Einde O’Callaghan (May 2016).

One of the most promising developments in recent days has been the activity displayed by the Provisional Committee for Non-Partisan Labor Defense and the hearty acclaim which has greeted its initiative in numerous circles of the progressive labor movement. The profound impulse of the militant workers to get together for a common fight against reaction, which was the driving power behind the great May demonstration at Madison Square, is expressing itself also in this response to the movement for a union of forces in the field of labor defense.

There is both a reason and a necessity for these manifestations. With the fearful examples of Europe before them, with the terrible threat of war and fascist reaction menacing the world, the need of solidarity in action becomes ever more imperious. The great idea of the united front is making its way in spite of everything. It can and must be realized on the labor defense front without delay.

A significant aspect of the Provisional Committee is the presence in its composition of a number of people who in the past have been prominently identified with the work of defense organizations in administrative, publicity, and executive capacities. This, taken together with the active cooperation of experienced militants of various organizations, which the initiating group has already enlisted, constitutes a certain assurance that the task, as well as the way to accomplish it, is understood.

This confidence has been further reenforced by the efficient handling of the Bellussi case and the protest movement for the four young German Communists who were handed over to the Hitler police by the Dutch authorities. The work done in these instances is now to be followed by the organization of a movement in behalf of the imprisoned hotel strike pickets, Robins and Gras, who have entrusted their case to the Provisional Committee. The method pursued by the Provisional Committee—directly organizing concrete defense activities while simultaneously negotiating with other organizations to broaden the base of the movement—strikes us as the correct and businesslike way to proceed. Patently, the formation of a real defense organization on a firm foundation is in the making.

It is high time. The strangulation of the ILD by the Stalinist adventurers has long since passed the point where the possibility of reforming this organization could be seriously debated among working-class militants whose eyes are open and whose heads are in working order. After the treacherous sabotage in the cases of Morgenstern and Goodman, Bellussi, the marine workers, and many others; after the miserable bungling and complete disorganization of the Mooney movement; after the cynical prostitution of the ILD to the factional needs of the clique of Stalinist bureaucrats serving private interests, and not the interests of the class or the class-war prisoners—after all this, the question has become clear beyond all dispute: a new defense organization is an unpostponable necessity.

In our opinion the new organization should not represent a system of committees but a solid organization based on individual members assembled into permanent branches; labor organizations of every kind, sympathetic to the aims and purposes of the movement, should be affiliated collectively. In its attitude toward class-war prisoners and other victims of capitalist persecution, at home and abroad, the new defense body should be honestly nonpartisan, defending them against the class enemy without conditions and providing material aid without any strings attached to it. At the same time, the Non-Partisan Labor Defense organization should be militant in its policy and should proceed in all its activities from the standpoint of the class struggle.

The composition of the new organization, in its leading bodies as well as in its branches, ought to represent a coalition of all the honest, progressive, and militant forces, in the labor movement and sympathetic to it, who are willing and able to cooperate loyally in the fight against reactionary persecution. Communists, Socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, and trade unionists—they all should band together in the defense of the rights of the workers and their organizations. The new defense organization can become the medium for such a united front. At any rate it should strive to do so.

Much depends on it. An honest defense organization, conscientiously carrying out in practice the policy of the united front, will be a support to the labor movement as a whole and a star of hope to the individual victims of reaction. In addition, it can set an example which will stimulate the formation of the united front of the workers in other fields of struggle.

Let us hope that the near future will see the consummation of the program of the Provisional Committee and the definite launching of a new organization for nonpartisan labor defense.

Last updated on 13 May 2016