James P. Cannon

The New Militant

December 15, 1934


Written: 1934
Source: The Militant. Original bound volumes of The Militant and microfilm provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup:Andrew Pollack


The Workers Party founding convention went on record for the idea of a militant defense organization embracing workers and sympathetic elements of diverse political views, for a united class fight for mutual defense interests. Earlier, the AWP and the CLA had vigorously supported this idea when it was broached by the Provisional Committee for NonPartisan Labor Defense.

The NPLD, while limited in forces, has won a good name in struggle. When the ILD refused to raise a finger for four young German workers deported from Holland to fascist Germany, the NPLD organized the protest movement in this country. The NPLD played an important part in the fight against New York police brutality which led to the resignation of Commissioner Ryan. It was to the fore in local protest movements against government strikebreaking moves on the Gulf Coast, in Toledo, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

Last week the NPLD was able to announce that it had saved Antonio Bellussi, militant antifascist, from danger of deportation to fascist Italy. Now comes news that a committee set up on the initiative of and led by members of the NPLD, has won a signal victory in obtaining the release from Sing-Sing of Harold Robins and Andres Gras, strikers framed on a charge of beating scabs in the New York hotel strike. The two workers may have to undergo a new trial, but in any case their first conviction is reversed through the legal fight of the NPLD. The superior court admitted that Robins and Gras were convicted due to the prejudiced conduct of the notorious antilabor trial judge, Corrigan.

Revolutionary workers now in the WP played an important part in the united front for Robins and Gras. The NPLD was also able to draw into active work the Socialist Lawyers Association, one of whose members was Robins’s counsel in the appeal.

The WP is ready to go further in support of NPLD’s plans. Ever since June, when the NEC of the SP gave favorable, though formal, recognition to the idea, we have urged conclusive action. Almost three months ago a draft plan was approved by representatives of the CLA, the AWP, and the SP. Since then the SP representatives have taken no action. That some elements in the SP are opposed in principle to collaboration with revolutionaries even against the worst reactionaries, everybody knows. What rank-and-file Socialists should ask, however, is why the Militants, who claim to have a majority in the NEC, constantly avoid a final decision on the pressing question of setting up a broad, militant defense organization.

The history of the ILD in the Dutch case; in the Bellussi case, where it sabotaged the defense because the defendant was suspected of “Trotskyism“; in the Robins-Gras case, where it refused all collaboration and constantly maneuvered to sabotage the united front committee; in Scottsboro, where its policies have jeopardized the whole cause and where it is now begging the reactionary Samuel S. Leibowitz for a united front—all these facts and many more make clear that the ILD is not to be thought of as a defense instrument of the workers.

A militant, nonpartisan defense organization is a crying class need today. The Workers Party has put the building of such an organization on its program. It is ready and willing to cooperate with other organizations to build it. The Socialist Party ought to give some definite answer to the NPLD, or to make clear that it is unable or unwilling to carry out in action its verbal commitment of last June. The NPLD, far from having confirmed the diagnosis made last April by the ILD—that it “died aborning”has grown constantly stronger. Its further work should not be jeopardized by anybody’s passivity. The WP calls for action on this matter.