William D. Haywood

The White Terror

Political Prisoners in the United States

(26 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 30, 26 April 1922, pp. 235–236.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

In the prisons of the United States there are many victims of treachery and conspiracy. Some of this conspiracy grew out of the maddened brains of fanatics suffering from war fever. But in many instances much sadness and tribulation has been directly caused by the cold-blooded conspiracy of capitalists and their political henchmen. This would be a desperate assertion if the facts were not conclusive There are thousands that can vouch for the truthfulness of the statements made here, bitter though they may be, to those who imagine America to be a country of democratic benevolence, or a place of freedom, where one may held and express his personal opinions. Those who are laboring under delusions of this kind are entitled to become acquainted with actual conditions, and to know something of the many splendid characters who are rotting behind prison walls.

There is the case of Tom Mooney, a metal worker, which is one of the more serious cases, as this young man is serving a life sentence of hard labor in San Quentin Penitentiary, California. Mooney was convicted of murder, charged with being an instigator of an explosion which caused the loss of many lives during a “Preparedness Parade” – a campaign of advertising to arouse the people of America to war, years of such activity being necessary before the United States was ready to plunge into the world’s blood fest.

It has been shown beyond peradventure that Mooney was not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. His trial and conviction was brought about by the machinations of Prosecuting Attorney Fickert. Tom Mooney’s sentence has been committed to penal servitude for life. He is not being punished for a crime he committed but because of his untiring efforts to improve working-class conditions.

In January 1916 a gigantic nation-wide conspiracy was entered into by the United States Government, the State and City authorities with the assistance of the many private detective agencies that abound throughout the U.S. against the I.W.W. This fact was admitted by Hinton J. Claybaugh, a secret service man, Superintendent of the Department of Justice, at the great Chicago Trial. Relentless persecution has followed ever since. Offices and halls raided, homes invaded, and thousands of members of the organization arrested. Hundreds were put on trial, convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Chicago, Sacramento, Wichita Falls, Centralia, Omaha, were the scenes of these terrible travesties of Justice. In nearly all cases all counts of the indictments have been eliminated except the counts referring to the Espionage and Selective Draft Laws. These laws have since the declaration of peace been expunged from the statute books. In spite of this fact more a hundred men are undergoing the ignominy of a vile and unjust imprisonment. In many States men have been railroaded to prison under so-called Criminal Syndicalism Laws. The victims of Centralia sentenced to twenty and twenty-five years penal servitude are now confined in the Walla Walla Penitentiary. The crime of these men is loyalty to the working class.

The New Year Raids of January 1920 were another outrage of the White Terror so general in the United States. On this holiday occasion over 3,000 members of the I.W.W. and the Communist Party were thrown into prison. The Communists that were tried at Chicago were convicted, but an appeal was taken and their cases are still pending.

Comrades Larkin, Gitlow, Ruthenberg and Ferguson, indicted and tried in the State of New York and sentenced to long terms of penal servitude, are still confined in prison.

The cases of Sacco and Vanzetti which have become international in importance are also “frame ups” showing what is done in the name of justice in the so-called free United States. Both men are under sentence of death, having been convicted of murder, a crime that it was impossible for them to have committed as they were not in the locality at the time the deed was done. Their offence is that they have at some time belonged to some school of anarchy.

Arising out of the coal-struggle in West Virginia, this strike began in May 1921, the main issue being the right to organize. It developed into what might properly be termed civil war The miners with their families who had been evicted from their homes pitched their tents on the hillside and ridge opposite the mining property. The thugs and gunmen of the company on the other side of the narrow valley without provocation fired volleys into the tent colony of miners who later armed themselves in self-defence and demonstrated their power by marching through Mingo County when the President of the United States threatened to declare martial law. Federal airplanes flew over the marching miners dropping bombs of chlorine gas. The outcome of this strike which is still on is the indictment of 113 miners who are charged with treason. 19 have been arrested and if convicted their sentence will be death.

This briefly presents the glaring outrages perpetrated against the working class of America, which in the spirit of comradeship calls for international support.

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