From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 23 (Whole No. 82), 12 September 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
In his appeal to all militant and revolutionary labor organizations and groups, published in the last issue o£ the Militant, Tom Mooney wrote from his prison cell in San Quentin: “The time for action has come. Let this appeal be the spark which will start an unparalleled conflagration – agitation that will arouse the masses to demand my unconditional pardon and the release of all class war prisoners. I ask for a genuine united front.” In this request, entirely correct in every respect, Mooney very specifically named the organizations and groups which, in his opinion – and we endorsed it – should be called upon to join in the united movement.
The appeal by Mooney has a tremendous significance from every point of view. For years, those who spoke in the name of this splendid militant buried for more than 15 years in the dungeons of capitalism, frittered away their energies and sowed disastrous illusions in the minds of Mooney’s supporters in the working class, by limping hopefully behind the lightly-given and lightly-betrayed promises of aid by capitalist politicians. The Mooney appeal to the revolutionary movement for the organization of a vigorous mass protest movement, with all its implies, definitely put an end to this miserable and unworthy policy of appeals behind the scenes, “seeing the right man”, quiet conferences with liberals, and the rest of the futile, nonsensical truck frequently imported into the labor movement by well intentioned and evilly-intentioned petty bourgeois “friends”.
Furthermore, the appeal opened wide the doors to the organized militant movement, without which the united front is inconceivable, to take the initiative in carrying out the provisions of Mooney’s appeal. We wrote and repeat that an excellent opportunity offered itself to the International Labor Defense, as the most prominent and militant national working class defense organization, to take the first step in calling a genuine united front conference of all the organizations mentioned in Mooney’s appeal – however conservative or reactionary their leadership might be – to work out the plans necessary for the execution of the provisions in the letter from the world renowned prisoner of American capitalism.
How has the leadership of the I.L.D. approached the problem of the united front? By a cheap and disgraceful evasion of the central issues so correctly raised by Mooney.
In the first place, the Call for United Action by the I.L.D. (Daily Worker, 9-5-31), indicates that it is its intention to bury the Mooney case in the midst of half a dozen or more other labor defense cases that are pending in the country today. It is obvious that a united front movement for Mooney would be recreant in its duty if it failed to conduct a struggle also for the other class war fighters. No man in the claws of the capitalist jailors is dearer to the working class than any other. All our class war fighters who have been captured by the enemy stand on an equal footing. But in this specific campaign, the whole point is missed by failing to concentrate the whole issue around Mooney as the outstanding symbol of the capitalist system of anti-working class frame-ups, and using the example of Tom Mooney as a point of departure – once the movement is really under way – for a nation-wide fight to release all the class war prisoners. This desirable end is not accomplished by the mechanical lumping together of all the conceivable cases under the title of a “united front for Mooney”.
The second blunder of the I.L.D., however, is far worse than the first, and bids fair to nullify all the efforts made to organize a genuinely united movement. As we said above, Mooney referred specifically in his appeal to various organizations and groups to form component parts of the united front movement. We cannot conceal the fact that we have not a penny’s worth of faith in the good will or the genuine desire to cooperate that the leaders of some of the mentioned organizations have professed for Mooney in the past. The heads of the socialist party, the corruptionists and employers of gangsters who have looted the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and those similar to them – these are hardly the people who are concerned very vitally with the freedom or imprisonment of Mooney and other class war prisoners. We know them from the past, and their heavy hands have rarely, if ever, weighed in the scales in favor of the workers’ side. But that is not the crux of the problem. The crux lies in the ranks of the organizations over which they rule, in the ranks of the workers who are heart and soul with
Mooney but who do not yet understand thoroughly who must be won to a real struggle for Mooney’s liberation. And they can be won for this goal, they can convince themselves in the light of incontestable and eloquent experience as to who will best be able to organize the fight, and what program of action offers the best means for victory, only if the class conscious militants declare, as Mooney has done: Let all these organizations get together. Let them pool their resources. Let them show where they stand on the touchstone issue of a real fight for Mooney’s freedom.
When such an appeal will be made, the workers everywhere will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Otherwise, the Hillquits and Hillmans and their kin will be able to continue to muddy the waters and protect themselves by promises and phrases which cost nothing and obligate them to less.
That is precisely where the call issued by the I.L.D. for a “united front” falls down completely. Where Mooney was specific and open, the I.L.D., bound hand and foot by the dogmatic sectarianism imposed upon it, is vague and thoroughly wrong. It does not appeal to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, but to the “rank and file members of the A.C.W.”; not to the socialist party, but to the “working class members of the S.P.” The various other organizations mentioned by Mooney’s appeal are simply omitted: The I.W.W., the Proletarian party, the Left Opposition, the Lovestone group, the Weisbord group, etc., etc. Why? For one reason only: The policy of the official party, which dominates the I.L.D., as stupid as it is blind, legally prohibits anything but a “united front from below” and even that to the exclusion of all species of “renegades”. The “united front from below” means, in practise, and has meant in the past, no real united front at all. It is generally equivalent to a mere recruiting drive under the banner of the party, the T.U.U.L. or the I.L.D. It is the reverse of the “genuine united front”, for which Mooney calls. It is not the way to fill the movement with life and vigor. It is the swiftest and surest way of strangling it when it barely born.
The I.L.D., and in its name, the official Left wing and Communist movement, have started the Mooney campaign with the wrong foot forward. It must pull back and start anew, start correctly.
It cannot labor under the illusion that the leadership of the magnificent movement which is about to be started will fall to it automatically. A false, a stupid policy may cause it to forfeit not only leadership in the movement, but even prestige and influence. What the Left wing allows to slip through its hands will be picked up by conservative and reactionary groups which will only lead the movement into a ditch of futility as they have done so often in the past.
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