Stop Making a Faction Football
Out of the Mooney Case!

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 24 (Whole No. 83), 19 September 1931, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The case of Tom Mooney, which for almost fifteen years, has been kicked around like a football, not only in the legal institutions of capitalism, but in the labor movement, is again threatened with the same fate. The danger to the movement for Mooney’s release arises in spite of the clear, unmistakable and thoroughly correct provisions outlined for it in the recent appeal issued from San Quentin penitentiary by the world renowned prisoner No. 31,921. For years false “friends” of Mooney deceived am frustrated the workers by promises that if they would only remain “respectable” and not “create disturbances” or organize demonstrations, Mooney would be released by the labor fakers in high places who would see this or that capitalist politician in the behalf. Tom Mooney himself put an end to this rubbish and worse when he wrote in his appeal last month: “From the cell where I have been buried alive for fifteen long years I appeal to every working class organization with a spark of militancy or revolutionary purpose – I appeal for united action ... 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.” This is the only sound basis upon which a movement can be built.

The Stalinist Plan

We have already commented upon and attacked the course taken by the official Communist party and the International Labor Defense which it controls. They are evading the concrete proposals made by Mooney, whispering around in small circles that Mooney would adopt their course if he were not in prison “where he cannot know the situation”. Instead of striking out on the right path, the I.L.D. and the Stalinist machine have adopted a narrow, sectarian policy which seeks to limit the Mooney movement within the stifling confines of the Communists, the Communistic organizations and those under its immediate influence and control. Mooney, and we with him, proposed a genuine united front of all the organizations he mentioned in his appeal – Communist, socialist, A.F. of L unions, Amalgamated Clothing Workers I.W.W., etc., etc. This is the only way to put the issue in the labor movement and to divide the real friends of Mooney from the false. But the Stalinists are so contemptibly fearful of matching their program and deeds in an open movement with those of other tendencies in the working class, that they prefer sectarian isolation thinly and unsuccessfully veiled under the name of “united front from below” to the broad and genuine united front movement of all groups. That this course means the strangling of the movement when it is hardly born, does not appear to concern these light-hearted and small-minded bureaucrats at all. They are more interested in their self-preservation as a clique imposed upon the movement from above than in the advancement of the genuine and the best interests of the movement itself.

We said last week that the I.L.D. and the Left wing “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” What we forecast only a few days ago has already signal to the Left wing. It must pay attention to it, reflect upon its significance, upon the extent of its own responsibility for it, and upon the measures that must be adopted immediately to deal with it.

A Novel Committee

As if in reply to the initial blunder of the I.L.D. and the party (which even the Stalinist shallow-pates might have guessed would meet with a joyful reception in the conservative camp and give it the besought opportunity to act morally indignant), a call has been issued for a conference which is to organize “a massive labor protest in behalf of Tom Mooney”. Who has issued the call? Whom do the committee members represent? When and where did they get together to form their committee? Who took the initiative and who was responsible for the committee’s selection? We learn nothing about these cogent questions in the call. To all intents and purposes it is a self-appointed clique which, somewhere in the dark of the moon, suddenly arrogated to themselves the authority to act for the Mooney movement. Its caliber may be judged from its composition and from some additional facts.

On the committee we find an admixture of snuffling liberals, of outright and notorious reactionaries and racketeers in the labor movement, like Hillman of the Amalgamated, Fania M. Cohen, loyal servitor to every reactionary administration in the I.L.G.W.U.; Socialist party skates like Norman Thomas and Frank Crosswaithe; the inevitable sprinkling of rose-tinted “progressives” like Muste, Lefkowitz, A.J. Kennedy, Burkhardt and other pastors of the C.P.L.A. flock; and, trailing hopefully at the heels of the fakers, Connors, of the I.W.W. On this whole committee one cannot find a single Left wing representative, not a single Communist. In fact, we learn from a wailing complaint made against the same people who are allied with him elsewhere in Paterson, for instance, that Gitlow was run out of the clandestine “conference” at which this committee constituted itself because it would have “nothing to do with Communists” at all. A more malicious caricature of the spirit and letter of Mooney’s appeal for a united movement can hardly be imagined.

It would be naive to imagine that this “committee”is anything but a united front ... against the Communists. That the official party policy has facilitated their task, does not change the fact that the anti-Communist crusade interests these people infinitely more than the incarceration of Mooney and the other class war prisoners. (That the field Continued on representative of the Mooney Committee is a partner to this movement does not change the fact either, and the sooner it is realized the more swiftly the genuine united front movement for Mooney will progress.) The purpose of the committee is “one effective demonstration in which all forces constructively and honestly willing to help, may do their part.” We know this language well. This is taken from the reactionaries in the labor movement who use it demagogically and with a despicably pious hypocrisy against the Left wing who, you see, are not as “constructive and honest” as the Greens, Wolls, Hillmans and their ilk ...

We say quite openly: not an ounce of confidence can be placed in this self-constituted clique, thrown together behind closed doors. The protest movement, the united front for Mooney is inconceivable without the Communists and the Left wing. Whoever starts off without them has started off on the wrong foot, has made a start which will end where the previous deceptive and abortive movements “for Mooney” ended – in the ditch. It is not two or three or twenty movements for Mooney that are needed, but one. It is not a conglomeration of reactionaries, pseudo-progressives and assorted shysters who can organize and lead it, much less organize and lead it against the Communists. That is to say, it cannot lead it correctly or successfully. But it can undoubtedly muddy the waters for some time to come. And it can do this largely because the official Left wing movement, hornswoggled by the Stalinist bureaucracy, has not started off by clearing the waters.

For a Genuine Movement

Whatever strength the newly-formed “Mooney committee” may gain will come to a large extent from the blunders already made by the Communists, without whom, we repeat, no real movement is worthy of the name. What milk has been spilled cannot be gathered up again. But a new and better start can be made and must be made. The Hillman-Cohen-Muste-Bailey committee is only the first installment on the payments the Left wing will get from the conservative and reactionary camp for its radically false course. A timely correction will minimize or even conceal any future payments.

Let everybody bear in mind: the Mooney case is no faction football, and whoever seeks to use it for this purpose will come a cropper in the end. The Stalinists can just as little use it for the prestige of their own false line as the labor skates can use it for their anti-Communist arsenal. It is up to the class conscious militants to make this idea prevail.

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