How Can We Americanize Communism?—by Albert Weisbord
A Survey of Central America -------- by S. Herman
The End of the N.R.A. ------------ by Albert Weisbord
On the Workers Party --------------- Three Articles
War and Civil Liberties (II) ------- by Robert Barnett
Also: The Workers Unemployed Union Convention, Greetings from London, The O.C.R.W.P.
HOW CAN WE AMERICANIZE COMMUNISM? by Albert Weisbord
To the average American, Communism has always been considered a foreign product. The theoretical and practical leaders of the movement, such as Karl Marx, Nikolai Lenin, Frederick Engels, Leon Trotsky and such, all were Europeans, who knew America only from afar. In this country the Marxist parties were composed mostly of foreign-born elements, the Socialist Labor Party being dominated by the Germans, the Socialist Party by Jews, the Communist Party by Russian nationals. The ideas of these parties and their methods of expression seemed utterly alien to the soil of this country.
Of course the real difficulty that barred the absorption of the Communist movement into the social life of this country and its failure to arise as an indigenous development came from the fact that the economic and social evolution of the U.S. had not as yet warranted the open formation of class forces engaged in active civil war. On the surface of things it seemed that America was destined to reverse all the basic laws of motion exposed in Europe and to operate according to its own peculiar laws. America was to be, in truth, a sort of new world where all kinds of utopias could be realized. Graf von Keyserling, in his various works touching on America and especially in his book, “America Set Free”, develops the theory that America would never take to Marxian Socialism because it was itself a sort of substitute for it.
Certainly, America is unique, not in the Herbert Hooverian sense, that America is outside the pale of capitalist development and that the laws of the class struggle prevailing in Europe would not be generated here; nor was America unique in the Socialist sense in which American capitalism is “excepted” from the decline of world capitalism; but it is unique in the sense that all concrete truth is unique. America is an illustration of the law of unequal and combined development which compels history never to repeat itself but to enunciate eternally the basic law of individuality in nature.
In considering the unique character and development of American society, at least the following points must be mentioned if we are to understand how to Americanize Communism:
1) America was a new world. To many it was an escape from the old social order, from the old economic machine, from the old State. One could turn over a new leaf. One could build Utopias. There was no limit to the possibilities of expansion. Here one could stress the individual as against class, State, nation, race.
2) America seemed to turn the economic laws of Europe backward. Instead of the peasants becoming proletarians, working men could become farmers; instead of small property being seized by the landlords and the big owners, the propertyless could amass a bit of property for a time. Every man could be a king in his own little domain and there was plenty for all.
3) There were no important feudal classes with special privileges to hamper the development of capitalism. if the propertyless could obtain a little property and the petty bourgeoisie could become bourgeois, the bourgeoisie could become absolute masters of the situation.
4) Wealth was to be had without devastating wars. Plenty was to be had for the mere picking. Class struggles were not needed in order to win ease and security, apparently.
In other words, on the one hand, if in Europe the bourgeoisie found an old social order, product of feudalism, which had centralized the government into its own hands and had to be overthrown by the mobilization of the masses against it, in America no such civil war was needed. On the other hand, if in Europe the capitalists were forced to engage in a class struggle against the newly rising proletariat, to keep it down, in America all classes seemed to dissolve into one, the small property owner and direct producer. As upper and lower classes all tended to merge into one, as fast as those straits were precipitated out in one part of the country, the vast and rapid expansion of the land created new fluid conditions and broke up anew all rigid formations. Thus the class struggle gave way to individual conflicts.
In America, it is the private owner of the means of production who becomes the universal element, and forms the mother class within whose undifferentiated ranks there are later to be generated both the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The disappearance of fuedal upper classes and the delayed domination of big capital, the enormous influence of the frontier and of the homestead, with the resultant creation of a negative attitude towards the State and militarism, all these factors aided in pushing forward the initiative and direct action of the middle classes as the sole progressive historic force in the country.
Of course, in fact, from the very beginning, there were classes; there were the slaves, the indentured servants and redemptioner by the millions. But these groups were inarticulate in the main and, excepting the slaves, helped soon to become free and to be able to rise with the rest of them. Then there were the regular proletarian and plebeian elements in the city, but they were of relatively insignificant proportions at the start. Finally, there were the few bourgeois elements, land monopolists, plantation owners and such on the other side of the scale. But these wealthy elements had broken from the traditions of Europe and were overwhelmed by the middle classes. The wealthy cliques were forced to cajole and dupe, because they could not coerce these middle classes to get them to work in harmony with the ruling oligarchy. This was not hard to do in America under the circumstances.
Thus, throughout the entire 19th century history of our country, generally speaking, it is the petty bourgeoisie who dominate the ideology of the country and, under the impact of big capital, carry forward the nation’s development. Just as in England every “middle body” aped his superior, so in America, every bourgeois tried to appear as a “man of the people”, the people being, of course, the petty owner of the means of production. Whatever democracy exists in the U.S. at this time is the democracy of private property extended to the little property owner in an environment where many could easily become property owners and enter the charmed circle. In all this time, the propertyless proletariat never took the initiative in making U.S. history. As a matter of fact, historically speaking, it has yet to take the initiative as a class.
The problem of Americanizing Communism has always been a difficult one for Communist leaders. Up to now this question has not at all been received. In fact, the problem has not even been adequately posed. Such a dearth of theoretical understanding is a sure sign of the infantileness of the entire Communist movement in this country.
The traditional approach to this question has been the one adopted by the Lovestsone Wolfe clique and which is now being extensively used by the Stalinists and by Rudenz of the Workers Party and way before them by the Socialist Party and even still earlier by the Socialist Labor Parity under De Leon. This traditional approach is to shout such opinions as the following:
1) The “Fathers” of our country, Madison, Jefferson (and even Washington) were wonderful men. They laid down the right line in the Declaration of Independence. This line has been corrupted. We must fight again for the Declaration of Independence to make it a reality. We must claim these “founding fathers” the forerunners and ancestors of the proletarian revolution whose heirs are the present Communists.
2) The American revolution was a wonderful people’s revolution against tyranny and injustice and for liberty and democracy. This revolution belongs to the proletariat which must claim it for its own. We must raise again the slogan of this right of revolution.
3) The Constitution of the U.S. is a wonderful constructive document that must be preserved. We must appeal in the name of the liberty and democracy that was preserved in this Constitution against the big trusts and money interests, the large imperialist capitalists who have destroyed the liberty embodied in the Constitution of the U.S. to suit their own selfish ends.
Now the trouble with this “American approach” is that not a single important idea in the whole lot is correct but that it vulgarizes American history to suit the prejudices of the middle class patriotic nationalists. Not vulgar demagogy but scientific analysis alone can guide a revolutionary movement to victory.
On this vulgar nationalist approach, let us first listen to De Leon (See “Class Struggle”, March, 1935): “While all the European flags rose out of the fumes of human sighs, were planted upon the prostrate bodies of subjects, and were meant defiantly to proclaim the double wretchedness as a social principle, it was otherwise, it was the exact opposite with the “Stars and Stripes".
“Apart from the circumstances that the American Flag was first raised by men, who however, and pardonable mistaken in their sociology and economics, did sincerely believe that the American Flag, raised over the boundless natural opportunities which the land offered to industry, would insure the citizen the power and responsibility of being the architect of his own fortune; apart from the circumstance that the American Flag was the first to waive over a Constitution that “legalizes revolution"; apart from these and many other kindred circumstances, the historic fact that the scientist, the noble-minded, venerable Franklin, whom the scheme of the flag was presented to him. a blue field with a star for each state, expressed the hope that the day would dawn when every nation in the world would be so represented in the field with her own star; that fact confers upon the American Flag the lofty distinction of being the first on earth to urge the Brotherhood of Nations; the first to herald the Solidarity of Peoples; the first drapery-symbol of Peace on Earth; that fact renders the American Flag the anticipation of the Red Flag of International Brotherhood, and endears it to the heart of civilized man.”
We turn from these patriotic blurbs of De Leon to the more sophisticated argumentations of Bert Wolfe in “Our Heritage from 1776". Says Wolfe, “If the average conscious worker is asked whether the American working class should commemorate the anniversary (July 4th), his answer is an indignant “NO….IT’s NOT OUR REVOLUTION. It gave the working class nothing but exploitation…” The rejection of the heritage of the first American Revolution is one of the signs of what Lenin named “infantile leftism"…It, continues Wolfe, attacking the average American worker, whom he denounces as an immature “leftist". And here Wolfe tries to cover himself up with the Mantle of Lenin and declares that just as Lenin pointed out the Bolsheviks should take over the heritage of the past struggles against Czarism, so must we take over the heritage of the American revolution.
One final exhibit, Lenin himself. In his “Letter to the American Workers”, Lenin states, “The history of modern civilized America opens with one of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few among the large number of wars of conquest that were caused, like the present imperialist war, by squabbles among kings, landowners and capitalists over the division of seized lands and stolen profits. It was a war of the American people against English robbers who subjected America and held it in colonial slavery as these “civilized” bloodsuckers are even now subjecting and holding in colonial slavery hundreds of millions of people in India, Egypt and in all corners of the world.”
Now, unfortunately for Lenin, who shows by this sort of statement appearing in a pamphlet that in other respects is really of the highest order of revolutionary writing, that the very best of the European revolutionists were provincially limited by their ignorance of America, there is scarcely a single important idea in the whole paragraph which is historically true. Perhaps to some “Communists” our criticism of the greatest genius of the 20th century, Lenin, will appear blasphemous. But it is our business to dissociate ourselves thoroughly from the mummy-God-building of Stalinism. Marxism-Leninism is a guide for us, not a fetish. In this case the question of Americanizing Communism or, what is really the question of Communizing America, is entirely too important for us to yield to religious rituals at the mere name of Lenin. Let us turn to the truth of what Lenin wrote.
First, it is not true that the American revolution was a war of the people, i.e., a people’s revolution. It was not even as much of a popular revolution as the English Civil Wars fought over a century earlier and it is certainly not to be compared with such genuine people’s revolutions as the French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Chinese Revolution of 1925, etc. If we are to categorize the American revolution according to its type of mechanism, we would place it somewhere in between the Turkish Revolution of Kewal Pascha and the English Civil Wars.
Now what is a “people’s revolution"? Such a revolution ought to have at least some of the following characteristics if not all of them: A) The whole people, the mass of toilers should be aroused and actively engaged in the fray. B) The “people”, that is the poor masses, should be mobilized in their own organizations, their own parties, having their own banners, their own leaders, their own demands. C) The results of the revolution, if successful, should substantially improve the social lot of the people and increase the democratic machinery of the State for their benefit. Now in the American revolution, by and large, none of these characteristics were present. Out of a population of 3 million, the largest army Washington was able to master was not more than 30,000 men , who were constantly deserting. the masses in the city were prone to loyalism, while those in the countryside were distinctly apathetic to the fight. There was no separate party of the plebeian masses or of the “people". The driving force was the secret Committees of Correspondence which were entirely under the control of the privileged few. All during the revolution the masses put forth no demands against the British in their own name and carried on no separate struggles against their own Cromwells, Lafayettes, Chiang Kai Sheks. Finally, there was no substantial extension of democracy to embrace the masses of people after the revolution.
The American revolution produced not a democracy, but a non-democratic republic, in sections of the country more exclusive than the slave-holding Athenian city republics of old. The Constitution was far more the product of reactionary forces fearful of the rise of the people after the American revolution, uprisings such as those in New England (Shays Rebellion) and in the South (North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia) than of the progressive forces generated by the revolution itself. (In this connection we call attention to the important article that appeared in the last issue of our paper, “Was America Ever a Democracy?” by M. Clifford). Lenin, apparently, is quite unaware of the fact that the Constitution was so reactionary that it was able to get adopted only by the “founding fathers” pledging themselves to incorporate immediately the first ten Amendments, the “Bill of Rights". It was fifty years later, in the time of Andrew Jackson, that the first great extension of democratic rights to include the smaller property owners and artisans was introduced.
Lenin’s views naively reflect the history books of sympathizers of the Daughters of the American Revolution, when he idealizes the American revolution and states that it was a great really liberating war and not a war of conquest like so many other wars have been. (Incidentally, Lenin makes a blunder in putting on the same par as causes of the imperialist war and other wars of conquest under capitalism, “squabbles among kings” and struggles among capitalists). The American revolution was first and foremost a revolution of conquest of lands and markets. It was as much the product of material forces and sordid interests as any other struggle. It was a fight between the sets of robbers and exploiters and slave holders, one in England and the other in America. To declare that the American revolution was not a war “over the division of seized lands and stolen profits” would make any American historian smile.
In another part of his “Letter”, Lenin writes “The American people…gave the world an example of a revolutionary war against feudal subjection…” The question at once strikes us, “Did the rule of England really represent “feudal subjection"? Nothing could be further from the truth than this. First of all, of all the countries of Europe, England had more than any other, smashed and liquidated feudal remnants at the time. Second, the policy leading to the American revolution was not the policy of feudalists, but the capitalist policy of the Mercantilist School, one of the leaders of which, John Locks, was a member of the Board of Trade. Third, the Daughters of the American Revolution to the contrary, not withstanding, the American revolution was not against the “tyrant, George III” (who at one time was heartily against the war but was persuaded to carry on by a section of the Whig capitalists), but against the English capitalist Parliament and the House of Commons.
Lenin’s limited understanding of American History can be seen in his expressed view that compares the"colonial slavery” of America by the “English robbers” with the colonial slavery of British Imperialism in India and Asia. In such a comparison a whole series of historical errors is committed. In India the British Imperialists can keep their control only by supporting the Nabobs and Rajahs and the whole trappings of old India at the expense of the conquered masses whom they drove down into misery deeper than ever. Just the opposite occurred in the new world. North America had to be colonized by capitalist elements and English subjects themselves. The American colonists robbed the indigenous Indians. They established the most wide spread system of slavery and indentured servants and most ruthlessly exploited men, materials and the soil. Not a feudal system of land tenure was preserved, but a great development of capitalist private property was inaugurated. It was because the American exploiters, bankers, planters, shippers, merchants, capitalists and land monopolists would not “share the wealth” with the British imperialists in the proper proportions that the two bands of robbers split and fought it out. If we take Lenin’s view, how can we explain the fact that when the American “slaves” (Lenin) had won the revolution, American “slavery” (Negroes, indentured servants, redemptioner, etc.) still remained? But Lenin wholly ignores the Negroes’ point of view here.
We can understand and sympathize with the “good intensions” and the “Asiatic diplomacy” which Lenin manifested by these errors. His purpose was to show that the American proletariat did have revolutionary traditions that linked them up with the struggles of the workers in the Soviet Union. However, we can not win mature workers by fairy tales. What Negro or poor white, whose ancestors were slaves or indentured servants would believe such fairy tales?” No, we can not declare to them that the American revolution is “Our” heritage. If we are going to Americanize Communism, it will have to be in another way.
Before going farther in our analysis, we shall have to spend a little time with the misconceptions of the Wolfe-Lovestone clique, which we have mentioned already. In the same pamphlet quoted above, Wolfe writes, “One of the earliest articles of Lenin written in 1897, concerns itself with this very question (claiming inheritance from past revolutions—A.W.). It is entitled `What Inheritance Do We Reject?’ It disputes step by step with the Populists the inheritance from past bourgeois revolutionaries. `We are definitely more consistent and truer guardians of the inheritance than the Narodniki (Populists)’, he declares, and then adds… `To keep the inheritance by no means signifies that one must limit himself to what he has inherited.’ This article by the youthful Lenin was a definite declaration that the Russian working class was coming of age and claiming the inheritance that the Decembrists (the aristocratic rebels of 1825—AW), the `Enlighteners’ (the radicals of the time of 1861—AW) and the earlier generation of Populists had left to it.”
“Judged by this test, the American working class is still immature, still infantile leftist. It does not claim the heritage. It does not dispute with the bourgeois and particularly the petty bourgeoisie ( the `Back to 1776ers’) for its share in the inheritance of the first American Revolution…”
We shall not stop at the romantic history making of Wolfe that in 1897 the Russian working class was already becoming mature—here Wolfe is making goo-goo eyes at the Russian nationalists running the Comintern—nor shall we comment on the frightened opportunism which declares that the American worker is an “infantile leftist” at whom the Communist Party must thunder not to go so fast. But we shall confine ourselves to the historical comparisons that Wolfe makes between Russia and America and also ask ourselves the question: Which heritage do we accept and which heritage do we reject?
Now what were the ingredients of the Russian situation? 1) The Decembrist revolt had been against the tyranny of the Czar by a group of the lower nobility and army officers. The revolt failed but it marked the beginning of the demand for the Europeanization of Russia following upon the Napoleonic wars. 2) The revolt was continued in the middle of the 19th century by Russian students and intellectuals who wanted to bring in European “enlightenment” into Russia. These students of “advanced ideas” were harassed and persecuted by Czarism in a thousand ways and showed a high level of courage and devotion. The movement failed and Czarist reaction prevailed. 3) Following upon the Crimean War, Russian Absolutism was forced to free the serfs in 1861 and to develop capitalism. There then arose a Populist movement composed of students and elements of the petty bourgeois who went to the people, and tried to educate the peasant and through their terrorist arm, conducted a truly heroic war against Czarism. The movement failed, thousands were persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, killed by Czarism. These three early movements had already entered into the traditions of all liberation movements at the time when the proletariat began to arise and to speak out in its own name.
In all of this the following is to be carefully noted: Firstly, there was, in each case, a struggle against the same power, Czarism, which up to the victory of the Russian proletariat was still the persecutor and murderer of the people. That is to say, the enemy of the previous movements was the enemy of the proletariat at the same time that Lenin was writing. This, of course, is not the case in the United States. Our enemy is not the same as the enemy of the leaders of the American Revolution.
Secondly, the leaders of the previous movements before 1905 and 1917 had failed. In many cases they had paid for their failure with their lives and had demonstrated that the classes they represented could not overthrow the oppressors of the Russian people, but only the proletariat could do this job. They had turned over the banner of revolution to the newly rising working class, which continued the work they had begun but could not finish. Just the opposite was the case in the American revolution.
Lenin could praise the “Enlighteners” and Nihilists because in a backward agrarian country, the revolution against Czarism had to start as a democratic agrarian revolution to be pushed on and completed by the proletariat only as the revolution itself unfolded. In Russia it was a question of the democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants under the leadership of the proletariat. The revolution in the U.S. does not have to go through the tortuous phases that occurred in Russia. There the leaders of the revolts against Czarism never had the power, never exposed themselves to the masses, never had the opportunity to oppress and grind down the revolutionary forces of the people. In America, just the contrary was the case. From the very beginning, the leaders of the American revolution, the “foundling fathers” became the bitter enemies of the people. Here the leaders of the American revolution actually won and seized the power, brazenly and arrogantly seizing the fruits of the revolution for themselves and refusing to grant the lower orders who had made up the bulk of the fighting force the slightest amelioration of their conditions. In other words, the enemies of the American proletariat are the very bourgeois who led the American revolution.
Thirdly, in Russia, the leaders of the previous movements, especially the terrorist Narodniki were social revolutionists, they tried to organize the masses of peasants under their own banner with their own demands and to launch them in violent struggle against the old absolutist order. On the contrary, the leaders of the American revolution never went to the people. They did their very best to prevent the revolution from being a “people’s revolution". They went into it for their own selfish ends and came out enormously richer and more powerful than they went in. What they were interested in was not a social revolution but a apolitical change in government.
This whole appeal to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, this whole idealization of the crooks and cheats, “our founding fathers”, Madison, Hamilton and those who never could tear themselves away from them, Jefferson and even Tom Paine, this whole ranting about the glories of the American revolution is not for the proletariat. In the quotation cited in the early part of this article, even Wolfe is forced to admit that the average worker looks on the whole matter as bunk. Only Wolfe proposes to “debunk” the worker by proving that the American revolution was a glorious freeing of the slaves. Wolfe should join the D.A.R.
We do not deny, naturally, that the American revolution was a progressive act objectively unleashing the forces of production and capitalist development. The American revolution began an act in the drama which the proletarian revolution shall complete and finish. Such an approach is a very necessary one in reaching the middle classes whom the proletariat wants to neutralize or to win over in the coming struggle between capital and labor. We shall elaborate on this later on. But we must not use this approach to the American workers. We cannot lie to and deceive the members of our own class.
We cannot enter into rivalry with the bourgeoisie on the question: Whose is the Fourth of July? Whose is the American Flag? Whose country is it? Whose Constitution is it? etc., etc. In this sort of rivalry the bourgeoisie must come out on the top. The workers will be fighting within the framework of capitalist ideology and tradition, the petty bourgeoisie will be confused and lost. Nationalism will be rampant. All sorts of illusions about “reforming the Constitution” by making Amendments (Hillquit Amendment, Budenz Amendment, Townsend Amendment, Father Coughlin Amendment, Amlio Bingham Amendment, etc., etc.,) will be thickly spread throughout the workers’ ranks demoralizing them, preventing them from taking the historic initiative in their own manner and breaking from the capitalist parties that have traditionally used this bunk. The whole line of Wolfe plays into the hands of the American varieties of budding Fascism.
Here again, we witness the truth of the statement made by us in another connection: “Nine times out of ten, if we had to choose between a class conscious white worker and an unconscious Negro, we would choose the unconscious Negro as the better realist, the better revolutionist.” Can any one imagine a Negro worker falling for that sort of bunk which Budenz and Wolfe and others hand out? It is a good point for the American revolutionist to remember—A line that cannot win the Negroes cannot win the proletarian revolution!
But can it be that the American workers have, therefore, no tradition of revolution? No insurrectionary heritage from the past? Far from it. The proletariat carries forward the insurrectionary traditions of Bacon’s rebellion, Leisler’s rebellion, Dorr’s rebellion, the fierce struggles in the Southern States between the planters and the poor whites, and most important of all, Shay’s rebellion. All of them, especially the last, were rebellions of the poor plebeian toiling masses against the wealthy monopolists arising in the country. Here is a rich heritage of political struggle that the American proletariat can never forget.
In all of the pamphlets of Wolfe, Browder and Co., why do they not stress these rebellions? Why do they not claim these insurrections as our heritage? Is it because the “fathers” of our country will thus be exposed? Is it because these rebellions were in opposition to the leaders of the American revolution, to the “glorious” Constitution and to those supporting Madison, Jefferson et al.?
The American proletariat has the heritage of the underground railway of the days before the Civil War and of the left Abolitionist movement culminating in John Brown’s raid. The American proletariat has the glorious tradition of the insurrection against conscription under Lincoln. Then there are, too, the traditions of May Day, of the First International, whose seat was in New York City, of the many violent strike struggles which in ferocity resembled small insurrections by themselves.
The workers of this country can well carry forward the traditions of street action which has always characterized the toilers, whether having small property or not, of this country. Lynching is not for the bourgeoisie alone. It is a glorious tradition of the American people for dealing with crooks and bandits and outlaws and murderers as well. But the more suggestion that the American farmers and workers do not have to abandon the tradition of lynch law and can take matters into their own hands against the new crooks, robbers, murderers of the people, namely the capitalists, is enough to cause the Wolfes and the Browders to turn pale with fright and apply the smelling salts.
But most important of all the insurrectionary traditions which the American proletariat must cherish as its most precious heritage are the wonderful insurrectionary attempts on the part of the Negro slaves in this country. The grand war of the Seminoles (really an insurrection by Negroes as well), the insurrectionary movements of Turner, Cato, Vesey and a thousand others whose names have been buried under the rubbish of the bourgeoisie-- these mark highlights in the struggles of the terribly oppressed toilers of this country.
Is it an accident that Lenin knew very little about these traditions and heritages? No. The fact is Lenin was limited by his European horizon. If he was the foremost leader of the world proletariat, it was simply because the world proletariat was led by its European section and he who expressed Europe most accurately expressed most effectively the interests of the world’s working class. But this horizon is not enough today. Nor is it an accident that Wolfe never mentions these traditions of the Negroes. As the opportunist he is, Wolfe turns not to the American Negroes but to the American bourgeoisie for his inspiration.
We must throw aside the filth of the opportunists and see the Negro as he really is, the great insurrectionist, the foremost fighter for the liberation of the toiling masses of this country., The history of the proletariat in this country takes its origin in the history of Negro slavery. The insurrections of the Negro slaves are the finest traditions of the American working class. ( to be continued )
In the March and April issues of the “Class Struggle”, the writer outlined the economic, social and political conditions in South America and suggested a program of action. It was pointed out how intimately the South American situation was tied up with that in the rest of Latin America, namely, Central America and the West Indies. In this article, which is a continuation of the same general subject, the writer will discuss the West Indies and Central American republics with the exception of Mexico, which will be the subject of a separate article.
The history of the toiling masses is one of successive and simultaneous oppression by those whose “manifest destiny” is to exploit with ever increasing ruthlessness. In Central America, we see the Yankee colossus overtake and pass with gigantic strides his European rivals and win decisive victory over the British. In 1913, American investments in all the north Latin American republics (including Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic), excluding colonial possessions, amounted to $1,069,000,000 and those of the British were $1,148,407,000. However, by 1929, the last “pre-depression” year, the British investments rose to only $1,404,200,000 while the American stake reached $3,300,000,000. In the case of foreign trade, the story is the same. In 1913, imports from the United Kingdom amounted to 13.5% of the total. But in 1929, were only 6.5%; those from the U.S. increased during the same period from 52% to 63% of the total. In terms of money, imports from the U.K. shrank from $40,181,000 in 1913 to $39,147,000 in 1929, while those from the U.S. in the same period rose from $160,423,000 to $352,617,000, which of course, is the highest point of all.
South of Mexico, on the continent itself, are British Honduras and six republics. Guatemala and British Honduras are immediately south of Mexico, the latter on the Caribbean. Guatemala has a small coast line on the Caribbean but also extends clear through to the Pacific. Further along in a southerly direction, lies Salvador on the Pacific side and adjoining Salvador is Honduras which has a small Pacific outlet and a very considerable Caribbean shoreline. Bordering Salvador and Honduras on the south is Nicaragua which extends from coast to coast. Then comes Costa Rica which likewise fronts both on the Caribbean and on the Pacific. The southernmost country of North America is Panama.
The total population south of Mexico is something over 6,000,000 in an area about 1/3 larger than that of the State of California. About 75% of these people, conservatively speaking, are illiterate. Almost the entire working population is engaged in agriculture. With the exception of British Honduras produces a little of many things, Central America is known as the land of one crop countries. Here it is either coffee (Guatemala, Salvador, Costa Rica) or bananas (Honduras, Panama), sometimes both (Nicaragua) but usually one almost to the entire exclusion of anything else. There is considerable sugar and tobacco here and there but these make up only a small part of the economy of any one particular country. There is some mining too, but everything is insignificant when compared with either coffee or bananas. And everywhere a decaying feudal system enslaves the wretched Indians who make up the bulk of the population whose condition is very similar to what prevails in Peru and Bolivia.
Nowhere in all of Latin America are the toilers in more desperate circumstances than in Guatemala, a coffee country which has a population of about 2 million (almost 90% illiterate) and which is the northernmost and most populous of these six republics. The Guatemalan peon is chained to the plantation feudalism which flourishes in the coffee regions. When in need of harvest hands, the finca (plantation) administrator appeals to the nearest Jofe Politice (governor) who immediately sends forth troops to round up workers; by day or night, either in their homes or elsewhere, without any prior notice. The workers are hunted down like animals, caught, bound and carried off. A common sight is that of “volunteers” on their way to work, in chains or ropes. The manner of securing workers consists in paying the Jofe Politico a sum for each day’s work for each laborer in the finca. The tariff is well known, for example, twenty pesos (33 cents) for each day’s work; a hundred laborers working fifteen days take 30,000 pesos which sum is delivered to the Jofe. The interested party has nothing further to do. The Jofe gets the money , and pays the worker what he wishes, for example, a peso and a half a day (2 1/2 cents). Most of the concessions granted by the Guatemalan government contain clauses guaranteeing that the government will provide an adequate labor supply.
Guatemala is one of the two Central American countries in which English investments exceed those of the U.S. In 1913 American and British investments were respectfully $20,000,000 and $53,000,000 and in 1929 they were $30,220,000 and $37,000,000. However, it should be pointed out that Germany controls most of the coffee plantations and takes the bulk of the coffee exports. As a matter of fact, in 1929, Germany took 39% of the total exports of Guatemala while the U.S. took 45.7%. England here occupied an insignificant role with only 3/10th of 1% for that year. Imports from the U.S. in 1929 were 55% of the total, from Germany, 14% and from England 9.4%. The figures show that the competition is three cornered.
In Honduras, however, with its population of 860,000 95% of the trade is with the U.S., although in 1929 the English had $25,000,000 invested there to $12,000,000 for the Americans. The country is operated and controlled by United Fruit Company, in almost completely monolithic manner. In his book, “Banana Gold” , on page 120, Carleton Beals gives the following description:
"Every article used in the plantations or the railroads and in the company stores is brought in duty free. To the customs’ income and taxes known as “especiales” the companies’, contribution ought to be more than half. But because of the terms of the concessions this is remitted. Of the entire theoretical income of the government, about 30% is uncollected because of the nontaxable character of the fruit companies’ interest. Of the moneys actually collected by the government, about 75% is earmarked to pay up on the internal debt. In other words, not only do the companies fail to pay appreciable taxes but 3/4 of the national income flows back into their coffers to pay off loans at exorbitant rates contracted in moments of revolutionary stress. Not only does this make the country’s financial position unattainable, but it kills all local enterprise. The United Fruit Company ownes stores all over the north coast. It sells goods brought in its own banana freighters which go loaded to the U.S. and would otherwise return empty. It brings in the goods duty free. It ships the goods into the interior in its own railroad, in cars that would otherwise go back to the fields empty, and sells them in company stores, not merely to the employees, but to anyone who wishes to buy. These stores sell every conceivable article, and as a result no native business which must pay duties and has no such facilities, can compete. Hondurans are obliged to become poorly paid employees of the banana company in positions inferior to imported Jamaica Negroes.”
Adjoining Honduras to the west and immediately south of Guatemala is Salvador, the smallest of all these countries in the area, but the second largest in its population which is 1,500,000. Here we have an overlordship of about 30 Creole families, descendants, or at any rate claiming to be, of the Spanish conquistadors. Here, as also in Costa rica (population about 1/4 million), the race lines are most sharply drawn between the ruling class of Spanish descent and the native Indians and half-breeds. The Japanese have made very friendly overtures to the Costa Ricans and, as a matter of fact, the Costa Rican government has been flirting very much with both Britain and Japan.
Nicaragua and Panama both occupy positions of the utmost importance because of the question of the transcontinental canal which has been the bone of contention among imperialists for over a century. Originally, the canal was planned through Nicaragua. The distance, about 180 miles, could be negotiated over the San juan River which flows from Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean Sea. From the western most point of Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific is only about 15 miles by land and while the San Juan river and the Lake would have to be dredged, this route seemed to be the most suitable. That canal will be built, undoubtedly, if for no other reason than that the U.S. Navy is not satisfied to take 48 hours to run the fleet through the Panama Canal. Two canals might very well cut the time down to half or even less, and a day is a very long time in military operations. The Americans are more interested in Nicaragua as a canal route than anything else, though there is considerable sugar and banana cultivation. In 1913, the government by treaty gave the U.S. the sole right, in perpetuity, to build a canal. The western part of the country in the region of its two large lakes is very fertile. 75% of the area of the country could be cultivated but only 5% is actually under cultivation. Only about 17% of the population of 630,000 is white. Fifty cents per day is probably the average pay for labor, but many receive as low as twenty cents. While in 1913, American investments were only about half of those of the English three and six million respectively, in 1929, they were six times as great, namely 24 and 4 million respectively. England has kept out of Nicaragua with a reluctance as great as was the case with Panama. However, there is no questioning the hegemony of the U.S. in Central America.
Panama is the least populated of these countries, having only 475,000 inhabitants in an area as great as that of the State of Indiana. Immigration is practically forbidden. The American policy is to keep things there just as they are. This is a puppet country par excellence if there ever was one. When a local “patriot” returned from a conference in New York, an “insurrection” was declared against the Republic of Columbia. The U.S. government ordered several battleships to the scene, but, significantly, the “rebellion” did not begin until the ships were at hand. The Navy Department ordered the commanding officer to keep the railroad on the isthmus open to all traffic and to allow no troops sent by boat by the Columbian government to land. As soon as a “government” was set up, it was recognized by President Roosevelt. Later on, in an often quoted speech, he said that he “took the canal”, meanwhile the debate goes on. But so does the canal; that if he had not taken the canal they would still be debating it. The U.S. is absolutely against developing the country and even that small part of it which is under cultivation is not made to be very productive. The ten mile Canal Zone is exploited as a point of interest for the tourist trade.
So much for the continental republics. In the Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are in revolutionary confusions. Cuba has been treated at some length in previous issues of the “Class Struggle” and we shall not enter into many details here. Haiti and the Dominican Republic have but recently, along with Nicaragua, been released from direct control by the U.S. Marines. 90% of Haiti’s population of 1,000,000 are illiterate. Such is the result of the wonderful, humanitarian improvements made by the U.S. since that great Liberal, Wilson, landed the Marines. The population is overwhelmingly black with only a small fraction of mulattoes. American capital to the extent of 30 millions is invested in coffee and sugar. The investments of other countries are insignificant. The same may be said, generally, about the Dominican Republic with its population of one million or so. It is interesting to note that this latter country has no currency of its own except about $200,000 worth of old coins. Otherwise the American dollar is the standard. Both these countries occupy the same island, Haiti occupying the western third.
Puerto Rico is the fourth largest island in the Caribbean. Almost its entire population of about 1,000,000 is engaged in the cultivation of sugar, tobacco and coffee, though some industry has also been developed. The Virgin Islands, occupying only 133 square miles of territory make up the rest of the American possessions off the mainland. They have only 25,000 inhabitants and America acquired them only to prevent anyone else from establishing a base which might endanger the canal.
However, the British have a number of holdings throughout the Caribbean. Altogether they have a population of about two million. The Island of Jamaica, which is larger in area than Puerto Rico, has over one million inhabitants, nearly all of whom are blacks, working on sugar and banana plantations. Barbados, the Windward and Leeward Islands produce sugar and cotton, while Trinidad, with a population of 400,000 is rich in oil and has an asphalt lake. Bermuda is a tourists’ colony and the Bahamas are not very important except for sponges and sisal which is used for rope. To these possessions we add British Honduras which is on the mainland just north of the Republic of Honduras. British Honduras has only 52,000 inhabitants and is exploited for its tropical fruits and lumber. Add to the foregoing little British Guinea on the mainland of South America, and one can see to what extent the American imperialists have outstripped the English in the Western Hemisphere. Territorially, these are the English possessions and they serve as naval bases besides sources of wealth.
The French West Indies, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Guadalope and Martinique, have a total population of about 500,000. The last two have “representation” in the French parliament to the extent of one senator and two deputies. The population is agricultural, engaged in producing sugar.
Throughout all of Central America, with the exception of the British and French West Indies, the notorious Monroe Doctrine has been applied most ruthlessly and brutally. Originally it was supposed to be intended to warn the Russians and their “Holy Alliance” that the U.S. would not stand for any further European colonization or intervention on the American continents. The Monroe Doctrine was a unilateral, egotistic policy, enunciated solely for the benefit of the U.S. and never intended to assist any of the Latin American countries. The original merits of the Doctrine have been grossly exaggerated. it has been distorted to serve as an instrument of hegemony of the U.S. It has become a cloak for intervention on behalf of the American imperialists. Throughout Central America, the imperialists’ puppets call upon the U.S. War Department to help them conduct their “peaceful”, “democratic” elections. Washington recognizes or repudiates the “elected” officers in accordance with the instructions of the National City Bank or the Chase National Bank of New York or such elements. Always it the story of the precious canal when there is any possibility of a workers’ uprising or strike on the mainland. The Central American ruling cliques come up to Washington for instructions and very obsequiously proceed to carry them out. The American bankers bribe them generously in order to outbid their British, German and Japanese rivals. In 1912 that supposedly genial, smiling and benevolent old fellow, President Taft, stated that the policy of his diplomacy was to substitute “dollars for bullets". What more complete confession to wholesale murder could there be than such a statement coming from the President of the U.S.
And his successor, Wilson, immediately upon coming to office, carried on the glorious tradition of bullets in all of Central America, the West Indies and even Mexico. Taft had been Governor General of the Philippines and had as much personal supervision over many marine activities in the Caribbean. “Dollars for bullets”—he really meant “Bullets for Dollars". And all of Wilson’s successors, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover carried on the tradition of sending bullets to collect dollars. And the present incumbent, Roosevelt, received his training under wilson, when as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he personally supervised the interventions in Haiti, the Dominican republic and Nicaragua, just to mention a few.
It is clear, however, that the U.S. Government would much rather have the local gangsters in each country fire bullets for the imperialist than to have the U.S. Government send its own marines into each country. But this cannot be the case much longer. it was pointed out in the April issue of the “Class Struggle” that, “There is no internal force within Cuba strong enough to stop the revolution:. It will be recalled that the “good neighbor” Roosevelt, sent 30 American battleships to Cuba only recently. The same situation remains throughout most of Latin America.
To summarize, we have on the mainland, Mexico, with a population of about 16,000,000 plus 6,000,000 in the remaining continental republics, making a total of 22,000,000. To those must be added at least 7,500,000 in the three “free” island countries of Cuba, Haiti and St. Domingo, 2,100,000 or so, in the British West Indies, 500,000 in the French West Indies, 1,000,000 in Puerto Rico and we can see almost 34,000,000 oppressed human beings who are bitterly hateful of the imperialist exploiter, when interests are very intimately interconnected and who would be a powerful force in helping to cripple the capitalist system by cutting off some of its richest sources of super profits.
A program of action is vitally necessary for all of Latin America. In a subsequent issue, the Mexican situation will be discussed, particularly in connection with the rest of Central America and the West Indies. Thereafter, a strategy will be proposed for the entire group of countries.
The Supreme Court of the U.S. in a unanimous decision in the Shooter Chicken Case, has declared the National Industrial Recovery Act unconstitutional. The case itself was ridiculous, one in which the government compelled the buyer of chickens to reach his hand in through the crate of chickens and pick the first one to come along, allowing him no privilege of rejecting the chicken picked and substituting another for it. There were many other and clearer cases which could have been used as a test case. The government, however, chose this one to make as the basis for its appeal to the Supreme Court. In finding for the chicken company, the Supreme Court based its decision on the grounds: First, that Congress can not delegate its powers to the President, and second, that the matter under review was intra-state commerce and therefore not subject to regulation by the federal government. Of course, if the second reason holds true, than the first reason assigned was a mere extra remark not really called for in the case; it was a gratuitous attack by the Supreme Court on the NRA. However, regardless of this, all sides are agreed that the Supreme Court has really spiked the NRA and some new formulation of control by the Administration has to be found.
The decision coincides with the political value of two groups, both of which have their ardent representatives on the Supreme Court Bench. The liberals of the type of Brandeis may well fear that if the President can be delegated the powers which had been given him by Congress under the NRA, then there can be no limit to the powers which the hand of the executive arm can assume, under the guise of their “being granted”, with the result that under and through the Constitution, Fascist and dictatorial tendencies may develop to completion, and the checks and balance system destroyed. On the other hand, there were those of the stand pat Republican school, represented by Butler, who fear the New Deal’s attack on the rugged individualism as the strips of Hoover. Thus economic conservatives and political liberals here joined hands. Both groups were united in their tremendous fear of the working class and in their belief that the NRA was bringing to the shores of this country the “European” class struggle and collectivism.
It must not be assumed that the Supreme Court is entirely averse to dictatorial tendencies in the Constitution. On the contrary, it has quietly usurped the dictation of government for itself. Its will can be opposed by no one, its decisions are final, to all intents and purposes. For over a hundred years now it has decreed that it and it alone can decide what is constitutional and what is not and has overshadowed both the President and the Congress of the U.S. What the original meaning of the Constitution was supposed to be we can only hazard a guess. However, it is clear that both the President and the Supreme Court were to act as checks upon Congress. Up to the 20th century, there was no question but that the Supreme Court has the final power in the government, overshadowing and controlling not only Congress but the President as well.
Such a political phenomenon is peculiar only to the United States and it would amply repay advanced workers to study this situation well. In no country in the world have the judges such power as they have in the U.S. From the early times of the History of the republic, lawyers have been the dominant political leaders. As de Tocqueville put it (Democracy in America, Vol I, p.282) “The French lawyer is simply a man extensively acquainted with the statutes of his country; but the English or American lawyer resembles the hierophants of Egypt, for, like them, he is the cold interpreter of the occult science.”
In understanding the power of the American courts, the following points should be taken into consideration:
1) The problem in America was mainly that of creating “order” out of wilderness; the establishment of private property and its protection in a country where all might be small owners was preeminently the work of the magistrate.
2) In many parts of the country the magistrate and sheriff were the only government officers.
3) The American republic had been established without a democratic revolution. There had been no decisive insurrectionary struggles of oppressed masses, no street fighting, no barricades. Not classes fought over whose country it was, but sections and individuals of classes bit and scratched each other on what share of the wealth each was to get. Adjudication of such quarrels could be obtained not by civil war, but by police court action.
In other countries the government had been highly centralized with a strong executive power which alone could carry out the interests of the existing ruling class with precision and dispatch, which alone could crush insurrection within and ward off wars without. In such countries courts were plainly the instruments and not the controllers of the state. In the U.S., however, in its early history, there were no great wars, no great insurrections, only a wilderness abounded. Here there was no great need for executive centralization. Besides, the very American revolution was a reaction to such centralization in government.
Originally, the Supreme Court was given its position in the Constitution as a check on Congress, since, after the Shay’s rebellion, the leaders of the country felt they could no longer trust the “rabble". Thus the judges were made appointive and kept their positions for life. Their conservative dictation, therefore, could be far more enduring than that of the President, who, after all, was elected and remained in office only from four to eight years.
It is a significant mark of the times that today the Supreme Court should fight , not Congress, but the President and declare that Congress has granted away too many powers. It is a remarkable demonstration of the collapse of liberal parliamentryism, of the utter bankruptcy of Congress that it must confess it can solve no problems, but can only turn over its work to the President on its own volition. The taxing power, the tariff, the matters of appointments, removals and pensions, the emergency spending, war and treaty powers, etc, all are now well secured in the hands of the President. Thus are dictatorial Bonapartist and Fascist tendencies growing in the government.
The decision of the Supreme Court can no more affect this general tendency then the Dred Scott decision could save slavery. (Indeed, the Dred Scott decision could only hasten the Civil War). The State is now the savior of society. In the U.S. there are now 3,000,000 governmental employees and 50,000,000 people directly supported by State funds, besides countless more millions indirectly supported through subsidies, subventions, loans, heavy governmental purchases, etc. The State has stepped in to mitigate the effects of the general bankruptcy of private business. Thus as enormous development of State Capitalism has occurred with a consequent gigantic increase in the administrative and executive powers of the government.
Gone are the old checks and balances of the past. The emergency crisis, the quick transition of events, the national character of the projects, the grandness of the plans, the huge outlays, etc., all call for centralized direction and execution. Little capital has now given way to Trust and State Capitol. It is no longer a question of the adjudication of contests between the private property holders but a lineup between the State on the one hand and the people led by the proletariat on the other. And as the court cannot limit the State, it will not be able to limit the proletariat. The class struggle will find its formulation not in legal briefs of defendants but in the street fighting of the victims of our capitalist social order.
Some of the trade union officials who have benefitted from the NRA and other henchmen of Roosevelt including some well known Liberals, have called for a constitutional amendment to curb the power of the court from declaring acts of Congress unconstitutional. These fools do not see that they are advocating that Congress should be allowed to give up all its powers to the President and thus they pave the way for Fascism. Such a point of view cannot be the proletariat’s. We are against all Fascist tendencies. Not that we advocate “checks and balances”, not that we support the powers of the Supreme Court, but in all this debate, we steadfastly point out that the State is not ours but the capitalists’. What does it matter to us, if the State is antiquated and inefficient? So much the better! We shall be able to smash it all the easier!
Of what value was the NRA to Labor. From all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the labor bureaucrats of the AFL and from certain liberal quarters, one would gather that the NRA was a wonderful boon. The fact of the matter is the NRA was rapidly becoming exposed and useless to the bourgeoisie. A huge wave of strikes against the NRA marked the industrial scene in 1934, with even larger battles looming up in 1935. It is a fact that the Supreme Court waited until the two years trial period given in the Act itself was almost spent. it also waited until the most acute effects of the crisis were becoming dulled on their own account. The President had been desperately trying to hide the collapse of the NRA from the masses. Now he is saved by the decision of the Supreme Court. Roosevelt can now pose as one who tried his best but was blocked by conservative forces. It will give him a new “issue". It will enable him to press his fight for “strong-man” centralization more vigorously than ever.
Certainly, Big Business lost nothing by the action of the Supreme Court. When prices were tumbling and bankruptcies were becoming so widespread as to threaten the very breakdown of the system, it was necessary to call a halt for a while, to buy up the bankrupt proportion for a song, to put some degree of order in the chaos and control the little man in associations, to fix prices at the highest point. Now, however, it is possible to go on to the next stage. The price fixing enabled certain small businesses to get by. Loans were made to be repaid in two years, etc. Let free competition be unleashed again, let the prices tumble and the small man be still further pushed to the wall, the debtor unable to pay his debts. A new golden harvest will be reaped by Wall Street whose position is more entrenched than ever.
The NRA had meant no gain for labor. The Negroes had been totally excluded, the wages had been fixed at the lowest point by the codes, compulsory arbitration was the rule, the workers were regimented, company Unions grew by leaps and bounds. Only the AFL fakers benefitted by it. However, all these obnoxious features are being saved by the new NRA’s that are being worked out. Through the new work relief projects, millions are being regimented. One measure makes arbitration in labor disputes compulsory, another outlaws independent unions, a third prevents settlements from affecting more than the workers of one shop or factory, a fourth recognizes company unions, etc. These measures, presumably, will not be held unconstitutional.
The effort of the Supreme Court to stop the State will be as effective as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to bust the trust. The end of the NRA will see new measures passed. Nor is the formality of new constitutional amendments to be gone through. the cry for a new constitutional convention, is too dangerous in that the masses may be stirred into action and go too far. The banner of rugged individualism “Defend the Supreme Court” will be lost in a howl of derision. The fading out of the Supreme Court coincides with the ushering in more sharply than ever of the open class struggle is the U.S. and the further Europeanization of American politics.
THE BETRAYALS OF THE WORKERS PARTY— MINNEAPOLIS
In the last issue of our paper we elaborated on the betrayal of the Workers Party in the automobile strike in Toledo. In previous issues we had gone into great lengths on the betrayal of the Cannon group in the truckman’s strike and generally in the trade union field in Minneapolis. Now the treacherous conduct of the Cannon group in Minneapolis has culminated in their betrayal in the political field as well. In the report elections for Mayor and City Council in Minneapolis, the Workers Party decided to support the capitalist candidates of the Farmer—Labor Party! Could anything be more scandalous than this?
As long ago as last November we exposed the true situation when we showed how Grant Dunne, member of the Communist League of America, (Cannon group) had seconded the motion in the Minneapolis Central Labor Union praising governor Floyd B. Olson for the manner in which he had handled the Truck Drivers’ Strike. Our exposure was vigorously denied by members of the C.L.A. at the time and even the “Militant” promised to print a statement from Grant Dunne stating it was untrue. But they never printed that statement. And now we see that this action of Dunne was only a “rehearsal” of what is taking place today and what we can expect from the W.P. on a national scale tomorrow.
In an article that appeared in the February number of the “Modern Monthly”, surely no revolutionary magazine, Walter Liggett, surely no Communist, exposes the character of the Farmer—Labor machine under Governor Olson. He shows that Olson is an ardent supporter of the Roosevelt regime, and during the war was the prosecuting attorney in Hennepin County and one of the foremost in destroying the rights of the workers. Up until 1924 Olson was officially the candidate for the Democratic Party. Olson seized political leadership of the Farmer—Labor Party of Minnesota as Mr. Liggett says, “With the help of a corrupt underworld machine in Minneapolis that he had built up after years in office as prosecuting attorney in Minneapolis…not within the memory of living Minnesotans has any other administration been marked by such a constant succession of scandals.” Surely the “New Militant”, new supporter of Olson, will not be able to deny the evidence contained in this article!
But better evidence is available: The role of Olson during the last truckmen’s strike. It was Olson who raided the union headquarters and established concentration camps for the strikers. It was Olson who broke up the picketing and brought in the soldiers to shoot down the workers. it was Olson—with the help of the Cannonites at the head of the union—who broke the strike and forced the men back to work.
Now it is this very corrupt capitalist machine of Olson’s which the W.P. supported in the elections. Instead of a bitter concrete attack against these capitalist henchmen and their agents, the leaflet of the W.P. declares: “Workers of Minneapolis: Elect the Farmer —Laborites to office.” And the “New Militant” actually declares in a headline that this is a battle AGAINST reactionaries!
The abysmal depths of treachery which the W.P. has reached can be better ascertained only when we keep in mind that the Farmer—Labor Party is an out and out capitalist party and is NOT a labor Party in the ordinary sense of the term. It is NOT based on the trade unions or other organizations of labor who have the decisive vote in genuine Labor Parties, as in England. It is NOT a united front of working class groups. NO labor program was put out. NO workers political organization, not even the Workers Party, had anything to say about either policies or candidates. The Farmer—Labor Party is run by a “Farmer—Labor Association” entirely in the hands of lawyers and capitalist politicians.s The candidate for Mayor, Latimer, is NOT a worker, but a lawyer subservient to capitalist interests. It is this kind of a party that the workers Party supports. At the same time, it lies to the workers elsewhere and tries to give the impression that the Farmer Labor Party is a genuine Labor united front based on the trade unions.
In the election leaflet put out by the W.P., supporting the Farmer—Laborite candidates, it is true that there is a sentence to the effect that the workers must watch every move the Farmer—laborites make and not to trust them. But the same leaflet tells the workers that if they put the proper pressure behind the candidates that they “will serve the workers movement". Here are the workers in Minneapolis ripe for militant anti-capitalist action, already having led the country in their militant unemployed demonstrations and strikes, having pledged themselves to come out in a general strike for the solidarity of labor, deeply discontented and radicalized in the 7th year of a terrible crisis. And here is the Workers Parity with the brass to come to them with the statement instructing them that their capitalist candidates will “serve” the workers movement if put under pressure and calling on them: They are crooks, vote for them!
The technique here of the Workers Party is the old traditional technique of every renegade and capitalist agency within the ranks of the workers. They do not warn the workers that such candidates head a movement only to behead it. They do not make a sharp and clear exposure of the opportunists. They do not point out that the same pressure that is to be put under the capitalist candidates could be used to put the working class over the top. There is no call for revolutionary support for Communist candidates.
The Cannons, Dunnes, Skoglunds and Company show themselves to be merely mean little Stalins. Like Stalin, they urge the liquidation of the Communist movement and declare that hand in hand with Chiang Kai Shek (read Olson) the revolution will be accomplished. They substitute class collaboration for class struggle with the theory that if the workers don"t vote for the Farmer—Laborites, the “reactionaries” will get in. Like the Socialist Parity of Germany who shouted: “Vote for Hindenburg and keep out Hitler, the W.P. also adopted the theory not of struggle against capitalism but of alliances with the “lesser evil” against the greater. This is the classic road to regency and betrayal.
The leaders of the W.P. may declare that they did put out a revolutionary leaflet that separated them from the other Farmer—Laborite supporters, but even this pretext is taken away from them. Here is the kind of leaflet the W.P. put out and which it calls “revolutionary” and we leave it to the reader whether the worst right winger in the Socialist Party could not have done a many times better job. First of all, the leaflet declares that the main task is the defeat of the Citizens Alliance—not Communism, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the struggle for better conditions, not the building up of a revolutionary movement, not anything positive, in other words but something negative, the defeat of the Citizens Alliance. These are the wonderful aims that the W.P. sets before the workers at the present time.
Then follows a list of immediate demands which calls for such “revolutionary” principles as a ten billion dollar public works program, thirty hour week, $10 weekly relief, medical care for the unemployed, free speech, etc. And that is all. There is practically nothing here which President Roosevelt has not called attention to at some time or other. On the question of Public Works and “We Want Work”, we refer the reader to our recent pamphlet “The Struggle of the Unemployed” and to the last two lessons of the “Class Struggle". The governments are spending eight billion on relief, the “revolutionary” Workers Parity calls for ten billion. This makes it “revolutionary”, you see. Senator Black puts in a bill for the thirty hour week. The workers Party does likewise and calls it “revolutionary”, although the average working week for all workers is LESS than thirty ours at the present time. Any Lafollette, any middle class reformer could have put forward that sort of program and would not have had the gall to call it “revolutionary”, but rather might have honestly declared such a program was useful to forestall revolution.
In the whole leaflet, as given in the “New Militant” of May 18th, there is not a word about the necessity for workers’ control over production, about a Workers’ Government, about Communism and the necessity to smash the capitalist State. There is not a word even about the necessity for militant action in the streets, about the necessity for a general strike of labor for unemployment insurance, etc. The worst Socialist Party election leaflet which calls for the workers to vote for Socialism is superior to the kind of tripe peddled by the W.P. Just as the Farmer—Labor Party of Minneapolis was no regular labor Party but a third party of capitalism, as the W.P. showed itself to be not even as good as an ordinary Labor Party would be.
In our last article on Toledo we showed how the W.P. supported Roland. Roland supported Schwake, Schwake covered up Dillon, Dillon worked for Green and Green for the employers and the State. In Minneapolis we see the same despicable role of the W.P. The W.P. follows the lead of the local Minneapolis labor bureaucrats, the local labor fakers support the Farmer—Labor Association and the lawyer, Latimer. Latimer supports Olson, Olson supports Roosevelt and the employers. The W.P. here simply plays the role of political Pinkerton detectives who must be cleaned out of the labor movement entirely.
As the class struggle becomes more intensified, the capitalist class grows bolder and bolder. To disrupt working class organizations they have to enlarge their spying system according to the new developments. It is not sufficient any more to bribe labor leaders, to arm strike breakers, to hire stool pigeons and agents provocateurs, they have to enter the field amongst the organized and unorganized unemployed. These new developments push upon the surface a new phenomenon, the RADICAL SOCIAL WORKER. To the amazement of the honest class conscious workers these new lice, servants of the capitalist class State are penetrating throughout the unemployed organizations and the revolutionary groups, too. Quite openly, they do not hide their identity but operate frankly and plainly.
In the Workers Party, the “unification of divergent” elements recently put over by Muste and Cannon, it is a fact that some of these social workers are on the local Executive Committee in Los Angeles and even hold secretarial portions. All names and addresses as well as Party correspondence are in their possession. This outrageous situation is due, not only to the boldness of the capitalist policy of permitting State social workers to belong to radical organizations, but also to the timidity and opportunist orientation of the Workers Party.
The manifestations of this opportunist policy occurs not only in the W.P., this naturally could be expected, but existed also in the American League (L.O.) under the Cannon et, al. leadership, previous to the “unification of divergent” elements in the fusion. In both the former League (L.O.) and the present W.P., the policy is a wide open door to all the work of the organization. Take them ALL in, without a test, and then each branch do as it pleases, as to any tests, while the “center” passes words of generalities.
Some few social workers may be sincere, if so, they can find many ways to show this supposed sincerity. They should be tested OUTSIDE, before any kind of confidence is permitted them and even then limit them to the specific directives for the work at hand and not leave it to the autonomy of the local brand. Use the one of a thousand that means business, but never let them penetrate into any situation where they can use the organization.
At no time was any official organizational stand taken in regards to these social welfare visitors ("Starvation detectives for the State"). Neither by the National Committee nor the branches was this done. Each branch does as it pleases, one branch passing the resolution “only on special order or under direct control of the group can a member accept a job as a Social Worker". This was duplicated in the Spartacus Youth but was as quickly forgotten when a member took the job and dug up a small contribution of money to oil the works. This name “State starvation detective” has since been elevated to special job of knocking radicals off the Charity and has knocked his former comrades of the Spartacus and Party off the lists. Does the W.P. learn anything from this? No, not a thing, they turned right around and took two more “Starvation Detectives” in and made one of them secretary of the branch. They reason like a religious Jesuit, “That was a bad priest, all the rest are good ones.” Or, they do not reason at all.
After the fusion, when the fire of optimism was still burning high, the doors were thrown open wide for “thousands and tens of thousands” of workers to come into the W.P., but out the same wide door went any vestige of principle in fact and practice. Somehow or other the expected rush of workers did not materialize but the percentage of “State starvation workers” is very high. The resolution for a “three months test” for new members is voted down by the “center”—see minutes of the Pittsburgh Plenum. The State “Starvation detectives” are as welcome as the expected workers who did not come, all without any test whatsoever.
When the triumphal national tour brought Cannon to Los Angeles, I happened to sit next to a worker who was a “contact” for the W.P. gravitating from the unemployed movement. We counted five Welfare County Charity Workers present, called by the workers, “Starvation Detectives". The following conversation took place between the worker and myself:
"Do you know that starvation detective?”
"Yes, she is a member of the Workers Party.”
"Hm…She used to be my visitor and she cut my relief.”
"And the Workers Party admits these dirty lying stools for members?”
"It looks that way.”
"Then to hell with them…”
With this he rose and left the meeting, but the sapheads in the W.P. branch here do not know to this day, “Why we lost the contact.”
Again, another worker had to go to the charity office, where one of these “Starvation Detectives”, a member of the W.P. occupied the information desk. This information desk is the place the workers are put on the “merry-go-round”, buck passing and lies are dished out to the hungry. Here you are told “your visitor is not in”, you have to come tomorrow”, but this worker was hungry and knew his visitor was in, so he told her he had a n appointment and carried on a quiet conversation, as one radical to another:
The Militant Worker, “Have you got any information, inside dope?”
Radical Starvation Detective, “You think I am crazy? I lost my job once on account of radicals.”
Militant Worker, “You don"t have to be afraid, nobody will know the source of information.”
R.S.D. “I don"t trust you.. And furthermore, you have a very bad record here. Every time your name is mentioned in the Charity Department, they call you the “trouble maker".”
M.W.. “Sure! I, no doubt am a vicious character in the charity department eyes, why shouldn’t I be? They have called the police on me several times. How about your opinion?”
R.S.D. “You could get much more in a nice way.”
Now this same State “Starvation Detective” holds forth in the Workers Parity branch with this remark and attitude, “A client should not come up to the Charity Office and make a disturbance, because he only makes a fool of himself.”
The W.P. condones, harbors, cultivates and protects such “starvation detectives” snakes of militancy as this, and brags about it. This one was taken in after she had been exposed and after many a class conscious worker had suffered the pains of hunger as a result of her “efficient” State starvation work. Cannon, Oehler and the whole leadership has been told about this rottenness, but nothing is ever done about it. She is still a member of the Workers Party.
The “New Militant” published an article calling the Social Workers all their deserving titles, “stool pigeon”, “rattlesnakes” and “detectives”, but this is only a cover up screen for the fake leadership, both right and left wings, for while pretending to warn the workers against the vile State detectives of hunger, they tolerate and protect them. Needless to say the workers have no use for an organization, where lying, deceiving, double dealing and harboring State starvation detectives before and after their exposure among the workers. But nothing better can be expected from this “divergent” swampy stream of double crossing liars.
There is in the W.P. some few class conscious well meaning workers. They know all about the crooked, lying and double dealing, but they fail to speak up, so they have to take the filthy smear that their Party opportunist line invites, the workers have already put them on the fake list, but it will take history to drive the lesson home.
Like all opportunist outfits, it is rotten to the core and exposes itself by the close harboring of the “State starvation detectives” handing over to them ALL the names and party documents, after the workers have exposed them and yes, after they have exposed themselves.
The recent plenum of the Workers Party was marked by the sharpest sort of factional fighting, the kind that presages the early breakup of the organization. None of this crisis is reflected in the issues of the “New Militant”, which serenely goes on covering up the impending split. In the organizational notes which appear from time to time it is always made to appear that the Workers Party is constantly growing with thousands of new members daily. But the expulsion of Zack, of Williamson, the dropping of every Negro member from the W.P. in Philadelphia, the resignation of the business manager of the ~New Militant”, the resignation of Budenz, etc., are all carefully hushed up as much as possible.
Within the W.P. all sorts of groupings are forming, true signs of the growing disintegration. There is the “American Approach” group; there is another little grouping, that claims the Soviet Union is a capitalist State which must be overthrown, another grouplet around Ludwig Lore, etc., besides the “official” groupings that appeared at the Plenum itself, namely: 1. Cannon-Shachtman-Swabeck group. 2. Abern-Weber-Glotzer-Chicago combination. 3. Muste groupings. 4. Oehler-Stamm-Basky group.
Three principal questions were taken up at the Plenum. (1) International questions. (2). Relation to the Socialist Party. (3) Internal matters. On the first point, Cannon barely got a majority, with the help of Abern & Co., for endorsing Trotsky’s capitulation to the S.P. of France and Belgium. By the way, throughout the entire Plenum, the Minneapolis group never appeared. They gave the excuse they were “awfully tied-up” but surely, in spite of the awful trimming they are getting in Minneapolis, there is more than this behind their absence. Can it be they are “giving up the ghost"? At any rate their absence gave Cannon & Company a nightly headache at times. On the international question, Cannon was able to win, but was forced again and again to expose his weakness. in all of this fight, of course, Trotsky the capitulator stood by Cannon the capitulator.
Obviously, the “International” question was but a prelude to the discussion of the American question. Now the Cannon Shachtman clique brazenly exposed their treacherous role. They openly demanded the W.P. start negotiations with the S.P. and liquidate itself into yellow opportunism. Everything that the C.L.S. has predicted of these real shysters has been fully verified. It may be safely assumed that Cannon and his ilk would not have been so bold if they had not already carefully prepared the way. Have they not Trotsky’s support? Had they not greased the way by secret meetings with the S.P. bureaucracy behind the backs of the members? Had they not begun a terrorization campaign against the Oehler “left centrists” and expelled Zack representing the extreme left of these centrist? Finally, had they not pumped up Minneapolis and Chicago for support?
But Minneapolis failed to show up and the Chicago Abern school deserted at the last moment for “tactical reasons". Muste and Oehler refused to go along, each with a separate statement and an ominous tug of war began which threatened to tear the whole executive to pieces. At last the matter was left unsettled and the exhausted Plenum was forced to turn to the internal question. Naturally, this stalemate only throws the W.P. into the wildest confusion. How can anyone work if the chief section of the leadership wants to quit and throw up the Party? One may be mighty certain that Cannon and Shachtman will not let up on their secret meetings with the S.P. bureaucracy in order to secure “satisfactory” terms and when once they secure these terms they will not hesitate for one moment to split the party.
Against this danger, the Oehler so called"left” should be thoroughly prepared. The Oehler group has committed great blunders and has shown itself in many cases as weak and spineless. This weakness made itself seen especially in the third point on the agenda. The Oehlorites did not fight hard enough for a special convention and permitted the Plenum to adjourn without taking up the expulsions of Zack and Williamson. The “left centrists” did not prepare sufficiently their caucus and the membership generally for the Cannon betrayals. They have not issued a clarion call for a complete reorganization of the Party from top to bottom and the removal of the Cannons and Shachtmans from all posts in the Workers Party. In short, they are not preparing enough for a split in the W.P. and show they would be lost if the split actually occurred; they will try their best to capitulate again, if they can.
But they can"t help developing the fight towards the splitting point. The fight is now in the open. Cannon, with Muste’s help, was able to defeat the proposal for a spacial convention within three months, but he cannot prevent a convention forever. in the meantime the fight must paralyze all the branches. At the convention, that is, if held before Cannon and Co. leave the sinking ship, the divergent viewpoints must tear the whole parity asunder. On the other hand, if the right wing in the Socialist Party can prevent Cannon from going into the S.P., then it is possible that the split will be delayed for a while, for it is not the “left” Oehler that takes the initiative but the"right” Cannon.
It is interesting to note how similar the Oehler group is to the Militant group or Revolutionary Policy Committee in the S.P. They, too, do not dare to take the initiative but constantly kow-tow to the right wing through their own Muste, Norman Thomas. They, too talk left but kiss their right wing comrades as brothers and viciously attack the real left, the internationalist communists every chance they can. The Oehlers and Zacks have a long way to travel before they understand intransigent revolutionary Communism.
In all of this mess how pitiful the “strong man”, Muste looks. He is absolutely bewildered at the turn of events. His house of cards is tumbling over his head. He feels himself like a virgin seduced and betrayed and so he turns with moralist bloating (his resolution against Cannon at the Plenum, for example) like the political lamb he is, to sway the anger of the “big bad wolf".
The Workers Party is doomed. The Plenum took up no question of vital importance to the masses, the trade union question, the Negro question, the unemployment question all went by the board. Should the Cannon-Shachtman worthies leave, nothing can save it, not Muste, not Oehler, not both combined, even if you throw in Zack. Should those worthies remain, the W.P. is sunk just the same.
The genuine left must turn more and more to the policies of the Communist League of Struggle. We, on our part, shall be glad to extend a hand to real militants, to work closely with them and to join forces for the building up of a real internationalist Communist movement.
Dear Comrade Weisbord,
Comrade Vera Buch has been with me here in London for a week and we have had a good talk on the world political situation. After studying your principles as outlined in your theses, especially being impressed with your articles on “Dialectical Materialism”, which is a breath of fresh air in a world of stuffy ideas, after deep thinking and careful consideration I have no hesitation in throwing in my lot with the “Internationalist Communist Movement” and will be on the ACTIVE LIST as the BRITISH SECTION.
The official labor movement in this country is becoming more conservative than the Conservatives and is simply falling in with the scheme of things that are, such as Dr. Addison advocating nationalization of poison gas and bombs so that the workers will, at the bidding of the war mongers, blow each other to pieces more effectively. Labor leaders are openly acting as Magistrates, Police officials, etc., and are showing themselves great authorities on starvation, nearly all the P.A.C.’s in the country are controlled by them. To what a sorry pass has the great British proletariat come to. They have voted for their own slow misery—the Royal Commission states that one fifth of the whole population is starving, ever so slowly, and the once Revolutionary Leaders and Parties are engaged actively in counting calories. The Great, “Mr. Maxton”, classical revolutionary, openly thanked the Fascist, Henry Dotterton, Minister of Labor in the House of Commons for introducing the Starvation Bill viz., the New Unemployment Act.
The Communist Party is very active also in Teashops, Whist drives, holding Galas etc. A sideline is Country Rambles and the Daily Worker is getting interested just now in murders, dog racing, situations that may be vacant and in fact contracting all the bad habits of the yellow press. Indeed, the historic decline of capitalist society definitely is accompanied by the decline of all the political parties who go to make the world organization that will lead humanity forward to the “new society”, must be careful to steer clear of this “avalanche of decline". We must formulate the new ideas and become the vanguard of the world’s workers.
In my estimation, the Trotsky League has taken an entirely wrong line of action, if action it can be called. I am indeed inclined to the viewpoint that this group had no historic significance and simply got tired in the struggle, laying their weary bodies at the feet of that “false God with feet of clay”—the Second International, which is a dead body in all countries where social revolution is concerned. What a terrible fate Trotsky has chosen after his heroic struggles in the past, to lie down voluntarily besides a rotting corpse! However, we must and I think can, look forward to the best revolutionary elements within this and all parties and groups being forced by the march of time to realize that they were of the I.C.L. are following the correct route of march, are formulating the correct ideas for the masses and therefore are capable of adopting the correct strategy and tactics for the seizure of political power by the workers of all lands.
You comrades in America have the history of the future in your hands. You have the tasks of giants to perform for the workers, but Forward!, take courage, you will have international support, we in Europe will tread with you every step of the way…
The press I could use here was the Anarchist press but now the offer does not hold, because I am known to be advocating Internationalist Communism and linking up with you. You can only have a faint idea of the mountains of prejudice, mental darkness, and petty bourgeois mentality with which the official and semi-official labor movement here is inoculated with. The whole Anarchist movement belongs to the past but they are past learning, like the religionists they indulge in corpse worship., However, there are a number of Anarchist comrades who are definitely arriving at the right conclusions and will be with us here in England. For the rest, a few C.P. comrades, a few I.L.P. and some unemployed comrades, on the whole…I could master a good national organization and run a large circulation of a weekly paper. I can assure you that very soon we will get going with a printing press and indefinite organizational form.. I could mention in passing that I intend reprinting some of your articles and circulating same and perhaps very soon be in a position to exchange contributions with you…
The Irish here in England are to a large extent socialistically inclined and a fair number can be found within the Communist ranks. There is, as you mention, such a large section of my fellow countrymen in sweat jobs, the bearers of wood and drawers of water, exploited, deceived and totally unorganized. The Internationalist Communist movement here will pay special attention to such elements, the downtrodden and almost forgotten legion who attend as a demonstrable proof of the injustice and criminal usage of class society…
By next winter I hope to have a hall or headquarters of some kind for lectures and discussion, etc. In the meantime I am getting together here in London a group of fifty and we shall get going in conjunction with Leeds, Glasgow and any other center of support…
You can publish this letter also if you see fit…With best wishes and kindest regards, Fraternally yours, John O"Donnell
On July 13 and 14 the workers Unemployed Union of Greater New York held its first City Convention. Of the thirty odd locals claimed, only 19 were represented at all by a maximum attendance of 79 different delegates. No report was given of the number of existing locals and the number of delegates to which they were entitled. the proposed agenda made no provision for any discussion of the condition of the W.U.U., for the rendering of a minority report or for the election of officers by the Convention. All the convention took up was a set of abstract resolutions and concrete rules of the Constitution but not an analysis of the past two years of work and the failure of the organization to meet the needs of the unemployed. Because of their timidity our delegates allowed themselves to be tricked into an agreement not to discuss the deplorable situation within the W.U.U. until at the end of the Convention under the item “Good and Welfare” and so it never was reached.
Yet this was one of the most important questions which should have been discussed since practically all the locals are either losing membership or breaking up altogether. According to the records of the locals the drop in dues payments is shown in the following table:
Local Number 12 10 4 9 Dues paying members: January 1935 68 49 26 59 May 1935 57 44 19 31 Drop: 16% 10% 27% 47% Peak month: 83 54 43 77 Drop from peak: 31% 19% 55% 60%
Unfortunately we cannot give records for all the locals but some here lost membership to such an extent that they have disappeared entirely within the past few months. We know of the following: Old Local 22, Local 18, and new Local 22.
In the light of the W.U.U.’s drive for Public Works jobs, the organization of the project workers was a matter of prime importance to the Convention, yet Local 31 Bronx Relief Workers, was not even represented. Because of this obviously weakened condition of the W.U.U., the question of the united front with the Unemployment Councils becomes of the utmost importance to the unemployed of New York City. At the very moment that this small Convention of 79 was meeting, the Unemployment Councils were able to amass 15,000 in a huge demonstration. And our Central Committee had refused to permit Lasser to address this big meeting in our behalf!
The Convention opened with Lesser giving the delegates a glowing report of the growth of the Workers Alliance of America but he carefully left out of his report any mention of the state of affairs of the locals in Greater New York. Then the Convention proceeded to the adoption of a Constitution as though that would substitute for a criticism and discussion of the policies and treacherous actions of the leadership in the past few years.
In this Constitution which was first being adopted after two years of organizational existence, the Lovestonite and Socialist leadership fought against any inclusion of a definite statement of a class struggle policy claiming that to do so would alienate those unemployed who are misled by the Republican and Democratic Parties. Thus was maintained the holy “non-partisanship” of the W.U.U. Yet at the same time it was these very elements who proposed and supported that part of the Preamble (and later a Resolution) that put the w.U.U. on record in favor of the formation of a Labor Party.
Although there has been no election of officers for two years this Constitution does not provide for an election for another year, until 1936. This Constitution also provides that the locals may not engage in any united front whatsoever upon their own responsibility.
The report of the Program of Action Committee was truly amazing. it consisted primarily of recommendations for the coming August 17th Demonstration for jobs and against wage scales. A trade union committee of five to be elected from the Central Committee and a Demonstration Committee of 28 from the Convention to work with it, were set up. Their principal tasks were to be: 1) To secure the support of the AFL unions for the August 17th Demonstration and to aid in organizing those given project jobs. 2) To canvass for names of unemployed who want jobs at union wages. 3) Local action preparatory to the Demonstration, such as torch light processions, mass meetings, visits to Alderman, Borough Presidents, etc. No program of action was adopted for unemployment insurance.
During Sunday morning’s session there were two guest speakers. The Unemployment Council representative, Genchak, was grudgingly granted ten minutes to address the delegates and five minutes in which to answer their questions. His statements disclaiming knowledge of or responsibility for the disruptive and hooligan tactics of the Councils, nationally and locally, did not incline the majority of the delegates to favor the united front resolution, which were later brought in. They considered as particularly provocative and threatening his statement that as long as two organizations existed these conditions would continue. The second speaker was Frank N. Trager, member of the National Executive Board of the Workers Alliance of America (and National Labor Secretary of the S.P.), who condemned us for time wasting and stated that an unemployed organization need merely resolve briefly, “We Want Work at Union Wages". Or, “We demand the 30 hour week". Thus this national “leader” of the unemployed, stupidly confused a demand or slogan with a resolution or statement of principles.
The Convention passed the following resolution: On Social Security, Youth, Relief Standards, Right to Organize, Unemployment Insurance, Taxation, organized labor, Tom Mooney, Disenfranchisement, 30 hour week, Works Program and Wages, Labor Party,Workers Right Amendment, Condemnation of Daily Worker Article and a resolution supporting the N.E.B.’s stand against the united front. In fact everything was considered except what was to be done and what was wrong.
The readers of the “Class Struggle” are already familiar with our position on “We Want Work” and the Roosevelt Works Relief Program. There only remains to take up briefly the discussion on resolutions for the united front. Only the delegates of the Militant Action Committee came out for the full united front with the Unemployment Councils and all other organizations nationally and locally. However, the leaders were able to defeat our resolutions and others of a similar nature.
Particularly despicable was the position taken by the members of the workers Party, who voted with the leadership against the resolutions in favor of the united front and put forth their own resolutions in support of the united front with their own patented unemployed organization, the National Unemployed League. On the committee, their delegate, Aragon, argued treacherously as follows: That the W.U.U. ought not to oppose unity with the N.U.L. in as much as the trade union policy of the leadership of the N.U.L. did not oppose the AFL and that the W.U.U. could not thereby offend Green. And in the vote in the committee on this resolution and abstained from voting allowing the resolution to be defeated by 3-2 with 2 abstentions.
Forced by the rules put forth by us to give a minority report of the Resolutions Committee time to report, Lasser gave our delegate five minutes. in the five minutes at our disposal, however, since the chairman would not allow us to read our resolution we could only confirm ourselves to a general appeal for a fighting class struggle policy along the lines of the statement which our delegation had passed out to all of the delegates of the Convention. Here is the statement which we passed out:
The Communist League of Struggle announces the following big meetings:
1. HANDS OFF ETHIOPIA MEETING. A.M.E., Zion Church, Cauncey Street and Ralph Avenue Brooklyn. Tuesday evening at 8:30, July 30th, 1935. Speakers: Vincenze Vaciron, former Socialist Deputy in Italy, anti Fascist fighter. Albert Weisbord, Editor, Class Struggle
2. HANDS OFF ETHIOPIA MEETINGS: Lido Auditorium, 146th Street, near 7th Ave., Harlem. Tuesday evening, at 8:30, August 6th, 1935 Prominent Labor Speakers to be announced.
3. WELCOME HOME RECEPTION FOR VERA BUCH, Delegate to Europe for the Communist League of Struggle. Comrade Buch will speak on her impressions of Europe. There will be a dinner and dancing at the close. Saturday, September 7th. Place to be announced.
STATEMENT OF THE MILITANT ACTION COMMITTEE TO THE DELEGATES OF THE CITY CONVENTION OF THE WORKERS UNEMPLOYED UNION.
The Workers Unemployed Union is in a very serious crisis. Objective reports point out the following facts:
1) Practically all our locals are losing membership or breaking up altogether. Local 29 has so far disintegrated that its few remaining members have had to join with another local. Several months ago old Local 22, meeting in the Labor Temple, folded up completely. And only last week, Local 18 closed its doors. Can anyone report an honest growth in any of our locals? The h)!0*0*0*░░ Convention must demand that Lasser give the full facts and dues reports so that all the delegates will know how to deal with the situation.
2) The composition of our locals has increasingly deteriorated. We must see to it that the w.U.U. becomes a militant action organization to prevent it from further degenerating into a semi-official charity agency. Such a program will attract the virile working class elements to our organization.
3) The leaders of the Workers Unemployed Union have cleverly made the organization part of the election machinery of the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party clique (aided by the Socialist League for Industrial Democracy) has a cooking control over the entire apparatus in the same way as the Communist Party has in the rival Unemployment Councils. While trying to appear as nonpartisan, Lasser has practically promised Wm. Green not to allow any communistic influence within our organization in order to gain the recognition of the AFL bureaucrats. in reality, Lasser’s “non¬partisanship” consists in our being forced to drag at the tail of LaGuardia and of Roosevelt. Such slogans are raised as: “LaGuardia put us on our feet, we need shoes”, (to boost La Guardia) and “We Want Work” (to boost Roosevelt’s Work Relief plans). But they have dropped any real struggle for unemployment insurance.
4) We call on Lasser to explain how it is that the Workers Unemployed Union took no part in the militant meat strike that raged throughout the entire city. Housewives from Harlem to Brooklyn put up a vigorous struggle against the high cost of living. But we, the locals of the Unemployed Union, were not even a part of this big movement, when we are the ones who will gain the most from it and when we are organized for this very purpose, to increase the purchasing power of those on relief!
5) Why were not the locals of the W.U.U. mobilized to take part in the hunger demonstrations in Harlem? Why did not Lasser or Parker or Russell appear before the Harlem Commission to testify as to the low standards of those who are on relief?
In the face of such facts as these, is it any wonder that our organization is stagnating and withering away?
PROGRAM OF THE MILITANT ACTION COMMITTEE
The Militant Action Committee has been formed by members of the Workers Unemployed Union in order to change this deplorable situation and to save our organization from destruction. The top officials will declare that awe are a bunch of disrupters, splitters, etc. That is the method that all officials take, who want to avoid criticism and who believe that they do not have to account to the membership. We, on our part, are not going to let them draw a red herring over the issues. We call on the delegates to the convention to resist the slanders that may be shouted against us and to support the following program of action:
1) Raise the demand in the sharpest possible form of the ONE DAY GENERAL STRIKE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. The locals of the Workers Unemployed Union at once must canvas all the local unions in their neighborhoods for the establishment of strong united front organizations that will be prepared to carry into effect the demand for a general strike to compel Congress to act on adequate unemployment insurance.
2) Stop the sabotage of the united front that the officialdom of our organization constantly practices. We stand for a strong united front with the Unemployment Councils and with all other unemployed organizations to the end that through working together we shall be able to form one united unemployed workers organization. We stand for local autonomy on local united fronts without confirmation by the Central Committee wherever the purposes of the united front are to struggle against oppression and for better conditions for the workers.
3) Begin a vigorous drive for the organization of the project workers. Conferences with the trade unions must be started to see to it that close cooperation between the trade unions and the unemployed workers takes place and that those working on the relief projects are organized into PROJECT WORKERS INDUSTRIAL UNION LOCALS connected with our organization.
4) Carry through militant demonstrations for adequate relief in cash payments, against the Sales Tax. The struggle against the Sales Tax has not really been started in this city although it is working great hardships, especially upon the unemployed.
5) A complete cleanup must be made in the organization from top to bottom. Our organization must be transformed to one of militant action. Our incompetent officers must be removed, a complete change must be made in the character of our membership. Every effort must be launched to draw in more aggressive types into the leading positions of our organization. This can be done only when the organization gets late action and begins to struggle and to demonstrate against the unbearable conditions that now surround us on all sides.
We call on all the delegates to support our statement and to carry out the program of the Militant Action Committee.
During the month of May we had a series of discussions with the Organization Committee for a Revolutionary Workers Parity. The following letter explains the initiation of the discussion:
April 24, 1935
Dear Comrade Field:
Although Comrade Schwartz was in no way authorized by our organization to approach you for joint discussions, far from turning down your offer for such joint meetings, we are quite willing to accept it. Sometime ago Comrade Mark Rieve from your group approached us with a similar proposition. At that time we gave to Comrade Rieve copies of our general theses, “The Struggle for Communism”, and of our Negro theses, “The Struggle for Negro Emancipation”, and asked him to present them to your membership for consideration. We pointed out to him that joint discussions would be entirely fruitless unless both organizations were of the opinion, on the basis of studied consideration of the fundamental position of each organization, that there was the possibility of fusion and unity on principled grounds.
We take it that your letter is a reply to us on this question, too, which must have been reported to you by Comrade Rieve. Under such circumstances we are glad to open up discussion with your group. It is not our business to form another loose disjointed organization like the Workers Party, but with somewhat different phrases. It is our business to meet at least half way any organization that is in the slightest degree travelling fundamentally in the same direction in which we are going.
Our committee will be glad to meet yours at 7 p.m., Friday, April 26th at our headquarters to make the arrangements for the joint meetings.
With Communist greetings, Albert Weisbord, Secretary.
For us, the discussions were to meet half way any group going in our direction, but after a few weeks we found that the O.C.R.W.P. outfit was made up of political children. They had neither intellectuals nor adult proletarians, neither theory nor practice, nor traditions of struggle but rather, if anything, a very poor record of activity. After building up the group, Gitlow had abandoned it to join the Socialist Party. Having discovered that the O.C.R.W.P. was hopelessly lost in the mud of centrist opportunism, we postponed the continuation of the discussions indefinitely so that our arguments could at least sink in a little bit. Upon which we received several long wails of complaints. We quote our letter to the O.C.R.W.P.:
June 11, 1935
It is the opinion of the Communist League of Struggle to postpone indefinitely the continuation of the discussions which we have had in May. The purpose of these discussions was to determine whether the two organizations could find a basis that could lead to fusion. Unfortunately the discussions have revealed differences that seem to bring us farther apart than ever and therefore the continuation of these discussions can no longer have any progressive effect, since it is not our desire to initiate these activities that will separate us even more that we are at present.
The Communist League of Struggle is not interested in building a new Labor Party or a new Workers Party, whether it is prefixed with the title “revolutionary” or not. It is interested in building up a genuine Communist Party that will carry on intransigent war against all forms of opportunism and centrism and any conciliation to these dangerous tendencies in our ranks. A new approach to the Organization Committee on this basis would be desirable but on no other basis can we even consider it.
This does not mean that we can not work together on concrete issues where we can. Nor does it mean that discussion in the future is absolutely precluded. We do wish to take advantage of the occasion to invite you to submit to us your criticisms of our general theses and special theses on Unemployment and Negro questions. We shall be very glad to consider your criticism and reply to it. Perhaps this will be the most fruitful method at the present time of our determining whether we shall ever be able to get together with you in some form of organic unity.
We hope that you will send us copies of the reports that were taken.
Fraternally yours, Albert Weisbord, Secretary.
The following statements of the members of the O.C.R.W.P. in the discussion show the whole line of this student group: We regret that we must uses only our own brief notes. In their usual “naive” and “honest” manner they “slipped something over” on the joint arrangements committee by having Mrs. Fields suddenly appear with shorthand notes and quietly take what purported to be stenograms. Upon our protest the O.C.R.W.P. “honestly” promised to give us copies of this report. We are still “naively” waiting for them. However, our own notes are undoubtedly more accurate. Here, then, are some of the gems from their speeches:
Carr: It is not true that Trotsky is a capitulator. The Socialist Party is not precluded from going over to a revolutionary position. The C.L.S. speaks for much of this as being a period of catastrophe and cataclysms. The AFL can organize the unorganized while the Communists can not. The National Textile Workers Union was a scabbing outfit. The new unions should never have been formed. The russian Revolution was led by Socialists and not Communists. Communism is a treacherous label. Car will have nothing do with it.
Demby: Socialist Parties do not always take positions for the capitalists. Communism is not inevitable and no Marxist ever said it. The name Communism does not matter. The Communist Party members are worthless. They are either bureaucrats, fanatics or ignorant.
Caldis: Gitlow is not a class enemy in join the Socialist Party, but only in disagreement with the O.C.R.W.P. The Negro question is not so important today but only secondary. It is not worth while splitting on such questions.s Doctors and lawyers have a full place in the organization. the AFL is the only organization where we must work in the trade union field.
Others, including Field: They were against the slogan of a One Day General Strike for Unemployment Insurance. They were against the slogan of “Lynch the Lynchers” of the Negroes and poor Toilers. They declared that the C.P. was hopeless and that there was no possibility of any leftist split. Field defended his despicable role in the Hotel Strike, etc., etc.
Throughout the entire discussion it became apparent that the “official” politics of the O.C.R.W.P. was the same as that of Gitlow and of Cannon, only another variety of their brand of centrism. Like Gitlow and Cannon they were for a “broad” conference and for the formation not of a Communist Party, but of a broad"Workers Parity". Like Gitlow and Cannon, they put great faith in the Socialist Party. They took a sharp stand against new unions and the organization of the unorganized by the Communists. They showed themselves arrant white chauvinists on the Negro question, etc. How could we possibly get together with such people whose leader comes into the revolutionary movement from Wall Street and within one year wants to tell the whole cockeyed proletariat what to do, whose program is a most confused jumble of centrist phrases and petty bourgeois practices?
Our position remains unchanged. If the O.C.R.W.P. ( by the way, taking our criticism to heart they already have changed their name to “League for a R.W.P.) wants to get together with us, they must break completely from the centrism of Gitlow, Albert Goldman, Cannon and Co. Discussions with them can continue only on the basis of a definite agreement on the basic principles annunciated in the theses of the C.L.S. We are willing to make concessions on secondary points, but we refuse to waste time any further.
To detect all of these alleged violations of the law, to conduct the necessary prosecutions and to secure the evidence with which to obtain convictions, a specially adapted apparatus was required. Ordinary routine and commitment were inadequately suited to the new situation. The Attorney General in his Annual Report, 1917, stated that, “When diplomatic relations were covered by this country with Germany, the work of this bureau multiplied. Hundreds of complaints were received daily of disloyalty, enemy activities, etc., which required the utmost resources of this organization to meet.”
To ease the increased burden that was thrown upon the shoulders of the Department of Justice, the Attorney General, shortly after America’s entry into the war, organized a “Special War Emergency Division” to deal with the multifarious activities of the department. until then a great amount of confusion had occurred directly attributable to the existence of separate departmental forces of investigators. With the establishment of the “Special Emergency Division”, the Attorney General was able to coordinate and supervise all of the war activities of the department and in 1918, the Attorney General could report that, “Under this plan of cooperation, the chiefs of all of the intelligence services of the government at Washington exchanged information daily, often hourly, and worked in a spirit of earnest cooperation. As the war progressed, the Department of Justice increased the staff of Special assistants for the work, the number of U.S. District Attorneys, and the number of U.S. Marshals. The Division of Intelligence, which is the Secret Service Bureau of the Department of Justice, was periodically augmented from the time that the entry of the U.S. in the war became inevitable, until it soon was five times as large as in 1916. Although enlistments into the service went on steadily throughout the war period, the Attorney General wisely refrained from telling us its eventual size. “These additional men were employed from lists prepared for such an emergency, and the cooperation of the city and state authorities and other departments secured.” (Annual Report of Attorney General, 1917)
Under the aegis of the Attorney General, the Emigration Service, the Post Office Department, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior and the Internal Revenue and the Treasury departments were all mobilized to assist in the solution of the stupendous difficulties which faced the Department of Justice.
But even this was not enough, for the Attorney General reports (1917): “As the work increased and the probability that this country would be drawn into the war became certain, the department encouraged the organization of various local volunteer citizens’ committees for the purpose of such matters to the proper officials. These volunteer associations have rendered very great assistance. One of them in particular, which is nationwide in scope and which is known as the American Protective League, has proven to be invaluable and constitutes a most important auxiliary and reserve force for the Bureau of Investigation. Its membership, which is carefully guarded, includes lending men in various localities who have volunteered their services for the purpose of being on the lookout for and reporting to this department information of value to the Government, and for the further purpose of endeavoring to secure information regarding any matters about which it may be requested to make inquiry. This organization has been of the greatest possible aid in the thousands of cases in the principle cities of the U.S. ITS MEMBERS ARE NOT OFFICERS OR AGENTS OF THE DEPARTMENT… IT IS A SELF-SUPPORTING ORGANIZATION.” `
In 1918 the Attorney General further reported on the work of the American Protective League and reiterated the fact that it was “created with the approval of the Attorney General and operating under the direction of the Bureau of Investigation. this well managed organization consisting at this time of approximately 250,000 members scattered throughout the U.S. has been invaluable to the government as an auxiliary force.”
With this vast hounding force of “disloyalty” hunters at the disposal, the Attorney General’s office examined on the average over 1500 complaints daily. The number sometimes reaching 3,000. The Attorney General REPORTS that, “Every day hundreds of articles or passages from newspapers, pamphlets, books, and printed matter, transcripts of the department for decision as to whether of not the matter justified prosecution under the Espionage Act.” (Annual Report, 1918)
Is it any wonder, therefore, that for opposing conscription in a private conversation, Paul Boske, a Socialist of Parksburg, W.Va., received a 15 year sentence; that in Sioux Falls, S.D., the courts imposed a 10 year sentence and a 410,000 fine for writing against the Liberty Loan in a letter to a friend, while in N.Y., Arthur Roth received a 5 year stretch for alleged seditious remarks found in an intercepted letter to a friend? It is these people whom we must credit with the persistent hounding which put the government on the trail not only of the outspoken opponents of the war, but of the humble John Smiths and Tom Browns, who voiced their stifled hatred and antagonism over a glass of beer or on a park bench. How also can we account for the fact that in Tucson, Arizona, two harmless Italian workers, were given two and three years respectively for the possession of seditious literature, that three aged Germans grumbling about the war in the shoe repair shop of one of them, was convicted on a dictaphone record, that a German-American , who had refused to buy a Liberty Bond because he did not wish either side to win, was imprisoned until the Appellate Court set the conviction aside, that in Colorado, J.A. Miller was jailed for two years on the charge of telling a young man he was a fool to fight in this rich man’s war, and that there was graft in the Red Cross? Even in the case of the Wobbly, who was sentenced under the Espionage Law for urging some lumber workers to leave the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumberman (a company union) and to join the I.W.W., if they wanted results, we can say that this supposedly illegal act could have reached the Government only through private agents or the grape vine of the “American Loyalty Society".
Although it is difficult today to realize the vast amount of work accomplished by these private agencies, John Lord O"Brien, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General, states that their membership, “ran into the hundreds of thousands. One of them carried full page advertisements in leading papers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, offering in substance to make every man a spy chaser on the payment of a dollar membership fee.” Naturally, O"Brien did not dare say “Red-baiter”, since this would characterize too openly the nature of the work in which this organization engaged.
Nor were the Loyalty Leagues alone in using the mechanism of newspaper advertizing to ferret out the dissenters. Note the subtle manner in which the Attorney General ordered the various district attorneys to follow suit: “Persons corresponding with the department regarding disloyal utterances which come to their attention frequently raise the point that they do not know where to submit even complaints within their immediate neighborhood.
“The department suggests, therefore, with the cooperation of the newspapers of your district, you cause mention to be made in the newspapers from time to time of the location of the nearest office of the Bureau of Investigation to which such complaints can be correctly brought.”
The department further suggests that in these statements you make it clear that complaints of even the most informed of confidential nature are always welcome and that citizens should feel free to bring their information or suspicions to your attention, or to the attention of the special agent.”
As though those enrolled in the organizations did not know where to inquire concerning the nearest Department of Justice headquarters! These advertisements were nothing more than increased publicity and encouragement to join the great national “Red” hunt. This conclusion is inescapable for otherwise it becomes impossible to explain the anxiety of the Attorney General even to assume the burden of examining mere suspicions. For were the Attorney General acting under the assumption that the public already had in its possession valuable information , which it did not know how to relay to the Department of Justice, it would have been superfluous to add the instructions encouraging the conversion of the Department of Justice into a national headquarters for gossip mongers.
Nor did the activities of the Department of Justice end with the war for the Attorney General reported in 1919: The signing of the armistice did not end the war activities of the bureau. Many violations of law which occurred during the period of active hostilities were reported to the bureau after November 11, and a very large though decreasing number of such reports are being received.”
Furthermore, with the declaration of peace, new problems of a very perplexing nature confronted the Bureau of Investigations. The success of the October Revolution in Russia frightened the American bourgeoisie and compelled it to make every possible effort to emasculate the proletariat. it became necessary to create a whole new technique to cope with the post-war situation. But all this is a chapter in itself and must be reserved for a future installment. For the present it is sufficient to note that already in 1919, the Attorney General appreciated the nature of his new functions. He wrote at the time, “Unrest and radicalism are rife throughout the world; the U.S. is not exempt. The Department of Justice as the law enforcing agency of the Government is deeply concerned with this situation, and the Bureau of Investigation of the department has probably accumulated a greater mass of data upon this subject than is anywhere available. Although ordinarily the bureau is concerned with the investigation of individual violations of law, in the matter of the radical situation it has consistently taken the attitude that intelligent investigations of individuals can be accomplished only by a thorough going understanding of the situation as a whole. To this end there has been organized in the Bureau of Investigations a division of radical activities.” (Annual Report of Attorney General, 1919)
To supplement the federal laws, as well as to relieve part of the tremendous burden, which was thrown upon the Attorney General’s office, many of the states passed statutes paralleling those of Congress. Of these, the Montana law was perhaps the most stringent and provided the model for the subsequently enacted Federal Sedition Bill. Were it not for the dual character of our government, this would not have been necessary. Under the circumstance, however, the government was obliged to coordinate the system as best it could in order to utilize every resource at its disposal. Only in this way could the federal government avail itself of a state apparatus that would otherwise be idle. Without such complimentary legislation, the courts, judges, prosecutors, police, jails, etc., would have been utterly useless to the national administration. The several legislatures therefore hurriedly rushed to the assistance of the Department of Justice and passed laws carefully framed to supplement the Statutes already enacted by Congress. These subsidiary acts were in some instances limited to anti-war activity, while in other cases they dealt with sedition and criminal syndicalism. So varied are they in substance and terminology that it is impossible to treat any of them at length within the brief confines of this article. At best one can only present a bare enumeration of the more typical convictions which occurred.
In Montana, Albert Brooks received a seven to fifteen year sentence for violating the State Sedition Act in giving away a copy of Walker C. Smith’s, “War and the Workers". For having on sale at his bookstore, Emile Pouget’s work on Sabotage, J. Dunning, a member of the I.W.W. impelled a Minnesota court to impose a two year sentence. Under this same Minnesota Espionage Act it was a crime to discourage women from knitting by the remark, “No soldier ever sees these socks.” (State vs Froerks, 140 Minn. 349). In Atlantic, IA, W.T. Woodward obtained a six months sojourn in prison, plus a $600 fine for belonging to the People Council. Even in Alaska the government did not fall down on the job for Bruce Rogers, a Socialist, was convicted under a local sedition law for saying, “We must make the world safe for democracy if we have to “beau” the Goddess of Liberty to do it.” In one of the western cities, a strike of street car operators occurred and the strikers were warned that if they did not return to work, they would be held for treason. (New Republic”, September 15, 1917)
Where the states failed to enact special legislation to meet the new conditions or where the objectionable behavior took place prior to the passage of such laws, the disorderly conduct and unlawfully assembling acts were stretched to include all undesirable expressions of political opinion. In Duluth, Scott Nearing and three others were arrested for vagrancy during a raid on the Peoples Council. In New York, Nathan Levine, a Socialist, obtained the reward of one year and twenty days for the alleged remark that he would rather go to prison than to be drafted in the army. For spitting on the sidewalk near some Italian officers, Fred Cammer was given a three months sentence. On the West Coast, James Ross received the same term plus a $300 fine for disturbing the peace after being tarred, feathered and beaten for alleged disloyalty. In Martinez, California, it was considered a disturbance of the peace to speak disrespectfully of the Red Cross for which Fred Masson earned a six months stay in the county jail. Because he laughed at some recruits, who were drilling in the Presidio, a Californian obtained the mild chastisement of ten days in jail, while in Chicago, a man who refused to stand up at the playing of the Star Spangled Banner was assessed $50. In Indiana, a Socialist attorney was disbarred for that reason. Because Leon Samson, while a student at Columbia University, presided at the Emma Goldman meeting at which he said, “We have no love for the Kaiser, but as much as we hate the Kaiser, we hate still more the American Kaiser.” He was not allowed to finish his college career, nor would the court in any way interfere with this ultimatum of the university trustee.
Under the guise of disciplining teachers for views which were considered to be “subversive of discipline in the schools and which undermine good citizenship” instructors at the De Witt Clinton High School were suspended for unorthodox political opinions. Thomas E. Finnegan, Acting Commissioner of Education, lost his post merely for failure to adopt a sufficiently patriotic attitude in that he had assumed a neutral position on the war. Disapprovingly, John Dewey wrote at the time, “The men were not overcharged with overt disloyalty; they were charged with a lack of that active or aggressive loyalty which the state has a right to demand, in war time particularly, from its paid servants.” (New Republic, Dec.29,1917)
In Luverne, the Mayor commanded the members of the Non-Partisan League of the County to register at the Luverne Loyalty Club or be deported. Thirty-one refused to comply with this request. Thereupon, one of them was deported and his property seized (Nation, July 20, 1918). No account appears of the treatment subsequently accorded to others.
The first major instance during the war of the use of mass terror on the part of the capitalists occurred in the world famous Bisbee “deportations” in which over a thousand workers were forcibly driven out of the state and left stranded in the desert. In order thoroughly to comprehend the implications of this episode, it is first essential to have at least a partial understanding of the background in which the deportations took place.
Throughout the West, the I.W.W. had been conducting a very successful struggle for increased wages and the eight hour day. After a well organized campaign, the Montana owners were compelled to yield; but the Oregon employers determined to fight the battle through to the bitter end. When they could no longer withstand the pressure and were on the point of succumbing, Col. Disque, a government representative, was called upon the scene to grant the demands in order to avoid some of the effects of the capitulation. Instead, however, of alleviating the unrest in the mining camps where it was particularly acute, this settlement increased the prestige of the I.W.W. and accentuated the miserable conditions under which the miners labored. The rustling Cord (blacklist) system was regularly employed to keep out all union members. Wages fluctuated with the rise and fall in copper. The speedup caused many accidents resulting in death. On one occasion, 174 perished in a fire, which broke out in a Butte mine. The terrific casualty rate being attributed to solely the greed of the mine owners in placing the bulkheads in such a way so to block the exits. The miners were so badly trapped that many of them wore the skin of their fingers down to the second knuckle in a futile effort to escape. As a result matters were reaching a breaking point. At one time 50,000 lumberjacks and 40,000 miners were simultaneously on strike. Their employers were frantic. How were they to stop the strike wave without making concessions and thus parting with a share of the huge profits which the golden opportunity of war had bestowed upon them?
Were this peace time, they would have simply called in the militia and tested their strength in the streets. But most of the available state troops were at the front. Those, whom were left behind, were few in numbers, poor in quality and already overburdened with similar duties. The anemic youngsters rejected by the draft boards and the middle aged, pot bellied business men , who now surprised the national guards, would have been no match for those hardened miners with their heroic heritage of militant struggle. Nor was it advisable to send for the regular army since the war had changed the composition of the military forces from non voluntarily entering it as a partial career to workers reluctantly separated from their labor.
Only one alternative remained open to the mine owners— to take the law into their own hands. On July 10, 1917, therefore, as a preliminary experiment, they forcibly deported 80 strikers in cattle cars from Jerome, Arizona. When the miners attempted to return they were stopped at the state line and taken to Prescott where they were placed in jail. But this was only a dress rehearsal. Once the success of the Jerome adventure was definitely established, the owners concluded that the same tactics could be safely employed to exterminate Bisbee of its trouble makers.
On the night of July 11, a meeting was held in which plans were prepared for the next day’s attack. Present were the managers and other officials of the Phelp Dodge Corporation, Copper Queen Division and the Calumet and Arizona Mining Co. Early the following morning, the 2000 gunmen , who had been imported into the town, rounded up 1186 miners and under the vigilant eyes of their machine guns placed them on board cattle cars obligingly provided by a subsidiary of the copper company.
Although, in theory, a man can protect his home against unlawful entry, even to the point of shooting the invader if necessary to defend himself. This process was reversed at Bisbee and instead a miner was murdered because he dared to resist this outrageous violation of his rights. Many of the others had their heads cracked open or were viciously beaten because they persisted in resisting this criminal infringement of law and order.
While this was transpiring, some of the thugs seized the telegraph offices and drove the reporters from the station. All news was heavily censored and considered chiefly of an interview with the ranking officer of the Phelp-Dodge Corporation in which he characterized the strike as of pro-German origin and advocated the deportations as a patriotic remedy.
In the meantime the miners were locked in the boxcars and were carried to the neighboring state of New Mexico, where they were deposited in the desert. For two whole days they were left without any food or shelter. When the situation was finally called to the attention of the War Department, the deportees were escorted by troops to Columbus, New Mexico, and the government undertook to provide for them. Those who attempted to return were barred by the edict of a “Kangaroo Court” which the mine owners had established in Bisbee. This tribunal also assumed jurisdiction over the right to determine who else should be deported. Intoxicated with their success, the owners made efforts to organize similar evictions against the strikers at Globe and Miami, Arizona, but were frustrated by the strong opposition of the workers who were now prepared to meet such an attack. Nevertheless,in one of the other western states , they were not able to prevent the lynching of Frank Little, a member of the I.W.W. Executive by a masked mob on August 1, 1917.
The Globe and Jerome strikers were also unable to come to the rescue of their fellow workers. stuck at Columbus and the government would not obligate itself to support these men in idleness forever. Accordingly, on September 22, they were informed that all relief would be discontinued and they would have to return to Bisbee. Six hundred of them, therefore, started out, many of whom were required to appear before the Draft Board. When they reached Bisbee nearly all were arrested and again driven from town. Much later, the President’s Mediation Commission, which investigated the Bisbee affair, was obliged to verify the above facts in its report and to conclude that the action of the mine owners not only interfered with interstate communications, but obstructed men from reporting for examination for the draft. This is, of course, a flagrant violation of the Espionage Act since it was said that the federal government was powerless to act while the two indictments against the 25 chief perpetrators of these deportations were quashed one and a half years later. But even this was not a sufficient vindication of the lofty motives which inspired the mine owners. Some reward was necessary. The government, therefore, made one of the important officials in the company, a major in the army while another was appointed to an important post in the Red Cross.
Nor must one neglect the perfidious role of the cringing legal profession, which is forever seeking to get into the good graces of the big corporations. According to the “Nation” of November 2, 1918, “All of the County Bar Associations offered their services gratis in behalf of the defendants (the 25 wealthy corporation officials) passing formal resolutions on the subject to the effect that the I.W.W. is “thoroughly disloyal and hostile” and guilty of lending aid to the wicked and relentless German autocracy.”
Since it was largely as the outgrowth of this situation in Arizona and elsewhere that 166 I.W.W.’s were indicted in Chicago, one would be inclined to believe that all of the miners at Bisbee were wobblies. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the Chicago I.W.W. trial, it was proven by one of the defendants, a deportee and business agent of an AFL Carpenters and Painters Union, that only 426 of those, who were railroaded out of Bisbee were I.W.W’s. Of the remaining number , 381 belonged to AFL locals and 361 were nonunion men together. The fact is that in spite of the terrible reign of terror conducted against the I.W.W., the 5th Annual report of the secretary of Labor shows that out of the 521 labor disputes, which were brought before the Department for adjustment up to October 25, 1917, only three of them involved the I.W.W. —the copper mines in Arizona, the mine workers in Butte, and the shipyard workers in Washington. Furthermore in both of the miners’ strikes there was involved an AFL union besides.
What are the tactics pursued where the unions are not dedicated to revolutionary policies, where, for example, highly paid AFL or nonunion workers are involved? What methods are utilized by the capitalists to accomplish their ends? Naturally, all of the peace time expedients (like espionage to prevent strikes, etc.) continue unabated in their virility throughout the war. While the employers stamp and fume about the sabotage of labor, they continue systematically to discharge every worker detected with a union card in his possession. Where, in spite of their vigilance, a strike threatens, new and more subtle methods are made possible as a result of the war. The strike can now be made to appear not an act directed against the particular factory owner, but an open effort to hinder the successful progress of the nation in its struggle., The press immediately begins to clamor, “A strike, when an industry is devoted to war work, is only a mutiny.” (New Republic, February 23, 1918). If public pressure and the usual technique are not sufficient to stifle the danger, the government aggressively steps forward and takes the situation firmly in hand. The War Labor Board is wheeled into play and operates some what like the present NRA. When this does not succeed because the workers refuse to accept the award of a Board in which their interests are not represented, the President serves them with a notice that if they do not return to work they will be:
“…barred from employment in any industry in the community in which the strike occurs for a period of one year. During that time the U.S. Employment Service will decline to obtain employment for you in any war industry elsewhere in the U.S., as well as under the War and Navy Department, the Shipping Board, the Railway Administration and all the governmental agencies and the draft boards will be instructed to reject any claim for exemption based on your alleged usefulness on war production.” (Letter of the President, dated September 13, 1918, to the Bridgeport Machinists engaged in a private plant doing government work, after the strikers rejected an award of the Board).
The gratifying result of such a letter can be ascertained from the “Report of the Activities of the War Department in the Field of Industrial Relations during the War! “It produced an immediate effect. The men returned to their work and the Bridgeport situation was adjusted in accordance with the decision of Mr. Siedlitz.”
Similarly, in the Bethlehem Steel Mills, the same device was found to be very effective. The “New Republic” for August 10, 1918, reports that the testimony of the workers showed that the mills were advantageously employing the draft law and the local draft boards in order to intimidate the workers and coerce them into remaining on the job. The threat was continually held over their heads that their industrial exemptions would be withdrawn if they did not remain submissive.
In the Oklahoma Cannery Strike of August, 1910, the capitalists went even further under this “Work or Fight” rule and had the Department of Justice arrest six workers, who were on strike. The prisoners were held incommunicado and when Secretary William Spooner of the Alamoda Labor Council (AFL) attempted to see the men he was threatened with arrest under the Espionage Act.
Where it was deemed expedient to grant the demands of the workers as was sometimes the case, the subterfuge was then employed of having the company refuse the award of the War labor Board and the President ordered the War Department to take over the plant. Now the workers were permanently precluded from striking and their temporary gains were soon absorbed in rising prices, speedup, etc. This was the method used in the Smith and Wessen Co. plant at Springfield, Mass., since the contract with the government conferred upon it the right to arbitrate in the event of a labor dispute.
Not everywhere, however, was the “Work or Fight” principle promulgated by Provost Marshall General Crowder utilized in the manner outlined above. In the wake of this order which provided that every able bodied male person between the draft ages must be engaged in some necessary employment, there soon followed state statutes of this general type: “Every male citizen between the ages of 13 and 50 must be habitually and regularly engaged in some lawful, useful, and recognized business, occupation, trade or employment.”
In New Jersey, where such a law was enacted, Governor Edge issued the following mandate: “I, therefore, call the attention of sheriffs, mayors and heads of police departments to the necessity of maintaining a sharp vigilance and a keen eye for those workless individuals, whose lack of ambition and fondness for idleness constitute not merely a financial burden to every community, but also a genuine menace to the welfare of the nation’s manhood under arms and their safety on the battle front.” (Literary Digest, March 30, 1918)
Had the Governor actually substituted for the term “these workless individuals”, the people he had in mind, his meaning would be no clearer. Can there be any doubt that by this last sentence the Governor intended to encompass union organizers, Socialists, I.W.W.’s etc.? Were prosecution commenced under this statute would organizing workers into unions be considered a “lawful occupation”, speaking on street corners a “recognized business”, or engaging in the collection of defense funds for political prisoners a “useful trade"?
Nevertheless, these compulsory labor laws were little used in the North and were significant merely as forerunners of the role which they will be made to play in the next war. In the South, however, the municipalities were able to employ this mechanism to keep the workers at their former employment while in many instances they were even able to maintain the low standards of pre-war days. To understand how this was accomplished it is first necessary to see the difference between the two sets of laws. Here is a typical example, being the local law of Wrightsville, Georgia; “…it shall be unlawful for any person from the ages of 16 to 50 inclusive to reside in or be upon the streets of Wrightesville, unless each person can show that he “is actively and assiduously engaged in useful employment FIFTY hours or more per week.”
In other words the minimum of number of hours which a worker must devote to his trade is automatically fixed. It cannot be reduced by means of a strike, but only through the repeal of the law. The Act then further provides that each person must carry an employment card signed by the employer. This makes it easy to enforce and, as will be seen later, places the employer in a position to deal despotically with his employees. While originally intended to apply exclusively to men, the South, due to the widespread migration of Negro workers to the industrial centers of the North, soon extended it to women. Before long, it became an excellent weapon for discrimination against the Negro. In Macon, Georgia, for example, a Negro woman who was arrested for not working informed the court that she was married and her husband was employed. Since he was able to support the family to which all of her attention was devoted, she saw no reason why she should secure a position or how she could act in both capacities if she did. Despite her explanation she was fined $27.25 and advised by the court that if she remained in Macon, she “would either work in service or on public works” for marriage was no exemption.
In another small town, the mayor employed a Negro cook who requested a raise which he refused to grant. Under the circumstances, the cook was compelled to quit her job and the mayor requested her to surrender her employment card in accordance with the law. The following morning she received a visit from the sheriff who asked her to show him her card. Because she could not comply with this request, although she stated the reason for her failure, she was arrested and brought before the Mayor who fined her $14.50 which he paid. She was then commanded to go back to his house to work off the fine.
In Bainbridge, Decatur County, Georgia, the city council passed an ordinance compelling all women, whether married or not, to engage in some particular work other than their household tasks. Immediately, an officer was dispatched to the homes of the Negroes and their wives were dragged to court where they were accused of vagrancy. The court, unimpressed by the explanations of the defendants, fined each of them $15 and had it not been for the militant attitude of the husbands, who threatened to resist “to the last drop of blood in their bodies”, if this discriminatory law were not repealed, tens of thousands of women would have been forced into chain gang labor.
On June 19, an article appeared in the local newspapers of birmingham, Alabama, declaring that all women must go to work. The white women immediately protested and on the 21st the paper carried the headline, “Negro Women Hero Ordered to Work.” At the same time the Municipal Employment Agency issued an order categorically offering all Negro women a choice between work or jail. On the very first day that the order went into effect, twenty Negro women were arrested. What eventually happened to them was not stated by Walter F. White, who was responsible for collecting the data concerning these incidents.
In Florida, eight Negroes employed as pickers in an orange grove decided to quit work because they were being paid at a rate much below that was set by the Florida Citrus Exchange ($3.50 a day). The Sheriff thereupon notified them that they had a choice between going “back to work at the former price, to war, or to jail". This discrimination also penetrated the ranks of the petty Bourgeoisie among the Negroes. Several examples are cited of Negro insurance salesmen, who under the “work or fight” law were coerced into leaving their positions in order that white salesmen could get the business.
While these incidents are very meager, they are undoubtedly illustrative of the general trend. More satisfactory material would permit sounder conclusions, but Mr. White correctly notes that, “No one can tell how far the system extended, as most of the offenses occurred in the smaller towns and communities where Negroes dare not reveal the true conditions for fear of punishment, a fear which is well founded as the lynching record for 1918 will testify. In the larger cities the opposition of the Negroes themselves checked the great abuses.” If it were not for this shroud of compulsory secretiveness, which cloaked the South during the war, I feel positive that the facts would disclose a universal discrimination against the Negro unparalleled in the 20th century. As it is, the amount of information extent, concerning the true conditions which prevailed is so negligible that one can only indulge in the surmise.
Hand and hand with the “work or fight” rule and the discriminations which it made possible against the Negro, went a general discrimination against the entire proletariat by virtue of the distinctions made in the draft exemptions between workers and nonworkers. The Selective Service Regulations established four different classifications representing the order in which the men were to be called. These four main classes were in turn subdivided into smaller sections where the same principles of priority applied. In the very first category of Class I were placed all those who had no dependents while in class IV, which was the last to be called, were married registrants, whose wives and children were dependent upon them for support.
Where a registrant was not engaged in a useful occupation and his wife worked, then such a worker was out in the fourth section of Class I, or if his wife supported him, which is frequently the case in petty bourgeois and working class families during a depression, he was placed in the 3rd section of Class I. In neither of these instances did it make any difference that the drafted men had or had no children. Naturally wealthy men, whose profession consisted in clipping the coupons of their wives’ investments, were exempted since they could always buy themselves a supposedly useful occupation. But even where the worker was painfully employed a useful endeavor and his wife happened to be skilled in some trade, although not working at the time, he was placed only in Class II, provided that his wife was physically well and a position was open for her. Of course, both of these conditions are easily fulfilled during a major war. The more important fact to bear in mind is that in all proletarian families as well as in those of many petty bourgeois, the women were invariably at work prior to their marriage and acquired sufficient knowledge of a particular industry to be classified as skilled workers under the provisions of this law. It is reserved for the pampered stuffed petticoats that become the wives of rich men to remain in blissful ignorance of work and it is particularly these people who are called last to fight in their own battles.
As a result of the activities of the I.W.W. in the West, a swarm of U.S. agents and marshals, on September 15, 1917, swooped down on the local offices of the wobblies in more than fifty cities throughout the country and illegally seized several thousand pounds of correspondence, pamphlets and documents in direct violation of the Constitutional provision against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” While it is a well settled rule of law that the government cannot use evidence unlawfully secured, nevertheless, the federal authorities abrogated both of these principles upon the justification that if the raids had not taken place, the leaders of the I.W.W. would have eventually crippled the capitalist system. ("Nation”, August 31, 1918). The Department of Justice, therefore, resorted to warrants, which were subsequently held invalid by the Appellate Courts, and were legally able to circumvent this decision by the chicanery of using the evidence secured to correct the imperfections in the old warrants. That is, the facts obtained on the basis of the illegal warrants were employed to obtain new warrants in which the faults of the old ones were removed. Then the new warrants were used to impound the evidence which had been obtained illegally. At that, the defense was able to prove that the prosecution concealed many of the seized papers because they proved favorable to the I.W.W. In spite of this, the District Attorney succeeded in convincing the court of his lack of intent to deceive.
Partially as an outcome of these raids, 166 workers, 17 of whom were not wobblies, were indicted in Chicago. On September 28, the police launched their dragnet and apprehended 113 of those indicted. The indictment contained five counts which, minus the legal foliage, charged the defendants with having committed the following crimes:
1. Conspiracy to overthrow the present industrial system by force and violence.
2. Conspiracy to interfere with the rights of citizens to fulfill contracts entered into by them with the government through causing strikes.
3. Conspiracy to interfere with the enforcement of the Selective Service Act by persuading 10,000 people not to present themselves for the draft and 5000 to desert.
4. Conspiracy to violate the Espionage Law by causing insubordination in the Army and Navy and hinder recruiting.
5. Charged them with 20 offenses in placing 1500 copies of “Solidarity” and 150 stickers in the post office and 1000 other offenses in placing certain books in the post office.
Nevertheless, at no time did the prosecution furnish the names of anyone alleged to have evaded the draft or where the evasions were claimed to have taken place.
For five days the attorneys wrangled over who should sit on the jury. In that time only five jurors were selected and the prosecution was compelled to exhaust all but one of its peremptory challenges. The defense, on the other hand, still had six challenges left. The jurors already in the box were on the whole as favorable as could be expected. This equilibration of forces the prosecution could not tolerate since it might possibly result in an acquittal. They, therefore, hit upon the crude device of accusing the I.W.W. of tampering with the jury. Judge Landis, of present baseball fame, ordered an investigation, the entire venire was dismissed and wobbly was promptly arrested for jury fixing. On the next venire, the state first took the precaution of having a more favorable element impanelled, thus avoiding the necessity of utilizing its challenges as rapidly as it had in the previous trial.
During the trial, irrelevant matter was continually utilized to prove the conspiracy. Rumor was substituted for fact. Witnesses were called, who testified that they heard it said that a particular defendant was an I.W.W. On cross examination, many of the state’s witnesses were compelled to admit that they were gunmen. One of those who was caught with a suspender holster arrangement (the holster empty) testified that the holster was “a part of his dress, without which he would lose his pants". Another, in response to the question, “What did you carry a gun for?” replied, “To shoot blackbirds.” When asked, “Did you report that to your superior officer?”, he replied, “No sir, because I never shot any.” Private detectives testified to the arresting of the I.W.W. and breaking up meetings. The terse statements of Herbert Smith, lieutenant of the private “Coal and Iron Police” of McKee’s Rooks, are typical as well as enlightening on the justification required and the technique employed.
Q. “Do you know why you broke up the meeting?
A. Unlawful assembly.”
Q. “Did you see anything unlawful?
A. Yes; insulting people going to and fro in the street.”
Q. “Insult them?
A. We saw them stopped. Yes, sir.”
Q. “Did you arrest anybody for that?
A. No, sir. We broke up the meeting.”
Q. “Why didn’t you arrest people you saw stopping miners?
A. We didn’t wish to at that time. We had orders to break the meeting up.”
Q. “You did not wait to see what happened?
A. No, sir.”
Q. “Or to hear what happened?
A. No, sir.”
Q. “Or to see whether it was going to be orderly or disorderly?
A. We did not. We dispersed the crowd.”
Q. “You did not go there to maintain order but to break the meeting up?
A. To disperse the crowd; That was our intention.”
Q. “Now, at the other settings, you did the same?
A. The meetings were dispersed, yes, sir.”
A mill superintendent testified to calmly watching soldiers and some employees (gangsters) tar and feather a man because he thought he was an I.W.W. where witnesses for the defense were soldiers on leave, they were apprehended as they left the court room and detained for hours by the Department of Justice officials who questioned them at great length.
During the deliberation of the jury, a military band was playing patriotic airs near the courthouse while a movie theater near the federal building displayed a prominent blurb “The Menace of the I.W.W.” the posters which advertised this attraction were replete with bombs, torches and bags of German gold. The jury, as they went out to lunch, could not possibly have avoided seeing the sign. Now, with the advent of the radio, we have an additional apparatus for conducting an extra-judicial tirade against the defendants and thus bring pressure to bear upon the jury. This was well exemplified by the recent Hauptman trial in which the blaring radio across the street could be distinctly heard in the court room.
To offset these maneuvers on the part of the District Attorney, the workers must organize huge demonstrations. If the workers themselves cannot be mobilized during the day because to leave work would be a penal offense, then their wives and children, soldiers home on furlough, students, etc., must be assembled together. In the evenings monster parades with appropriate placards could march through the working class sections with the purpose of advertising the injustices that were being perpetrated. If the demonstrations were large, the police, despite their penchant for ruthlessness, would hesitate to interfere.
It took 133 days to try the defendants, but this experience will not be repeated. Never again will the state spend endless days introducing hundreds of pamphlets, which can only confuse the “patriotic” issues and dilute the effectiveness of the emotional appeal, the only justification being the $10,000, which it cost the I.W.W. to print the record of the appeal. All together the case cost the workers $108,715 while the appeal alone required a further expenditure of almost $20,000. This is of great advantage to the state since such a huge outlay of money may sometimes destroy a weak political party. On the other hand it may prove to be a boomerang in giving the defendants too much of a forum to expose, not only the frame-up against them, but the nature of the capitalist state as well.
While the trial took over four months, it required less than an hour for the jury to bring in a verdict of “Guilty as Charged”, against 93 of those indicted. just about long enough for these decrepit fogies to write in the names of the defendants after taking off their coats, rolling up their sleeves and lighting their expensive havana cigars. The total sentences amounted to 800 years and the fines amounted to over 2 1/2 million dollars plus costs. Among those convicted were men like Vincent St. John, who was given a ten year sentence although he had left the I.W.W. to prospect for gold and had been in the field during the intervening time. From then until his arrest he had been completely out of touch with the labor movement. At the trial no evidence was introduced concerning any activity since the war. Another of the defendants, Stanley J. Clark, had resigned from the Socialist Party because it opposed the war. But even this was not enough to save him since he had spoken on behalf of the wives and children of the deported miners of Bisbee. Upon the testimony of four professional perjurers he was convicted and given a 20 year sentence in addition to a $30,000 fine.
Contrast this to autocratic Germany, where twelve members of the German Independent Socialist Party were convicted of high treason for circulating pamphlets calling for revolution and the overthrow of the German Empire. The sentences ranged from a mere eighteen months to eight years. Karl Liebknecht, for attempted high treason, received a sentence of only four years and was later pardoned.
Many of the I.W.W.s received sentences of 20 years. yet the New York Times of June 26, 1935 reports that Bert Kagg, for subversive activities against the Reich under Hitler, was sentenced to serve fifteen years and declared that this sentence is the severest yet meted out by the Nazis specially created tribunal. This is Hitler’s Germany in which all radical organizations have been driven underground.
In the course of a political campaign waged by District Attorney Fickert of Mooney—Billings fame, a bomb was intentionally placed in the rear of the governor’s mansion in order to secure vetoes. The blame was placed then upon the I.W.W. and many of them were indicted in Sacramento. On November 21, 1917, this indictment was followed by another one in Fresno in which more wobbies were accused in part “with having conspired to injure, intimidate and oppress certain citizens of the U.S…by demanding stated wages and certain terms from the employers throughout the U.S. and unless the employers of labor will agree to pay the stated wages and agree to the certain terms demanded, the said defendants and the said persons conspired, would refuse to work for or give their services to the said employers and would engage in what is known in every day parlance as a strike.”
For purposes of expediency, the Sacramento and Fresno indictments were subsequently amalgamated with the above count omitted. Those of the Fresno prisoners who had in the meantime been released on bail were re-arrested, as well as sympathizers caught afterwards distributing handbills in the defense campaign. For an entire year the men were kept in jail without being brought to trial. the room in which they were imprisoned was so small that only half of them could go to sleep at one time while the remaining half were compelled to either stand or sit. No beds were provided other than the concrete floor and the thin cotton blanket with which to keep warm in the middle of winter. When at great personal sacrifice, food was sent in by friends to augment the inadequately miserable rations, it was placed outside the bars in full view of the half starved prisoners and permitted to rot. Five died while in custody.
From the time of the arrest and through the trial, the press constantly abounded in false and slanderous reports concerning the alleged activities of the I.W.W. and of the atrocious deeds which the district attorney imputed to them. It is needless to add that none of these terrible acts attributed to the I.W.W. were proven at the trial. Recurrently, headlines such as these appear in the papers: “I.W.W. Confesses Wholesale Arson and Sabotage Plot”, “I.W.W. Arrested for Sheep Poisoning.”, etc.
In this manner the public was prepared long before the trial to bring in a conviction against the defendants. So distorted and untruthful were the accounts incessantly carried by the press that it was impossible to pick an unprejudiced jury. During the entire autumn of 1917, the newspapers of the Pacific Coast contained dispatches which bore headlines of this character:
"I.W.W. Cut Troop Train in Two.” “ I.W.W. Plot to Kill Off Live Stock” (Sacramento Bee)
"I.W.W. Plot Dynamite Found by W.S. Food Factory,” “ Feathers Light, Tar Cheap, I.W.W. are warned” (Oakland Tribune)
"Kaiser’s Gold Pays for I.W.W. Sabotage”, “World Plot is Laid to I.W.W.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Army Horses Die. I.W.W. Chief Held”, “Bolshevik Ship Carries Shells and Arms for I.W.W.”, (Sacramento Bee Union)
"I.W.W. Responsible for Sugar Shortage” (Fresno Herald)
The Sacramento Bee, one of the most rabid of the anti-labor papers, brazenly announced in its issue of December 11th, that, “There has not been a juror examined who is not a subscriber to the Bee.” In this manufactured atmosphere the trial commenced. The prosecution had as its chief witnesses three defendants who were compelled to turn professional perjurers as a result of the horrible prison conditions to which they had been subjected. None of the true working class elements, however, capitulated and the betrayal of these three can be accounted for by the fact that they were lumpen proletarian elements, having previously served jail sentences for burglary, etc. Afterwards they were compelled to make tours of the courts where they were recognized by several wobblies. It may very well be, therefore, that they were agents provocateurs.
Since the Sacramento trial followed in the wake of the Chicago convictions, 43 of the 46 defendants were impressed with the futility of attempting to defeat the state’s case. Accordingly they determined to remain silent. When the attorney for the remaining defendants appeared in court, the others immediately informed the judge to represent their point of view. While one must pause to admire the braveness of this gesture, nevertheless, it is necessary to expose the blunder that was thud committed. The men were railroaded and when it became necessary to appeal the case, it was found that no grounds were available since no exceptions had been taken to the inadmissible evidence. In addition, the defendants foolishly had surrendered an invaluable forum and thus were unable to expose the frame-up against them. All 46 were found guilty and doomed to serve a total of 275 years in prison, 24 of them receiving 10 year sentences.