Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 12 September 1949


Fascist Terrorism at Peekskill
Threatens Free Speech for All!


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 37, 12 September 1949, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Twice now a band of hooligans has sought to break up a concert by Paul Robeson in a picnic ground near Peekskill, N.Y. The latest attempt was on Sunday. September 4. They did not succeed in breaking up the concert, but they did succeed in overturning and stoning cars and buses, in injuring some 140 people and generally in having a gloriously Klannish day.

The issues are many, but simple:

  1. Paul Robeson is a famous singer and an equally infamous Stalinist. He is one of the Kremlin’s loudest public salesmen.
  2. Whether as artist or politician, he has every right to be heard (that is, by those who care to hear him).
  3. The interference mobilized by the local leadership of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Catholic War Veterans and Jewish War Veterans, and participated in by all the anti-Negro, anti-Semitic riffraff of the area, is a monstrous and intolerable act – the more so as it was accomplished under the active inspiration of local District Attorney Fanelli and with the apparent connivance of a good many “law and order” officials.
  4. Though the Stalinists would undoubtedly like to make it so, what is NOT involved, is the right of a group to picket and protest a Stalinist rally. The freedom to picket and protest includes the freedom to picket and: protest Stalinist rallies.

    BUT what happened twice near Peekskill was not a picket-line protest demonstration, as it is commonly understood. It was an act of fascistic terror incited by local reactionary leaders.
  5. The veterans of the area and the inhabitants of the area generally are not guilty of this hoodlumism. The point is important because the manipulators of the hooligan mob wish to make it appear that they acted for veterans – just like that, veterans in general – and for the people of the area.
    1. For the second skirmish, having threatened to mobilize ten to twenty thousand, they could not scare up more than a thousand – and they apparently dug deep into the cesspools of the area to get that many.

      CP Stands to Gain

      That the Stalinists intend to wring every last ounce of public sympathy from the case goes without saying. What began as an obscure concert and rally near Peekskill is a cause célèbre. Again, thanks to reactionaries and their storm troop breed, the peddlers of tyranny can parade as the upholders of civil liberties. The stomach just naturally does a few flip-flops. They who, in the very words of the self-same Paul Robeson, would not defend freedom of speech for Trotskyists (or, for that matter, for anybody) now strut in the cause of civil rights.

      Appeals have been made to Governor Dewey to investigate and take action. His investigation, if it is moving at all (Peekskill is in a substantially Republican area), is moving mighty slowly.

      The role of the state police is especially interesting. Where, in the first attack two weeks ago, they left the area almost entirely free to the hoodlums, the several hundred cops who showed up for the second concert were not as successful as you would expect a few hundred police to be in restraining the reactionary mob. There is already abundant evidence, and it has been reported in the papers, that the attack was planned. What is Dewey waiting for?

      The situation, we repeat, is an intolerable one. Fascist or reactionary hoodlums cannot be permitted to run rampant. Today they victimize the Stalinists; tomorrow they spread their activities somewhat. The American Legion, for example, has a long and disreputable history In this respect. The massacre at Centralia, Wash., directed against Wobblies, is not so distant that it is forgotten.

      The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Americans for Democratic Action and other anti-Stalinist organizations have already demanded a thorough investigation of the affair. We would like to see every section of the labor and liberal movement respond to the protest – to serve warning on all fascist elements that their gangsterism will not be tolerated.

      Top of page

      Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

      Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

      Last updated on 8 June 2021