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New Militant, 9 March 1935

S.P. Militants Forced to Cover Up
Right Wing Labor Defense Maneuver

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 12, 9 March 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


New light is shed on the labor defense policy of the Socialist Pflrty and especially on the role of the leading Militants in the S.P. by correspondence just released for publication by the Provisional Committee for Non-Partisan Labor Defense. Last week’s New Militant reported and analysed the violation by the Socialist Party of its agreement to cooperate with the Provisional Committee, the Communist Party (Opposition), the Workers Party and the Il Martello Group (Italian anti-Fascists led by Carlo Tresca) in organizing a conference to launch a permanent, non-partisan labor defense organization. The New Leader of Jan. 26 announced for the first time that the Socialist Party was building its own defense machinery. Until that issue of the New Leader appeared there was no indication that the Socialist Party had changed its labor defense policy.

Morrow’s Letter to Baron

In an effort to determine the full significance of the New Leader announcement for the relation of the S.P. to the agreement to build a non-partisan labor defense organization, Felix Morrow, Secretary of the Provisional Committee sent the following letter to Murray Baron of the Socialist Party on the 29th of January.

Dear Comrade Baron,

This is addressed to you as the representative of the National Labor Committee delegated by it to cooperate with us in carrying out the Plan for a New Labor Defense Organization which the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party at its September meeting agreed to carry out together with the other organizations accepting the Plan ...

Our Executive Committee was astonished to discover that the Socialist Party of New York has formed its own Socialist Committee for Promotion of Labor Defense. Also August Claessens, Secretary of the New York Labor Committee, writes in the January 26 New Leader that “good progress is being made in the organization of a Labor and Socialist National Defense Committee” “with local committees in every large city to begin with”. We do not of course know whether August Claessens is authorized or not to speak for the national organization though the tenor of his article would seem to indicate that he is so authorized. As for the New York committee formed we note that it includes in its membership the representatives of the National Labor Committee delegated to carry out the Plan for a new defense organization.

Our Executive Committee, therefore, requests that you write to us, informing us of the relation of the local Socialist committee already organized and the national committee referred to by August Claessens, to the Plan for a New Labor Defense Organization which the Socialist Party of America is pledged to carry out in conjunction with the other organizations mentioned above.

We would appreciate a communication from you.


Fraternally yours
(signed) Felix Morrow

* * *

Baron’s Reply

The letter speaks for itself. Three days later on February 1, Baron replied:

Dear Comrade Felix,

In reply to your inquiry regarding the recently created Socialist Committee for Promotion of Labor Defense, I wish to state the following:

The Socialist Party of the United States has not by any pact, agreement or understanding precluded itself from creating, improving and extending its Labor Defense and relief machinery. Under the direction of its National Labor Committee it has been engaged for some time in such activities. State and local labor committees are now functioning throughout the country. Their proper functioning is intended to effect more durable and satisfactory relations with the organized labor movement. Already a great measure of success is being attained in that direction.

Local New York, under the direction of the National Labor Committee, has set up a temporary committee of party members in harmony with these plans. The jurisdiction of this committee is confined to New York City. It is presently occupying itself with the raising of funds on behalf of Ward H. Rogers and Stanley Glass.

This work is not in contravention to the Plan for a New Labor Defense Organization which has been accepted by our N.E.C. and N.L.C. (National Labor Committee) of the S.P. Instead it is designed to promote the eventual emergence of such an organization upon a basis much broader and more powerful than might otherwise be possible.


(signed) Murray Baron
National Labor Committee
Socialist Party of U.S.

* * *

The crux of the matter is clear: The Provisional Committee inquired what the New Leader announcement of January 26 signified with relation to the attempt to build a labor defense organization together with itself and other working class organizations; Baron, writing for the National Labor Committee of the S.P. peplied

  1. the organization outlined in the New Leader was internal party machinery to improve the S.P.’s relation to the labor movement, and
  2. it did not contravene the agreement the S.P. had with other organizations to organize a conference and launch a permanent defense organization, but was even designed to facilitate that agreement.

One day after Baron wrote his reply to Morrow’s inquiry the New Leader, February 2 issue, announced that a conference would be held on March 15 to launch a new labor defense organization and that delegates from hundreds of trade unions and fraternal organizations were expected. As it turns out not one of the organizations with which the S.P. had an agreement was consulted about this conference or has even been invited to it.

At the time that Baron wrote his reply the policy of the S.P. had been decided on: a break with its agreement entered into in good faith by other working class organizations. The New Leader indicating this break was already on the press. Why did Baron, replying to the Provisional Committee in the name of the National Labor Committee state that the new moves of the S.P. were designed to carry out the original agreement?

Could Baron have been unaware of this change of policy? That is to say, were there two policies, one by the National Labor Committee and another by one of the New York committees? Baron is a member of the National Labor Committee. He is secretary of the New York Committee for Promotion of Labor Defense. It does not matter where the policy announced in the New Leader originated – in the National Labor Committee, the New York Labor Committee, the Socialist Committee for Promotion of Labor Defense. The responsibility of Baron is fully involved.

What has happened is that when the Militants were riding high in the Socialist Party they committed the party to an agreement which contained the fundamental principled basis for a genuine non-partisan labor defense organization. The subsequent advance of the right wing and capitulation of the Militants gave the right wing the opportunity to reverse the labor defense policy. The Militants capitulated.

To all appearances there is no difference now between their policy on labor defense and that of the right wing. But to the Militants was assigned the job of getting out of the jam as best they could.

In the story of the changes in the S.P. policy on labor defense organization are profound lessons for those socialist workers who really want to come to grips with the paralyzing control of the right wing and strike out in a revolutionary direction.

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