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Unite for the Unemployed!

Resist Attack of Bosses and Government

(March 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III, No. 12, 22 March 1930, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The activity of the Communists and Left wing in presenting the facts about the unemployment crisis in the United States and in making demands upon the bosses and the government for work or compensation for the unemployed workers, have drawn the fire and wrath of the capitalist class and various governmental agencies upon the Communists. Hoover and Wall Street, Tammany Hall and Whalen, Mathew Woll and Secretary of Labor Davis, et al., are endeavoring to screen the acute misery of millions of unemployed workers by raising the cry of “RED” around the burning issue of unemployment.

Close upon the heels of the unemployment demonstrations on March 6th, a vicious campaign against the radical groups, particularly focusing upon the Communists has begun. For the moment it takes its most violent and vicious form in New York City under the leadership of Commissioner of Police Whalen and his official thugs, promptly endorsed by Mayor James Walker and the business men of the city. This campaign against the Communists is taking numerous forms. Among these are:

The Proposed Frameups and Police Brutality

  1. The arrest of Communist leaders and an endeavor to railroad them to prison for their activity among the unemployed. Every known obstacle was utilized to prevent the release on bail of the New York arrested. Only after repeated efforts and after exorbitant bail ($12,500 each) had been placed, were they released, to stand trial on charges of felonious assault and provoking an unlawful assembly at the March 6th Union Square demonstration in New York City. The outcome of the New York trials will to an extent determine the scale of repression and terror against the Communist movement and labor in general in other sections of the country. But already in many parts of the country efforts are made to railroad the Communists.
  2. A wave of terror, brutality and provocation against the radicals and Communists and any rising militancy by the workers. Every form of weapon – club and blackjack, gun and horses, machine guns and tear gas – is either brought into play or held ready for use against the unemployed and those leading the struggle on their behalf. Almost every capitalist paper in the country reports the extremes to which the loud-mouthed Whalen and others like him went in their brutality against men, women and children gathered at the unemployment meetings and demonstrations.

The Labor Spy and Blacklist of Militants

  1. The method of OPEN LABOR SPYING and BLACKLISTING on behalf of the employers by police and other governmental agents, thus plainly showing that government and law are instruments of the capitalist class. Police Commissioner Whalen of New York has declared that he has turned over the names of alleged Communists to employers that they may be dismissed and deprived of a livelihood because of the opinions they hold; and that he favors and will pursue such a blacklisting policy in the future. Whalen admits that he maintains stool-pigeons in radical organizations, particularly among the Communists, to frame evidence against the radicals; and that, further, he instructs his stoolpigeons to provoke violence and riots. He thereby admits responsibility for the trouble and brutality at the Union Square demonstration. What Whalen boasts about (until such time as the business men and higher-ups told him to be more discreet) is also done more quietly by police, Federal men, etc. throughout the country. The use of the Labor Spy by the employers is well known; now it is openly acknowledged and permitted that this be done “legally”.

The Drive Against the Foreign Born

  1. The revival by the reactionaries of the campaign to compel the registration of aliens and for the deportations of aliens who are not satisfactory to the Bourbons of Wall St. Bills have been again introduced into the United States Congress for the registration of aliens. In effect it will establish a vast espionage system over the millions of foreign born workers; be means of persecuting them, driving them out of their jobs if need be, jailing and deporting them. The bills are aimed at the alien radicals, and typically enough, are supported by that arch labor faker, now an open tool of Wall St., namely, Secretary of Labor Davis. The foreign-born workers, who are in the basic industries are the ones most sharply affected by the mass unemployment. These alien registration bills have in mind to stifle their protest against capitalist exploitation and oppression, and to take whatever measures are needed to do so, including deportation.

Workers And Civil Liberties

  1. A drive to deprive aliens and American radicals of so-called civil and constitutional rights. The campaign is going on all the time, but now the 100 per centers, the Pay-Triots of every description are coming out of their holes and beginning to bark for greater suppression of radical labor and for withdrawal of so-called liberties and rights from them. Where successful, it will be labeled “Americanization work” (that is, good results in breaking up union organizations, lowering wages, increasing hours of labor, speed-up, etc.); where unsuccessful in “Americanization”, then there will be the policy of revocation of citizenship of alien radicals, refusal to grant citizenship, to permit radical gatherings, indoor and outdoor meetings, attempts to persecute Red students and school-children, etc. In New York a college youth has been suspended from City College by the Dean for so-called “violation of a city ordinance”. He had the audacity to distribute handbills for the New York demonstration of the unemployed! Others in public schools are to be dealt with by the educational authorities who will work hand in hand with the employers and the police.

Revival of Criminal Syndicalism Laws

  1. The attempted revival of Criminal Syndicalism laws in an effort to drive the Communists and other labor organizations into illegality. The reaction of 1919-20, the period of of the vicious Attorney-General Palmer, is raising its head. Nothing serious of course is done with the gunmen, racketeers and murderers who infest society, products of the capitalist system. Indeed, these gangsters and racketeers are regularly brought into service by the officially recognized thugs – the police – against workers on strike, against unions, against the radical workers, etc. The Mathew Wolls and William Greens, the labor agents of Wall Street, chime in to endorse any movements aiming to check the progress of the workers and to smash the “Reds”.

The Bosses Organize

  1. The organization of the capitalist groups themselves to give organized direction and policy to all campaigns against labor, organized and unorganized. The New York Chamber of Commerce has formed a special committee to launch a “militant fight” against the Communist movement. They hope thus to hide or obscure the burning problem of unemployment. New York wealth and plutocracy have given the lead and expect the other Chambers of Commerce and business groups to take the cue. It has a Committee on Deportation; Committee on Communism in Business and Industry; Committee on Publicity, etc. Every agency, governmental, business, religious, etc. is to be enlisted to raise the “Red Scare” so that the misery of the workers under capitalism, and particularly severe because of mass unemployment, shall be passed by.

Mass Unemployment Remains

What needs to be done to stem the rising tide of reaction and to bring again to the forefront the problems that affect sharply the daily lives of the working men and women of this country? It is largely up to the Communists and Left wing, and in particular the official Communist party, to answer this question and to make possible effective work, agitation and organization among the masses. The tactics to pursue have been proposed before by The Militant. The basic problem and issues remain as before.

  1. Mass unemployment, estimated at over 6,000,000 at the present time, remains the outstanding phenomenon and cancer of American capitalism. There has been much bally-hoo otherwise, but mass unemployment remains and mounts higher. Cleverness, advertising and now a “Red Scare” have not gone over; Hoover and capitalism are seeking other means to cover up the acute situation. The figures of the Hoover administration, of the U.S. Labor Dept. on unemployment and an alleged rise in industry and business have been challenged from various sources, and have been shown up as valueless, unreliable and untrustworthy.

    In New York State, where figures by the State Dept. of Labor have been issued monthly, F. Perkins, State Industrial Commissioner, reports a further increase in unemployment and at the same time challenges the accuracy of the Hoover figures. Reports from other regions are similar, varying in totality of numbers, but revealing essentially the same situation throughout the United States. The need to defend the interests of the unemployed, to unite the organized and unorganized, to get the unions to enter the fight on behalf of the unemployed, to bring together the employed and unemployed, white and colored workers, in common action for demands upon the employers and the government for work or compensation, less hours of labor and speed-up is yet paramount. The Communists remain the main instruments that can give such a movement vitality, purpose and direction, and develop the consciousness of the worker regarding his social position in capitalist society. The basic tasks of the Communists and class-conscious workers remain to explain the causes of unemployment; the failure and inability of capitalism to solve the problem and the Communist solution thereof.

Create United Front Defense Movement

  1. Organize a broad UNITED FRONT DEFENSE MOVEMENT to defend the leaders and workers arrested in the unemployment demonstrations and meetings, and in order to make an effective campaign to smash the anti-Communist and anti-labor offensive of the Bosses, the A.F. of L. labor fakers, Woll, Green & Co., and the Government. A sectarian defense movement, limited largely to the Communist party and the I.L.D. with its present narrow line, will defeat its own purpose. Large sections of the labor and liberal movement can be mobilized in such a campaign, if only the official Communist party will permit and not cut such a movement to pieces, as it did, for instance, in the Gastonia textile case. Already liberal elements – professors, scientists, etc. – have protested the Black List and red-baiting campaign of Whalen, et al. The Socialist party has been compelled to declare against the forms of the drive against the Communist movement. The Socialists find it necessary to present a liberal front against reaction, while they at the same time wish to stave off oppressive measures against themselves. Wide circles of labor can be brought into acition for a broad UNITED FRONT DEFENCE MOVEMENT, can be made to see that a blow against the Communists by the capitalist reactionaries is a blow against the whole labor movement and the working class. We demand that the Communist party shall discontinue its sectarian policy and make possible the creation of such a movement.

United Front for the Unemployed

  1. The unemployed movement under the direction of the Communists must likewise be given room to breathe, must be developed into a United Front movement. In such a movement, the Communists can easily hold their own and make gains among the workers at the expense of the reformists and labor elements that come into it, provided the Communists use intelligent tactics.

In New York, the Socialists and A.F. of L. unions have organized an Emergency Conference for the Unemployed. We have recommended that the Communists propose a United Front movement to them. It is conceivable that the social-reformist movement will attract the unemployed, albeit they have only reluctantly and under pressure begun such a movement. The Communists will have to find ways and means to penetrate the masses wherever they are. The United Front remains yet in this period the best tactic to achieve contact with the masses and to influence their though and direction. For the Communist party to continue its ostrich policy, to reject the tactic of the United Front, will result in a number of defeats for itself and the Communist movement in the future; moreover, it will directly affect the adequate defense of the arrested Communists, the attempted frame-ups and the progress of the unemployment movement

In any case, if the unemployment movement is not to be diverted into channels of reformist illusions, or even directly into capitalist grooves; if there is to be a genuine defense movement; if there is to be an energetic campaign against the efforts of the employers and government to smash the Communist movement, to drive it into illegality, the rank and file of the Communist party must make possible the unity of the Communists in these common needs, and demand at the same time a broad united front movement on the issue of unemployment.

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