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Russell Blackwell

Julio A. Mella

(January 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 2, 15 January 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This January tenth is the second anniversary of the death in Mexico City of comrade Julio Antonio Mella, assassinated by hirelings of the Machado regime in Cuba. With Mella’s death the Latin-American and world Communist movement lost one of its ablest and most devoted fighters. The murder was only one of a long series committed by the Wall Street-supported Cuban dictator on the persons of working class leaders. Too numerous even to mention have been the Communist party members and leaders and the militant trade unionists assassinated by the “tropical Mussolini” in his attempt to impede the growth of a strong working class movement capable of overthrowing what is doubtless the most odious of all the puppet regimes of Latin America. Assassinated on the streets, tortured to death in their cells, fed to the sharks of Havana Bay, massacred in the streets, the number of Cuban revolutionists murdered in this struggle is already legion and the total continues to mount under the pressure of the general industrial crisis and general mass discontent on the island.

For a number of years comrade Mella was the outstanding leader of the Cuban movement. Even in his student days, he distinguished himself notably for his educational activities among the Havana workers with the organization of the “Universidad Popular – José Marti”, and for his leadership in a number of student movements, so intense in their agitation against the Machado regime, that Machado had to close the National University in 1925.

Exiled from Cuba

Julio Mella, together with a number of other comrades, mostly Communists was framed up by the Havana police in a supposed “bomb plot”. They were held illegally without trial for some time in spite of the efforts of the workers and students to have them freed. Finally, through a 19 day hunger strike, which brought about a continent-wide protest movement, Mella’s liberty was granted on condition that he immediately leave the country. He was sent to Honduras, from which county he was deported to Guatemala and then re-deported to Mexico. The Mexican government of Calles, at that time posing as an anti-imperialist government, offered him asylum.

In Mexico, in spite of continual disagreements with the opportunist heads of the Mexican party, Mella soon became one of the outstanding leaders. Because of instructions, the Mexican party practically compelled Mella, as well as many other foreign comrades, to dedicate themselves to anti-imperialist work almost exclusively. Mella was for a considerable period general secretary of the Continental Secretariat of the All America Anti-Imperialist League, and in this manner his energies were to a great extent side-tracked from the fields where he would have been most useful to the movement. Later, however, for a period in 1928, Mella occupied provisionally the general secretaryship of the C.P. of Mexico. But upon the return of the delegation from Moscow after the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern, comrade Mella was not only removed from this provisional post but was also summarily removed from the Central Committee, upon the insistence of the right wing C.E.C. led by Martin (Sitirner) and Carrillo. In a former period Mella had been accused of “Trotskyism”, and only through a formal renunciation of the point of view of the Left Opposition which was probably the greatest political mistake of his party career, was he allowed to remain in the leadership.

At the time of Mella’s occupancy of the general secretaryship, the C.E.C. for the first time discussed seriously a definite break with the national bourgeoisie. During the whole past period, the orientation of the party on trade union questions had continually been towards work within the CROM, and in an “autonomous” sense only insomuch as a close collaboration with “progressive” state governors made this possible.

At the time of the breakdown of the CROM, when whole labor federations of states and of trades (Puebla, printing trades, etc.) were declaring themselves independent of the reformist center under the Left slogan of “against the bureaucracy,” etc., the convocation of a unity conference of the autonomous unions became quite opportune. Such a step, if taken at the right time, would have served to separate not only “our own” unions of Jalisco, Tamaulipas, etc., from the local politicians, but also would have prevented the Obregonists from establishing their hegemony over the organizations recently rebelled from the CROM.

Mella Against the Right Wing

At this time it was inevitable that large sections should reorientate themselves on this question, and comrade Julio Mella was among the first to come forward in the Mexico City branch in support of the calling of a trade union unity conference for the formation of a new center. For this reason, and through a revival of the old “Trotskyist” accusations, the Right wingers denounced him as disloyal and he was remove d from the C.E.C.

In September 1928, an emergency conference of the party was called to discuss the change in the political situation. At this conference, Martin demanded the expulsion of Mella for the crime of working against the party line in the direction of “dual unionism.” The Right wing proposed a united front with the reformists against the Obregonists (and Left wing CROM members) who were splitting the unions. But instead of Mella being expelled from the party at that time, he was successful, together with the Mexico City delegation, in rallying the whole conference, with one exception, to a struggle against the opportunist tail-endism of the Central Committee. This is not the time and place to discuss at length the manner in which the C.E.C., still dominated by the Right wing, carried out the decisions of the September 1928 conference. From a policy of sabotaging the decisions they soon flopped over, under the influence of the new winds from Moscow, to an adventurist sectarian position. Lack of mobility in the most opportune moment, and lack of serious organization afterwards, wrecked from the start what might have become under a more able leadership, the greatest force in the Mexican labor movement.

Much of Julio Mella’s activity while in Mexico was wrapped up in the organization known as the ANERC (Association of New Revolutionary Emigrés from Cuba) and the publication of its Cuba Libre (Free Cuba). Numerous differences arose between the comrades of the Communist fraction of the ANERC in Mexico and the C.E.C. of the C.P. of Mexico, and the relations between Mella and the party leadership became exceedingly tense towards the end of 1928. In the very last days of the year, barely two weeks before his assassination by the agents of President Machado, comrade Julio Mella was expelled from the party by the decision of the C.E.C. They had taken advantage of a very rash letter in which he had declared his inability to collaborate with the party leadership, tendering his resignation. No excuses for this great mistake on Mella’s part can be made but it goes without saying that the C.E.C. adopted anything but the correct attitude when he was so summarily expelled. One week later, that is about January 3, 1929, Mella requested a reconsideration, making a complete recognition of this error on his part. It was decided to reinstate him in the party, with the stipulation that he was to hold no posts of responsibility for a period of three years. On January 10th he was shot dead in the street by Machado’s assassins ...

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