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Grace Carlson

Who’s for Free Speech?

(14 September 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 37, 14 September 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Anti-fascists throughout the country were undoubtedly inspired by the way 1,500 members of Minneapolis unions, veteran, Jewish, Negro and other organizations successfully defended themselves against the followers of Gerald L.K. Smith and forced the cancellation of his scheduled fascist meeting on Aug. 21.

But the Minneapolis bosses were not inspired by it! And the Minneapolis daily press heaped abuse on the heads of the anti-fascists.

“Because a little mob of irresponsible citizens refused to let him exercise his constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly, Mr. Smith currently dons the robes of a martyr,” say the editors of the Minneapolis Daily Times (Sept. 3).

After reading this plea for “free speech” for a fascist, I went through a complete file of the Daily Times for 1941 to see what they had said about “free speech” for the anti-fascist defendants in the Minneapolis Labor Case.

You won’t find a single word of protest in this or any other Minneapolis daily paper about the violation of the “constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly” of the 29 leaders of Local 544-CIO and the Socialist Workers Party who were indicted under the infamous Smith “Gag Act” that year.

Instead, you will find a Times editorial on July 2, 1941 attacking the American Civil Liberties Union which, truly concerned about “constitutional rights” of free speech and free assembly” had entered the case on the side of the 29 defendants.

That this capitalist paper wants free speech for fascists and a gag rule for revolutionary socialists comes as no surprise to those of us who understand that fascism has its roots in the decaying capitalist system we are trying to replace. This doesn’t mean that the Times is backing the fascist Smith. At present, a good section of American capitalism looks on Smithes a silly demagogue – like the German capitalists regarded Hitler in his early days.

In his book Fascism and Big Business Daniel Guerin tells why the German and Italian capitalists later had to turn to fascist demagogues. Guerin also offers some good advice on how to fight fascism when he quotes a speech of Hitler after the Nazis came to power: “Only one thing could have broken our movement – if the adversary had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed, with the most extreme brutality, the nucleus of our new movement.”

Minneapolis workers want to fight fascism and know how. They are not going to permit the capitalist papers to mislead them with hypocritical arguments about “free speech” for the fascists who want to destroy all democratic rights, including free speech.

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