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Farrell Dobbs

Speech at New York Rally for
Released Minneapolis Prisoners

(2 February 1945)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 6, 10 February 1945, p. 3.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

I can sum it up in a few words: It is mighty good to be home. Comrades, on behalf of the 18 I wish to express our deep appreciation to the Civil Rights Defense Committee, and its many supporters for the care given to our families. A thing like that is very important to a man, especially when he is in prison. What I am talking about could be defined roughly as the human element in the class struggle.

We all have our sorrows, our joys, our needs, our desires. And I believe that many of you have had experience in strikes and on picket lines. In a strike the question of how valiantly a man will fight is often dependent on his knowing that if he goes to jail, his family will be taken care of; or if he is injured, he will be given medical care and hospitalization; or if he is killed, his family will not be left to want. Everyone who has been in a strike struggle knows right down to the ground just what I am talking about. That is the human element in the class struggle that gives such tremendous power to class solidarity, that makes it such a mighty force.

Millions of trade union fighters have rallied to the defense of the 18 throughout our entire case, and particularly when we were in prison; and have rallied to the defense of Kelly Postal, Local 544-00 secretary-treasurer, who was railroaded to jail through a frameup by Tobin in the Minnesota courts. This defense movement has cut across political lines. It has cut across organizational boundaries. Virtually all of the working class political parties have supported us – that is, all except the Stalinist betrayers of the working class who are selling out the interests of the workers at every opportunity, and making opportunities when they don’t find them.

Why have we received such tremendous mass support? Because every thinking person understands that his own civil liberties are at stake in this fight. But it must be realized, comrades, that the danger of the Smith “Gag” Act is actually heightened by the fact that its first victims are no longer behind bars, serving as a grim reminder of the existence of this vicious piece of class legislation. For what happened to the 18 can happen to any trade unionist, to the members of any working class party, to any liberal. That is why the release of the 18 from Roosevelt’s prisons must be taken as a signal to redouble our efforts in the fight to repeal this Hitlerite Smith “Gag” Act.

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